Senior Brand Marketing Manager at Penguin Random House UK
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In conversation with
Founder of Gleam Titles
In our digital age storytelling platforms are ubiquitous, whether it be on social media or a Medium blog. Abigail Bergstrom – founder of literary agency Gleam Titles – seeks out those writers who have used the online space to share their content, and offers representation to help immortalise their stories in print.
Abigail works with brave new voices like Liv Little, Gina Martin, Chidera Eggarue and Munroe Bergdorf and she exlpains that “the common thread running through our list is books that create positive change. We’re known for representing thought-leaders, law changers, activists and experts.”
Having worked in publishing for years herself – as a nonfiction editor for Simon & Schuster – Abigail has had unique insight into this literary world, as well as a desire to shake things up.
We spent a morning talking about struggling between two career paths and bolstering the next generation of female-identifying writers.
To me reading is meditative, what I love most is how it quietens my mind, slows me down and transports me into a different psychological state. I love having access to the places, worlds, centuries and perspectives I’ve never experienced. I love the smell of the pages, the crack of the spine. I love the solitude it brings, one that’s both peaceful and reflexive. Words fall short, they can’t possibly translate the complexity of feeling, nor the human experience, but a book can sometimes transcend the language that forms its skeleton and capture something too awesome and beyond our consciousness to name.
I loved Jacqueline Wilson, I was captivated by the darker and spiky edges of her characters and I loved the magical and fantastical in Roald Dahl’s stories. But for me, it was less about falling in love with one particular story and more a desperation to communicate. I had two older sisters who were bigger, cleverer and faster than I was. I wanted my own voice. I wanted to keep up. Books and language offered this; they were the gateway for me to better articulate myself and harness the power of language to be heard.
“Social media democratised publishing because it sidestepped privilege and enabled a platform for people to have their own voice. And if the audience came it placed the power in the hands of the individual and away from the media as an industry. ”
By the time I finished university I had two CVs – one creative with placements at PR agencies, magazines, newspapers and the likes, and the other focused on a career in law. I couldn’t choose between the two and so killed myself doing double the internships to keep my options open for as long as possible. I took a gap year after I got my BA in English Literature and moved to Hong Kong where I’d set up placements for myself – one at an international law firm and one shadowing a barrister on what turned out to be a high-profile murder case. I remember going shopping with my parents for a suit, something appropriate to wear on my placements – we went everywhere. Every shop, department store, retailer and boutique and nothing worked, nothing fit, nothing felt right. My mother, totally dismayed (which is a nice way of saying pissed off), stormed off to see if they had anything else in my size, irritated that I was grimacing at myself in yet another perfectly good suit. “What’s the problem?” my stepdad asked. I didn’t know. “It’s not the suits love, it’s something else. What’s really the problem here?” I felt choked in the formal attire – restrained, restricted, blocked. My stepdad pointed out that if the clothes I’d need to wear in this corporate, hierarchal environment didn’t feel right, perhaps the job wasn’t either. It was a metaphor for unspoken reservations, an epiphany of sorts – “if the shoe doesn’t fit!” Books had always fit me so perfectly.
You’re reading the wrong books.
I set up Gleam Titles in the summer of 2017. My ambition was to have a literary agency that could offer authors publishing expertise alongside knowledge and guidance in new media and brand development within the digital landscape. The common thread running through our list is books that create positive change; we’re known for representing thought-leaders, law changers, activists and experts. Gleam Titles is uniquely positioned and has represented multiple bestsellers that have changed the way publishers work with authors.
We work with so many incredible activists and I am constantly in awe of the work they are doing to create real, tangible change in the world. Social media democratised publishing because it sidestepped privilege and enabled a platform for people to have their own voice. And if the audience came, it placed the power in the hands of the individual and away from the media as an industry. We walk in the footsteps of those women who came before us, and in the shadows of the work they did, I think bolstering the next generation of women and amplifying their activism is essential and critical for tackling the patriarchy and the real physical and emotional damage it does.
I’m looking for something I’ve not heard or read before; for brave, fresh and original voices that are pushing the dial forward and changing the conversation.
Senior Brand Marketing Manager at Penguin Random House UK
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