A Cracking Placement

From day one of the MSc Publishing course at Napier I knew that I wanted to try and get into the wonderful world of children’s publishing. Personally, I can’t think of a more vibrant and fun industry to work in, possibly swayed by the fact that I just adore children’s books. So, when my email and cv approaching Barrington Stoke about a placement was accepted, I was very excited to see how a children’s publisher operates.

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Barrington Stoke is an Edinburgh-based publisher that specialises in books for dyslexic children. They were set up in 1998 by Patience Thomson and Lucy Juckes, a mother and daughter-in-law team, who had personal experience with how reading difficulties can isolate a child. Spotting this gap in the market they set up Barrington Stoke with core objectives to publish books that were dyslexia friendly and inclusive for children with this reading disability. Another key aspect of their intentions was to publish well-known authors and illustrators so that the ‘super-readable’ books were similar to those being already published for the age group. With a unique easy-to-read font and an amazing array of authors and illustrators working on the books, Barrington Stoke has become a pioneering, award-winning company that has changed the children’s books industry for the better. They have a wonderful list of books encompassed in their impressive array of series, all that cater to children’s different abilities and interests.

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Don’t believe me? … check out this advert I designed for them!

I joined the team at Walker Street as a design intern. I went into the placement with an open mind and enthusiasm to try anything. I felt extremely fortunate to find a placement that was design based (as I have heard they are harder to come by) and was determined to make the most of the experience. I very quickly settled in having such a warm welcome from the lovely staff.

My daily tasks were varied, mainly revolving around design work. However, I was keen to do any job as I knew it would all feed into a well-rounded experience. My placement at Barrington Stoke has enhanced my design skills greatly, whilst adhering to quick turn arounds and a variety of briefs. I was working mainly in InDesign and Photoshop creating press releases, shareable graphics, blog banners, shelf slips, postcards, stickers, posters, showcards, review sheets and fliers … a huge array was entrusted to me.

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I have become a dab hand at press releases

I became familiar with their house style and extremely intimidating server (I had a map to find my way through the many folders) and I quickly developed a strong work system and relationship with Kirstin and Freya who would check my work and highlight changes to be made. I have learnt so many InDesign tricks and shortcuts that will stand in me in good stead for future work and now understand the different file types and specifications that are determined by the documents purpose. What I think has been most rewarding is seeing the work I have been producing being used – be it on the company’s social media pages and blog, by authors at events or being mailed out.

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A summer banner for their social media pages

Alongside the design work I have lended a hand where needed. I had the chance to do some database work, fair amounts of mailing (which I actually find oddly satisfying) and creating content and images for blog posts. Every single task I have undertaken has revealed so much to me about the industry and how a publisher is constantly working to get their books the recognition they deserve. One such book is their new title by Meg Rosoff, McTavish Goes Wild. This has become my personal favourite as I have grown rather fond of the little dog whilst making the various marketing material!

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A variety of marketing materials I designed for McTavish Goes Wild

I have had the most wonderful experience during my 10 day placement with Barrington Stoke. I have learnt an unbelievable amount and feel that I have a much deeper understanding of how a children’s publisher operates. The team at Barrington Stoke could not have been more welcoming and supportive and I am delighted to announce I will be continuing my work with them one day a week. I would like to thank all the staff for such an enjoyable placement and I look forward to what is to come!

 

All images are used with permission from Barrington Stoke.

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A Shot at Mailshot

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An opportunity to help with a mailshot at Floris Books was offered to me and the invitation to get paper cuts whilst stuffing envelopes was surprisingly appealing. This could have had something to do with my passion for children’s books and my excitement to see the insides of a working children’s publishing house. Floris Books publish in two main areas; they are the largest children’s book publisher in Scotland and have an adult non- fiction list that harks back to the publisher’s origins. Their Kelpies imprint specialises in children’s books with Scottish themes, authors and illustrators. A few members of the Floris sales and marketing team came and spoke to us at Napier, so from the knowledge of the publishing house and having heard from the friendly team, I was delighted to spend an afternoon with them.

What stood out to me as I arrived at the cosy office was the friendly and welcoming environment. There was bunting strung up around the lively open-plan office and colleagues were in quiet discussion. The different teams, editorial, production, sales and marketing, were grouped around the office, able to focus on their own tasks but just as able to call over and discuss with each other. I was introduced to the small, efficient team and was made to feel very welcome for the afternoon ahead.

With a cup of tea to sip on, I helped one of the girls from sales and marketing with the mailshot. Armed with boxes of catalogues, an array of envelopes and an organised mailing system we set to filling the orders. I was delegated the overseas orders and was astounded by how far and wide the catalogues were going; from the USA to Singapore to Australia. Their mailing list consisted of faithful customers and suppliers, some of which I recognised from discussions in class, such as Gardeners Books wholesalers. Along with the Floris Books and Kelpies catalogues, we were sending out folders of AI sheets. Having worked on my own AI sheet as a class project, I felt proud that I could take a peek at these with an informed opinion and knowledge. The AI sheets were sent to suppliers and retailers who would be interested in knowing more about the books featured in the catalogues. What also stood out to me was that in November the publishers were sending out spring/summer catalogues. This demonstrated the organisation and constant forward thinking that publishers need, to stay relevant and responsive to their markets. This organisation was seen even down to sizing the envelopes so that postal expenses were kept to a minimum.

As we were filling and sealing envelopes I was able to pick their brains and ask any question that popped into mine. As we made our way through the orders, different questions arose that enabled me to understand the operations and processes of the house. I asked about whether their content was selected through commissions or submissions and I was told that actually most of Floris’ books are from translations that they buy the rights to at fairs. I also got an insight into the roles that the sales and marketing team perform. It became clear that ‘Marketeers’, as they like to call themselves at Floris Books, are required to turn their hands to many tasks and skills. As I have heard from many speakers there is no one route to a career in publishing, and the staff at Floris Books all have their own unique journeys to working there. It was apparent that all teams in the office come together on many tasks and projects and that there is also a lot of crossover between roles. I was also told, and was thankful to hear, that there is a lot of learning on the job. I truly believe that I will learn so much from experiencing and working in publishing houses through placements. I am determined to make the most of any opportunities, no matter how big or small, offered to me, where I can meet people in the industry and see for myself how it all works.

This experience with Floris Books enhanced a lot of the aspects of publishing I have learnt about through the Masters at Napier. It was an invaluable opportunity to speak to a member of a children’s publishing house and see how even a small part of the job, like mailshotting, can be revealing and educational in how a publisher operates. Through being able to ask questions, not only did I get valuable insights into this publisher’s processes and demands, but also realised how my own knowledge and understanding of the industry has grown significantly since undergoing my Masters; I was considering aspects of publishing that before studying at Napier, would not have occurred to me. My afternoon at Floris Books and first shot at a mailshot was highly enjoyable, in meeting the team and getting a glimpse at a working children’s publishing house.