Advice on your new publishing world!

I applied for MSc Publishing at Edinburgh Napier University pretty late on last year. I had graduated with an Honours in English Literature and was a bit stuck on what to do. This course was suggested to me by a careers advisor. I applied after doing a bit of my own research, and was accepted to the course to start in September 2016. Initially, it was daunting, as any would any masters course would be, and in the run up to my start date I began looking online for some more information about what I would be doing.

It’s hard to go through blog posts and material that may not be relevant by the time you start, so here’s a list of what I believe to be important and that won’t change in the near future. Hopefully this will give you a bit of help if you are about to embark on what’s, no doubt, going to be one of the quickest years of your life.

Take notes. There’s a significant amount of information to be absorbed and I took a lot of notes. I managed to get myself into some sort of order, with thanks to my dad who bestowed upon me a diary that he wasn’t really using (in which I found my birthday wrongly recorded. Cheers, dad!). I gave this diary a new quality of life and used it constantly, making sure I wrote down all deadlines and dates. Coming to the end of the first trimester I was so glad I had dedicated a bit of time to getting myself sorted, as it gets hectic. A diary is also great for looking back on if reflective essays are required of you, and it’s nice that past you is taking care of present you in these moments.

Attend events. Go to everything you can. It’s all experience and a great way to meet people, get to know classmates, and begin to understand this massive industry that you’re getting into. I took up work experience in the Scottish Poetry Library, whose events I recommend greatly because they allow for some mingling (wine) before and after the event. It’s a great way to meet people as well as hear some poems in a really beautiful part of Edinburgh. Go to book launches: Waterstones, Blackwell’s, The Edinburgh Bookshop. Look for free events on Facebook and Twitter (if you haven’t already – get a Twitter!). Go to ALL the SYP events and meet publishing people outside of the course. There are SYP conferences, advice seminars, talks, mixers, socials, throughout the year. They are worth going to. Familiarise yourself with the people speaking at these things, you’ll see them around more than once. Finally, go to London Book Fair. You’ll be told about this on your very first day and it’s an important experience. Research this.

More than anything, enjoy it! A year is not a long stretch. The course requires a lot of work, which is difficult at times, but worth it when you get to where I am now. The industry can be intimidating and making sense of it in your own way takes time, but hopefully you’ll enjoy this year as much as I have.

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Featured event: Magfest

One of the first events I attended after starting the MSc Publishing course was Magfest, a self described ‘international magazine festival and conference’ that is held in September every year. Organised by PPA Scotland, the Professional Publishers Association Scotland, the event is attended by magazine publishers and enthusiasts, featuring a range of international speakers.

Having just started my course, this was an excellent opportunity to meet other publishing professionals while hearing from some excellent speakers.

Held at the Central Hall, Edinburgh the event was attended by professionals from around Europe.

The first speaker to make a real impression was Vanessa Kingori MBE, the first female head of a male focused brand in over quarter of a century at GQ Magazine. Speaking about how change is a constant in life, embracing technology and how a magazine brand must reflect its audience, it was a fascinating presentation. You really got a sense that all at the organisation were involved in taking GQ forward creatively.

Another to really make a mark was Ernst-Jan Pfauth, Co-Founder and Publisher of De Correspondent, a Dutch language online journalism platform. Providing alternative and indie news, this exciting and successful site offers background analysis, investigative reporting and engages its 46,000 subscribers by consulting them on the news stories being written.

‘We don’t write about the weather but the climate,’ ‘informing readers in the best possible way’ and ‘journalists as conversation leaders’ were just some of the impressive things Ernst said when speaking about the forward thinking De Correspondent. They also use social media sparingly, engaging their audience directly.

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Some of the excellent titles I bought at Magfest (from left: Ladybeard, Counterpoint and Delayed Gratification).

If you’re studying publishing or journalism, embarking on a career within media / the creative industries or you’re already established, then Magfest is definitely something you should attend. The insight of the speakers, the opportunity to make contacts and to hear about developments within the industry is incredible. And I haven’t even mentioned some the amazing presentations from Terri White, Empire Magazine, Hannah Taylor, She Is Fierce and Espen Brunborg, from design firm Primate.

The only thing I regret is making an idiot of myself when speaking with Vanessa Kingori. ‘I sound like Alan Partridge, don’t I? I’m going to go…’ I say. ‘Yes you do, and no, don’t, you’re hilarious,’ says Ms Kingori as Terri White stops laughing too. I hang my head in embarrassed shame… my networking skills have certainly improved since then!

John Bird, founder of The Big Issue, completed the day with an energetic and hilarious presentation which he freestyled.

Getting into publishing: what I’ve learned from various industry events

Throughout the last year or so, I have gathered some tips on how to get a job in publishing, through attending various industry events. I have discovered similar pieces of advice cropping up each time, so thought I would share some of these for the benefit of anyone, like myself, looking to pursue a career in publishing…

Work experience.  The majority of hiring companies will expect applicants to have some form of relevant work experience. This is a great way to make industry connections and develop invaluable skills. It can be difficult to find the time to complete a work placement while you are studying, especially when you need that time for a paid job. However, summer holidays are a great opportunity to complete a one or two week placement, or alternatively many companies will allow you to do one day per week over a longer period of time. I have also been told by many people that working in a bookshop for a while can be very beneficial as it helps you develop a consumer-focused mindset.

Networking. The word still makes me shudder and I am far from mastering it, but know I will need to eventually as its importance has been emphasised time and time again. The first step to networking can be as simple as building a social media presence. Twitter is a crucial platform to the publishing industry, allowing you to find your voice, while maintaining a professional image and enabling you to connect with others within the industry. It’s also a good way of finding out about industry events. Networking in person, however, can be far more daunting. Events held by the SYP are a good way to start, as most of the people are either also just starting out or are there to speak to – and help – people like us. A key tip when starting a conversation is just to ask the person questions about themselves and their career.

Job Applications. A CV should be well-structured, clear, concise and roughly two pages long. It should be specific to the particular opportunity you are applying for, while being personal to you. In a creative industry, like publishing, it is important to not only describe your skills, but display them. For example, if you want to be an editor, make sure there are no errors, or if you want to be a designer, try and be innovative with the CV’s design. A cover letter should always be included in a job application. This should give the employer a good impression of you and display your personality, summarising the information on your CV and explaining why you want the job. A useful structure is industry > job> you.

Skills. Employers are looking for a number of things when you submit a job application. You will need to show that you have:

  • A sound awareness of the industry
  • Practical experience
  • A strong commercial understanding
  • Solid digital skills
  • Adaptablility
  • A willingness to try new things
  • Good communicating skills
  • A keen interest in pursuing a publishing career

Key tips. With the industry being so competitive, it is essential to remain positive and persistent. Some final tips I have learned are:

  • Don’t be afraid to self-promote
  • Go out of your comfort zone
  • Tailor everything you do to your goals
  • Say yes to absolutely everything

 

 

Nasty Women Book Launch at Waterstones, Edinburgh

Last month I was lucky enough to attend the sold-out book launch for 404 Ink’s viral feminist anthology Nasty Women in Waterstones on Princes Street. The upper floor of the branch was full of eager listeners, and there was a positive, powerful atmosphere about the evening. There were also cupcakes, which is always a bonus!

The launch event featured a panel of speakers, who were all contributors to the essay collection, followed by a book signing. I’ll get onto the panel highlights in a moment, but first, some background information:

Indie publishers 404 Ink utilised crowdfunding to produce Nasty Women, running a highly-successful Kickstarter campaign that was prolific on social media. The anthology features a varied collection of essays, all written by women, and concerning women’s diverse experiences in the world today.

The panel was made up of Sim Bajwa, who wrote the essay Go Home, Christina Neuwirth, whose essay was entitled Hard Dumplings for Visitors, Alice Tarbuck, who penned Foraging and Feminism, and Chitra Ramaswamy, whose essay Afterbirth recalled her recent reflection on pregnancy, Expecting. The panel was chaired by Laura Lam, who also had an essay featured in Nasty Women.

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Each woman read from their essay, touching on its key points and answering questions from Lam. Bajwa’s essay reflects on, and responds to, anti-immigrant sentiments, some of which she has personally experienced. It’s a personal, striking and moving piece of work. On a different note, Neuwirth beautifully explores family connections and traditions. Tarbuck’s essay concerns modern fascinations with foraging, relating foraging practices to womanhood and witchcraft in a really smart way. Finally, Ramaswamy’s Afterbirth tackles motherhood, but more so, acts of writing and publishing. Ramaswamy pointed out how publishers were reluctant to take on her book because they thought the subject matter – birth – was too niche (or perhaps too female-orientated?) or specialist. However, Ramaswamy reminds us that birth is something that happens to all of us, much like death.

The content of each reading was so different, which is indicative of the collection as a whole. I think the panel reflected the multitude of voices and issues contained within the book itself. It was definitely a great introduction to Nasty Women. Afterwards, many stayed behind to get their book signed and discuss things further. It was wonderful and inspiring to attend a launch such as this one.

Photographs taken by Sineád Grainger. Nasty Women is available now. 

Online Marketing at Google’s #DigitalGarage

In March, I attended a couple of #DigitalGarage sessions ran by Google in Glasgow. These workshops are free to attend and are part of a larger project that Google is working on to get people feeling more confident about online marketing. While I’m aware that these sessions are not specific to publishing, I think it is really important for publishers to stay ahead of the curve with the latest strategies in digital marketing. I plan to use what I learned from these sessions with my own blog and in my current social media internship with Linen Press Books. In the meantime, I’ve summarised some of the key points from the #DigitalGarage below.

What is #DigitalGarage?

“Free tutorials from Google on everything from your website to online marketing and beyond. Choose the topics you want to learn, or complete the whole online course for a certification from Google and IAB Europe.”

I attended the live workshops but Google also offers free online training if there aren’t any workshops running near you. You can set goals, learn from experienced professionals, apply your knowledge, track your progress and stay motivated!

The sessions were a great springboard for me as I am really interested in online and digital marketing within publishing. They were comprehensive and there was lots of information and resources for me to take away. I learned about the importance of designing a good website, choosing a domain name and thinking about hosting.

“Nearly half of all visitors will leave a mobile site if the pages don’t load within 3 seconds.”

When it came to social media, they were armed with interesting and informative stats for us: 38 million active social media users and 1 hour 29 minutes average daily use of social media via any device (younger audience = significantly higher usage). I was surprised to learn that people formulate an impression within 50 milliseconds of visiting your social media profile so it’s important to think about your bio: keep it relevant, clear and consistent and show you personality – people like people. It made me ask the question: what message can I send out on my Twitter page within 50 milliseconds?

The #DigitalGarage sessions are a hidden gem. It is very rare to get comprehensive training like this for free so I was eager to jump on the chance. I look forward to seeing how my new found knowledge can help me with all things publishing.

Reflecting on LBF ’17

The London Book Fair was a tremendously valuable experience. Certainly, I was a little overwhelmed at first by the sheer number of stands, the scale of the Olympia and the deals and important conversations between publishers that I saw taking place as I wandered the aisles. But as a learning experience, a place to hear up-to-date and in-depth knowledge directly from the publishing professionals themselves and a chance to be a part of the buzzing and beautiful city of London, I took away many points to reflect on.

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I was particularly looking to explore the uncertainty that the publishing industry faces in an ever-changing world of new technologies and shifting political climates (Brexit being the obvious concern here) and how publishers are challenging and looking to overcome this. This was of course a major topic for debate across the fair, addressed in the majority if not all of the talks I attended.

The very first seminar, ‘Brexit: Good or Bad News’, explored just this. DK’s Ian Hudson and Charlie Redmayne of Harper Collins voiced concerns over Brexit’s impact on recruitment in terms of freedom of movement, issues in copyright frameworks and implications of the weaker pound on printing for example. While many in the room also voiced concern, (upon a vote, most felt that Brexit would have a mainly negative effect on the industry), the general feeling was however positive – we’ve been dealt this scenario and now we have to work together to move forward and overcome. The Bookseller quoted Will Atkinson of Atlantic Books, commenting on the day: “A bright spot is that it might be a good time to be writing and publishing, as people seek truth and try to make sense of our difficult times” (‘Hudson slams ‘inhuman’ May’s EU dallying’, 15 March 2017).

Another intriguing seminar was ‘Reportage in a Post-Truth World’, taking place on the second day. With a panel of reporters and analysts, the discussion focused on positions of authority, fact-checking and gatekeeping knowledge. Have the fact-checking media become too elitist as President Trump tweeted, becoming irrelevant and losing out to more populist media? To what extent can you influence the readers’ emotions? What does post-truth mean for publishing? – important questions to consider in assessing publishing’s role in our shifting world.

Other highlights include various talks in the Cross-Media section – we heard from Andrzej Sapkowski, the author of The Witcher series, in adapting literature to different forms of media, and the We.Latvia project, a new collection focusing on storytelling reassessing history and memory to inform the present.

Meeting other publishers during our time in London, albeit briefly, was also extremely valuable, the Publishing Scotland whisky social an example of this, reconnecting with professionals and introducing myself to new individuals. We also attended the Borough Book Bash at the end of the final day. A more informal setting than the fair, I met further new faces and discussed opinions and routes into the industry. Twitter handles and details were exchanged and I’ll certainly be looking to keep in contact.

A thoroughly enjoyable and fruitful week to a be a publisher (and an MSc Publishing student!), I feel significantly more aware and understanding of industry trends, issues and developments and I look forward to visiting the London Book Fair again in the future.

#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.