A Book Apart

Meet the Team: Katel LeDû, CEO

Feb 28, 2019

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We’ve loved getting to know A Book Apart authors better with our author Q&A series, and now we’re excited to share a little peek behind-the-scenes at the folks who make the ABA magic happen. To kick off the introductions to our team, ABA's Chief Executive Officer, Katel LeDû, gives us a look at her work here and elsewhere, shares a piece of advice that’s stuck with her, and talks about her life in Philly.

Portrait of CEO Katel LeDu.


ABA: What do you do at A Book Apart? What did you do before joining ABA?

Katel LeDû: I’m the leading lady! I manage our editorial program from acquisitions (signing amazing new authors) to publication of all our books in print and digital formats. I oversee book production, marketing, distribution and licensing, budgeting, and new business development—and I manage our staff of incredible freelancers.

Before I joined ABA in 2013, I worked as the director of photography for NationalGeographic.com. There, I led an expert team of photographers, editors, and producers, managing an editorial pipeline and developing a global photo community.

ABA: Where do you live and what do you love about your home?

KL: I’ve lived in Philadelphia for about three years. I think it’s such an underrated city, and I love living here because it’s the perfect pace for me—it can feel neighborhood-y and metropolitan all in a matter of blocks. When my partner and I moved here from Washington, DC, we bought a row house after having only ever lived in apartments—that was a big exciting change.

ABA: What’s the first thing you do every morning to start your day on the right foot?

KL: As long as the weather’s not super terrible, most mornings I run or take a long walk as soon as I get up. I like to do something that gets me outside and absorbing some Vitamin D—especially in winter months—because it really helps me deal with anxiety.

I also recently decided to practice not looking at my phone until I’m out of bed. It’s a frighteningly hard habit to break—but when I let myself wake up and take a few moments to move through the house without looking at a screen, I feel like I’m in a more centered headspace to start my day.

And coffee. My mornings are full of coffee.

ABA: When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time?

KL: Outside of A Book Apart, I cohost a podcast called Strong Feelings, with my bestie Sara Wachter-Boettcher. It’s definitely (actually) work but it’s one of the most fulfilling and fun things I do, and I’m so excited we’re starting year TWO of the show.

I’ve got a few other side projects that keep me pretty busy, but outside of really work-y stuff, I have a brain that craves repetitive movement. So crafts like cross stitch and knitting bring me a lot of joy. I’m fairly adept at figuring out complicated knitting projects, but I just can’t get enough of a soothing, endless pattern full of stockinette stitch.

I also love gardening and being near nature as much as possible. My house here in Philly has a big backyard (big, as far as city living goes!) full of old trees, winding vines, ivy, and ferns—and even though I would love to never rake leaves again, it’s so satisfying to tend to all the wild greenery. My snaggle-toothed mutt Hugo loves the backyard, too—let’s be honest, it’s his backyard.

ABA: What book have you read and loved lately?

KL: I just reread Bird by Bird (Some Instructions on Writing and Life). Reading it reminds me that even when it’s sometimes soul-crushing, writing is a joyful act. I especially love the chapter on “Shitty First Drafts.”

Bird by Bird book

ABA: What traits of yours are you most proud of?

KL: I’m an introvert, and I used to feel insecure about being quiet and sensitive. But as I’ve explored those traits and grown into my own skin more, I know that they allow me to be a compassionate listener and an observant and understanding leader.

ABA: How do you make working remotely work for you?

KL: Before joining ABA, I’d always worked in an office—so getting comfortable with working remotely took me a looooong time. It took me almost a year to really develop a productive routine and figure out how to do it well and stay happy! One big thing helps me do this: maintaining (physical/mental/emotional) boundaries. Though it took me a while to get settled into remote work, one thing I learned early on, was that I needed to set boundaries, and respect them. Not having a traditional workday at an office means that I need to be intentional about where I work, and, especially, when I work. Moving to Philly and into a row house, meant finally having an extra room I could use as an office. I’m grateful to have the space, in which I have a desk and chair, soft lighting, a few green plants, and a chair just for my pup Hugo. Look, he needs his own chair. It’s a whole thing.

Having a physical space dedicated for work-things, helps me keep my mental and emotional boundaries in check—and so does planning. I need to put structure around when I work, and how much work I can realistically do in a day. Otherwise, I’ll wind up working from the moment I wake up until the moment I’m brushing my teeth before bed. I can only be productive for exactly one day when I work like that. So I know I need to plan for prep time in the morning, breaks throughout the day, and wind-down time in the evening. Sometimes it doesn’t work perfectly. But if I just try to be mindful about maintaining those boundaries between work and not-work, I’m a lot happier and more successful.

Katel's dog Hugo

ABA: In moments of self-doubt, how do you recharge and rally to keep going?

KL: Slow down and get a gut check. Usually when I’m feeling self-doubt, it’s because I’m trying to hurry through a challenging project or task without making space to be thoughtful about why I’m doing it, and whether I’m taking the right approach. I tend to start feeling a little more surefooted as soon as I pause to reevaluate whether I’m on the right path, or maybe need to gather more information to keep going. I also tap into my networks. Talking to a friend or colleague always helps me look at my self-doubt through a different lens and understand what’s causing it. Reflecting alone or with a trusted partner allows me to refocus and feel sturdier.

ABA: Is there a piece of professional or life advice you’ve gotten that has always stuck with you? What is it?

KL: Erika Hall (one of our authors!), was a guest on my podcast last year—and as we talked about her work in design research, she said, “if you want to have a research mindset or just use evidence to make decisions, you have to be in a constant state of admitting that you don’t have all the answers.” I love this—owning up to the fact that I don’t have all the answers is so critical to doing any meaningful work.

Get to know more of the people who make A Book Apart go—check out the rest of our Meet the Team series!