Books for Schools Initiative: Craigroyston Primary School

Last Monday, our group had the exciting opportunity to provide new titles to Craigroyston Primary School for our Books for Schools Initiative.

Craigroyston is known for encouraging their pupils to enhance their literacy skills, and supply this initiative by participating in book festivals all year-round. Such events include the Edinburgh International Book Festival, World Book Day, and Book Week Scotland. The age of their pupils ranges from four to twelve, with those in Primary 7 receiving a book of their choice upon leaving.

In 2017, the Deputy Minister and Education Secretary of Scotland, John Swinney, described the school as: ‘A shining example of innovative practice for how we take forward our literacy agenda.’

Craigroyston is situated in Muirhouse, an area of Edinburgh currently in redevelopment after a 2016 report revealed it to be the sixth most deprived ‘datazone’. That hasn’t stopped the school from celebrating its community. By holding weekly readings at the school, to holding fundraisers, it’s needless to say that their contributions have been vital in developing the culture of their community.

We believe the school deserved some new books for their young readers, as a reward for their dedication. Our small team paid an early visit to personally hand out twenty-two books for students to browse and read in their library.

The titles included The Kelpie’s Pearl, Peter and Wendy, and a playscript of Treasure Island. Our aim is to inspire the pupils to pick up these classic stories and expand their reading with new, fantastical tales. All three books fall into the fantasy category – a genre that will help in flourishing their imaginations.

publishing gals
Pictured [left to right]: Keira, Hannah, Eilidh and Jennifer presenting books to Craigroyston Primary
It was a privilege to play a part in enriching the young readers at Craigroyston Primary School. The work that their staff, pupils and parents do, is, for many, a heart of the community and a source of pride.


MSc Publishing: A Year in Review

As I’m drawing to the end of my publishing degree I can’t help but look back at all the things I’ve learned.  I came into this degree confident that I knew everything about this industry. I truly felt that I wouldn’t be starting from nothing and instead would be building on knowledge I already had. I mean how hard can it be to make books? As it turns out there’s a lot more to publishing than meets the page and there have been some serious highlights throughout this course.

One of the most interesting highlights of the course was the 2019 London Book Fair in March. This was a fantastic opportunity to see the publishing industry at its finest.  Not only were we given the platform to network with some of the biggest publishers, it was also an opportunity to listen to some deeply interesting panels about current issues facing the industry. I found myself drawn to panels on diversity. The first being a panel that was as diverse as their topic.  The discussion was focused on diverse and inclusive representation in children’s literature and brought some very interested debates to the audience.  The second panel looked at inclusive hiring and the benefits of hiring professionals from diverse backgrounds to help encourage more creative and innovative teams. I got so much out of that week and the panels I watched even helped inspire my dissertation topic.

Back in April I had the pleasure of attending the first event for The International Magazine Center. I was so inspired by Simon Kanter, the creative director of Haymarket Media, who talked about his experiences watching the industry evolve and change over the years. I found it really interesting to hear a publishing professional talk about actively seeking out new collaborations and opportunities to learn even at his level of expertise.  I am someone who truly believes that you can never stop learning and Kanter’s talk affirmed for me that the publishing industry is one that continues to grow because its professionals are constantly learning and expanding their knowledge.

To end trimester 2 I got the pleasure of accompanying Avril and Dave as well as 4 of my fellow classmates on a trip to Mainz, Germany. There we visited our exchange partners at the Johannes Gutenberg University and got to take a look at publishing from the perspective of another European country.  The trip was fascinating.  Not only were the cities we visited beautiful but the people we met and the business practices and history we learnt about were truly eye opening.  They really helped us to see past the UK publishing market and see it more as a global market.

So now that my degree is almost over, with nothing left but a dissertation to hand in I find myself in a completely different place than I started. I enter this degree sure I wanted to be a Book Editor and no one and nothing was going to change my mind.  But here I am, less than a year later and seriously considering a career and future in rights and contracts, something I didn’t even think of before this course. So as we all set of to start our careers in whatever area of publishing we’ve decided on, I am excited to see how we will all help shape the future of the Publishing Industry.

Storytelling in Action at Luath Press

During my placement at Luath Press, I had the opportunity to test my publishing knowledge in a fast-paced office setting, and to feel that I made significant contributions to the company’s publishing process. From assessing and cataloguing newly submitted manuscripts, to designing covers, to preparing final proofs for print, I was able to take part in a very wide variety of tasks, and I feel that I have learnt a great deal.

In my first week, I had the opportunity to devise a marketing plan and to draft cover ideas for a series of artbooks by photographer Alex Boyd. This I enjoyed a lot, since it challenged me to use my Creative Suite skills in a practical setting. Returning to Luath a few weeks later, I was pleased to discover that my idea to market Boyd’s three forthcoming books
in a visually similar manner had been carried through.

In both weeks I also carried out a degree of research and social media planning and built a database of publicity contacts for in-house use. I was shown the ins and outs of ONIX software and learnt about mail systems and newsletter distribution, things which had only been touched upon in the classroom. I also discovered quite a lot about the process of organising ePub files for print and ensuring authors remained happy with any proposed layouts (not always an easy task!).

Out of all the tasks I undertook, what I took the most pride in was the opportunity to use my editorial skills in assessing newly submitted manuscripts. I was given to understand that this was not usually a task for placement students, and so I felt a greater need to rise to the challenge, and I feel that I was successful in that regard. I was also able to hone my proofreading skills and knowledge of BSI marks when, on several occasions, I was tasked with proofing final draft manuscripts before they were sent to print.

The most exciting part of my placement, however, was that, with a fellow intern from another university, I was able to accompany the Luath team on a mini expedition to an event at the Scottish Storytelling Centre for one of their authors. Not only was her talk fascinating, but we were also able to meet her devoted readership, and to have a dialogue with her afterwards about how she wanted her forthcoming book to be marketed. Since the work focused on historic gardens, she even invited us to her own, remarkable, garden for tea and cake!

My time at Luath was highly informative and an invaluable opportunity to use and expand upon what I have learnt so far as an MSc Publishing student, and I expect to carry what I have learnt there into my future career.

For the Love of Magazines

I’ve always loved magazines. Sport, lifestyle, fashion, indie, trashy, whatever – if it’s printed on glossy paper, I’m pretty much guaranteed to read it. Before I’d finished high school, I’d even considered studying journalism. Magazines have been on my radar for a while, but once my opportunity to be a writer passed, I had kind of dismissed a career within the magazine industry altogether. Fast forward a few years and I found myself on the MSc Publishing course, considering a career within my other passion: books. However, I could never pin-point quite what I wanted to do with a career in book publishing. Editing? No chance. Sales? I know I can sell things, but I don’t exactly enjoy it. Nothing within book publishing was really igniting a spark. In our second semester, we were given the opportunity to produce our own product; a book or a magazine. I, of course, chose a magazine. Kudos has to be given to Nikki Simpson here – her unfaltering enthusiasm and adoration of magazines totally rubbed off on me and gave me the confidence boost I needed, I think!

I loved the whole process of creating my magazine – deciding on a focus, finding interviewees, sourcing photos (which would eventually come in handy for my placement!), designing a layout, writing features – I loved it all. I took full creative control and decided to do everything myself. My magazine isn’t the best magazine ever printed, but what it did was help me decide – finally! – that I wanted to pursue a career in the magazine industry. Editing a magazine is a lot less taxing and a whole lot more enjoyable than editing a manuscript.

When it came to choosing a placement, I had quite a difficult time. I didn’t have the confidence to approach a magazine publisher myself, so I spent a lot of time waiting around hoping for one to come up. In the end, I ended up applying for mainly book publishers, and was lucky enough to get a place on one of them. But, as these things do, a placement came up for a magazine publisher! 24 hours later, I was sitting in the office with Sue Hitchen, an absolute superwoman and managing director of The Media Company. The Media Company publishes a monthly food magazine, Foodies, and the annual Edinburgh Festivals magazine, as well as organising Foodies festivals in several cities across the UK.

I’ve been with Sue and her amazing team for three weeks now and I can’t quite believe everything I’ve done in this time. I started researching pictures – which has involved, amongst other things, talking with Paralympic athletes, PRs for Lewis Capaldi and Florence Welsh, comedians and, a little less exciting, phoning every restaurant in Edinburgh asking for photographs of their food! I’ve also written several articles, and helped to co-write a piece with deputy editor and absolute angel, Anna. I’ve moved on to sub-editing too, where my old friend InDesign has proved very useful. I would love a career that’s largely focused on design and the designer over at Media Co., Vicky, has been absolutely amazing – she’s been so encouraging and has been showing me some wee tips and tricks, too. Vicky has a CV that I’m totally envious of – in the 90s she worked for Radio Times and NME – so I have been taking her every word as bible.

I have surprised myself on this placement, to be honest. I’ve been able to complete all the tasks that have been asked of me, and I’ve even been able to help some of the team in the office with InDesign stuff, too – something I never, ever expected. When Edinburgh Festivals mag goes to print, my time in the Media Company office will no doubt come to an end – but I’ve been kept on as a reviewer for Fringe shows so I’m glad I’ll be maintaining the friendships and connections I’ve made for a little longer. It’s been so massively rewarding and I am so glad I held off and waited for the right placement to come along.

Check out Edinburgh Festivals Magazine in August to read more of my unforgettable, inspiring, beautiful words.

Nine Days at Luath Press

Walking up the Royal Mile on the first morning of my placement at Luath Press, I had a dreadful feeling that I’d forgotten everything I know about publishing. Would I have to bluff my way through the next two weeks? Would I be exposed as a clueless fraud? Turns out I didn’t need to worry…

The first thing I learnt was how unfit I am, and after walking up what felt like hundreds of stairs, I found myself sitting breathless in Luath’s office, learning all about the company’s history from director Gavin MacDougall. It was a relief to find another student starting work experience at the same time, and we were each given a very helpful checklist of tasks we were likely to complete during our time. As Luath host work placements regularly, they were well prepared, and reading through the list I was excited to complete a range of marketing, publicity, and editorial tasks.

A sunny walk up to Luath


During my nine days at Luath, I got the opportunity to see how a small team work so hard on multiple books at once. Everyone always seemed so busy, and there was always work to be done. I had the chance to work on so much, from drafting marketing plans, AI sheets and press releases, to putting together a newsletter, to creating events posters and invites. Some of this felt familiar to me, and some of this was completely new, but with access to the shared drive, featuring Luath’s super extensive Wiki, and templates for pretty much everything, getting down to work was made fast and easy. The feeling that I would be out of my depth soon faded.

Of course, there were challenges – they’re part of the experience. The placement wouldn’t have been very fulfilling without them. So, when I was given a draft of an upcoming book, Scottish Parliament at Twenty, to proofread and suggest changes to, I immediately thought, ‘I can’t do that!!!’ I could certainly look for typing errors, etc., but could I really form an opinion on this strange text that I was to quickly read through? Could I really suggest which areas weren’t working? What right did I have, as a humble intern, to advise some chapters didn’t seem to have a point? Being a bit unsure when it comes to sharing opinions, I felt the fear and did it anyway. And I was happy to see that the team were genuinely grateful for the time I spent looking at it.

A highlight was spending a day working in the back office of Main Point Books with Jennie, who is responsible for Luath’s typesetting. Finally, a chance to show off my InDesign skills! Depending on your outlook, typesetting can either be stressful and frustrating, OR it can be a fun, active task, filled with problems waiting to be solved. Working on the upcoming Mollycoddling the Feckless, I discovered how much I enjoy stress and problem-solving, and I was happy to have been given the opportunity to exercise my logic (and share more opinions, which by now I had become much braver doing).

Then, as quickly as it had begun, the placement came to an end. I had an interesting, educational two weeks, and I’m pleased to report there was no bluffing involved.

Check out Luath’s wide range of fiction, history, politics and travel guides on their website!

Publishing Others

You’re going to need a bit of backstory to get through this post.

When I was fifteen years old, I was selected to be in a “young writers” program back in Spain. This program taught us, kids from ages 9 to 20, a series of writing techniques and an introduction to poetry and all the necessary tools to one day become writers. The lessons were taught by some brilliant authors like Fernando Iwasaki, Pablo García Casado, Eduardo García and Rosa Montero, who made us write stuff and then read it aloud in class. That’s how I got to know what my friends were writing, and how many different voices fit in a classroom. The Andalusian School for Young New Writers made me realize that although I liked writing, what I really wanted was to get those voices to the public. And thus, when the journalists came to air a piece on us, I claimed on national TV that what I truly wanted was to be an editor and to publish all the people who deserved to be heard.

That philosophy has stayed with me and it’s what made me start this MSc in Publishing. After all the lessons and seminars and different events, I can understand a lot better how publishing works and how marketing, design, editorial and all other components are parts of a whole: an industry that makes money out of IP and that has strategy and numbers and an awful amount of both math and uncertainty of what the future brings. But underneath all that I saw echoed what my fifteen-year-old self thought publishing was – how what truly matters, in the end, is to bring stories and voices to people everywhere. Continue reading “Publishing Others”

London, The Spare Room Project, and Me

The Spare Room Project offers people from outside London who want to do an internship the chance of having a place to stay free of charge for some or all of their time there. To make it even more appealing the people who offer to host work in the publishing industry themselves. It aims to ease the financial barriers that people outside of London may be faced with when taking up an internship opportunity in London, the hub of publishing in the UK.

After not having much luck with finding a placement locally in Edinburgh I turned my sights to London. Countless emails, cover letters, and CVs were sent across every publishing house I could find and just as my hope dwindled Abrams & Chronicle offered me a two-week internship in their marketing and publicity department. After my “OMG YES YES YES” email, only slightly more formal the reality set in. Pound signs flashed before my eyes like I was a cartoon character, as I did my research. Accommodation, food, train to London, the Tube all began piling their costs on my calculator. As the numbers inflated so did my panic. I needed this placement. I needed to gain industry experience. It was my chance to test out my skills from my MSc and to really experience publishing first hand.

Knowing I’d probably left it too late, I applied to the Spare Room Project on a whim thinking I had nothing to lose but everything to gain. I continued to scour websites trying to find a hostel that was reasonably priced, had no bed bugs, and passably clean toilets – more of a struggle than I ever really wanted to know.

Just as hope dwindled, an email notification dinged early one morning. It floated into my inbox titled “Spare Room Introductions” and I about squealed with joy. Someone was willing to host me for my first week of placement. Suddenly the pound signs and panic deflated at the prospect of only needing to secure accommodation for a week. But then the unbelievable happened! About a week from my start date, another email titled “Spare Room Introductions” landed in my inbox. I now had somewhere to stay for my second week of placement! It felt too good to be true, suddenly the hundreds of pounds I needed for accommodation were a distant memory, floating out of sight.

My first week I was placed out in Totteridge and Whetstone. It was about an hour commute into Abrams & Chronicle but that meant I could grab some early morning reading, never a negative! I was staying with a lovely family and their two cats. They made me feel so welcome from the moment I arrived, they invited me to join them for dinner every night and again for breakfast. It was so wonderful to know that I wasn’t alone in a hostel eating by myself every night. Instead I had conversation, laughter and amazing home-cooked meals to look forward to every night.

My second week I was transported to the complete opposite side of London over near Stratford. New Tube line and new area to discover. This time, I stayed with a young couple in their amazing newly renovated house, and first time hosters for The Spare Room Project. Once again, I was welcomed with open arms, warm meals, friendly conversations, and invitations to join them in their Netflix watching. What more could a newbie to London hope for? I loved getting to peek inside the world of audiobooks at Penguin Random House from listening to my host and learning something that didn’t come up during my classes.

Without The Spare Room Project I don’t think I would have gotten nearly as much out of my placement. I know if I had been living in a hostel with the constant reminder of pound signs flashing in my head every day, it would have caused constant anxiety and stress. Instead, it allowed me to put all my energy into learning and enjoying my placement and make connections in London as well as the publishing world.

Before I sign off, I wanted to extend a huge thank you to everyone who works on the Spare Room Project to help people like me from outside London have a viable option of completing a placement. As well, a huge thank you to both of my hosts who were so welcoming and generous enough to allow me to stay, and to Abrams & Chronicle for giving me such a great first-hand introduction to the publishing industry. It is such a fantastic initiative and I am so thankful to have gotten the chance to experience it, it made such a huge difference to my everyday life and perception of London and the publishing industry. So please make sure you sign up whether as a host and help someone out!