At the beginning of this course the placement module always seemed exciting, but when the time came to actually organising one, it all felt a bit more daunting. I had no direct experience in the industry, and although you’ve got to start somewhere, getting that first bit of experience is always tricky. It’s difficult to put yourself into a situation where you don’t really know the day-to-day workings of a publishing house and are wondering what you can bring to the table. Of course, as it turns out, I had far more to offer than I thought and those transferable skills everyone talks about really do come in handy.
I secured my placement with Vagabond Voices in December, after having researched the company for a case study the previous trimester. Allan Cameron, the owner, was very helpful when it came to asking him questions for my case study, and accepted when I suggested I come in for a placement for the following trimester. Vagabond Voices are of particular interest to me because of their list of translated fiction novels, an area I am keen in pursuing in the future. I have recently completed a degree in translation and so found that Allan and I, him also being a translator, had lots to talk about.
From the onset Allan made it clear that the placement wouldn’t be a 9-5 job for ten days. I was to go to the office for a few hours on Fridays, and work on tasks throughout the week. Vagabond Voices is based in Glasgow, so Allan suggested I start at 10:30 to avoid the rush-hour trains, so that was one less worry for my first day. After arriving at the address, I realised that Allan works from home, making his office have a very relaxed atmosphere. Myself and another student were both due to start interning on the same day, so it felt reassuring to not be the only newbie.
My interest in translated fiction led Allan to suggest I try editing one of their original translated manuscripts. This title is due to be published in May, so I was able to complete my own edits which I could then compare with the final text. After spending the days between our Friday meetings working on the edits, I was keen to see that many of my edits matched up with the finalised text.
I worked on two translations and both provided me with more confidence in my own editing abilities when I realised that although Allan and I agreed on a lot of the edits, it is very subjective, and everyone will have different ideas. Allan offered future translation editorial work to me later in the year, which was a great confidence boost.
A big highlight for me was attending rights meetings at London Book Fair. Allan had meetings with the Baltic countries he publishes for and invited me to join him at meetings with rights managers from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. I realised just how important it is for publishers to speak face-to-face just to carry on discussions that have previously only happened via email. Sitting at one of the tables on the various stands made me feel like I did fit in, even if just for a few hours. This opportunity also allowed me to picture what it could be like in the future if I was attending those rights meetings in a different position.
I was also able to work with Dana Keller, who works part-time for the company on the sales and marketing side. Dana showed me how she accesses and updates the website, monitors and schedules social media posts and how she organises marketing campaigns for specific titles. I really liked being able to see behind the scenes and the inner workings of a website I’d spent a lot of time on for my case study.
I would 100% recommend a placement at Vagabond Voices just for the variety of tasks you can undertake and learn from. As well as the ones I’ve mentioned, I have also been able to create adverts and Instagram posts, work on blurbs and write a blog post for their website, so I really mean it when I say every day was different.
Allan was great during the placement, he went above and beyond to make sure I was getting the most out of it and explained every step in the publishing workflow. As well as potentially opening up doors for future editorial work, I feel like I finished this placement with not only a greater understanding of publishing, but also with more confidence in my own abilities to make a difference in the industry.