My Placement at EUP

‘I can confirm we would be happy to take you on for a two-week work experience placement’. I couldn’t believe it when I received Rebecca’s email: they had a free spot in June and they wanted me. I was finally going to do a placement at Edinburgh University Press. Scaring as it might seem, on the 4th of June I put on my brightest smile, took a deep breath, and started my first day. Little did I know that day that this would have been one of the most intense and formative experiences of my year here in Edinburgh as a publishing postgrad student. Should I tell all the things that I’ve done during my placement, two more weeks wouldn’t probably be enough. So, I’ve decided to list the highlights of my experience at EUP, a sort of a personal ‘best of’ of my internship.

 

Most rewarding achievement

I designed two promotional showcards that were meant to be shown at conferences. Given the time constraint – I had just a couple of hours to complete each one of them – I wasn’t really sure that the results would meet the marketing team’s expectations. To my surprise, not only did they like it, but also they decided to actually use them at the conferences.

 

Most surprising finding

Did you know you can work in Editorial and not have to edit, proofread, or copyedit? I did not know this…I’ve always thought that working in Editorial was all about commissioning, copy-editing, proof-reading, which was the reason why I’d never considered a career in this area in the UK – as a non-native speaker I thought I wouldn’t have any chance. As it turns out, some editorial positions do not require you having native speaker ability in English. As an Editorial Assistant, for example, you might find yourself mostly dealing with contracts, royalties and liaising with authors rather than copy-editing a manuscript. A brand new world was opening up to me, thanks to these wonderful people who explained to me how an Editorial department actually works.

 

Most challenging task

It wasn’t always easy. Sometimes I had to push myself to the limits and accept challenging tasks, testing myself with things I did not feel comfortable doing – the famous ‘stepping out of the comfort zone’ which basically brought me here from Italy in the first place. But I knew it would be worth it.

All of the tasks I was asked to fulfil were stimulating and somehow challenging for me, but there was one in particular that made me think ‘Okay, that’s it! Call yourself out and reveal to everyone you’re not able to cope with it.’ That was when I was asked to create a copy for a postal subscription campaign. Despite being provided with several examples and access to the immense, resourceful internet, I couldn’t help but think I couldn’t make it. Turned out I can write copy, too! Okay, might not have been the most convincing and nicely written letter anyone’s ever done, don’t even know if they actually ended up using it, but I was happy enough to have at least completed the task! And yes, I’d do it again.

 

Most inspiring person

During these two weeks I’ve met people from different departments, had the opportunity to hear from them about their jobs and get advice for my career. They were all super professional, but also extremely friendly to me. I started making a list of the people to whom I’m mostly grateful and from whom I’ve learned more.

I have to mention Rebecca, first and foremost, Journal Publishing Assistant and my guide throughout the entire experience. But also: Kirsty and all the editorial team; Ian, Ann and the wonderful production people; Carla, Naomi and the funny guys at marketing; Sarah and everyone at the journal department.

To answer the question ‘Who’s the most inspiring person you met?” I would say that each one of them has been inspiring to me: they gave me different perspectives on the company and on the industry and shared their experience and knowledge. I believe the thing that made this experience valuable is what I would call “the human touch”: this opportunity I had to link on a professional and personal level with all these wonderful people, their openness, the passion they communicated for their jobs, their making sure I felt like part of the team, even if only for a short time.

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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.

Lizzie’s List of Postgrad Pointers

Recently I was contacted by someone possibly undertaking the MSc Publishing course later this year, looking for some answers and reassurance about what the course entails. I was immediately reminded of my own nerves prior to postgrad life, having had many of the same questions myself (but not taking the smart step of finding the answers, as this person has done). Whilst I’m one who’d only call themselves wise ironically, and definitely don’t have all the answers, perhaps this post will help relieve some stress, even if only for one person! Now, all aboard the train to Tip Town.

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Don’t panic (as any good hitchhiker will know).

Generally good advice for life, but especially on an MSc. Whether you’ve gone straight into an MSc from undergrad, or are returning to education after however many years, it can be a shock to the system with how it differs from what you’re used to – whether that be assessments, the level of independent study, etc. Don’t panic! The tutors on this course are happy to answer your questions, no matter how stupid the questions may seem to you. We’re all here to learn, and they’re here to teach us.

Help others, and let others help you.

The peer support throughout this course has been spectacular. At the beginning of the year someone set up a Facebook group for all of us to join, and it’s a great way to check if your small queries can be answered before emailing one of the tutors who are undoubtedly very busy. In class it’s also super handy – everyone has different experiences which lend varying skills, for example I used to be an English tutor and therefore have a keen eye for grammar and can glance over pieces of writing. Others have more technical experience, and can help in an InDesign or Photoshop crisis. Helping your pals as you go is also a great way to cement what you’re learning in your brain, and ensure that you’re remembering the new skills being taught.

Get online (or rather, get MORE online).

As mentioned in the previous point, Facebook is good for keeping in sync with your classmates. In terms of having a professional benefit, Twitter is the way to go. The publishing world is super active on Twitter, and it’s a great way to get a feel for the general temperament of the industry (spoiler alert: everyone’s lovely). You can also begin to establish your own online presence by engaging in discussions. Also be sure to check out the course’s hashtag, #PublishingPostgrads, to see what we’re up to (and give us all a follow). Additionally, LinkedIn is fab for keeping track of who you know and what they do.

Go to London Book Fair – it’s free for students!

Along with Twitter, LBF is a way to keep in touch with the publishing industry, by attending talks and seeing what’s being discussed – for example, this year it was great to see that more and more people are encouraging the industry to be less London-centric. It’s also good to get a feel of how LBF works, before possibly having to go there as a professional yourself.

Join the SYP (Society of Young Publishers).

Throughout the year SYP run events for publishing newbies, both to entertain and educate. One such event that I found incredibly helpful was their 6×6 in October – six people from the publishing sphere, each talking for six(ish) minutes about their roles. This was a great way to find out about the different areas of publishing which, plot twist, is more than just editorial (not sass by the way, editorial is one of my interests). 

You don’t need experience before the course.

One thing that the prospective student was concerned about was lacking any experience in publishing. You don’t need existing knowledge prior to the MSc – our tutors put us at ease on the first day by saying they’ll assume that we know nothing. Phew! However, if you are concerned about not having any, a great way to ease in is by getting a job as a reader. This is where you’re sent manuscripts by a publisher, and give a report on whether you think it’s worthy of publishing. For you it’s a way to gain knowledge of the ins and outs of a publishing house, and for them it’s free opinions and advice. Win-win. 

Proofread your work! Trust me.

Do it. Multiple times. Take it from someone who had put Chapter Four in her book file twice, instead of Chapter Three and Chapter Four. That would’ve been just a little bit of a mistake. Yikes.

Read The Bookseller.

Speaking of work – researching can be daunting. The Bookseller is a magazine that, as is evident from the title, focuses on the book trade. With both articles and bestseller lists, it can serve as both inspiration if you need a topic to focus on, and provide the data when you have decided on one. They do a great subscription deal for students, but the course also has copies available to peruse on campus.

Don’t panic! (Again.)

Yes, I know I said it already but really, don’t panic.

Last, but by no means least – don’t forget to relax.

As with any course, you need to have a work-life balance to prevent burning out. You can always make your procrastination productive(ish), by watching films with loose representations of the book trade. For example The Holiday, in which Jude Law is an editor, or You’ve Got Mail where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan depict the struggle between chain and indie booksellers. It counts as education, guys. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.

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Tom approves Jude isn’t convinced by my justification, but Tom’s on board.

Good luck to all prospective students! It’s a great course. Hopefully I’ve eased some worries, but feel free to message me on Twitter, @elisabethgreeno, if you have any specific questions – as a fellow worrier I’m always happy to help.

Back in Germany with Napier’s publishing postgrads

Last week I had the opportunity to fly back home to Germany as part of an exchange of our publishing course at Edinburgh Napier University and the Mainz University. Early this year I already had the chance to meet some of the Mainz students while they were visiting our University. It was great to see them again and get to know each other better.

We arrived late at night on the 1st of May and started on the 2nd of May with a day at the Mainz University. We got the chance to listen to a lot of interesting topics and learn about the German book market, which was also new to me since I studied something different in my undergrad. The day ended with us seeing the Archives of the University and having a get-together with all students and speakers of the day. This obviously included some traditional food for the region, which I have to admit really missed back in Edinburgh.

On our 2nd day we had the pleasure to go to Heidelberg and not only see the beautiful city but also visited the Springer Nature office. The staff was very nice and showed us many presentations about Springer Nature’s history, future visions, and their complex looking production workflow. Thank you so much to Melanie Lehnert, Dr. Niels Peter Thomas, Viktoria Meyer and Renate Bayaz for the amazing time!

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Melanie Lehnert, Communications Specialist
Dr. Niels Peter Thomas, Chief Book Strategist at Springer Nature
Dr. Niels Peter Thomas, Chief Book Strategist, Springer Nature
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Viktoria Meyer, Team Leader STM Book Production, Springer

Day 3 took us back to Mainz. After visiting the federal state government we had a wonderful sightseeing tour throughout the city which one of the German students Maike Malzahn organized. 

Of course, we couldn’t resist hopping in the Gutenberg museum and see the highly protected Gutenberg Bibles and other amazing books from the past.

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Our final stop was at the music publisher Schott Music. We were lucky to see the Wagner room and many first prints of Mozart and Beethoven. As I used to play the piano when I was younger I was amazed by their evolving techniques to print sheet music. They were so welcoming and even put us (the Edinburgh Napier postgrads) up on their welcome board next to their important artists who visited for that day.

Our trip ended with all of us – the German students included – meeting up in a traditional German pub the ‘Eisgrub Bräu’ in the evening. I had a really fun time and enjoyed every part of this trip. Thank you so much to all the students and teachers from Napier and Mainz for making this exchange so amazing!

I had a really fun time and enjoyed every part of this trip. Thank you so much to all the students and teachers from Napier and Mainz for making this exchange so amazing!

 

 

Highlights from Napier’s Publishing Trip to Germany

Last week I hopped on a plane to Mainz with a group of my fellow publishing postgrads. The trip was absolutely fantastic. We had the chance to meet interesting people, explore new places and learn about the publishing landscape in Germany.

We spent a day at the university in Mainz, listening to lectures and touring their publishing archive. We enjoyed a walking tour of the city, ate delicious local cuisine and even got to tour the archives of Schott Music, a leading publisher for classic and contemporary music. As a former band geek, I was ecstatic to learn a bit about the history of music book publishing and completely enthralled to be in the same room as original work by Mozart and Wagner.

My personal highlight of our visit was a day trip to Heidelberg (aka my new favorite city). We did some sightseeing (I convinced a few classmates to join me in climbing the 313 steps up to the top of the city’s castle) and then spent the afternoon listening to presentations at Springer Nature’s headquarters.

Springer Nature is the world’s largest academic publisher, renowned for research, educational and professional and publishing. The staff made us feel extremely welcome, providing coffee, snacks and some really interesting presentations from staff in their communications, strategy and production teams. It was fascinating to hear about the publisher’s history and brand. Springer Nature has a global reach, so it was very cool to be inside such an enormous office and learn about the publishing history and process for such a large-scale company. They publish 13,000 books per year. Our group sat in awe at the complex production workflow each book passes through before being published. Even with the PowerPoint slide zoomed in at about 300%, I was still squinting to try and see all the tasks listed along the production schedule.

My favorite presentation was given by Dr. Niels Peter Thomas, Springer Nature’s Chief Book Strategist. He shared about his vision for the future of books. He discussed innovative ideas for new book formats and business models. Springer Nature is at the forefront of research and academics, so it makes sense for them to push the boundaries of what a book really is. Thomas discussed the possible use of virtual reality to provide spatial representation that helps students retain information and customized content and formats to aid readers’ learning process. The presentations provided great insight into what goes on in a major academic publishing house. It was incredibly interesting and inspiring to think about how books will evolve and how publishers will adapt to technological advancements.

I’m really happy I went on the trip. I didn’t know about it when I first enrolled at Edinburgh Napier, so it was a great surprise when they invited students to sign up for a publishing themed tour of Germany. I learned a lot and got to see some incredibly beautiful new places in the world.

Shout-out to all the amazing postgrads and professors (from Mainz and Napier) who made the trip so unforgettable.

 

 

Stepping into a New Role: How My Internship Restored my Confidence

Becoming a publishing intern has been challenging but also more rewarding than I could ever have imagined. After a voluntary position in December that ended in tears, I felt like a failure and that nobody would ever hire me again. The way I described the experience to my mum was “it was like being thrown in at the deep end with a boulder tied around my neck then laughed at for drowning”. By far the worst part was the way the person supervising me just couldn’t stop herself from scoffing at my inexperience. It was an unpleasant couple of days that I have put behind me and I’m happy to say I have come a long way since then.

After putting the negative experience behind me I approached Ringwood Publishing where I was already a volunteer reader and asked if there were any internship opportunities available. Ringwood Publishing is a small independent Glasgow based publisher that is dedicated to publishing quality works of Scottish fiction and non-fiction on key national themes of politics, football, religion, money, sex and crime. The company takes on a number of interns who contribute considerable skills for reading, proofreading, editing, copyediting, design, promotion and marketing. After an informal interview I was very pleased to be offered a long term internship and I was excited to join the team, however I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. The negative experience I’d had not long ago was playing at the back of my mind and I was scared that I would crash and burn a second time. I was desperate to impress my new placement provider and atone for my previous failures.

However I soon realised that my fears were completely unfounded. In just three short months I have already learned so much about working in publishing. My time at Ringwood has allowed me to experience different roles, including producing the monthly newsletter and recently I was given the fantastic opportunity to take over the role of Submissions Manager (shared with a fellow intern). In December when I was crying down the phone to my Dad because I thought I was a quitter, I never could have imagined just how confidently I would step into my new role at Ringwood just a few months later. So far taking charge of submissions has been the most rewarding part of the experience. Some of my responsibilities include manning the submissions inbox, doing the initial quality check for all submissions, sending manuscripts to volunteer readers and collecting the finished reader reports. Not only have I had the valuable experience of corresponding directly with authors but the role has allowed me to be actively involved in the decision making process and this month I will attend my first ever Editorial Committee meeting. My new role has been challenging in a character building way and I have surprised even my slapdash self with how organised I can be.

When writing about my placement, I debated with myself whether or not to include the bad experience I’d had. It may feel better to airbrush it from my memory but in the end it happened and I learned from it. Bad experiences help us grow too and now that I have experienced such a positive internship where I feel supported and encouraged I realise just how important it is to share the message with other young publishers that you should not be discouraged by one unfulfilling placement or by one person who makes you feel bad about yourself. Under no circumstances should you allow someone to devalue you. You are there to learn, not to be belittled for your lack of knowledge. That’s not ok, it really isn’t. The bad experience didn’t break me and it certainly didn’t put me off publishing. Thanks to my placement at Ringwood my confidence in my own abilities has not only been restored but it has grown tenfold. I am gaining so many skills from the experience but it’s the feeling of confidence that is worth its weight in gold to me. I believe it will serve me well when I start my career in publishing.

Andrew’s tips for a long placement (AKA, what he learned from Scotland Street Press)

The majority of placements offered by publishers are short affairs. Thee standard length appears to be ten days or the equivalent of that. Indeed, the placement module of Napier’s MSc Publishing course only requires ten days’ worth of placement for the main assessment. How ever you may come across one or two in your time that can last a lot longer. A prime example is the PrePress Projects internship which usually runs for 13 weeks over thee summer months. A long placement is what I found myself entering in October 2017 when I was one of the students picked for the Scotland Street Press internship. I have continued in that placement ever since. I think a long placement can have some serious benefits for a student, especially if you start it near the beginning of your studies as I did. In the beginning I was incredibly nervous when I started. After all, I had only just started my MSc really. What could I offer a publisher at this stage? The answer was, as it turns out, a lot. Every time I learned something in class, I could apply it to my internship.  As my abilities grew, my contributions grew until I could handle some serious responsibilities.

Now as I come to the end of my time at Scotland Street, I can take away a wealth of experience and many examples of work I can take to publishers and say, “I did this”. I would like here to pass on some of the tips I’ve picked up on how not only to survive a long placement (or placements in general) but to take full advantage of it.

  1. Say yes and push yourself. But don’t worry if you can’t.

Let’s face it. Pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone is not an easy thing. It’s a difficult thing to throw yourself into something new without knowing if you’ll pass or fail. But if you take a chance on yourself then the rewards can be extremely satisfying. I’ve talked about the first time I managed to do this in a previous blog post which you can read on this site. That first success means I have continued to say yes to things which make me want to instinctually retreat like a turtle does into its shell. I’ve proofread forthcoming novels (and even found a few things the author and my boss hadn’t noticed!) when I have actually struggled with spelling and grammar all my life. I’ve designed the layouts for children’s books. I’ve managed uploading eBooks for sale through Kindle Direct Publishing.

But you should never forget that it is okay to say no to something. If you feel overwhelmed, or that you need help, talk to your host. They are there to help you learn, not to trip you up. If you feel that there is something you aren’t ready for be open and honest about it.

  1. Explore what interests you.

A placement is an opportunity for you to get hands on experience with publishing. So, if there is something in particular you want to know more about, ask your host about it. You have an interest in production? Ask to sit in on meeting or see work in progress content. You want a career in editorial? Why not ask some about the editing process or if you can see how they work on a manuscript. You will always get more from a placement if you can tailor it to your own interests.

  1. Discover something new.

Still no idea what you want to do when you’re a grown-up publisher? Good. A placement is the perfect opportunity to investigate a new area. I always believed that rights and contracts was not an area of publishing that I wanted to work in. To me a contract was a complex monstrosity of legalese that only lawyers could ever decipher. And then Jean, the Head of Publishing at Scotland Street took me to a contracts training session at Publishing Scotland. I agreed to go because I thought that I should make an attempt to understand contracts. I’m incredibly glad I went along. The session broke contracts down into something I could understand. At the end of the day, a contract is really just common sense dressed up with precise and complicated language. Now the moment I see a job advertisement for a contracts or rights assistant I will be pouncing on it. Being open to discovering new aspects of the industry could take you down a whole new path in life.

  1. Introduce yourself.

At a placement you will be working closely with a number of people. So, introduce yourself. Even if you won’t be working closely with them, introducing yourself to a person can help feel like part of the team. Not everyone will be happy and friendly, but you’ll find that most people in publishing are. And a simple hello can lead to a strong working relationship with you colleagues. They’ll understand if your nervous, they were once just like you.

  1. Watch your workload.

Being busy is par for the course when you’re studying an MSc and its more than likely that you will be busy with classes at the same time as you’re doing your placement. Don’t be afraid to offer to do some extra work for your placement. I have answered emails and finished off small jobs for Scotland Street outside of my normal office hours. But Jean has also been careful to watch how much extra she asks of me outside of my normal days. You should also watch your workload and make sure you take time for yourself. Sit back, read and book and recharge and your work will be better for it.

 

Bonus: The Tea

It’s a common joke that an interns job is to make the tea. Don’t worry it isn’t. But why not get to know people by learning how they like theirs? Like introducing yourself, it’s a good way to get to know your colleagues if it’s a small team you work with. For example, Scotland Street’s only permanent member of staff is Jean so at times it will just be her and whichever interns are in for the day. Many a nightmare project can be calmed by a good cup of tea delivered at the right time. But on the other side of that, let your colleague know how you like yours. The last thing you want is to be stuck with a milk and two sugars when you only take it black for the entire placement!