On 26th October 2017, The Society of Young Publishers Scotland and The University of Edinburgh’s publishing society, PublishEd, held an evening with six speakers from six publishing companies. The aim of the evening was to provide a six-minute insight into each speaker’s role within the publishing industry.
The first speaker was Rosie Howie from educational publisher, Bright Red. Rosie explained her role as an editor throughout the processes of book production. Her useful tips were to do structural editing first in terms of formatting and style before the first draft of the final typescript is ready for a detailed copyedit. She stressed the importance of peer reviewing the author’s work, particularly in educational publishing, and in working through changes with the author to get the best results for an educational book. The next stage is where copyediting takes place before being sent to production for typesetting. Another tip I learned was that up to five proofreads of the manuscript should be carried out before signing it off as error-free and sending it to production – signing your name against poorly proofread copies is not good for your reputation as an editor! It was extremely helpful to hear the daily tasks and challenges of the editor and the importance of their overarching role within a publishing house.
The second speaker was Laura Jones, a production freelancer and one half of The List 100′s number one publisher, 404 Ink. Laura opened up the idea of production as a possible career option which before now, no one had really explained to me. She described her role in producing and designing the books for 404 Ink and the benefits – and challenges – of working as a freelancer. It was very insightful to hear how someone in my position just a few years ago has become so successful in creating her own company, and the enthusiasm she has for her role within the publishing industry was inspiring. Laura also very helpfully explained that you don’t always have to know what aspect of publishing you want to work in from the outset and that this can often be determined from trialling different areas within a smaller publishing house to discover your strengths, which was very encouraging.
Jamie Norman, campaigns assistant for Canongate, was the third speaker of the evening. Jamie discussed the importance of pitching to the marketing and publicity of a book and of having a strong hook to your pitch to really capture and hold your buyer’s attention. A useful tip I learned from Jamie was how to tailor emails to the outlet or brand that you are trying to reach and to keep email pitches succinct, leading with the most relevant information for maximum effect. Jamie discussed some of his best tried and tested marketing techniques; competitions with unique prizes saved for publication week, extensive social media campaigns for top titles, and physical advertisements which, although expensive, can be invaluable with the right design. Most importantly, I learned how crucial it is to be prolific in your marketing.
Speaker number four was Vikki Reilly from the sales team in Birlinn. Vikki really opened up the option of sales to me as a career choice in a way no one had really done before. Her passion for sales and bookshops was infectious. She described her role as being at the centre of everything, liaising with people of all departments because she was in the position of having the most market knowledge through working with book buyers on a daily basis – and spending most of her time in bookshops. She also explained her responsibilities in organising and running promotional events, traveling, and working with non-traditional outlets like whisky shops. The variety in this role was really appealing to me and was something I had never really considered before but will definitely think about now. Another top tip from Vikki; just try new things and don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself!
The fifth speaker of the night was Janne Moller who has the very interesting job of travelling the world and selling rights for Black and White Publishing. Her key role is in selling translation, audio, and large print rights which means she has to know as many commissioning editors and publisher’s lists as possible to know who to sell to. She has the exciting role of travelling to major book fairs around the world and liaising with new people from all countries. She also described the challenging aspects of her job such as back-to-back meetings with literary agents and commissioning editors. One thing I learned from Janne was about the use of literary agents who are a type of sub-agent some publishers may utilise to sell their books in other territories much more easily. Another was literary scouts who know their clients (publishers) very well and can pick out books they would want to publish to save publishers time. It was interesting to find out about these sub-roles in publishing which I had never been introduced to before, as well as the extensive role rights managers have to play within a publishing company.
Lastly, Mairi Oliver took the opportunity to discuss the issues of diversity within bookselling. Mairi works for the radical and diverse bookshop, Lighthouse Books in Edinburgh. She discussed the importance of her role as a bridge between the publisher and customer and the need to know your books and customers really well to get the right books to the people who’ll love them most. As a diverse bookseller, she expanded on the necessity for publishers to rethink their lists in order for minority groups to be given a larger platform within the book industry for their voices to be heard. She spoke about the need for publishers to include more women in their lists and argued for more female writers to be put forward for literary awards. It was genuinely uplifting to hear someone so passionate and dedicated about these necessary changes within the industry promoting them to fellow publishers and publishing students who are in the privileged position to make them.
Overall, the evening was completely inspiring for me, a new publishing student, in broadening my understanding of the different roles within the industry from a bunch of excited, enthusiastic, and extremely friendly people and instilled in me that same enthusiasm for a future career alongside them in the publishing industry. I’ll definitely be going to more events hosted by PublishEd and the SYP!
Images: Hannah McGeechan