The Book Therapy Team
Alison Fraser is the owner and founder of Book Therapy. She has specialised skills in book development – manuscript assessment, mentoring, comprehensive editing and book condensation – honed through a career in publishing spanning twenty years. This includes producing a successful fiction series for Reader’s Digest Australia, and diverse editorial roles with HarperCollins, Allen & Unwin, Murdoch Press, Rethink Press, LexisNexis and the NSW Writer’s Centre. Alison majored in Australian Literature at the University of Sydney and completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Editing and Publishing at the University of Technology, Sydney.
Since starting Book Therapy, Alison has been fortunate enough to work with many talented emerging writers, such as Zoe Ghani, Jane Carrick and Caitlin Hodder-Manceau. Her clients have gone on to achieve traditional publication, be commended in awards and successfully self-publish. Recent achievements include developing a course in self-editing for WestWords and a course in narrative nonfiction for the Australian Writer’s Centre, as well as editing A Repurposed Life by Ronni Khan and Jessica Khan.
Alison’s clients value the thoroughness of her approach, her cogent feedback on structure, style and commercial viability, and her passion to help them achieve their publishing goals. In 2020, Book Therapy published its first book, Jessica’s Gift by Susan Loch.
Book Therapy would not be possible without a team of freelancers, whose wealth of expertise is greatly appreciated. Their bios can be found below.
Cheryl Hingley has had a long career in book publishing, which she left in 2014 to write full-time. Her first historical novel was published by Random House in 1998, under her maiden name, Cheryl Sawyer. Seven historical novels followed, as well as one crime novel. Her American debut was acclaimed by Booklist as 'a grand and glorious delight' and her work has been longlisted for awards by the Historical Novel Society and the American Library in Paris. Peter James calls her work ‘historical fiction writing at its very best’.
Monique Perrin AE is a writer and editor with more than twenty years’ experience. She has edited over 200 books for a wide range of publishers, including Allen & Unwin, Wiley, LexisNexis and Lonely Planet. Monique is accredited by the Institute for Professional Editors, the peak body for Australian and New Zealand editors, and has a BA (Communications). She works as a writing coach with Rethink Press and has taught writing courses with the Council of Adult Education. Her specialty areas are business strategy, diversity and inclusion, arts and travel.
Jess Cox is an accredited editor with the Institute of Professional Editors. She has a Masters in Linguistics, Postgraduate Diploma in Editing & Publishing, undergraduate studies in Communications & International Studies, and a wealth of professional experience. Jess has worked in publishing since 2001, holding positions such as Managing Editor at Weldon Owen Publishing (a packager of illustrated reference books) and Senior Editor at Reader’s Digest Australia. Jess finds a real sense of achievement in guiding people to write the best possible version of their work.
Joanne Buckley is a book designer with more than twenty years’ experience. Her first role after graduating from design college was in publishing, where her love for book design was ignited. Her experience covers non-fiction illustrated reference, fiction and biography, as well as a successful foray into stationery design. After working with various publishing houses, including Weldon Owen, Allen & Unwin, Murdoch Books and Global Book Publishing, Joanne honed her craft as Senior Designer at Reader’s Digest Australia. Joanne holds a BA (English Literature), a diploma in Graphic Design, and is currently studying interior decoration: her other passion.
A London-based English Literature student, Alex has been engaging with the literary sphere for a few years, gaining experience in creative writing, journalism, editing and proofreading. Her work has appeared in publications such as HuffPost UK, Litbreak Mag, Breath & Shadow, Bad Pony Mag, Blue Marble Review, and more. She worked as a prose editor in KCL Journal for a year, as well as an editor of KCL Beat, and she’s now a culture editor at Roar News. She’s also a creator of a YouTube channel, disorderly books. With interest in both literature and psychology, she focuses on the intersection between them in her own work, her support of other writers, and her study of literature. She’s also dedicated to spreading awareness around neurodiversity, and is particularly interested in increasing autistic representation in the world of literature.
About Book Therapy
Book therapy—also known as bibliotherapy—is based on the idea that books have the capacity to improve an individual’s wellbeing.
I first came across the term bibliotherapy in 2015, in relation to The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin, a book that offers works of literary fiction as remedies for various ailments. As a book editor and lifelong bibliophile with an interest in therapy, I was immediately drawn to this concept. As a reflected, however, I wondered whether there might not be a wider application between books and therapy, especially as my experiences had shown me the therapeutic nature of so many different types of books.
I think one of the reasons that narratives, both fiction and non-fiction, can be therapeutic, is because they take a life, or events from a life, and shape them. This contextualisation allows individual events, even those that involve great suffering, to be seen from a larger perspective. Through the whole—biography, for example—we see adversity, but also love, successes, challenges, mistakes, as all part of the fabric of life, as part of a narrative of worth. This can lead a reader to see the traumatic or mundane parts of their life as one small part of a greater narrative.
Memoirs on a particular aspect of a life can provide a sense of rapport and hopefulness on the part of the person reading them. Memoirs about eating disorders or colon cancer or raising a child with autism can assist an individual to feel less alone, and to possibly learn skills from another person who has lived through a comparable experience.
Non-fiction books about mental health can be extremely useful for individuals who can’t afford to see a decent psychologist or therapist, or who have other reasons not to pursue that option. Reading about therapeutic practices and performing exercises within the security of your own home—or bedroom—can be very appealing, and experts have written excellent books on subjects such as depression and anxiety. Many are works that therapists read to assist their clients; others are specifically designed to suit a more general reader.
There are times when you need a break from your current situation or state of mind, and the immersive experience of reading can be an ideal diversion. A couple of hours in an alternate reality can feel like a short holiday from your problems. People are often attracted to popular fiction and genre fiction when they are looking for an escape from reality because these genres have a predictable narrative and a set of tropes that is familiar and comprehensible—and far less chaotic than reality. The reader has the illusion of being inside a life where the reasoning and motivations of characters make sense; mundane realities are glossed over, and there is a satisfying conclusion.
Literary fiction often explores aspects of the human condition, and can offer insights into the deep psychological dramas of life. This can assist us to more fully understand various facets of the experience of being human; it can also expand our sense of perspective, both our perception of our own lives and our understanding of the lives of others.
To read a book is to directly share an experience with another person—the author. Books are therapy because they provide connection. Since the sixteenth century individuals have used books as a vehicle for communicating ideas and insights to a larger audience. Improving our understanding of ourselves and others and gaining new perspectives on reality are all ways that enrich and improve our lives. (Or to escape from them temporarily.) For all the above reasons, I would strongly argue that books are a form of therapy.
NB: I have used the term ‘book therapy’ rather than ‘bibliotherapy’ both to differentiate it from a term that focuses on literary fiction and because it is a straightforward, easy-to-understand phrase.