Trained bookseller Hannah Bergqvist has worked in the Danish publishing industry since she was 15 years old. A self-confessed grammar geek, she loves helping others improve their writing skills.
Hi Hannah! Where in the world are you based?
I’m a native Dane living in and working from Copenhagen, Denmark.
You’ve been freelancing for more than ten years. Can you share a bit about your background and what inspired you to become an editor?
I’ve been a reader for as long as I can remember. I am a trained bookseller with a Masters in English Language and Literature, and I’ve worked in various corners of the Danish publishing industry at both big and small publishers since I was 15 years old. Being a bookseller is at the core of what I do even to this day. I see it as my fundamental methodology — 95% of the job is talking to people across cultures, backgrounds, age groups and literary preferences about all sorts of content and what makes a great story. As editor, I can combine this level of conversation with actual text production. I’m a grammar geek with words running in my veins, I’m wired for stories and I love working with linguistic nuance, style, tone of voice, storyline, communication on a bigger scale and helping others improve their writing/storytelling skills. Giving friendly and constructive feedback is something I’m really invested in, because it’s precisely in the conversation and exchange of knowledge and story that we grow.
You worked for a games start-up as Producer of Augmented Reality books. Can you tell us more?
Yes, that was an amazing experience and maybe the best place I’ve ever been employed. It was a few years back, just before my maternity leave and before I became a full-time freelancer. By chance, I came across an article in the Danish financial times about four gamers, who had invented probably the world’s first Augmented Reality books. This was just before Pokémon GO made AR known to the general public. I was curious about their project and wanted to learn more about the technology, so I contacted them unsolicited with a curiosity request and ended up as an employee in their start-up.
Here, I discovered the world of gaming as another form of storytelling. Based on the original fairy tale of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, we bridged pages and pixels in Augmented Reality games that unfolded on top of the pages in the book. Using the app and camera to scan the illustrations in the book made a three-level game pop up on the screen encouraging kids and adults alike to go explore the universe of the story. Of course, the better you know the story, the better your chances of completing all three levels. It was a magical experience to be a part of this start-up and see how excited kids from 1-99 were playing and interacting with the story.
My colleagues were the tech-savvy ones, software architects, 3D artists and art directors and they needed someone who knew the book industry inside out. Since that is my home turf, I think we were a great and unique match. I was the in-house publisher-editor working with texts and book production, but I was also in charge of project management, office logistics, all external communication, PR, marketing, SoMe, arranging and facilitating demo events at books shops and book fairs across Europe. We met so many creative and inspiring people, readers big and small from all over the world. It was a very magical time and I learned so much from my time at Books & Magic — not least to remember to have fun at work!
What would you say are the most important soft skills for content creators?
I would say the ability to listen and put yourself second. As a creator, this may sound backwards. But I think there’s true value in stepping back for a moment and listening. If you ask a question, you should take the time to really grasp the nuances of what is being said. Think a little. Reflect. If you research a brand, take the time to browse through all channels to get an impression of the style, the vision, the story behind it. In my experience, the best stories are often buried in a sub-level to the main text, in the pretext or in a deeper level between the lines. In all the Quill projects I have been involved in, we have talked a lot about the tone of voice in the client brief. As a content creator, it’s very easy to inflict your own voice on the content. But as I see it, unless you’re writing your own memoirs or a post for your own blog, the content you’re creating as a freelancer has to do with someone else’s story. It might be your pen narrating the story, but that does not mean it’s your story to tell. And I think we should be mindful about that. Less ego, more community.
"As a content creator, it’s very easy to inflict your own voice on the content. But as I see it, unless you’re writing your own memoirs or a post for your own blog, the content you’re creating as a freelancer has to do with someone else’s story."
Do you like to mix up your working environment or where do you work best?
I have a 2-year-old daughter, so it’s nice (and convenient) to be able to work from home with all the daycare logistics. But variation and a change of scenery every now and then is also an important source of inspiration for me. I usually work from my home office in our flat by the Copenhagen canals, but I also like to sit with my clients at their offices, at a café or at the library, or outside in a park if the weather allows for it. As an online freelancer I can work on the go if my boyfriend needs to relocate for a couple of days with his work. I think the flexibility and freedom to decide these things myself is what I like the most about being my own boss.
How do you think the freelance content creation landscape might evolve over the next five years?
That’s a good question. I think it will fundamentally change how we think of work and that we will see a move towards more and more people taking the leap to become freelancers. The idea of holding the same position at the same company for 10-20 straight years, even 5 years, is already outdated. This liberalisation will mean multitudes of digital nomads and content creators with creative combinations and professional backgrounds, which again will increase the competition on the freelancer market. But what I sincerely hope is that this shift will also lead to more collaboration across professional fields. I know I have a lot of colleagues with exactly the same language combination as me, but I don’t really consider them my competition. We might share the same language combination, but we don’t share the same background, the same story. We know different things, because we are different people with different work histories and portfolios. To me, no two freelancers are the same and therefore we should think of each other as play mates, who empower each other through our shared stories and knowledge. I’m a huge fan of teamwork and as I work best in conversation with others, my wish for the future is to see more freelancers working together in flexible, creative and inspirational constellations. The sky is the limit, and anything is possible!
If you could go back to when you first started editing, what advice would you give yourself?
I’d repeat my daily mantra, which quotes Rumi: Let what you love be what you do. Every day. Don’t compromise with your happy place and the energy you fly with, but remember to also act with kindness and offer your help. Don’t be afraid to try new things and say yes to all opportunities you come across (if they speak to you and the pay is acceptable). Stay curious!
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