We walked through the door at Hej, a lovely coffee shop in the middle of busy square with a funky market, not a difficult scene to find in East London.
We snatched a cozy seat in the corner and waited to meet Elizabeth. It’s never a bad idea to schedule meetings where you’ll be surrounded by lovely bakes and good coffee. 10/10 recommend checking this place out, especially their almond milk matcha-lattes! After a few minutes, Elizabeth walked through the door and from then on, the conversation never stopped. Elizabeth is full of great stories about her writing, editing and publishing.
She is currently busy helping millennials talk and write about their faith, amongst many other projects at SPCK. Find more about Elizabeth and her projects in the interview below.
I really started to fall in love with commissioning and editing other people’s content and helping writers bring their work to fruition.
Who is Elizabeth Neep?
I am a daughter, a sister, a friend (a good one I hope!) I am also a Commissioning Editor and Publicist and a writer, painter and wine drinker in my spare time. I grew up in Derbyshire (technically the Midlands but try telling a Southerner that!) and now live in London Bridge with three friends – and the neighbour’s cat who pops round from time to time.
What is it like living and working in South East London?
Most of the time it’s amazing. The surroundings are breath-taking, the coffee freshly ground, and I could basically double-up as a tour guide on my very central walk to work. But there are times where it is exhausting, busy and the inability to get on the housing ladder feels a little less dreamy – but I try my best to focus on the former!
Did you always know you wanted to be a book Publisher?
Yes and no. I grew up wanting to be an author and I was always writing stories (very often illustrated, very often with Pocahontas – even when she had nothing to do with the story). But I didn’t know I wanted to help make books and I went on to study Law at university before I felt a strong pull in publishing’s direction.
How did you get started?
My first proper exploration of publishing (above and beyond the Pocahontas years!) was through internships in magazine and later book publishing – I interned at Men’s Health, British Vogue and Penguin Random House – a varied mix but all very commercial so I really started to understand what producing content for a defined market was all about. I later went on to work on a start-up magazine with a wonderful businesswoman I met at Vogue called Grace Carter and a larger team of writers and fashion-folk, and it was there where I really started to fall in love with commissioning and editing other people’s content and helping writers bring their work to fruition.
Can you explain your workflow/ What’s a typical day?
I usually walk or run to work, which gets my day off to a much better start that wrestling with strangers on the tube. Then it’s breakfast, coffee and emails (there’s usually lots of them as I split my time evenly between working for two departments in my publishing house – editorial and publicity). After lunch I tend to head out for a coffee meeting with an author or find time to sit and work through a manuscript, looking at the big picture changes my authors need to make to really ensure their work speaks to the readers they are trying to reach.
What kind of clients do you work with?
The publishing house I work for (SPCK) is a predominately Christian faith publisher, and the books that I commission tend to fall within that genre, with the majority of my work aimed at the 20s-30s market or people who may be exploring faith or an element of faith in their day-to-day lives – I’ve enjoyed working with great organisation such as the BBC, Hope for Justice, Premier, Hillsong, Vineyard and many more. On the publicity side I work with a much wider group of outlets from national newspapers to bloggers and the Christian media.
What’s your favourite project?
I’ve been very fortunate to work with some great authors – but the project that is perhaps most close to my heart is the MORE > series. Just a year or so into my commissioning role I got the go-ahead to develop a series from scratch which would help millennial readers to better engage with faith and more effectively apply to Bible’s wisdom to what we are actually going through in our day to day lives – whether that’s struggling to find direction or grappling with whether the message of Christianity can actually stand firm in our post-truth society. I was able to dream up the format, the designs (with the help of a great team!) and had free reign on what authors I invited to the series – so this series and its books will always be very close to my heart!
On my best days, I define success by whether I’m living out my faith and what I feel I was born to do: love God, love others and love myself.
How do you define success?
On my best days, I define success by whether I’m living out my faith and what I feel I was born to do: love God, love others and love myself – and tell a few good stories along the way. On my worse days, I can fall into defining success by the work accolades I rack up, whether I’m in a relationship or how many things I can tick off my to do list (sometimes I even write things I’ve already done on there just to tick them off). It’s a real challenge to fix my eyes on the former – but it’s one that’s worth the fight!
Where do you find inspiration?
I attend conferences, listen to speakers, look online, read books. I also often look to what secular readers are engaging with and ask myself what wisdom the Church might have to offer that topic or debate – not in an antagonistic way, but to challenge the false dichotomy between what the Church and the ‘outside world’ are talking about – despite what some media portrayals suggest, we often have a lot more in common than people think. I’m always looking to challenge stereotypes and find common ground. In my own writing and painting, it’s usually when I switch off – running, walking, praying, chatting with friends – that the best ideas just come to me!
What has your journey with God been so far?
Long, weird, wonderful, unique, essential. I was brought up in a Christian household but was very ‘one foot in, one foot out’ for a long time. It was only in my final year of university when I engaged with a very authentic community of Christians and witnessed a fair few ‘coincidences’ that I decided that I didn’t think I was here by accident and that if there was ‘something more’ I wanted to know what, or who that was. So, for the last six or seven years my relationship with God has been an everyday thing, a moment by moment seeking his guidance and trying to live in that knowledge – even when I drink too much prosecco and get things wrong – I know God is still with me and for me.
How does your faith inspire or change the way you approach and develop a new project?
Working in predominantly Christian publishing for my day job, it’s hard for it not to. But I guess having lots of friends who aren’t Christians, I try to make our faith as accessible as possible to all readers – and in all cases full of encouragement, challenges and adventure. In my own novel writing, I try to grapple with some moral questions in a fun, accessible and non-intrusive way – but I definitely don’t think writing or art needs to be ‘overtly Christian’ for it to bring glory to God!
What are you dreaming/praying for this year?
After a year of my dreams and prayers becoming more and more self-centred through anxiety and pressures over the future (from myself more than anyone else!) this year I am trying to dream and pray bigger than me – spending more time praying for my friends and the world (but at the risk of sounding like a pageant queen I still spend far too much time telling God I want to be married, have several cute babies, a thriving career and a multi-million-pound book deal, but you know – sometimes he ignores what we think we want and gives us what we need instead!)
Three things you’re consuming right now
Normal People by Sally Rooney, Noah and the Whale’s ‘Essentials’ Playlist on Apple Music (I have car trips with my older brother to blame for that) and…and I’m reluctant to say this…E4’s Spencer, Vogue and Baby Too, which is like white noise for the mind – but hey, you’ve got to let it rest sometime!
Favourite place in London
There’s so many! But right now, my home in London Bridge!