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!

 

 

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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.

Andrew’s tips for a long placement (AKA, what he learned from Scotland Street Press)

The majority of placements offered by publishers are short affairs. Thee standard length appears to be ten days or the equivalent of that. Indeed, the placement module of Napier’s MSc Publishing course only requires ten days’ worth of placement for the main assessment. How ever you may come across one or two in your time that can last a lot longer. A prime example is the PrePress Projects internship which usually runs for 13 weeks over thee summer months. A long placement is what I found myself entering in October 2017 when I was one of the students picked for the Scotland Street Press internship. I have continued in that placement ever since. I think a long placement can have some serious benefits for a student, especially if you start it near the beginning of your studies as I did. In the beginning I was incredibly nervous when I started. After all, I had only just started my MSc really. What could I offer a publisher at this stage? The answer was, as it turns out, a lot. Every time I learned something in class, I could apply it to my internship.  As my abilities grew, my contributions grew until I could handle some serious responsibilities.

Now as I come to the end of my time at Scotland Street, I can take away a wealth of experience and many examples of work I can take to publishers and say, “I did this”. I would like here to pass on some of the tips I’ve picked up on how not only to survive a long placement (or placements in general) but to take full advantage of it.

  1. Say yes and push yourself. But don’t worry if you can’t.

Let’s face it. Pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone is not an easy thing. It’s a difficult thing to throw yourself into something new without knowing if you’ll pass or fail. But if you take a chance on yourself then the rewards can be extremely satisfying. I’ve talked about the first time I managed to do this in a previous blog post which you can read on this site. That first success means I have continued to say yes to things which make me want to instinctually retreat like a turtle does into its shell. I’ve proofread forthcoming novels (and even found a few things the author and my boss hadn’t noticed!) when I have actually struggled with spelling and grammar all my life. I’ve designed the layouts for children’s books. I’ve managed uploading eBooks for sale through Kindle Direct Publishing.

But you should never forget that it is okay to say no to something. If you feel overwhelmed, or that you need help, talk to your host. They are there to help you learn, not to trip you up. If you feel that there is something you aren’t ready for be open and honest about it.

  1. Explore what interests you.

A placement is an opportunity for you to get hands on experience with publishing. So, if there is something in particular you want to know more about, ask your host about it. You have an interest in production? Ask to sit in on meeting or see work in progress content. You want a career in editorial? Why not ask some about the editing process or if you can see how they work on a manuscript. You will always get more from a placement if you can tailor it to your own interests.

  1. Discover something new.

Still no idea what you want to do when you’re a grown-up publisher? Good. A placement is the perfect opportunity to investigate a new area. I always believed that rights and contracts was not an area of publishing that I wanted to work in. To me a contract was a complex monstrosity of legalese that only lawyers could ever decipher. And then Jean, the Head of Publishing at Scotland Street took me to a contracts training session at Publishing Scotland. I agreed to go because I thought that I should make an attempt to understand contracts. I’m incredibly glad I went along. The session broke contracts down into something I could understand. At the end of the day, a contract is really just common sense dressed up with precise and complicated language. Now the moment I see a job advertisement for a contracts or rights assistant I will be pouncing on it. Being open to discovering new aspects of the industry could take you down a whole new path in life.

  1. Introduce yourself.

At a placement you will be working closely with a number of people. So, introduce yourself. Even if you won’t be working closely with them, introducing yourself to a person can help feel like part of the team. Not everyone will be happy and friendly, but you’ll find that most people in publishing are. And a simple hello can lead to a strong working relationship with you colleagues. They’ll understand if your nervous, they were once just like you.

  1. Watch your workload.

Being busy is par for the course when you’re studying an MSc and its more than likely that you will be busy with classes at the same time as you’re doing your placement. Don’t be afraid to offer to do some extra work for your placement. I have answered emails and finished off small jobs for Scotland Street outside of my normal office hours. But Jean has also been careful to watch how much extra she asks of me outside of my normal days. You should also watch your workload and make sure you take time for yourself. Sit back, read and book and recharge and your work will be better for it.

 

Bonus: The Tea

It’s a common joke that an interns job is to make the tea. Don’t worry it isn’t. But why not get to know people by learning how they like theirs? Like introducing yourself, it’s a good way to get to know your colleagues if it’s a small team you work with. For example, Scotland Street’s only permanent member of staff is Jean so at times it will just be her and whichever interns are in for the day. Many a nightmare project can be calmed by a good cup of tea delivered at the right time. But on the other side of that, let your colleague know how you like yours. The last thing you want is to be stuck with a milk and two sugars when you only take it black for the entire placement!

Working with a Literary Agent

Undertaking a work experience placement is definitely an invaluable way to learn about working in an industry and understanding the roles available. I knew when we had a little less class time in semester two, that I could supplement my learning with another placement in order to understand more about a part of the industry I knew little about: literary agents. I contacted Jenny Brown, one of Scotland’s biggest agents and began working with her one day a week.

Jenny Brown Associates was founded in 2002 and aims to represents authors based in Scotland, writing fiction and narrative non-fiction. Jenny has a comprehensive list of over 50 authors including Malachy Tallack, Lin Anderson and Alex Gray. She needed someone to help her work through submissions, help design her Rights Guide for London Book Fair, to post on social media, and to assist with one of the books that is coming out this year. I was more than happy to be involved in all of these tasks and to be learning from Jenny about the inner workings of a literary agency. She was always answering questions I had and helping me when I was unsure.

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The first few weeks I read a lot of submissions and wrote readers reports for Jenny, as she had just opened her submission window and was receiving a lot of emails daily from authors. This gave me a great insight into the kind of books Jenny was looking for, and we often discussed books that we found interesting and why.

Throughout my time with Jenny, I also did a lot of social media posting for her. As an agent, she has so many authors to promote and various launches and events happening almost every week. I would take photos for her Instagram, construct tweets and post on her Facebook to promote her authors and their books.

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Finally, I helped with the Rights Guide which was probably the most valuable thing I did in my time with Jenny as it really gave me an understanding of the role of agents when it comes to rights and how she works at the London Book Fair. I was able to use InDesign to work on the guide, as Jenny usually had to send it away to be worked on, so I was glad to be able to put my InDesign skills into use to make her life a wee bit easier. It was also great to know that something I had helped to work on was being used in all of her meetings at London Book Fair. Whilst at the Book Fair, I was lucky enough to be able to sit in on some of Jenny’s meetings. This was probably the best part of the fair for me, as I was able to get a real understanding about the kind of work that goes on at the fair and to see Jenny’s job in action.

Overall, work experience with a literary agent was an amazing experience for me. I was able to learn about another side of publishing I knew nothing about, to learn some new skills, meet other people in the industry and even sit in on meetings and see an agent doing their fascinating work. I would definitely recommend anyone to seek out a placement with an agent as it is a brilliant learning experience.