Online Marketing at Google’s #DigitalGarage

In March, I attended a couple of #DigitalGarage sessions ran by Google in Glasgow. These workshops are free to attend and are part of a larger project that Google is working on to get people feeling more confident about online marketing. While I’m aware that these sessions are not specific to publishing, I think it is really important for publishers to stay ahead of the curve with the latest strategies in digital marketing. I plan to use what I learned from these sessions with my own blog and in my current social media internship with Linen Press Books. In the meantime, I’ve summarised some of the key points from the #DigitalGarage below.

What is #DigitalGarage?

“Free tutorials from Google on everything from your website to online marketing and beyond. Choose the topics you want to learn, or complete the whole online course for a certification from Google and IAB Europe.”

I attended the live workshops but Google also offers free online training if there aren’t any workshops running near you. You can set goals, learn from experienced professionals, apply your knowledge, track your progress and stay motivated!

The sessions were a great springboard for me as I am really interested in online and digital marketing within publishing. They were comprehensive and there was lots of information and resources for me to take away. I learned about the importance of designing a good website, choosing a domain name and thinking about hosting.

“Nearly half of all visitors will leave a mobile site if the pages don’t load within 3 seconds.”

When it came to social media, they were armed with interesting and informative stats for us: 38 million active social media users and 1 hour 29 minutes average daily use of social media via any device (younger audience = significantly higher usage). I was surprised to learn that people formulate an impression within 50 milliseconds of visiting your social media profile so it’s important to think about your bio: keep it relevant, clear and consistent and show you personality – people like people. It made me ask the question: what message can I send out on my Twitter page within 50 milliseconds?

The #DigitalGarage sessions are a hidden gem. It is very rare to get comprehensive training like this for free so I was eager to jump on the chance. I look forward to seeing how my new found knowledge can help me with all things publishing.

“Building Inclusivity” (take two)

C686ijaWcAEJta6.jpg-large It has been a month since the London Book Fair. Three days full of the publishing industry, with international publishers and international speakers. The event gave me a chance to get information for upcoming assignments and encouraged me to gain inspiration for my pre-thought up dissertation topic.

One talk that I attended that I found especially interesting was the Diversity in Bookshops talk that took place on the Wednesday morning. Strangely, the evening before I had taken a trip to Waterstones to buy and start reading The Good Immigrant, an anthology published by Unbound in 2016. By chance the editor, Nikesh Shuklah, was a speaker at this talk. The night before I hadn’t been able to put the book down so I was very happy when I attended this event to find he was speaking.

A current issue in the publishing industry is the lack of diversity, something that is hopefully changing. November 2016 brought the first Building Inclusivity Conference by The Publishers Association, where speakers from publishers such as Penguin Random House and Barrington Stoke spoke about what is needed for change. Linking to this conference was the introduction of the new Inclusivity in Publishing Award, also introduced by The Publishers Association, to encourage more publishers to promote inclusivity and change as ‘publishers are at the heart of driving change’ (Stephen Lotinga, The Publishers Association CEO).

14% of the UK population is Black, Asian or minority ethnic, 40% of London yet only 2% of the publishing industry. These statistics make it quite clear that the British society is not reflected in the publishing ecosystem. Diversity is important as it provides a celebration of otherness, a celebration of what makes us different and of what makes us the same. Additionally, although women dominate the industry, it is interesting to note that the chief executives, the bosses and high up members of the industry, are in fact men.

The lack of diversity in the publishing industry reflects on the lack of diverse literature that is put out to bookshops. If you want humans to feel unrepresented then don’t give them a reflection of themselves (Nikesh Shuklah, LBF 2017). In order to change the lack of diversity in the publishing industry – arguably due to the middle class, white, male dominance of the industry – publishers such as Penguin have introduced new programmes to encourage and support writers from under-represented communities. Write Now is a scheme that aims to ‘find, mentor and publisher new writers with different stories to tell’ regardless of the demographic or racial background. The publishers want to publish all representations of the British community, from the middle class highly represented to the under-represented community – all of which make up the UK society. It aims to provide representation for all humans, to give them a reflection of themselves. 10 writers are selected from these events to take part in a year-long mentoring programme, working alongside Penguin in order to give opportunities of support, to encourage new literature.

Community should be reflected in a realistic cultural level, to be able to read about disabilities, traditional and non-traditional families. If they are constantly “othered” or not there, then they will feel marginalised. The Good Immigrant provided a platform for coloured writers, to give reflection for those who are not reflected in British publications. I enjoyed reading this text as I was able to relate to some of the experiences of the BAME writers, being a mixed ‘British-Pakistani’ individual, such as relatable stereotypes and misunderstandings within the society.

The crowdfunded publication’s success was shown as it went on to win The Reader’s Choice Award. The success of publications such as The Good Immigrant and Nasty Women, by 404INK, shows that there is a place in the publishing world for new, under-represented voices. People want to be see a reflection of themselves in what they read. Building inclusivity in the publishing industry is forever necessary, especially in a multicultural Britain.

 Anyway, if you don’t like someone’s story, you write your own’ (Chinua Achebe).

 In 1997, writers of colour were gaining recognition. The time provided hope for the build of inclusivity in the British publishing industry, realising it was out of touch with the multicultural society. It provided hope for new literature and new voices. 2017, and again the industry is pushing the concept of building inclusivity. It is important to try to understand what went wrong twenty years ago, why the British publishing industry are again having to strive for inclusivity, and hopefully this time inclusivity will be met.

Brexit: Good News?

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Brexit ‘flag’: Creative Commons

As I am a publishing student, this was my first time at the London Book Fair, it was daunting because there were so many people there from the different sectors of the publishing but it was also very fun to be immersed from the start of LBF with all the major components of the publishing world.

The talk at LBF that really stood out for me was Brexit: Good News or Bad News for the Publishing Industry. It was a little alarming to hear all of the available statics for Brexit that could be crammed into one hour. Forty-three percent of jobs in UK publishing belong to foreign workers; this is nearly half of the industry that Britain will lose if the Prime Minister does not give EU workers the security to remain living and working in the UK. However, despite this, it was also inspiring to see and hear that at almost every talk that I attended it was mentioned that the CEOs of major companies were all concerned about their EU workers and not just the standing of their companies. Brexit has also decreased the value of the pound, therefore increasing the cost of printing in the EU. The value of the pound has been down since immediately after the referendum, has naturally caused a certain amount of concern about the industry’s ability to carry on ‘business as usual’; publishing is a particularly risk adverse industry. As no can say for certain what the market will be like when Britain finally leaves the EU in 2019, it makes it hard for the industry to establish the contract that they may need for 2019 in 2017.

While writing this I was hit by one of J. K. Rowling’s many wonderful quotes ‘Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself[1]’ The ‘damage’ that has been done to the publishing industry has been done out of fear of something that is yet to happen. This fear is a good thing if we as an industry can use it to propel us forward in negotiating the best possible deal and thus it will make us work harder and be stronger industry than before.

Although this is undoubtedly a challenging time to be wanted it join the publishing world I left Brexit: Good News or Bad News for the Publishing Industry feeling empowered as I felt that the industry would thrive as, after all, we were only leaving the EU we were not leaving the planet[2]. Establishing the best possible trade deals with other countries across the world in the count to Brexit as well post-Brexit is far more achievable than publishing in zero gravity.

[1] J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone, Bloomsbury, p.216

[2] Brexit: Good News or Bad News for the Publishing Industry, London Book Fair, 14th March

Reflecting on LBF ’17

The London Book Fair was a tremendously valuable experience. Certainly, I was a little overwhelmed at first by the sheer number of stands, the scale of the Olympia and the deals and important conversations between publishers that I saw taking place as I wandered the aisles. But as a learning experience, a place to hear up-to-date and in-depth knowledge directly from the publishing professionals themselves and a chance to be a part of the buzzing and beautiful city of London, I took away many points to reflect on.

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I was particularly looking to explore the uncertainty that the publishing industry faces in an ever-changing world of new technologies and shifting political climates (Brexit being the obvious concern here) and how publishers are challenging and looking to overcome this. This was of course a major topic for debate across the fair, addressed in the majority if not all of the talks I attended.

The very first seminar, ‘Brexit: Good or Bad News’, explored just this. DK’s Ian Hudson and Charlie Redmayne of Harper Collins voiced concerns over Brexit’s impact on recruitment in terms of freedom of movement, issues in copyright frameworks and implications of the weaker pound on printing for example. While many in the room also voiced concern, (upon a vote, most felt that Brexit would have a mainly negative effect on the industry), the general feeling was however positive – we’ve been dealt this scenario and now we have to work together to move forward and overcome. The Bookseller quoted Will Atkinson of Atlantic Books, commenting on the day: “A bright spot is that it might be a good time to be writing and publishing, as people seek truth and try to make sense of our difficult times” (‘Hudson slams ‘inhuman’ May’s EU dallying’, 15 March 2017).

Another intriguing seminar was ‘Reportage in a Post-Truth World’, taking place on the second day. With a panel of reporters and analysts, the discussion focused on positions of authority, fact-checking and gatekeeping knowledge. Have the fact-checking media become too elitist as President Trump tweeted, becoming irrelevant and losing out to more populist media? To what extent can you influence the readers’ emotions? What does post-truth mean for publishing? – important questions to consider in assessing publishing’s role in our shifting world.

Other highlights include various talks in the Cross-Media section – we heard from Andrzej Sapkowski, the author of The Witcher series, in adapting literature to different forms of media, and the We.Latvia project, a new collection focusing on storytelling reassessing history and memory to inform the present.

Meeting other publishers during our time in London, albeit briefly, was also extremely valuable, the Publishing Scotland whisky social an example of this, reconnecting with professionals and introducing myself to new individuals. We also attended the Borough Book Bash at the end of the final day. A more informal setting than the fair, I met further new faces and discussed opinions and routes into the industry. Twitter handles and details were exchanged and I’ll certainly be looking to keep in contact.

A thoroughly enjoyable and fruitful week to a be a publisher (and an MSc Publishing student!), I feel significantly more aware and understanding of industry trends, issues and developments and I look forward to visiting the London Book Fair again in the future.

Bringing Translated Classics into the Future

I went to London Book Fair with the intention of sitting and listening to all the wise publishers talk, keeping my ears open for something to help me bring all my crazy dissertation ideas into a neat little plan. The Literary Translation Centre had many interesting talks, where they discussed promotion of translated fiction and the issue of prejudice against minorities both inside and out of the country. But with my combined interest in the digital medium, the talk ‘Translating Conrad’ had me sold.

Chair Dr. Stanley Bill introduced the three speakers Dr. Magdalena Heydel, Jacek Dukaj and Catherine Anyango, having translated Conrad’s Heart of Darkness into words, visual art and digital art, respectively.

The conversation started off saying how classic authors were limited to their ways of expressing their ideas, and today we have technology to bring these classics into a new generation and a new medium. Stories like Heart of Darkness, where Conrad packed visual impressions into words, have a lot of emotions to play with, opening the argument of using visual technology and art to express the story.

Catherine Anyango’s illustrations were especially powerful, and as I remember the story, a true way of expressing Conrad’s vision. But an argument we need to be aware of when translating into another art form is: is it a translation or an interpretation?

Catherine Anyango turned the words of Conrad into images and illustrations by playing with colours and moods mirroring the story, and she specifically mentions the ethical issue of who owns the narrative, something she says to have stayed true to in her translation. The visual could help and compliment the text where the words might not make as strong an impression as they ought.

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I was brought back to my undergraduate studies as Dr. Magdalena Heydel started talking about her translation of the text into polish. The discussion of what is British literature and where does Conrad fit in, she started with an important point to make: Conrad, as a polish man, was not a polish writer. Dr Heydel opened up the interesting question of whether there is a difference in a writer writing in their second or first language and whether that affects the easiness or difficulty in translating someone’s words. She said compared to Conrad, Virginia Woolf writes just as complex sentences, but she is more difficult to translate into Polish.

Further, Dr. Heydel talked about the difficulties and challenges when translating a classic text into another language for a modern reader. She decided to remove the archaic style in her translation, and she spent a lot of time picking the appropriate words to trigger the same emotions Conrad’s words does.

Another challenge she talked about was how social and cultural language has changed since Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness. The challenge of classic texts is the words that we no longer use. Dr. Heydel took a risk by analysing what Conrad meant with his chosen words and translated those into Polish words carrying the same meaning in Conrad’s time period. How does one translate a classic text for a modern reader, without changing what the author meant?

This is near to impossible as one would have to know the author’s thoughts behind the text was, and a translator may end up changing the author’s views by changing a word. The translator then has the power to make the author more or less racist depending on which words they use in the translation.

This discussion raised a question for me: Are we supposed to translate classics based on what we know of the author (racist, feminist, etc.) or should we focus on it as a stand-alone text?

Tonje H.

Twitter: @tonjehefte
Instagram: tihefte

#LBF17 – Translation from Outside the Metropolis

This year, as part of my studies on Edinburgh Napier University’s MSc Publishing course, I attended The London Book Fair for the first time. Now in its 46th year, LBF defines itself as ‘the global marketplace for rights negotiation and the sale and distribution of content across print, audio, TV, film and digital channels,’ and is therefore a crucial event in the publishing calendar for professionals and students alike. The sheer scale of the fair is incredible, both programme-wise and geographically, and can be borderline overwhelming for first time attendees, but also presents great opportunities for learning and networking.

This post will not review or recap the fair in its entirety, but will instead focus on my favourite seminar of the 200+ that were on offer for visitors. As I read a lot of translated fiction and am hoping to write my dissertation on minority language publishing in the UK, I spent a lot of my time at LBF at the Literary Translation Centre, which featured a stellar programme of events by speakers working in the translation field. The seminar that interested me the most was ‘Translation from Outside the Metropolis,’ where the focus was on the underrepresentation of a ‘variety of national voices and perspectives’ in contemporary fiction and media. In the same way that white and middle-class authors are an overwhelming majority over BAME and working-class counterparts in contemporary Anglophone publishing, urban voices tend to dominate English-speaking literature to the detriment of regional and rural voices and identities. The panellists were tasked with discussing this issue in specific relation to translated works.

The discussion was chaired by Theodora Danek, Programme Manager of English PEN’s ‘Writers in Translation’ programme, and the panel comprised voices from three different stages of the writing process: Alys Conran, a Welsh author and creative writing lecturer; Mary Ann Newman, literary translator and expert on Catalan literature and culture; and Ra Page, founder, CEO and Editorial Manager of Manchester-based Comma Press. All three spoke eloquently and in some detail about the challenges facing translated fiction in the UK, and specifically about the lack of voices from outside major cities being translated into English.

Alys’ views were of particular interest to me as Welsh is one of the Insular Celtic languages I am planning to focus my dissertation on; it was fascinating, if a little disquieting, to hear her speak about the difficulties she faced getting her latest novel published. ‘Pigeon’ was released in 2016 and thrived immediately in Wales, but took longer to start gaining any traction in the English market. She eventually released English and Welsh editions simultaneously through Parthian Books, but beforehand was told by more than one publisher that her story was ‘too Welsh’ to succeed in the English market, and that the rural stereotypes of Welsh culture and writing would make the book to difficult to market. Ra, speaking as a publisher, thought this a ridiculous position to take. An author and book’s background and origin, while being useful in flavouring the text, should never be the be-all and end-all for marketing a book. The example he offered was that if Comma was to release a book of Polish short stories translated into English, merely targeting Polish immigrants and second-generation Poles as a target market would be absurd; the market simply isn’t big enough. A book’s content is more important than its background. If a novel or short story is of good enough quality, its provenance should not matter and it should be able to connect with readers regardless of regional heritage or allegiance.

Ra emphasised that publishing companies should be more prepared to take risks when importing fiction into English and commissioning from abroad, as Comma itself has done with books like Hassan Blasim’s ‘Iraq + 100.’ He also earmarked the English short story as a particularly and predictably urban, even London-centric, format, and contrasted it with Ireland’s tradition of quality rural short stories, dealing with small, localised communities. The diametric country-town relationship in Britain is very entrenched, and this prejudices the view of rural identity and culture, and therefore writing, in other countries. Mary Ann, who has translated a great deal of Spanish and Catalan literature into English, agreed with this, and related how, in her experience, the vast majority of work commissioned for English translation comes from the great urban centre of the city Barcelona, with comparatively little interest shown in work from, or set in, the massive rural areas of Catalonia.

The panellists ultimately agreed that there is a certain prejudice placed against rural works when commissioning English translations, and that the stereotypes of rural texts and areas are as inaccurate as they are unfair – rural communities, both within the UK and abroad, are much more cosmopolitan than many people think and have a great deal to add to contemporary literature. For this reason, among others, it is vital than publishers take more chances on rural and regional fiction, where regional identities, far from being too niche to attract mainstream audiences, are actually best expressed in multi-cultural and multi-language societies. Developing new voices from outside the metropolis and the mainstream is essential in the current political climate, especially in post-Brexit Britain, where many need reminding that hearing from other cultures can help enrich our own.