What is your name, age, and location?
Axelle Hardy Demézon, 30, Paris, France.
What is your profession?
I work in a publishing house that successfully publishes novels and documents, including testimonies from women, general literature intended for a large audience. My job as foreign rights manager is to sell translation rights to our titles, mostly French, to foreign publishers. And it works quite well since 75% (excluding acquisitions of foreign authors) is sold abroad, and some in more than 35 languages.
I have been doing this job for eight years with a great deal of enthusiasm. It allows me to be in daily contact with interesting people who are passionate about books. I travel a lot, I get to discuss what I love, and I encounter challenges that excite me.
What did you study in school and what degrees do you have?
At the beginning of my studies, I studied literature and philosophy, an area that I continue to actively explore in my personal life but that remains distant enough, after all, from my work life. Then I went to Sciences Po, where I obtained my master’s degree in economics and finance.
What was your first job?
Since I was 15, I always did odd jobs, like babysitting, then hostessing and working as a salesperson. But the publishing house that I work for now gave me a chance to get out of my studies. At the time, it was in its first years and quickly expanding. The boss was looking for a junior representative to help build a department for international foreign rights from Paris, rather than continue to outsource this service. That was in 2001 and I was doing an internship in the press department of this publishing house. I presented myself for the job, he liked me, and I was hired.
Who or what inspired you to break into your current line of work?
I am a big reader, but quite honestly, I could have easily worked in another field. My studies did not specifically prepare me to work in publishing, and even less did they prepare me to pursue a profession in trade negotiations. I was only 22 years old when I was doing my internship and working with a dedicated team led by a brilliant publisher. They asked me to stay and continue the adventure, and of course, I accepted. Working with them has made me become passionate about what I do. The environment of the publishing world is fascinating, but it is also in my nature to love it, so it is easy for me to meet new and interesting challenges with enthusiasm.
Name/describe what has been your most rewarding project so far?
If we are talking about concrete results, figures, I have had immediate satisfaction from the rise in amounts negotiated regarding book projects. It is characteristic of my type of job – as a sales and marketing person. But beyond that, I believe that having contributed to the international success of certain writers, read around the world, published in English, Spanish, but also in Malayalam or in Uzbek, is truly the greatest satisfaction.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has helped your career?
Since I started working, being a woman has rather helped me because I’m much more often in contact with… men. No man has ever explicitly made a pass at me: either I have not seen it, or I do not solicit. However, the game of seduction is implicit in any sales transaction. As a woman, I feel men listen to me more attentively and are more receptive. This simple observation might enrage a lot of people, but it’s nonetheless a reality.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has hindered your career?
Becoming a mother definitely creates a problem — not so much for my employer or the people I work with, who all sent me a rather positive image of my being a mother, but rather for myself in the sense that the arrival of my children has gradually, but profoundly, changed my priorities and my regard for the limitations related to my professional life.
Business trips, the shifts in workload and the demands of my profession have become problematic. Quite honestly, I cannot provide the same quality of work that I did before I became a mother, and it inevitably brings frustration to me, and, to those with whom I work.
Who is your role model or mentor (alive or dead)?
Professionally speaking, I do not really model myself after anyone, perhaps because my only ambition is to always pursue an activity that fits who I am or who I am becoming. I’m not a careerist, but I’m rather focused on evolving on a personal level in all the realms of my life.
If you could give one piece of advice to a woman starting out in your field, what would it be?
I have no advice to give on my specific industry. But I would just add, more generally, that we cannot do everything perfectly: have a demanding job, exercise, have a perfect relationship, raise children… but we can try to do a bit of everything, evaluate how important each element is, and ultimately be very happy.