Meet Ruby Chopra – the SoA’s Senior Membership Administrator and administrator behind our Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses Network.
If you have ever given our offices a call or sent us an email, it very well may have been me who answered. As the Senior Membership Administrator at the Society of Authors (SoA), my day largely consists of interacting with members, from processing applications, sending renewal letters to dealing with payments and assisting advice-seeking members.
Working for the UK’s largest trade union for all types of writers, illustrators and literary translators certainly feels like you’re at the heart of the publishing industry – and our phonelines, I suppose, are the main arteries, pumping a deluge of interesting queries on publishing, contracts, copyright and the like.
The only thing more interesting than the queries is the people asking them! I thoroughly enjoy speaking to our eclectic membership, hearing what they are working on and what inspires them. I particularly love answering calls from authors who have just received their first publishing contract as they are overwhelmed with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Often having been tucked away, writing or illustrating in solitude for months, they are thrust into a world of legal jargon and clauses. It is such a great feeling to be able to reassure and inform them that that’s exactly why the SoA is here – to guide and advise on the business side of being an author, and offer a community to a profession that, at times, can be quite a lonely one.
"Our phonelines, I suppose, are the main arteries, pumping a deluge of interesting queries on publishing, contracts, copyright and the like"
This feeling of solitude is exactly what members Claire Wade and Patrick Walsh aimed to tackle through the creation of the Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illness Network. It’s been such a joy helping them set up this online community. I knew from my interactions with members that there would be a demand for a group like this, so seeing it develop has been wonderful. The monthly Zoom socials have been an extremely supportive and safe space for members to share their experiences and offer each other advice and support – camaraderie particularly needed during this period where so many were shielding. (If you are interested in joining the Network, drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
From creating new networks to a full online events programme, the way the SoA was able to adapt so quickly at the beginning of the pandemic was quite remarkable. Working from my dining room table will never beat our lovely new offices in London, but the fact that we were still able to help authors in need, almost seamlessly, is what mattered. In the early days we were flooded with calls from individuals applying to our Authors’ Contingency Fund. It wasn’t easy to hear how badly people had been affected during that first lockdown, but being a listening ear felt like an important and needed role.
I recently answered a call from a member who was seeking advice for a publishing contract that she had just received for her manuscript. She explained to me that in March last year she was the recipient of a Contingency Fund grant, which, to her, was a lifeline, affording her the breathing space to complete the manuscript that she’d now received a deal for. It was such a sweet and touching conversation. The literature birthed from this pandemic will be vital in the decades to come, which is why what we do is so important. I really feel satisfied knowing I was a tiny part of this beautiful, beating heart of an industry.
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