Updated: Oct 28, 2020
Sara-Jayne Slack was a born vanilla person. Where other flavors are intolerant of any additional toppings, Slack has the adept ability to juggle a legion of tasks that would otherwise take months to complete, balancing a publishing house and day job, and going unacredited for the numerous events and book launches she organizes.
The U.K born entrepreneur describes her early life as being the ‘electron’ at school. “I (was) involved in pretty much every group, never the central person… I’m a mix… which allowed me quite nicely to move in all the circles.”
Sara-Jayne begins the work day at 8:00am. By day, she’s a project manager at a digital marketing agency. Working with smaller businesses on developing their digital marketing is a job that Slack often jokes she wouldn’t have gotten without previously playing around with Inspired Quill, where she tried many digital marketing methods to draw in a customer’s attention and have them interested in what she was selling. Slack says, “A lot of (the website) comes from what I’ve learned in my current role… It mixes really well.”
By night and on weekends, Inspired Quill, a non-profit publishing house, gets her full attention. The team consists of freelance designers, volunteers, and friends that have become family. The team effectively manages tasks in parallel lines that prepare both novel and author for their release. “Between the manuscript being accepted and published, I’ve managed to get the process down to 14-15 months… There are 209 tasks that I have to perform. I have a list for every book which is editorial, marketing, and mentoring for the author as well, which is really important to me.”
Inspired Quill “Stand(s) up for people being able to see themselves in our pages.” Sara-Jayne Slack embodies Inspired Quill’s message, as both a changer and someone who is for the people. “I try. I just added an accessibility pledge to the diversity pledge on our website. So if we do stuff on Youtube it’ll be captioned. I’m trying to learn sign language for events… We're very happy to stand up and say black lives matter, trans men are men, trans women are women. You know, accessibilities are important.”
Often self-labeled as a volunteer, Slack began Inspired Quill almost accidentally. As a fourth year university student enrolled in English studies, Slack notes, “I started a book review blog. Because I was reading books anyway… So I thought, ‘Do you know what? I’m just gonna write up my reviews and put them online.’ And I heard so many horror stories about publishing that, again, that kind of righteous rage was like, ‘How hard can it be to not screw people over and do a good job?’”
However, the succinct name Inspired Quill was almost never born. As the original idea was to publish book reviews, the website was almost Book Beacon. Unfortunately, the URL had already been taken, and another name had to be decided on. “I was back home from university on the Easter holiday. And so (my grandparents) got the thesaurus and went through it and were like, ‘Ok, what are all the different words for book, novel, story, light, beacon, inspiration-’ all of that, and put them on a list and were like, ‘Right, now let’s choose two and see what URL’s are out there.’”
In her ideal world, Inspired Quill would morph into a book bar. “In an absolutely perfect world, if I didn’t need the money, I would reduce my hours at my day job- I wouldn’t quit, because I do genuinely love my day job, but maybe two days a week… IQ would be my full-time job. (It) would have a backroom where we would hold writing workshops and kids from the local school could come for homework class, and above the bar I would have the IQ offices, and I would have small teams of probably no more than 10 people and we would run the publishing house. That’s the dream if I won the lottery. I have no interest in running a publishing house with 2000 employees. It’s not what we want to be.”
Through the years, toppings have been added to her ‘vanilla’ life. A creative writing course taught the book-snob young adult with the idea that ‘they can’t teach me anything about creative writing, you either got it or you don’t,’ that there are methods to writing. It isn’t just talent- it’s a mixture of hard work and perseverance, learning new strategies, and skill. “It taught me that you’ve got to be willing to understand that there’s a lot that you don’t know and have to grow as an author and as a person. But also just in terms of like, I don’t have to have the spotlight all the time. I feel empowered when I help others. Like, a rising tide lifts all boats.”
To better understand her authors and to help them to the best of her ability as they work on their manuscripts, Slack wrote a book. ”I did it as a kind of research project, which all of the authors think I’m crazy for doing. So I wrote 112,000 words of a fantasy novel in 2 months, alongside having a day job and doing Inspired Quill, and I was on stage in theatre and that sort of thing. Just to kind of see what the authors go through in writing so I can better help them.” To offer your support with words is one thing, but to write solidly for two months alongside having two jobs is a dedication that takes Slack’s leadership as both friend and managing director of Inspired Quill to another level.
Inspired Quill isn’t just an edit-and-distribute organization. When books are accepted, authors are gaining a friend and trusted advisor who will go above and beyond to prepare and counsel them during the process of publication. “This is why we’re closed for submissions. We have 19 authors now and at the moment I feel I can't take on any more and give the other