The first time I met Allan, the founder and soul of Vagabond Voices, was on a rainy Scottish day at a reading held at the Golden Hare Bookstore in Stockbridge.
My placement at Vagabond Voices had been agreed but had yet to start, and I had taken care to familiarise myself with the publisher’s catalogue before meeting Allan. I had been impressed: bookselling and publishing in general are living difficult times, but being able to find a market for translated literary fiction of the kind that Vagabond Voices produces takes a lot of passion and dedication.
I knew my main task would be the redesign of Vagabond Voice’s website, and I had ideas – lots of them, in fact – but I wasn’t sure if Allan would let me implement them.
When he gave me the freedom of just drafting a flatplan for the website and presenting it to him, I was thrilled and a bit anxious. A website, after all, is the window through which the internet would view Vagabond Voices. It was no small responsibility, and I set to work right away.
Working mainly remotely, the experience was a bit different than it might have been in an office. It was nonetheless a valuable learning experience, especially for someone who’s inclined towards a freelancing profession rather than a traditional 9-5 one (anyone who’s ever worked in publishing is laughing at that second number, I know).
I had to set my own schedule and goals. I also had no specific, step to step guidance, I had instead to analyse the existing website by myself, trying to see what could be improved and how, and tailoring it to Vagabond Voice’s specific identity as a publisher. In the course of my meetings with Allan we would then go over my ideas and discuss them, then course-correct or change details to better fit his vision. I learned how to listen to a client and understand what they needed, and how to argue my conviction making it clear that my first interest was the customer’s satisfaction.
When finally the day came to swap the new website with the old one, I have to admit I was rather nervous. The number of “what if…” that went through my head was innumerable. But, as they say, all is well that ends well.
The most interesting part of my placement, though, would have been the conversations with Allan after all the order of business had been talked through. Having the privilege of talking and listening to a passionate and engaged lover of books was, to me, a true treat. That we could go seamlessly back and forth between sentences in Italian and English was just a bonus.