My Placement with JPAAP

PrintFor the last few weeks I have been on placement with JPAAP – the Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, based at Edinburgh Napier’s Sighthill campus – which “aims to provide a supportive publishing outlet to allow established and particularly new authors to contribute to the scholarly discourse of academic practice.” The online journal publishes several issues a year, and the May/June issue I worked on had a special focus on student transitions, discussing topics such as: transitions from high school, college, or full-time work to university; from undergraduate to postgraduate studies; from overseas education systems to UK higher education; and the re-adjustment faced by students returning to university degrees after mandatory long-term work placements or internships.

I have long had an interest in academic publishing, which, together with my desire to focus on my editorial skills this year, meant I was delighted to secure the placement with JPAAP, but without knowing exactly what to expect. It proved to be an excellent learning experience however, providing first-hand industry experience, considerable editorial practice, a lot of learning and a great environment to work in. Journal Manager Kirsteen Wright was extremely supportive and made sure myself and the other intern were made welcome, and always felt challenged by the work but never overwhelmed.

My main responsibilities included proofreading and copyediting articles submitted to the journal, as well as dealing with layout and formatting to help get them ready for publication in both pdf and html formats. I also helped out with some administrative tasks, such as conducting surveys and emailing contributors and reviewers, and also sat in on Kirsteen’s Skype meeting with students looking for information on how to set up their own academic journal. Armed with templates and house style guidelines, I worked extensively on Microsoft Word, Excel and Adobe Acrobat, which I was already familiar with, and also did a lot of html coding on Dreamweaver, which was not something I had used previously but was great to get experience with. Kirsteen also introduced us to OJS, the Open Journal Systems that JPAAP uses to organise and publish its content, and showed us how to work and navigate it.

My placement with JPAAP gave me a chance to develop my editorial skills and offered an excellent overall grounding in the processes behind academic publishing; it was also fascinating to get a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the sort of journals that I have used to inform my thinking and coursework at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Not only did I learn a lot but it was also a genuinely nice environment to work in, so many thanks to Kirsteen for making us feel so welcome and giving us chocolates on the last day! I would highly recommend a work placement with JPAAP to anyone interested in academic publishing or editorial work in general.

#LBF17 – Translation from Outside the Metropolis

This year, as part of my studies on Edinburgh Napier University’s MSc Publishing course, I attended The London Book Fair for the first time. Now in its 46th year, LBF defines itself as ‘the global marketplace for rights negotiation and the sale and distribution of content across print, audio, TV, film and digital channels,’ and is therefore a crucial event in the publishing calendar for professionals and students alike. The sheer scale of the fair is incredible, both programme-wise and geographically, and can be borderline overwhelming for first time attendees, but also presents great opportunities for learning and networking.

This post will not review or recap the fair in its entirety, but will instead focus on my favourite seminar of the 200+ that were on offer for visitors. As I read a lot of translated fiction and am hoping to write my dissertation on minority language publishing in the UK, I spent a lot of my time at LBF at the Literary Translation Centre, which featured a stellar programme of events by speakers working in the translation field. The seminar that interested me the most was ‘Translation from Outside the Metropolis,’ where the focus was on the underrepresentation of a ‘variety of national voices and perspectives’ in contemporary fiction and media. In the same way that white and middle-class authors are an overwhelming majority over BAME and working-class counterparts in contemporary Anglophone publishing, urban voices tend to dominate English-speaking literature to the detriment of regional and rural voices and identities. The panellists were tasked with discussing this issue in specific relation to translated works.

The discussion was chaired by Theodora Danek, Programme Manager of English PEN’s ‘Writers in Translation’ programme, and the panel comprised voices from three different stages of the writing process: Alys Conran, a Welsh author and creative writing lecturer; Mary Ann Newman, literary translator and expert on Catalan literature and culture; and Ra Page, founder, CEO and Editorial Manager of Manchester-based Comma Press. All three spoke eloquently and in some detail about the challenges facing translated fiction in the UK, and specifically about the lack of voices from outside major cities being translated into English.

Alys’ views were of particular interest to me as Welsh is one of the Insular Celtic languages I am planning to focus my dissertation on; it was fascinating, if a little disquieting, to hear her speak about the difficulties she faced getting her latest novel published. ‘Pigeon’ was released in 2016 and thrived immediately in Wales, but took longer to start gaining any traction in the English market. She eventually released English and Welsh editions simultaneously through Parthian Books, but beforehand was told by more than one publisher that her story was ‘too Welsh’ to succeed in the English market, and that the rural stereotypes of Welsh culture and writing would make the book to difficult to market. Ra, speaking as a publisher, thought this a ridiculous position to take. An author and book’s background and origin, while being useful in flavouring the text, should never be the be-all and end-all for marketing a book. The example he offered was that if Comma was to release a book of Polish short stories translated into English, merely targeting Polish immigrants and second-generation Poles as a target market would be absurd; the market simply isn’t big enough. A book’s content is more important than its background. If a novel or short story is of good enough quality, its provenance should not matter and it should be able to connect with readers regardless of regional heritage or allegiance.

Ra emphasised that publishing companies should be more prepared to take risks when importing fiction into English and commissioning from abroad, as Comma itself has done with books like Hassan Blasim’s ‘Iraq + 100.’ He also earmarked the English short story as a particularly and predictably urban, even London-centric, format, and contrasted it with Ireland’s tradition of quality rural short stories, dealing with small, localised communities. The diametric country-town relationship in Britain is very entrenched, and this prejudices the view of rural identity and culture, and therefore writing, in other countries. Mary Ann, who has translated a great deal of Spanish and Catalan literature into English, agreed with this, and related how, in her experience, the vast majority of work commissioned for English translation comes from the great urban centre of the city Barcelona, with comparatively little interest shown in work from, or set in, the massive rural areas of Catalonia.

The panellists ultimately agreed that there is a certain prejudice placed against rural works when commissioning English translations, and that the stereotypes of rural texts and areas are as inaccurate as they are unfair – rural communities, both within the UK and abroad, are much more cosmopolitan than many people think and have a great deal to add to contemporary literature. For this reason, among others, it is vital than publishers take more chances on rural and regional fiction, where regional identities, far from being too niche to attract mainstream audiences, are actually best expressed in multi-cultural and multi-language societies. Developing new voices from outside the metropolis and the mainstream is essential in the current political climate, especially in post-Brexit Britain, where many need reminding that hearing from other cultures can help enrich our own.

SYP & Publishing 101

Becoming a member of the Society of Young Publishers has been one of the highlights of my time on Edinburgh Napier’s postgraduate MSc Publishing course so far, and has also been crucial in developing my understanding of the industry. The SYP’s stated aim is ‘to help assist, inform and encourage anyone trying to break into the industry or progress within it,’ specifically for those with less than ten years’ experience in the world of publishing. The Scottish branch has hosted several valuable events since I began my membership in September, including October’s ‘Editorial: First Draft to Finished Book,’ November’s ‘Freelancing 101’ and ‘Agents Uncovered’ in February. All of the SYP Scotland events have been extremely interactive and informative, as well as providing great opportunities for networking, but the largest in scale and impact was March’s second annual conference, Publishing 101: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

 

This post is intended as a brief overview rather than an exhaustive account of the day, and, as such, will hopefully provide an insight into the conference for those who were unable to attend, or a quick re-cap for those who did. The different seminars on offer during the day covered many perennially key areas within the industry like marketing, book awards and self-starting, as well as addressing more current issues like increasing diversity and the impact of Brexit on the publishing world. A fiery keynote speech by agent Jenny Brown set the tone for the day, one of optimism and defiance in the face of changing and uncertain times. Jenny also emphasised the strength and importance of Scottish publishing, urging everyone present to have faith that there is life outside London for the publishing industry, and to remember that ‘passion costs nothing.’

 

One of the most intriguing sessions of the day, and my personal highlight, was the Brexit panel discussion which followed Jenny’s opening remarks. The diverse panel featured representation from publishers, printers and retailers alike, as well as Janet Archer, chief executive of Creative Scotland, who focussed on the potential long-term impact of Brexit on funding for the creative industries in Scotland and Britain as a whole. Derek Kenney from Bell & Bain spoke about Brexit from the printing industry’s point of view, and was refreshingly optimistic about the opportunities it may bring, both for his own company and industry-wide, and stressed the need to accept the result, regardless of political position, and adapt to make the best of the situation. Timothy Wright and Gráinne Clear, of Edinburgh University Press and Little Island Books respectively, gave industry reflections on Brexit from the contrasting viewpoints of academic and children’s publishers, with the overriding tone being a juxtaposition of optimism and uncertainty. The final panel member was Alby Grainger, owner of the independent and family-run store Little Shop of Heroes, specialising in comics and graphic novels. Whilst Brexit’s impact is usually thought of as a vague but disquieting spectre looming in the distance, Alby’s testimony showed the immediate influence it has had on book retailing. The costs faced by his store rose by an incredible 26% within three days of the Brexit result, and the only way to bare this increase was to release a long-term member of staff who was almost like a family member to Alby. Publishing and bookselling is very much a people business and it was distressing to hear about the impact Brexit has had on real people from independent businesses. Alby’s passionate claim that ‘principle is much more important than profit’ struck a chord with the audience and showed why independent businesses are still so important in the industry.

 

The next session offered attendees a choice between watching some product pitching by aspiring young publishers in ‘Pitch Wars,’ and discussing the pros and cons of various internships and work placements in ‘Internships Anonymous.’ I chose to attend ‘Pitch Wars,’ which featured four excellent and diverse pitches. As these products are all still in the embryonic stages it would not be fair to expand on them in-depth, but, without giving too much away, the contest was eventually deservedly won by my MSc Publishing colleague Lauren Nickodemus, for an extremely confident and well-thought out presentation proposing an innovative new series of adapted fiction classics.

 

The afternoon’s activities also included ‘Marketing 5×5,’ a run-down and explanation of five successful marketing campaigns, and a further choice between sessions on crowdfunding publisher Unbound by Joelle Owusu and publishing entrepreneurship by Hannah Taylor of She Is Fierce magazine and 404 Ink’s Laura Jones and Heather McDaid. The last main session was a fascinating panel discussion on the merit of book awards and whether they still matter in this day and age, again featuring Gráinne of Little Island as well as Sandstone’s Robert Davidson and Heather Collins from the Scottish Book Trust. The discussion gave a lot of food for thought, especially on the different effects different awards can bestow, with most being about delivering credibility rather than any real increase in sales. There was also debate on the controversial issue of publishing companies having to pay significant sums of money in order for their books to feature on the shortlists of certain awards, before closing remarks and a reading by Chitra Ramaswamy, which again reinforced the ever-increasing importance of diversity in contemporary publishing, and ended the day the same way it began: with unapologetic optimism.