After the overwhelming success of SYP Scotland’s first, innovative conference – 2020: A Publishing Odyssey – the SYP team decided for their follow up conference to respond to the uncertainty of political and economic climate after 2016, and to discuss publishing’s place in the real world: discussing the good, the bad and the ugly.

The conference brought together not only young people starting out in the publishing industry, but mentors, representatives and speakers from across all aspects and levels of the industry, to create a warm and inspiring environment that encouraged open discussion an learning from one another. From a rather ominous event title, there was some initial expectation that it was all going to be bad news for us budding publishers, but this couldn’t have been further from the truth.

From the very outset, there was a huge sense of optimism, encouragement and support around the room, and not just because of free coffee and beautiful tote bags. The conference opened with keynote speaker Jenny Brown from Jenny Brown Associates and her inspiring speech encompassed what were to become recurring themes throughout the day: kindness and encouragement, creating a strong network of enthusiastic and passionate new publishers, innovation and being the change you want to see in the publishing industry.

“Set trends rather than follow the crowd. We all need fresh ideas and fresh thinking. Make your voice heard.”

One of the main events of the day was the cross industry panel on Brexit, with representatives from Creative Scotland, Bell & Bain Printers, Edinburgh Uni Press, Little Shop of Heroes and Little Island Books. The debate across the panel reflected the complex impact Brexit is having on the UK publishing industry and its wider impacts. Although there were disheartening stories, such as Diamondsteel Comics having to suffer a 26% price increase due to uncertain relationship with their US distributors, there were also unexpected benefits as Edinburgh Uni Press had a 25% growth from the weak pound and the possible advantage to the Irish publishing industry, as publishers like Lonely Planet move their European headquarters to Dublin. As was to be expected, much of this was discussed with apprehension as the wider implications of Brexit are still unknown but there was a sense of optimism and resolve, as in the uncertainty more young publishers are banding together, not only within the UK but across the global publishing industry, determined to face challenges ahead through collaboration and innovation.

The sessions then spilt into Internships Anonymous and Pitch Wars, and to support our fellow Publishing Postgrad Lauren, I stayed to watch the Pitch Wars session. Pitching is an essential part of the publishing industry, and it was an excellent opportunity to see the potential of some our fellow young publishers. Each project was intelligent and creative, and would make a wonderful addition to the current Scottish publishing scene. However, the well-deserved winner of the Publishing Scotland training course of their choice was our very own Lauren Nickodemus, with her inspired pitch on challenging preconceived gender stereotypes with a collection of genderbent classics! Massive congratulations Lauren, we’re behind you all the way.

Throughout the day there were talks on Marketing, Self-Starters and Unbound (a new way of Publishing) which brought up many of the issues we still face in the industry today, such as the lack of diversity and issues of starting your own business but also provided insights and discussion into how we can challenge and work to overcome these issues. Speakers from 404Ink and She is Fierce were inspiring and supportive to our own postgrads interested in starting their own similar projects. However, the real highlight of the day (not including free pizza!) was being given the chance to interact and get to know other young publishers. If the recurring theme of the day was to create a strong, supportive network with fellow young publishers, the Scottish publishing industry is definitely in safe hands. Thank you to SYP Scotland for hosting a wonderful event; it was timely, educational, inspiring and a resounding success.