On Wednesday 13th November 2013, I was able to attend a lecture given by Charlotte Green, Senior Commissioning Editor at Oxford University Press (OUP), at St Andrews University. Whilst predominately aimed at those wishing to publish an academic or trade title in book format, it was particularly interesting to gain an insight into the world of academic publishing and learn more about the internal workings of this side of the industry.
Charlotte has worked for OUP for seven years, having started her career as an intern and worked her way up through production to her present role. She is currently overseeing 120 books through to publication, predominately in the brain sciences discipline.
She began by discussing the suitable content for a book as opposed to a journal article, and then covered some of the issues that are particularly pertinent to authors, such as the need to write a good proposal, and advice as to whether or not to engage an agent. Particularly relevant to the current stage in the MSc programme at Edinburgh Napier was the information on contracts, and how to read them. Charlotte then outlined some of the expectations relevant to an author and publishing house, and the relationship between the two, before moving on to the world of digital versus print.
Charlotte emphasised the importance of having an honest and close relationship between authors and publishers, citing one example where an author had created a superb and extensive text book, but had not revealed that they had dyslexia. The extra costs associated with waiting for stronger proofreaders to become available, and the subsequent last-minute changes to the production schedule meant the eventual cost of the textbook to the consumer was considerably more than had originally been estimated.
It was also clear that OUP recognise the digital future of publishing, and that the company are keen to keep ahead of the competition in this field. This is exemplified by CEO Nigel Portwood’s decision to continue to invest heavily in enhanced eBooks, and all of OUP’s titles are now simultaneously produced in print, eBook and online.
One of the first titles to benefit from multiple formats was a cardiology textbook, for which the online content included a video of open heart surgery, and audio tracks of an irregular heartbeat. Similarly, textbooks produced in black and white print format benefit from supplementary colour images online.
It was encouraging to hear during the Q&A session that InDesign is used to prepare content for publication – reaffirming the knowledge that struggling through our Creative Toolkit sessions is not in vain!
I took the opportunity to introduce myself to Charlotte after her talk, and to thank her for her time – I was delighted to then be asked if I wanted to join Charlotte and a group of academic professionals and psychology students for coffee – a networking opportunity that I grasped with both hands.
Charlotte has kindly agreed to make her slides available to those of us currently studying publishing at Edinburgh Napier University – these will be uploaded to Moodle. Many thanks again to Charlotte Green for the informative talk – perhaps next year she can be persuaded to include Edinburgh Napier University MSc Publishing students on her tour of Scotland!