Most of my experience of my first London Book Fair as a MSc Publishing student this year was a dazed wander around the Olympia, trying to take as much in as possible and also not get overwhelmed. Publisher stalls were fit to burst, pathways were bustling with people, and panels were sometimes full to the brim. There were however two panels that weren’t as crowded but that I wish had been. Both explored the importance of literacy to the wider community, to society as a whole, and implored publishers to collaborate. I can’t begin to summarise the range of initiatives, expertise, and overall sense of hope that these panels gave me properly in this post but hopefully it communicates something of what I got out of those experiences.
Coming into 2019, I’d successfully completed the first three modules of the MSc Publishing course. The skills I acquired through Publishing in Context, Publishing in Practice, and Fiction and the Fiction Market, strengthened my knowledge of the industry and market research, as well as enhanced my design and editorial skills. I began the Publishing Placement and Professional Development module in second trimester fully confident in my ability to secure a 10-day work placement before the end of the term.
With social media platforms being a free and far-reaching means of advertising for job vacancies, I began regularly searching for work experience opportunities on Twitter using the hashtags #workexperience #workinpublishing #publishingjobs #careersinpublishing. While I admit this was somewhat of an unconventional approach, it is ultimately what landed me my placement with Culture Smart travel guides.
I was absolutely delighted to be offered a spot in Culture Smart’s marketing and publicity department and looked forward to cultivating first-hand industry experience during my time there. Culture Smart is an imprint of Kuperard, a publisher and distributor based in North London. Among the publishers they distribute for are Harper One, William Collins, Simon & Schuster and Random House. The Culture Smart imprint provides essential information and insight on regional etiquette, customs, courtesies, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors for countries worldwide.
In this publicity and marketing role, I created visual and written web content for the company’s various social media platforms, as well as assisted in launching two marketing campaigns. I proactively looked for partnership opportunities to increase the Culture Smart brand. Through research, community outreach and the creation of spreadsheet databases, I was able to secure new writers for their cultural travel blog and boost their social media following by promoting online engagement.
In my last week, I wrote a post for the Culture Smart travel blog about my time studying overseas which coincided nicely with their Study Abroad marketing initiative. My post, A Canuck in the Land of Kilts, touched on the bits of culture shock I experienced after moving to Scotland, as well as the meaningful connections I’ve made since establishing myself abroad.
During my placement, I was able to apply my energy and attention to detail to deliver high-quality work. I thoroughly enjoyed working for a travel publisher, and am so thankful for the opportunity and unique experience Culture Smart provided me.
When I started the publishing programme at Edinburgh Napier University, the placement module was the one I was excited about and also the least worried about. This might sound weird, because, like most of my peers, I started this programme to get more publishing experience. I wasn’t as nervous about this upcoming placement, however, because I spent last year interning at various publishing houses in the Netherlands and thus already had some experience.
I have been a book blogger since March 2013 and over the course of the fewpast years I have built relationships with various publishing houses within the UK. I have loved reviewing for Harper Collins, Abrams & Chronicle, Bloomsbury, and Bonnier Books in the past; and when the time came to secure a work placement, I sent a few emails to contacts I hadmade through my years of blogging. Two weeks later I secured my placement at Abrams & Chronicle Books in London.
Although I had not been nervous about the work placement up until that point, nerves seemed to kick in full force the moment I stepped on my flight to London. Although I had some previous publishing experience, all my publishing experience came from Dutch publishing houses and I started worrying that it would be different in the UK. I realised that aside from the department I would be doing my placement in (marketing and publicity) I actually did not know what to expect at all.
I realised the very first day that there weren’t any major differences between Dutch and UK publishing houses, aside from the language and the tea culture… I worked on a variety of tasks during my placement. Some of which I had experience with, such as proofing press releases, social media marketing, and sending out press and blogger mailings. There were also plenty of tasks that I hadn’t done before, such as creating Excel grids for upcoming releases and title updates, creating publicity and marketing plans, and doing title research for some of their upcoming titles.
I really enjoyed my placement and it was a very good first foray into the UK publishing industry. It also was a good reminder that every first day is a little nerve-wrecking, no matter where or how much experience you already have. Every company, whether it is in publishing or not, has a certain way of doing things. You’ll have to familiarise yourself with the system they work with and find your own place and workflow within the company.
Hi, I’m Angus, one of this year’s batch of MSc Publishing students. My work placement involved editing some of the very first titles put out by The Wee Book Company, who publish in Scots and nothing else. Since I’m the kind of gadgie who likes to lecture others, I’m going to use this platform to share five wee tips for writing and wrangling with Scots.
Narrative Voice vs Dialogue
Something you’ll hear again: Scots is a spoken language. The page is not its natural home.
This means that in a first person story told by a Scottish character, you’ve got full license to write in their voice, and be as chatty as you like. Imagine the character is sitting in front of you, relating their tale. Scots isn’t for internal monologue. Scots is for speaking.
Which means that in third person, you might want nothing but the dialogue to be written in Scots. After all, third person narration is usually supposed to be neutral, and disembodied. If you have it speak in Scots, it becomes a person. Point in case: Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song.
Scots is a spoken language. There’s no official, standardised version. So when you write Scots, you really have to ask yourself: who’s speaking? Who we are affects the Scots we speak. Consider:
- I is Eh in Dundee, but Ah in most of the country. Eh dinnae ken.
- Is a 9 year old Fortnite addict speaking the same Scots as Granny? Naw, he’s no.
- Is @ScottishPatterr retweeting Victorian-era Scots? Nae chance.
- Do the suburbs sound just like the schemes? Tak a guess, Einstein.
Sense of Humour
Think of how modern Scots manifests in pop culture. Irvine Welsh. Chris McQueer. Limmy. Chewin’ the Fat. Burnistoun. Still Game. Are these smart people? Yes. Are they writing brilliant stuff? Yes. Do they give the impression they take themselves incredibly seriously? No. I’m not saying Scots English can’t be dour, direct, and deep. In fact, those first three guys on my list do dabble in the darkness. But not before they entertain you.
Scots is spoken. It doesn’t have standardised spellings. The page isn’t its natural home. Blah blah blah. So when you do put Scots on the page, does it matter if spellings switch between ‘I’ and ‘ah’, or ‘highlan’, ‘heighlan’, and ‘heilan’? To some it might not. Don’t try to impose your rules on a rule-free language, they might argue. I decided that in the case of The Wee Book Company, I disagreed. I didn’t want smart alecs like me to be able to flick between two different pages, and see the same word spelled two different ways.
So, if you’re editing a big chunk of Scots writing, I’d suggest making a spelling grid. That means picking out every word with a contentious spelling, and settling on the rendering you think is most suitable for the piece. Later on, of course, you can always break and bend the rules, but to do this you need to have a rule to disobey in the first place.
Learning from the Greats
Did I mention that Scots is a spoken language? With no rulebook to follow, you’re better off following precedents, and learning from the Great Masters. That’s what photographers, painters, and filmmakers do. Why shouldn’t editors? Why shouldn’t writers? Here’s a recommendation for free: The Acid House by Irvine Welsh. Inside this collection of mostly insane short stories you’ll find a least half a dozen different ways to write Scots prose and dialogue, and you’ll probably end up very jealous of just how clever Mr Welsh is. Bawbag.
At the beginning of this course the placement module always seemed exciting, but when the time came to actually organising one, it all felt a bit more daunting. I had no direct experience in the industry, and although you’ve got to start somewhere, getting that first bit of experience is always tricky. It’s difficult to put yourself into a situation where you don’t really know the day-to-day workings of a publishing house and are wondering what you can bring to the table. Of course, as it turns out, I had far more to offer than I thought and those transferable skills everyone talks about really do come in handy.
I secured my placement with Vagabond Voices in December, after having researched the company for a case study the previous trimester. Continue reading “A Placement at Vagabond Voices”
For UK based Persian to English translator Shahab Vaezzadeh, fiction translation is a rarity. It’s something a little bit different from his day-to-day commercial translation work. Translating literature is more collaborative and as language is generally freer in literature than British Council briefings its translation can throw up different problems to commercial works, i.e. what should be done with the longer sentences, higher frequency of adjectives and tendency towards onomatopoeic words that are far more common in Persian than English? Shahab addressed all these issues at the Contemporary Iranian Literature, Translation and Performance Workshop, put on by Visiting Arts. As well as other issues that are relevant to the publishing of translated literature.
Visiting Arts, organised the event alongside Comma Press and the Edinburgh Iranian Festival, as a means to a means to promote Iranian literature and translation in the UK, which they’ve been doing for the last ten years. The event included a workshop on live translation as performance art taken by Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh, an alumnus of the Visiting Arts’ National Centre for Arts residency programme. Nazli also gave a reading of some of her recent writing. Continue reading “What goes into a translation: lessons learned from a Visiting Arts translation workshop”
Saturday October 13th 2018
Just out of Back Bay station, my mum screams and with wide eyes whispers “that man! He is really really famous!” While we resist to believe her at first, Nile Rodgers of Chic has just walked past us towards his waiting car. Nobody else turns their head but it has certainly got our trip off to a good start.
When we arrive at Copley Square, we are met with a mass of publishers’ tents. I must admit, I am quite overwhelmed by the prospect of finding my way amongst this new community, but the first stop we make is into the tent of Other Press. We get talking to a woman called Mona. She works in their New York office. She is French, we have met a comrade. We get talking about Europe, about Brexit, about Trump, and what all of this feels like. She shows us the books they have on offer. And at the very first stall we have visited, we buy three beautiful books. I am glad that I travel light as I feel a sudden concern for my baggage allowance on the return flight. All of the books are heavily discounted for the festival. Everyone we meet loves our accent which I find really funny but nice. They say because we are Scottish they will throw in a tote bag for free. The next customer is disappointed as theirs is still 10 dollars. Continue reading “Boston Book Festival”