Interview jitters, accosting tourists and a public toilet tour: a few months with The Wee Book Company.

In December 2018 I had a Skype call with Susan Cohen, director at The Wee Book Company, to discuss a marketing and publicity internship position that was due to begin in January 2019. I was nervous, and self-doubt was kicking in hard. What could I possibly offer her, having never worked for a publisher before? However, after about five minutes of conversation I felt eased by Susan’s enthusiastic, understanding and relaxed tones, and I felt nothing but excitement for the upcoming projects. I was delighted to be accepted into the team.

In early January we met at the fascinating yet, as Susan will exclaim profusely, extremely haunted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre for the first time with the whole team to plan and discuss the coming months.

Already I was experiencing new things. Taking a tour of this historic building that I’d never been to before and learning about the variety of holistic work that now goes on there: besides the ghosts in the basement you can get nutritional support, take an exercise class, or even have your own psychic reading from a professional medium! We talked over coffee and cake about the titles coming out this year and the marketing work that would need to be done during our time with the company. Tales of grannies saying funny things and men in kilts wurkin’ oot were very much on the agenda.

The first job for Sophie and I on the marketing and publicity front was to establish a social media presence for TWBC outside of Facebook, which Susan had already created. We made Twitter and Instagram pages which we were able to populate with content gathered at the Scottish Trade Fair we had attended in January. The next step was to generate content for Grannies’ Sayin’s, which was soon going through a second print run, and we had the idea of collating video clips of tourists out and about in Edinburgh attempting to read passages aloud from the book which is written in broad Scots.

Our first stop was the Castle and then we took to Greyfriars Bobby to find participants. Although we were apprehensive about approaching members of the public with our phone cameras, we were met with great enthusiasm at getting involved in our publicity task. Not even I, a native Scot, can fluently read some of the Scots phrases in the book, so I think our unsuspecting visitors did a grand job. Once released online, the two videos were received with zeal and we managed to generate over 1000 views overnight in both cases. Our total views pushed over 6.3k and we had around 700 engagements. Not bad for two new interns; Sophie and I were extremely proud.

The next book on our ‘to-market’ list was The Wee Scottish Book O’ Cludgie Banter. This time, instead of making videos, we thought we would take the book on a photographic tour of Edinburgh’s many public toilets and review the facilities at each attraction. Not only could we tailor these to be posted regularly on the run-up to the book’s release, we could make them light-hearted and a bit of fun to align with the company’s playful ethos. We’re excited to see how this photo series pans out and you can follow our #CludgieTour across our socials!

It is coming up to three months with The Wee Book Company and I am loving every second. Susan and her husband have been nothing but welcoming, passionate and insightful, and I feel we are learning lots about the industry from them and they are making it very accessible for us. Whilst at the Scottish Trade Fair in late January, we got to attend a marketing seminar and speak with potential buyers, publishers and book distributors. This allowed me to think about careers in distribution and sales that I had never even considered before. It was an invaluable day, and it showed me that taking that first step into the industry didn’t have to be as intimidating as I thought it would be. People are willing to talk to you. They are delighted to see interest in their industry and talk about what they do, so don’t be afraid to strike up a chat and ask questions!

Of course, none of this would have been possible for me had I not sat in front of my laptop a few days after Christmas, nervously awaiting a call from Susan. The whole experience so far has taught me to grasp every opportunity, even if it makes you anxious, and I implore you to do the same.

I can’t wait to see what we get up to over the rest of our time with this dynamic, humble team.

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New titles for 2019 in Forgotten Female Writers series

On International Women’s Day 2019, we are delighted to announce the next books in our Forgotten Female Writers series.

Look out for new print editions of:

Margaret Armour – Selected Poems
Eliza Brightwen – Wild Nature Won by Kindness
Catherine Carswell – The Camomile
Violet Jacob – The Golden Heart & Other Fairy Stories
Irresolute Catherine
Lorna Moon – Dark Star
Margaret Oliphant – Diana Trelawny: The History of a Great Mistake
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Stories of the Seen and the Unseen
Felicia Skene – The Inheritance of Evil
Annie Shepherd Swan – Thankful Rest

Publishing in a Small Town

In December, I was able to do a placement at The Independent, a local publisher near my home town in South Western Ontario, Canada. Essentially, they publish newspapers and magazines for the county I live in, and are the main written news and advertising source for our area. The Independent has a staff of five women, all of whom take on different departments of the company. From editorial, to design, ads, marketing and sales, they manage to take care of everything that needs to be done to ensure that the two weekly publications they have get sent out every Wednesday. I loved having the opportunity to see how publishing works in the area I am from, and being able to see how such a small company comes together to be a success. Over the course of my placement, I got to learn about each of the areas of publishing, from editorial and design, to sales and printing, and spend one on one time with each of the staff members to learn what it is, exactly, that they do.

When I started this course, I was sure I wanted to go into editorial, and that I wanted to work in book publishing. As we started to learn, I began to question this, because we were learning about so many different things I hadn’t even considered. Who knew that I really enjoyed design, or that I was really interested in rights? MSc Publishing has taught me a lot about all areas, and made me question if editing books was what I wanted to do. With these questions, I decided that maybe I should explore more than just book publishing, and applied for placements in books, magazines, and newspapers, in all different departments, to learn more. The Independent offered me a place, which was very convenient because it was while I was home in Canada for Christmas!

While I was there, I learned a lot. One of the tasks they assigned me was actually researching and writing articles for that week’s publication, as part of my time in editorial. One thing that really surprised me was that they gave me the Editor’s Column for the week, something that has only gone to one other person besides the Editor herself. I’m pretty sure my grandma cut that out of her copy of the paper and has it hanging on her fridge to this day. I was really honoured to get to write something for them, and Heather, the editor, helped me to evaluate my own work and see the differences in writing for books, magazines, and newspaper.

I think that the most important thing I gained from my placement is a better understanding of myself! I can now say that I definitely want to work in book publishing, but that I am capable of working in other kinds of publishing. I really enjoyed my placement, and I learned a lot, but I think books are for me. However, I would work with the staff at The Independent again in a heartbeat; they were all so kind, and I learned so much! I’m so thankful for my time there, and so grateful that they gave me the opportunity to learn more about publishing, and about my home town!

#SYPConf19

Building Bridges and Breaking Walls

In our current times of political and social uncertainty, SYP’s focus for this years conference was on how we can bridge gaps in the publishing industry and break down barriers that provide obstacles for young publishers starting out. The title of this years SYP Conference hinted at the diverse range of topics that were to be discussed. The day started off early and upon registration we were greeted with the prospect of a tote bag filled with many industry necessities; a copy of The Bookseller and The Skinny along with a few free books – a publisher’s dream.

The talks were soon on their way where we were privileged to hear from the keynote speaker Marion Sinclair, talking about her time in the industry and how it has changed over the years. Then it was onto our first panel Elsewhere, Home: Scotland Meets the World where there was interesting discussion on the international approach that can be applied to publishing. Scottish publishing appears to have an international appeal where certain books have the power to travel across the continent and beyond. Scotland’s vibrant culture fuels international interest of Scottish novels where publishers can latch onto the attraction to our rich culture and promote Scottish writing worldwide.

After a short coffee break to mull over the benefits of international publishing and also the challenges   such as visas being rejected and the high financial cost to go worldwide we had a decision to make. The conference offered us our first choice of panels  between How to be Both: Transcending Genre or The Trick is to Keep Breathing: Managing img_0763your Time.  If only we could be in two places at once. As I’m a bit of a lost cause in terms of time management (and as How to be Both references a novel by one of my favourite authors Ali Smith) I decided to go with the former – and I wasn’t disappointed. The panellists engaged in discussion about what genre means to them, how it both helps booksellers yet can also be restrictive for publishers.  Francais Bickmore was right in saying that genre is a ‘necessary evil’ in that it simplifies book categories yet can inhibit the reach and appeal of that book. It seems the way genre is used and recognised is constantly changing.  As Ann Landmann suggested ‘genres are like trends, they will come round again, eventually.’ We can’t escape genre but maybe we can use it in new and innovative ways to make people more interested in different books and to celebrate the kinds of reading we do enjoy.

Next up was The Driver’s Seat: Sales Representation in Scotland which asked the question ‘What makes the ecosystem of Scottish publishing tick?’ It was interesting to have different perspectives of the bookselling process from both a publisher and bookseller’s point of view.  The art of bookselling continually changes with the rise in social media altering how we as consumers are attracted to different books and different mediums of reading.   We were then treated to an inside look into what owning your own publishing company is actually like.  Heather McDaid and Laura Jones from 404 Ink and Samuel McDowell from Charco Press joined us and gave honest insights into the trials and tribulations of owning your own business. They didn’t make it sound easy but it was refresimg_0774hing to hear individuals willing to share their low points and it made me even more excited in seeing what projects and ambitions these publishers will follow next.

To round off our panels for the day we heard what industry experts thought about diversity in publishing. Wish I Was Here: Inclusivity in Children’s Publishing raised some important questions as to what is being done in the industry to ensure publishing is more representative of its readers. Whilst the results of the diversity reports don’t paint the industry in a good light, it is encouraging to see that some publishers are challenging the ways in which they hire staff and commission work. As bleak as diversity in publishing can look, the panel had an optimistic approach that it can be improved if all aspects of the industry can work together.img_0777

To finish off our day we had an inspiring closing keynote from Perminder Mann of Bonnier Books UK sharing her experience of how she got into the publishing industry. In telling her story, it is evident the amount of drive and passion she has put into her work and it is clearly paid off.  One of her top tips was to ‘always remember you have the right to be there’, a statement I’m sure many of us will take away and hold on to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choice Cuts from the SYP Scotland 2019 Conference

For an industry that thrives on the sharing of ideas, publishing has a long way to go before it can say it’s easily accessible to everyone, from its workforce to its consumers. At this year’s conference, access was the key issue as captured by its title, “Building Bridges and Breaking Walls”.

In the programme the SYP Scotland Co-Chairs, Mika Cook and Jamie Norman, declared that the “conference was organised to look at how the publishing industry can work to pull down the walls which separate like from like, how it can open up discussion, foster collaboration, and build networks” and as a result “cultivate sensitive and attentive relationships between publishers, booksellers and readers.”.

Throughout the day the panels displayed this desire to become a more welcoming industry at all levels. From the opening keynote from Marion Sinclair, Publishing Scotland CEO, that showed pride for the current state of, and optimism for, the future of Scottish publishing, to the closing keynote by Perminder Mann, Bonnier Books UK CEO, who stands as a testament of the results of hard work and determination.

Throughout the day a few moments that stood out and stuck with me (although I enjoyed all the panellist’s comments I promise, and besides I don’t have to share all my favourites – you should have paid for a ticket really). Hopefully, you’ll find something useful in them too.

“We can’t sit on our English-speaking silo forever; those days are gone.”

Marion Sinclair

Whilst Scottish publishing has been successful, in order for it to keep growing and prevent stagnation, it must grow beyond the geographical limits of Scotland. Building bridges between publishers, authors, sellers, and readers, can ensure further success.

“Everyone wants to read the same thing and be a part of the global cultural conversation.”

Andrea Joyce

The joys of popular publications are not limited to the UK charts. In general, those who love reading love to read what everyone else is reading and by becoming a more openly global industry, this can be taken advantage of by the publisher, ensure author and seller success, and bring more to the reader.

“People who watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer are reading Norman Mailer.”

Francis Bickmore

Genre is an essential tool in many aspects of the industry, from the publisher to the reader. However, it can be misconstrued as a way of preventing readers from accessing things they think they wouldn’t like or as a form of elitism. Francis handily sums up the truth well; read what you want to read, genre is a tool, not a rule.

“Everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in the media. Everyone deserves to have their story told.”

Claire Heuchan

Before I started the course, I had no idea of the current state of children’s publishing and the severe lack of representation of anyone who isn’t white. Claire clearly puts the argument, unfortunately in a place where you would hope an argument wasn’t needed, forward; everyone should be able to find themselves in what they read.

“If you have a seat at the table, you have earned it – and you have a right to be there.”

Perminder Mann

I’ve personally suffered from what’s known as “imposter syndrome”. That feeling of not belonging or deserving to be in a position. It was relieving to hear this and I’m sure it was just as empowering to everyone else in the room.

P.S.

I’d like to thank the SYP Scotland Conference Committee who not only put together such an inspiring and intelligent programme but also provided extras like food (from one of my faves, Social Bite) and a sesh afterwards.

#ScotTradeFair with The Wee Book Company

It’s fair to say that we were all a little grumpy as we made our way to Hanover Street at 7am on a chilly January Monday. As interns at newly formed publishing house The Wee Book Company, we had been offered the chance to attend Scotland’s Trade Fair with Susan, the Managing Director. Of course, we had jumped at the chance, but when the time actually cam for us to force ourselves out our beds at 6am, we were all beginning to wonder what we had let ourselves in for. Fortunately, coffee is a marvellous thing, and by the time we reached Glasgow, our excitement about the day had begun to reignite.

Once we arrived and saw the stall occupied by The Wee Book Company, we were raring to go once again. The Company had kindly invited Angus, Alison and I to the trade fair for one day, in order to get an insight into the purchasing and distribution process. It was a fascinating experience, and made me consider employment in areas of the publishing industry which I previously knew nothing about. We were able to speak to large distributors such as Lomond and Bookspeed, and learn about the lifespan of a book once it leaves the publishing house. I’m a very sociable person, and for me a face-to-face aspect is essential in any job I might do, so the sales route is potentially very interesting to me.

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We were also able to watch some of the seminars which took place throughout the day. One which was particularly relevant to me in my role as Marketing Intern, was Rene Looper’s talk on how to effectively use social media to grow your business. He gave some fascinating insights on not only how to grow your follower count, but how to maximise engagement from the followers that you already have. Although we learnt a lot from Rene’s talk, I think that we interns already have a generational advantage in this area, as many of the other attendees seemed quite bemused by hashtags and insta stories!

The trade fair also provided an opportunity for Alison and I to create some promotional content for The Wee Book Company’s social media channels. A few short and snappy videos of the day (with an emphasis on the new product award that the company won!) did well on Twitter, and gave us plenty of ideas for further promotional content. It was after the trade fair that we decided to set up an Instagram, which we used to connect with other traders we had met at the fair. We were certainly putting Rene’s advice to good use!

I am incredibly grateful to The Wee Book Company for taking us along on this exciting day, for not only did I learn lots about sales and distribution, but the experience provided plenty of content and marketing opportunities, allowing me to hone my PR skills and giving us ideas for future promotional projects.

Thank you to The Wee Book Company, to Scot Trade Fair and to my fellow interns Alison and Angus for such a fun and informative day!

SYP Scotland Copywriting Workshop at Canongate, November 2018

It may be February now, and this blog post might be coming a little bit late but if you can, cast your mind back to last November. It’s cold and blustery on the Royal Mile but down a wee alcove lies Canongate Books, a safe haven waiting to welcome you in. Thanks to the generosity of SYP Scotland as well as Canongate themselves, a few of us lucky individuals were able to go along to a Marketing and Advertising Workshop run by Vicki Watson, Head of Marketing. Jamie Norman, Co-Chair of SYP Scotland and Campaigns Executive for Canongate, was also sitting in, and welcomed us to the workshop at the beginning.

canongate
Canongate Books, Edinburgh

Vicki began by defining copywriting, exploring the different kinds required when targeting different audiences. She talked about the importance of tailoring what is written and how it is written to the product, the audience and the company.

We were then asked to evaluate blurbs and talk about why they worked or didn’t. Our own attempts at writing a blurb for a book of our choice were read out and discussed by the group. Luckily, it was a really supportive atmosphere filled with people who were not reluctant to speak up but also listened to the contributions of those around them.

Vicki talked about her time at VINTAGE in London before coming to Edinburgh and working for Canongate, and talked us through billboards, tube posters and other marketing campaigns she produced. The choices that shaped and connected the campaigns for Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive and Notes on a Nervous Planet were explained in detail. The evolution of Robert Webb’s How Not to Be a Boy was used as a case study example of when marketing changes between hardback and paperback editions, with the cover, blurb and campaign being tailored to the new way of selling the book. 

When the workshop finished, I left feeling a lot more clear on what copywriting entails and how to make sure every word counts, as well as gaining a more general insight into marketing books successfully and creatively. It was such a helpful and informative evening in a lovely building with supportive people. I wanted to say (a very belated!) thank you to Vicki, Jamie, SYP Scotland and Canongate Books for the opportunity!