Most of my experience of my first London Book Fair as a MSc Publishing student this year was a dazed wander around the Olympia, trying to take as much in as possible and also not get overwhelmed. Publisher stalls were fit to burst, pathways were bustling with people, and panels were sometimes full to the brim. There were however two panels that weren’t as crowded but that I wish had been. Both explored the importance of literacy to the wider community, to society as a whole, and implored publishers to collaborate. I can’t begin to summarise the range of initiatives, expertise, and overall sense of hope that these panels gave me properly in this post but hopefully it communicates something of what I got out of those experiences.
It may be February now, and this blog post might be coming a little bit late but if you can, cast your mind back to last November. It’s cold and blustery on the Royal Mile but down a wee alcove lies Canongate Books, a safe haven waiting to welcome you in. Thanks to the generosity of SYP Scotland as well as Canongate themselves, a few of us lucky individuals were able to go along to a Marketing and Advertising Workshop run by Vicki Watson, Head of Marketing. Jamie Norman, Co-Chair of SYP Scotland and Campaigns Executive for Canongate, was also sitting in, and welcomed us to the workshop at the beginning.
Vicki began by defining copywriting, exploring the different kinds required when targeting different audiences. She talked about the importance of tailoring what is written and how it is written to the product, the audience and the company.
We were then asked to evaluate blurbs and talk about why they worked or didn’t. Our own attempts at writing a blurb for a book of our choice were read out and discussed by the group. Luckily, it was a really supportive atmosphere filled with people who were not reluctant to speak up but also listened to the contributions of those around them.
Vicki talked about her time at VINTAGE in London before coming to Edinburgh and working for Canongate, and talked us through billboards, tube posters and other marketing campaigns she produced. The choices that shaped and connected the campaigns for Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive and Notes on a Nervous Planet were explained in detail. The evolution of Robert Webb’s How Not to Be a Boy was used as a case study example of when marketing changes between hardback and paperback editions, with the cover, blurb and campaign being tailored to the new way of selling the book.
When the workshop finished, I left feeling a lot more clear on what copywriting entails and how to make sure every word counts, as well as gaining a more general insight into marketing books successfully and creatively. It was such a helpful and informative evening in a lovely building with supportive people. I wanted to say (a very belated!) thank you to Vicki, Jamie, SYP Scotland and Canongate Books for the opportunity!