Bright Red Publishing Placement – My Experience

This post summarises the valuable industry experience I gained through my work placement with Bright Red Publishing between September and December 2016.

From day one, the whole team were very welcoming and, despite my lack of publishing knowledge, helped me to build my skills through a range of challenging introductory tasks. Throughout the placement, I learned about design, marketing, author management, contracts, copyright, and lots and lots about editorial!

Before applying, I had little knowledge of the publishing industry but I was instantly drawn to Bright Red Publishing because I had used their textbooks at school and, unlike other study resources, I had positive memories of their bright colours, lovely images and user-friendly design.

Gaining experience in a small company was brilliant for me as it meant that the tasks could be really varied from hour-to-hour, and I was constantly learning from the team’s combined wealth of experience. Among the most rewarding tasks was when I was given an updated section of a textbook to proofread, and then seeing the corrections I had identified included in the revised set of proofs a week later.

Over the course of the placement, I would meet the Directors, Alan and John, Publishing Manager, Rosie, Marketing and Sales Consultant, Sabrina, and Creative Director, Caleb, as well as a host of freelancers and writers. I was fortunate that my placement day coincided with the Christmas party, a great opportunity to meet even more individuals involved in educational publishing, all of whom were eager to give me valuable advice and insights.

Completing this placement was not only enjoyable and educational, but helped me to set myself goals to achieve my career aspirations. The time I spent at Bright Red Publishing was a brilliant introduction to a career in publishing and I came away with a greater range of valuable knowledge and skills than I had at the start of September. I will always be grateful to everyone who helped me in achieving this, and I look forward to seeing how this excellent company progresses in the future.


Reflecting on an industry visit to Bell & Bain

Bell & Bain is the UK’s oldest and largest independent printer of books and journals, and a major industry presence for over 180 years. On arrival, Derek Kenney and Alistair Morgan presented the company’s history, operations and recent developments. Bell & Bain is considered a ‘large small business’, and those running it see themselves at the fore of the the UK’s printing industry, through innovation and adaptability (i.e. by embracing and investing in digital printing and publishing flexibility). They print a wide range of publications, specialising in non-fiction books and journals.

Moving between Bell & Bain’s two Glasgow sites, we followed a step-by-step tour of the printing and binding processes involved in producing paperback books, hardback books and journals, both printed in the traditional lithographic method or digitally.
Every order moving through the production line is accompanied by a work ticket to ensure all processes and changes are tracked and so that every individual with responsibility for a part of the process remains on the same page.

It was fascinating to see the huge metal lithograph plates. Each plate is dyed blue, before the coloured chemical is removed from areas not to be printed. Huge presses convert this information to paper, machines we were told identify and refill their own ink supply. The sheets of paper are then folded, the signatures bound to the cover, and are eventually trimmed.

The low costs of overseas printers attract many UK publishers. Bell & Bain and other UK printers are unable to compete in terms of cost (although the economic impact of Brexit could change this) but they remain competitive by providing added value through high-quality customer service.

Being based in Scotland’s central belt, and having a huge store of paper types, support the company’s ability to provide a quick and reliable service. This speed is a key differentiator between Bell & Bain and foreign competition. Commitments to quality, speed, accountability and responsibility contribute to Bell & Bain’s aim of being the ‘printer of choice’.

Among the most surprising aspects of this business is its engagement with the environmental impact of the paper and print industry. Those in charge approach the issue with due priority, seeking to minimise the company’s impact. Despite my preconception that print was inherently bad for the environment, this visit disproved some of my assumptions and I am convinced that Bell & Bain contribute to building a sustainable printing industry.

Moving away from the misconception that printing on recycled paper is necessarily better for the environment, we learned that using new paper, in this case, promotes a responsible agriculture. Every tree is replanted, while recycled paper can not only be of inferior quality, but the cleaning and bleaching process uses environmentally harmful chemicals.

Overall, the complexity, scale and speed of the processes, machines and labour involved in printing were the most insightful aspects of this industry visit. I won’t be able to pick up a physical book or magazine again without thinking about where it came from and appreciating the hard work involved in producing it.


Bell & Bain’s paper warehouse.