A Cracking Placement

From day one of the MSc Publishing course at Napier I knew that I wanted to try and get into the wonderful world of children’s publishing. Personally, I can’t think of a more vibrant and fun industry to work in, possibly swayed by the fact that I just adore children’s books. So, when my email and cv approaching Barrington Stoke about a placement was accepted, I was very excited to see how a children’s publisher operates.

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Barrington Stoke is an Edinburgh-based publisher that specialises in books for dyslexic children. They were set up in 1998 by Patience Thomson and Lucy Juckes, a mother and daughter-in-law team, who had personal experience with how reading difficulties can isolate a child. Spotting this gap in the market they set up Barrington Stoke with core objectives to publish books that were dyslexia friendly and inclusive for children with this reading disability. Another key aspect of their intentions was to publish well-known authors and illustrators so that the ‘super-readable’ books were similar to those being already published for the age group. With a unique easy-to-read font and an amazing array of authors and illustrators working on the books, Barrington Stoke has become a pioneering, award-winning company that has changed the children’s books industry for the better. They have a wonderful list of books encompassed in their impressive array of series, all that cater to children’s different abilities and interests.

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Don’t believe me? … check out this advert I designed for them!

I joined the team at Walker Street as a design intern. I went into the placement with an open mind and enthusiasm to try anything. I felt extremely fortunate to find a placement that was design based (as I have heard they are harder to come by) and was determined to make the most of the experience. I very quickly settled in having such a warm welcome from the lovely staff.

My daily tasks were varied, mainly revolving around design work. However, I was keen to do any job as I knew it would all feed into a well-rounded experience. My placement at Barrington Stoke has enhanced my design skills greatly, whilst adhering to quick turn arounds and a variety of briefs. I was working mainly in InDesign and Photoshop creating press releases, shareable graphics, blog banners, shelf slips, postcards, stickers, posters, showcards, review sheets and fliers … a huge array was entrusted to me.

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I have become a dab hand at press releases

I became familiar with their house style and extremely intimidating server (I had a map to find my way through the many folders) and I quickly developed a strong work system and relationship with Kirstin and Freya who would check my work and highlight changes to be made. I have learnt so many InDesign tricks and shortcuts that will stand in me in good stead for future work and now understand the different file types and specifications that are determined by the documents purpose. What I think has been most rewarding is seeing the work I have been producing being used – be it on the company’s social media pages and blog, by authors at events or being mailed out.

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A summer banner for their social media pages

Alongside the design work I have lended a hand where needed. I had the chance to do some database work, fair amounts of mailing (which I actually find oddly satisfying) and creating content and images for blog posts. Every single task I have undertaken has revealed so much to me about the industry and how a publisher is constantly working to get their books the recognition they deserve. One such book is their new title by Meg Rosoff, McTavish Goes Wild. This has become my personal favourite as I have grown rather fond of the little dog whilst making the various marketing material!

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A variety of marketing materials I designed for McTavish Goes Wild

I have had the most wonderful experience during my 10 day placement with Barrington Stoke. I have learnt an unbelievable amount and feel that I have a much deeper understanding of how a children’s publisher operates. The team at Barrington Stoke could not have been more welcoming and supportive and I am delighted to announce I will be continuing my work with them one day a week. I would like to thank all the staff for such an enjoyable placement and I look forward to what is to come!

 

All images are used with permission from Barrington Stoke.

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Lizzie’s List of Postgrad Pointers

Recently I was contacted by someone possibly undertaking the MSc Publishing course later this year, looking for some answers and reassurance about what the course entails. I was immediately reminded of my own nerves prior to postgrad life, having had many of the same questions myself (but not taking the smart step of finding the answers, as this person has done). Whilst I’m one who’d only call themselves wise ironically, and definitely don’t have all the answers, perhaps this post will help relieve some stress, even if only for one person! Now, all aboard the train to Tip Town.

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Don’t panic (as any good hitchhiker will know).

Generally good advice for life, but especially on an MSc. Whether you’ve gone straight into an MSc from undergrad, or are returning to education after however many years, it can be a shock to the system with how it differs from what you’re used to – whether that be assessments, the level of independent study, etc. Don’t panic! The tutors on this course are happy to answer your questions, no matter how stupid the questions may seem to you. We’re all here to learn, and they’re here to teach us.

Help others, and let others help you.

The peer support throughout this course has been spectacular. At the beginning of the year someone set up a Facebook group for all of us to join, and it’s a great way to check if your small queries can be answered before emailing one of the tutors who are undoubtedly very busy. In class it’s also super handy – everyone has different experiences which lend varying skills, for example I used to be an English tutor and therefore have a keen eye for grammar and can glance over pieces of writing. Others have more technical experience, and can help in an InDesign or Photoshop crisis. Helping your pals as you go is also a great way to cement what you’re learning in your brain, and ensure that you’re remembering the new skills being taught.

Get online (or rather, get MORE online).

As mentioned in the previous point, Facebook is good for keeping in sync with your classmates. In terms of having a professional benefit, Twitter is the way to go. The publishing world is super active on Twitter, and it’s a great way to get a feel for the general temperament of the industry (spoiler alert: everyone’s lovely). You can also begin to establish your own online presence by engaging in discussions. Also be sure to check out the course’s hashtag, #PublishingPostgrads, to see what we’re up to (and give us all a follow). Additionally, LinkedIn is fab for keeping track of who you know and what they do.

Go to London Book Fair – it’s free for students!

Along with Twitter, LBF is a way to keep in touch with the publishing industry, by attending talks and seeing what’s being discussed – for example, this year it was great to see that more and more people are encouraging the industry to be less London-centric. It’s also good to get a feel of how LBF works, before possibly having to go there as a professional yourself.

Join the SYP (Society of Young Publishers).

Throughout the year SYP run events for publishing newbies, both to entertain and educate. One such event that I found incredibly helpful was their 6×6 in October – six people from the publishing sphere, each talking for six(ish) minutes about their roles. This was a great way to find out about the different areas of publishing which, plot twist, is more than just editorial (not sass by the way, editorial is one of my interests). 

You don’t need experience before the course.

One thing that the prospective student was concerned about was lacking any experience in publishing. You don’t need existing knowledge prior to the MSc – our tutors put us at ease on the first day by saying they’ll assume that we know nothing. Phew! However, if you are concerned about not having any, a great way to ease in is by getting a job as a reader. This is where you’re sent manuscripts by a publisher, and give a report on whether you think it’s worthy of publishing. For you it’s a way to gain knowledge of the ins and outs of a publishing house, and for them it’s free opinions and advice. Win-win. 

Proofread your work! Trust me.

Do it. Multiple times. Take it from someone who had put Chapter Four in her book file twice, instead of Chapter Three and Chapter Four. That would’ve been just a little bit of a mistake. Yikes.

Read The Bookseller.

Speaking of work – researching can be daunting. The Bookseller is a magazine that, as is evident from the title, focuses on the book trade. With both articles and bestseller lists, it can serve as both inspiration if you need a topic to focus on, and provide the data when you have decided on one. They do a great subscription deal for students, but the course also has copies available to peruse on campus.

Don’t panic! (Again.)

Yes, I know I said it already but really, don’t panic.

Last, but by no means least – don’t forget to relax.

As with any course, you need to have a work-life balance to prevent burning out. You can always make your procrastination productive(ish), by watching films with loose representations of the book trade. For example The Holiday, in which Jude Law is an editor, or You’ve Got Mail where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan depict the struggle between chain and indie booksellers. It counts as education, guys. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.

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Tom approves Jude isn’t convinced by my justification, but Tom’s on board.

Good luck to all prospective students! It’s a great course. Hopefully I’ve eased some worries, but feel free to message me on Twitter, @elisabethgreeno, if you have any specific questions – as a fellow worrier I’m always happy to help.

Back in Germany with Napier’s publishing postgrads

Last week I had the opportunity to fly back home to Germany as part of an exchange of our publishing course at Edinburgh Napier University and the Mainz University. Early this year I already had the chance to meet some of the Mainz students while they were visiting our University. It was great to see them again and get to know each other better.

We arrived late at night on the 1st of May and started on the 2nd of May with a day at the Mainz University. We got the chance to listen to a lot of interesting topics and learn about the German book market, which was also new to me since I studied something different in my undergrad. The day ended with us seeing the Archives of the University and having a get-together with all students and speakers of the day. This obviously included some traditional food for the region, which I have to admit really missed back in Edinburgh.

On our 2nd day we had the pleasure to go to Heidelberg and not only see the beautiful city but also visited the Springer Nature office. The staff was very nice and showed us many presentations about Springer Nature’s history, future visions, and their complex looking production workflow. Thank you so much to Melanie Lehnert, Dr. Niels Peter Thomas, Viktoria Meyer and Renate Bayaz for the amazing time!

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Melanie Lehnert, Communications Specialist
Dr. Niels Peter Thomas, Chief Book Strategist at Springer Nature
Dr. Niels Peter Thomas, Chief Book Strategist, Springer Nature
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Viktoria Meyer, Team Leader STM Book Production, Springer

Day 3 took us back to Mainz. After visiting the federal state government we had a wonderful sightseeing tour throughout the city which one of the German students Maike Malzahn organized. 

Of course, we couldn’t resist hopping in the Gutenberg museum and see the highly protected Gutenberg Bibles and other amazing books from the past.

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Our final stop was at the music publisher Schott Music. We were lucky to see the Wagner room and many first prints of Mozart and Beethoven. As I used to play the piano when I was younger I was amazed by their evolving techniques to print sheet music. They were so welcoming and even put us (the Edinburgh Napier postgrads) up on their welcome board next to their important artists who visited for that day.

Our trip ended with all of us – the German students included – meeting up in a traditional German pub the ‘Eisgrub Bräu’ in the evening. I had a really fun time and enjoyed every part of this trip. Thank you so much to all the students and teachers from Napier and Mainz for making this exchange so amazing!

I had a really fun time and enjoyed every part of this trip. Thank you so much to all the students and teachers from Napier and Mainz for making this exchange so amazing!

 

 

My Placement at Entangled Publishing

Since day one of the Publishing course at Napier, it was mentioned that Twitter is a great tool to connect with others in the industry and keep an eye out for possible internship/job opportunities. Funny enough, it was through this very platform that my internship with Entangled started.

Entangled Publishing is an independent publisher of romantic fiction, in the adult and young adult markets. They’ve released more than 1,200 titles, including the YA novel Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout which was signed for a major motion picture. They have 13 imprints which range from a variety of ages and topics and the novels are released in digital and printed form. Approximately 20 to 35 titles are published in digital form and 4 in print and e formats simultaneously each month. Furthermore, 57 of their books have made it to the USA Today Bestsellers list and 17 to the New York Bestsellers list.

The position being advertised was for readers to help with submissions. As well as reading a bunch of manuscripts, which sold it for me already, they were offering to give editorial workshops. Along with production, one of my areas of interest within publishing is editorial, so this was just what I needed.

As a reader, you are tasked with reading the manuscripts assigned to you and fill out a report regarding key editorial aspects and your reading experience. Afterward, you must decide whether they should take it on or decline it. During my first reports, I was very hesitant to straight out say no. But after a couple more reports, I started to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t for the publisher.

You have to get into a state of mind that is a bit more critical and aware, without forgetting to enjoy the read. No two stories are the same. Each author draws inspiration from different places, creates characters with various backgrounds, and arranges the plot in distinct manners.

As mentioned before, I was really looking forward to the editorial workshops and they have been beyond amazing. I’ve learned about the numerous aspects that make a good story and the work that goes into each of them.

Overall, my experience as an editorial intern for Entangled has been an incredible learning experience and I’m really looking forward to the upcoming submissions and workshops.

-Damarys S. Campos

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Highlights from Napier’s Publishing Trip to Germany

Last week I hopped on a plane to Mainz with a group of my fellow publishing postgrads. The trip was absolutely fantastic. We had the chance to meet interesting people, explore new places and learn about the publishing landscape in Germany.

We spent a day at the university in Mainz, listening to lectures and touring their publishing archive. We enjoyed a walking tour of the city, ate delicious local cuisine and even got to tour the archives of Schott Music, a leading publisher for classic and contemporary music. As a former band geek, I was ecstatic to learn a bit about the history of music book publishing and completely enthralled to be in the same room as original work by Mozart and Wagner.

My personal highlight of our visit was a day trip to Heidelberg (aka my new favorite city). We did some sightseeing (I convinced a few classmates to join me in climbing the 313 steps up to the top of the city’s castle) and then spent the afternoon listening to presentations at Springer Nature’s headquarters.

Springer Nature is the world’s largest academic publisher, renowned for research, educational and professional and publishing. The staff made us feel extremely welcome, providing coffee, snacks and some really interesting presentations from staff in their communications, strategy and production teams. It was fascinating to hear about the publisher’s history and brand. Springer Nature has a global reach, so it was very cool to be inside such an enormous office and learn about the publishing history and process for such a large-scale company. They publish 13,000 books per year. Our group sat in awe at the complex production workflow each book passes through before being published. Even with the PowerPoint slide zoomed in at about 300%, I was still squinting to try and see all the tasks listed along the production schedule.

My favorite presentation was given by Dr. Niels Peter Thomas, Springer Nature’s Chief Book Strategist. He shared about his vision for the future of books. He discussed innovative ideas for new book formats and business models. Springer Nature is at the forefront of research and academics, so it makes sense for them to push the boundaries of what a book really is. Thomas discussed the possible use of virtual reality to provide spatial representation that helps students retain information and customized content and formats to aid readers’ learning process. The presentations provided great insight into what goes on in a major academic publishing house. It was incredibly interesting and inspiring to think about how books will evolve and how publishers will adapt to technological advancements.

I’m really happy I went on the trip. I didn’t know about it when I first enrolled at Edinburgh Napier, so it was a great surprise when they invited students to sign up for a publishing themed tour of Germany. I learned a lot and got to see some incredibly beautiful new places in the world.

Shout-out to all the amazing postgrads and professors (from Mainz and Napier) who made the trip so unforgettable.

 

 

A placement at Floris Books – what I learned about publishing (and had thought to ask).

Having undertaken a qualification in secondary English teaching, I am familiar with the concept of a work placement. As a student teacher you are required to undertake three separate placements, two lasting 6 weeks and one lasting 4 weeks. These are full-time, and you can feel like they go on forever. In publishing, when completing an MSc at Edinburgh Napier, you are hoping to take on a part-time or temporary placement, not required,but the aim of each is to provide valuable experience. For me this time, instead of teaching Curriculum for Excellence English lessons to teenagers in north Glasgow, I was packing my bag and heading to Floris Books, an award-winning children’s book publisher in Edinburgh. The opportunity to work at Floris Books as their Sales and Marketing intern is a rare and exciting one. Floris take on one intern a year, usually advertising the position from about October to university students at Edinburgh Napier and Stirling, before the role commences in January. This year, they’d chosen me.

 

Upon arrival and my first cup of tea (always trust a company that offers you tea immediately) I was given an introduction to the whole team. The office is open-plan and the resultant feel is that of collaborative effort and interdepartmental co-operation. The editorial team are at the back of the office, near the huge west-facing windows that showed the approach of any inclement weather (very important for later in the placement when a gigantic weather bomb hit and we stood in awe as snow swept in and hid the city behind sheets of greyish yellow cloud and tumbling white flakes), the design and production department are located in the middle, then sales and marketing with the head of publishing are closer to the front of the office. Having met everyone straight away, I was made to feel welcome instantly.

 

My role as intern had already been made fairly clear to me. Floris used a very detailed and useful job advert when looking for their intern and it was with this in mind that CJ Cook (sales and marketing executive) and I sat down to talk about my duties. Floris are very democratic in their approach to interns and their role. No one on placement is asked to complete a task that would not be expected of a member of staff – so no sorting post and making coffee that can be the case in some internships. Equally, CJ and other “marketeers” were keen to utilise the skills that I brought; being well-versed in teacher-speak, I could develop materials for use in the classroom with their books. Furthermore, as a Scots speaker I could help in creating specific resources for The Teeger that cam for his tea, the Scots version of the well-loved children’s classic. It felt like a very personal approach; Floris knew what I could offer, and my placement duties were tailored accordingly. I felt valued and a part of the team.

 

Over the course of the ten weeks, I worked with each of the various departments. I assisted in editorial on proofreading and Scots language. I helped to judge some of the submitted manuscripts for the annual Kelpies Prize. I learned from design and production what goes into the process of producing an illustrated children’s books (very useful in terms of my own live project at university!) and I created marketing materials for the promotion of that book. I applied skills gained from my MSc such as when html mapping and took ones from placement back to university to use on various aspects of coursework. The opportunity to see how a publishing house was run was thrilling, but beyond the acquisition and enhancement of my abilities was the joy in realising that this is an industry in which I truly want to work. I was welcomed, treated as an equal even though I was a complete newbie, given so many opportunities to contribute and have my voice heard. It may seem that all this is par for the course and I shouldn’t be surprised but honestly, after some of my teaching experiences, it wasn’t something I automatically expected. Floris Books treat their interns well, all members of staff are patient and will answer questions or give advice. They have monthly staff lunches where we all sat together for a bring-a-dish lunch. I feel I made friends and connections that will last long past the end of my internship and I am so grateful. If you ever get the opportunity to join them, you can be sure of a warm welcome, much like the teeger that cam for his tea.

 

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A teeger display in Waterstones.

Stepping into a New Role: How My Internship Restored my Confidence

Becoming a publishing intern has been challenging but also more rewarding than I could ever have imagined. After a voluntary position in December that ended in tears, I felt like a failure and that nobody would ever hire me again. The way I described the experience to my mum was “it was like being thrown in at the deep end with a boulder tied around my neck then laughed at for drowning”. By far the worst part was the way the person supervising me just couldn’t stop herself from scoffing at my inexperience. It was an unpleasant couple of days that I have put behind me and I’m happy to say I have come a long way since then.

After putting the negative experience behind me I approached Ringwood Publishing where I was already a volunteer reader and asked if there were any internship opportunities available. Ringwood Publishing is a small independent Glasgow based publisher that is dedicated to publishing quality works of Scottish fiction and non-fiction on key national themes of politics, football, religion, money, sex and crime. The company takes on a number of interns who contribute considerable skills for reading, proofreading, editing, copyediting, design, promotion and marketing. After an informal interview I was very pleased to be offered a long term internship and I was excited to join the team, however I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. The negative experience I’d had not long ago was playing at the back of my mind and I was scared that I would crash and burn a second time. I was desperate to impress my new placement provider and atone for my previous failures.

However I soon realised that my fears were completely unfounded. In just three short months I have already learned so much about working in publishing. My time at Ringwood has allowed me to experience different roles, including producing the monthly newsletter and recently I was given the fantastic opportunity to take over the role of Submissions Manager (shared with a fellow intern). In December when I was crying down the phone to my Dad because I thought I was a quitter, I never could have imagined just how confidently I would step into my new role at Ringwood just a few months later. So far taking charge of submissions has been the most rewarding part of the experience. Some of my responsibilities include manning the submissions inbox, doing the initial quality check for all submissions, sending manuscripts to volunteer readers and collecting the finished reader reports. Not only have I had the valuable experience of corresponding directly with authors but the role has allowed me to be actively involved in the decision making process and this month I will attend my first ever Editorial Committee meeting. My new role has been challenging in a character building way and I have surprised even my slapdash self with how organised I can be.

When writing about my placement, I debated with myself whether or not to include the bad experience I’d had. It may feel better to airbrush it from my memory but in the end it happened and I learned from it. Bad experiences help us grow too and now that I have experienced such a positive internship where I feel supported and encouraged I realise just how important it is to share the message with other young publishers that you should not be discouraged by one unfulfilling placement or by one person who makes you feel bad about yourself. Under no circumstances should you allow someone to devalue you. You are there to learn, not to be belittled for your lack of knowledge. That’s not ok, it really isn’t. The bad experience didn’t break me and it certainly didn’t put me off publishing. Thanks to my placement at Ringwood my confidence in my own abilities has not only been restored but it has grown tenfold. I am gaining so many skills from the experience but it’s the feeling of confidence that is worth its weight in gold to me. I believe it will serve me well when I start my career in publishing.