As part of our MSc degree in Publishing, we have a module called Publishing Placement & Professional Development. As part of this, you guessed it, we were expected to secure a placement position. For many of us on this course, this placement experience would be our first exposure to the world of publishing in a professional manner, and while it was a nerve-wracking time seeking them out, it was an exciting prospect.
It is well known that the publishing industry is a difficult one to break into, all you need to do is take a quick scroll through Twitter to find that out. This is one of the main reasons why I sought out a Masters degree in Publishing, specifically one with a placement option, to get myself experience in the world of publishing in order to better position myself to enter the industry. So, with this in mind, I got to work on my applications.
I was fortunate enough to secure a placement with Luath Press. A small independent publishing press named after Robert Burns’ wee collie dog, Luath Press is situated along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and publishes a variety of titles and genres.
In the wake of COVID-19 which sent the world into lockdown came the era of working from home, an era that many companies have decided to stay in. During my placement at Luath Press this was very much the case, with my placement beginning and ending through the screen of my laptop placed on my dining table. Waving at the slightly pixelated faces of the Luath Press team, and 3 of my fellow Publishing classmates, we were introduced to what we would be walking (or clicking) into.
My placement spanned over 4 weeks at the start of 2022 where I was given the amazing opportunity to work on a live project. We got to pick from a variety of titles and when I heard Christine de Luca’s, The Trials of Mary Johnsdaughter being described, I knew it was the one I wanted. Having at the time recently finished Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Mercies, I was riding high on the wave of outrage at the injustices suffered by women at the hands of men in positions of religious power.
The Trials of Mary Johnsdaughter, a fictional retelling of historic events, follows the journey of young Shetland lass Mary Johnsdaughter whose hand-to-mouth life in the township of Waas is turned upside down by the arrival of one particular ship, The Batchelor. And after its departure, things for Mary are never the same again…
All too soon, she stands accused of having sinned in the eyes of the church; will she survive the humiliation? Will she become an outcast? Will one moment cost her everything?Excerpt from Luath Press website
As part of this placement, I got to work on a whole host of tasks surrounding the project; from proofreading the manuscript to designing a draft cover for the book. While this book was nearing the final stages of its production and much of what I was doing was for my own benefit, it still very much became a labour of love.
Other than our weekly Monday meetings on Zoom, we were left to our own devices, working through a checklist of tasks to complete, almost all of which were focused around our book title. Across the 4 weeks, I poured myself into this project, and as challenging as it was the feeling of reward was so much more. Getting to read through a manuscript and spot the odd error or offer up suggestions to add, knowing that there is the potential for your work to be taken into consideration and put into the final project is an exhilarating feeling.
It was a great moment as it was my first glimpse into what working in publishing has the potential to be and gave me the feeling that I came searching for when I joined this MSc degree, the feeling of being part of the process that brings great books to the public.
In working with Luath Press I was lucky to have worked on tasks across departments and at the end of my 4 weeks I got to walk away from the experience having been involved in editorial, marketing, sales, and design tasks; and with a better understanding of what goes into the process of publishing a book.
A book, I might add, that is expected to be released this month. I, myself, will definitely be picking up a copy so I can have a reminder of the first real project I got to be part of.
What can I say, I’m a very sentimental person.