For an industry that thrives on the sharing of ideas, publishing has a long way to go before it can say it’s easily accessible to everyone, from its workforce to its consumers. At this year’s conference, access was the key issue as captured by its title, “Building Bridges and Breaking Walls”.
In the programme the SYP Scotland Co-Chairs, Mika Cook and Jamie Norman, declared that the “conference was organised to look at how the publishing industry can work to pull down the walls which separate like from like, how it can open up discussion, foster collaboration, and build networks” and as a result “cultivate sensitive and attentive relationships between publishers, booksellers and readers.”.
Throughout the day the panels displayed this desire to become a more welcoming industry at all levels. From the opening keynote from Marion Sinclair, Publishing Scotland CEO, that showed pride for the current state of, and optimism for, the future of Scottish publishing, to the closing keynote by Perminder Mann, Bonnier Books UK CEO, who stands as a testament of the results of hard work and determination.
Throughout the day a few moments that stood out and stuck with me (although I enjoyed all the panellist’s comments I promise, and besides I don’t have to share all my favourites – you should have paid for a ticket really). Hopefully, you’ll find something useful in them too.
“We can’t sit on our English-speaking silo forever; those days are gone.”
Whilst Scottish publishing has been successful, in order for it to keep growing and prevent stagnation, it must grow beyond the geographical limits of Scotland. Building bridges between publishers, authors, sellers, and readers, can ensure further success.
“Everyone wants to read the same thing and be a part of the global cultural conversation.”
The joys of popular publications are not limited to the UK charts. In general, those who love reading love to read what everyone else is reading and by becoming a more openly global industry, this can be taken advantage of by the publisher, ensure author and seller success, and bring more to the reader.
“People who watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer are reading Norman Mailer.”
Genre is an essential tool in many aspects of the industry, from the publisher to the reader. However, it can be misconstrued as a way of preventing readers from accessing things they think they wouldn’t like or as a form of elitism. Francis handily sums up the truth well; read what you want to read, genre is a tool, not a rule.
“Everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in the media. Everyone deserves to have their story told.”
Before I started the course, I had no idea of the current state of children’s publishing and the severe lack of representation of anyone who isn’t white. Claire clearly puts the argument, unfortunately in a place where you would hope an argument wasn’t needed, forward; everyone should be able to find themselves in what they read.
“If you have a seat at the table, you have earned it – and you have a right to be there.”
I’ve personally suffered from what’s known as “imposter syndrome”. That feeling of not belonging or deserving to be in a position. It was relieving to hear this and I’m sure it was just as empowering to everyone else in the room.
I’d like to thank the SYP Scotland Conference Committee who not only put together such an inspiring and intelligent programme but also provided extras like food (from one of my faves, Social Bite) and a sesh afterwards.