MSc Publishing: A Year in Review

As I’m drawing to the end of my publishing degree I can’t help but look back at all the things I’ve learned.  I came into this degree confident that I knew everything about this industry. I truly felt that I wouldn’t be starting from nothing and instead would be building on knowledge I already had. I mean how hard can it be to make books? As it turns out there’s a lot more to publishing than meets the page and there have been some serious highlights throughout this course.

One of the most interesting highlights of the course was the 2019 London Book Fair in March. This was a fantastic opportunity to see the publishing industry at its finest.  Not only were we given the platform to network with some of the biggest publishers, it was also an opportunity to listen to some deeply interesting panels about current issues facing the industry. I found myself drawn to panels on diversity. The first being a panel that was as diverse as their topic.  The discussion was focused on diverse and inclusive representation in children’s literature and brought some very interested debates to the audience.  The second panel looked at inclusive hiring and the benefits of hiring professionals from diverse backgrounds to help encourage more creative and innovative teams. I got so much out of that week and the panels I watched even helped inspire my dissertation topic.

Back in April I had the pleasure of attending the first event for The International Magazine Center. I was so inspired by Simon Kanter, the creative director of Haymarket Media, who talked about his experiences watching the industry evolve and change over the years. I found it really interesting to hear a publishing professional talk about actively seeking out new collaborations and opportunities to learn even at his level of expertise.  I am someone who truly believes that you can never stop learning and Kanter’s talk affirmed for me that the publishing industry is one that continues to grow because its professionals are constantly learning and expanding their knowledge.

To end trimester 2 I got the pleasure of accompanying Avril and Dave as well as 4 of my fellow classmates on a trip to Mainz, Germany. There we visited our exchange partners at the Johannes Gutenberg University and got to take a look at publishing from the perspective of another European country.  The trip was fascinating.  Not only were the cities we visited beautiful but the people we met and the business practices and history we learnt about were truly eye opening.  They really helped us to see past the UK publishing market and see it more as a global market.

So now that my degree is almost over, with nothing left but a dissertation to hand in I find myself in a completely different place than I started. I enter this degree sure I wanted to be a Book Editor and no one and nothing was going to change my mind.  But here I am, less than a year later and seriously considering a career and future in rights and contracts, something I didn’t even think of before this course. So as we all set of to start our careers in whatever area of publishing we’ve decided on, I am excited to see how we will all help shape the future of the Publishing Industry.

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Nine Days at Luath Press

Walking up the Royal Mile on the first morning of my placement at Luath Press, I had a dreadful feeling that I’d forgotten everything I know about publishing. Would I have to bluff my way through the next two weeks? Would I be exposed as a clueless fraud? Turns out I didn’t need to worry…

The first thing I learnt was how unfit I am, and after walking up what felt like hundreds of stairs, I found myself sitting breathless in Luath’s office, learning all about the company’s history from director Gavin MacDougall. It was a relief to find another student starting work experience at the same time, and we were each given a very helpful checklist of tasks we were likely to complete during our time. As Luath host work placements regularly, they were well prepared, and reading through the list I was excited to complete a range of marketing, publicity, and editorial tasks.

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A sunny walk up to Luath

 

During my nine days at Luath, I got the opportunity to see how a small team work so hard on multiple books at once. Everyone always seemed so busy, and there was always work to be done. I had the chance to work on so much, from drafting marketing plans, AI sheets and press releases, to putting together a newsletter, to creating events posters and invites. Some of this felt familiar to me, and some of this was completely new, but with access to the shared drive, featuring Luath’s super extensive Wiki, and templates for pretty much everything, getting down to work was made fast and easy. The feeling that I would be out of my depth soon faded.

Of course, there were challenges – they’re part of the experience. The placement wouldn’t have been very fulfilling without them. So, when I was given a draft of an upcoming book, Scottish Parliament at Twenty, to proofread and suggest changes to, I immediately thought, ‘I can’t do that!!!’ I could certainly look for typing errors, etc., but could I really form an opinion on this strange text that I was to quickly read through? Could I really suggest which areas weren’t working? What right did I have, as a humble intern, to advise some chapters didn’t seem to have a point? Being a bit unsure when it comes to sharing opinions, I felt the fear and did it anyway. And I was happy to see that the team were genuinely grateful for the time I spent looking at it.

A highlight was spending a day working in the back office of Main Point Books with Jennie, who is responsible for Luath’s typesetting. Finally, a chance to show off my InDesign skills! Depending on your outlook, typesetting can either be stressful and frustrating, OR it can be a fun, active task, filled with problems waiting to be solved. Working on the upcoming Mollycoddling the Feckless, I discovered how much I enjoy stress and problem-solving, and I was happy to have been given the opportunity to exercise my logic (and share more opinions, which by now I had become much braver doing).

Then, as quickly as it had begun, the placement came to an end. I had an interesting, educational two weeks, and I’m pleased to report there was no bluffing involved.

Check out Luath’s wide range of fiction, history, politics and travel guides on their website!

Publishing Others

You’re going to need a bit of backstory to get through this post.

When I was fifteen years old, I was selected to be in a “young writers” program back in Spain. This program taught us, kids from ages 9 to 20, a series of writing techniques and an introduction to poetry and all the necessary tools to one day become writers. The lessons were taught by some brilliant authors like Fernando Iwasaki, Pablo García Casado, Eduardo García and Rosa Montero, who made us write stuff and then read it aloud in class. That’s how I got to know what my friends were writing, and how many different voices fit in a classroom. The Andalusian School for Young New Writers made me realize that although I liked writing, what I really wanted was to get those voices to the public. And thus, when the journalists came to air a piece on us, I claimed on national TV that what I truly wanted was to be an editor and to publish all the people who deserved to be heard.

That philosophy has stayed with me and it’s what made me start this MSc in Publishing. After all the lessons and seminars and different events, I can understand a lot better how publishing works and how marketing, design, editorial and all other components are parts of a whole: an industry that makes money out of IP and that has strategy and numbers and an awful amount of both math and uncertainty of what the future brings. But underneath all that I saw echoed what my fifteen-year-old self thought publishing was – how what truly matters, in the end, is to bring stories and voices to people everywhere. Continue reading “Publishing Others”

London, The Spare Room Project, and Me

The Spare Room Project offers people from outside London who want to do an internship the chance of having a place to stay free of charge for some or all of their time there. To make it even more appealing the people who offer to host work in the publishing industry themselves. It aims to ease the financial barriers that people outside of London may be faced with when taking up an internship opportunity in London, the hub of publishing in the UK.

After not having much luck with finding a placement locally in Edinburgh I turned my sights to London. Countless emails, cover letters, and CVs were sent across every publishing house I could find and just as my hope dwindled Abrams & Chronicle offered me a two-week internship in their marketing and publicity department. After my “OMG YES YES YES” email, only slightly more formal the reality set in. Pound signs flashed before my eyes like I was a cartoon character, as I did my research. Accommodation, food, train to London, the Tube all began piling their costs on my calculator. As the numbers inflated so did my panic. I needed this placement. I needed to gain industry experience. It was my chance to test out my skills from my MSc and to really experience publishing first hand.

Knowing I’d probably left it too late, I applied to the Spare Room Project on a whim thinking I had nothing to lose but everything to gain. I continued to scour websites trying to find a hostel that was reasonably priced, had no bed bugs, and passably clean toilets – more of a struggle than I ever really wanted to know.

Just as hope dwindled, an email notification dinged early one morning. It floated into my inbox titled “Spare Room Introductions” and I about squealed with joy. Someone was willing to host me for my first week of placement. Suddenly the pound signs and panic deflated at the prospect of only needing to secure accommodation for a week. But then the unbelievable happened! About a week from my start date, another email titled “Spare Room Introductions” landed in my inbox. I now had somewhere to stay for my second week of placement! It felt too good to be true, suddenly the hundreds of pounds I needed for accommodation were a distant memory, floating out of sight.

My first week I was placed out in Totteridge and Whetstone. It was about an hour commute into Abrams & Chronicle but that meant I could grab some early morning reading, never a negative! I was staying with a lovely family and their two cats. They made me feel so welcome from the moment I arrived, they invited me to join them for dinner every night and again for breakfast. It was so wonderful to know that I wasn’t alone in a hostel eating by myself every night. Instead I had conversation, laughter and amazing home-cooked meals to look forward to every night.

My second week I was transported to the complete opposite side of London over near Stratford. New Tube line and new area to discover. This time, I stayed with a young couple in their amazing newly renovated house, and first time hosters for The Spare Room Project. Once again, I was welcomed with open arms, warm meals, friendly conversations, and invitations to join them in their Netflix watching. What more could a newbie to London hope for? I loved getting to peek inside the world of audiobooks at Penguin Random House from listening to my host and learning something that didn’t come up during my classes.

Without The Spare Room Project I don’t think I would have gotten nearly as much out of my placement. I know if I had been living in a hostel with the constant reminder of pound signs flashing in my head every day, it would have caused constant anxiety and stress. Instead, it allowed me to put all my energy into learning and enjoying my placement and make connections in London as well as the publishing world.

Before I sign off, I wanted to extend a huge thank you to everyone who works on the Spare Room Project to help people like me from outside London have a viable option of completing a placement. As well, a huge thank you to both of my hosts who were so welcoming and generous enough to allow me to stay, and to Abrams & Chronicle for giving me such a great first-hand introduction to the publishing industry. It is such a fantastic initiative and I am so thankful to have gotten the chance to experience it, it made such a huge difference to my everyday life and perception of London and the publishing industry. So please make sure you sign up whether as a host and help someone out!

 

Discovering the World of Rights

A few months before coming to Edinburgh, I had my first experience with the publishing industry in Mexico. I happen to know a young writer whose first novel was about to be published, and luckily for me he let me help in the process. One of the main things I noticed after reading the manuscript, was its intertextual quality. To create the rhythm of his writing, he constantly quotes other authors, poets and philosophers. As a consequence, the book is full of ‘hidden’ references, only noticeable because they were set in italics. As stated by the author, his intention was precisely that the identity of his own words and the ones borrowed became blurry by not mentioning any sources within the text nor in any reference list. At that time, we weren’t aware of any copyright norms, other than the academic way of referencing. Of course, we understood the importance to give the appropriate credit to IP, nevertheless the editor didn’t mention any copyright issues. Actually, he told the author that referencing to the original texts was optional and that no further action was required.

Fast-forward to the present and I’m halfway through the MSc Publishing course. During the last few months I’ve been able to learn about the different areas of the publishing industry, one of them being rights management and acquisition. Learning about rights in publishing was overwhelming, since I never imagined it to be such a complex and exploitable area. Continue reading “Discovering the World of Rights”

Working Events for an Independent Bookshop

 

 

Golden Hare Books
© Katalina Watt 2018

In October I joined the close-knit team at Golden Hare Books in Edinburgh, and we were recently delighted to be named the 2019 Independent Bookshop of the Year in the Scotland category of The British Book Awards, also known as the Nibbies. We’re also chuffed to be shortlisted for Children’s Bookseller of the Year and Individual Bookseller of the Year, with the results being announced in May.

My role is primarily assisting with events, which range from book launches to book groups. The former involves liaising with authors, publishers, and guests to ensure the events run smoothly and overseeing logistics such as POS displays and merchandise, catering, seating, tickets, and sales. For the latter, I spearhead the monthly Short Story Clubs and YA Book Groups, selecting and preparing readings and facilitating group discussion.

For the YA Book Group, which debuted this year, I’m aiming to work through a range of author experiences, genres, and formats, ensuring we’re reading as widely as possible. Golden Hare is constantly innovating and finding new ways to be even more inclusive and representative. I’ve really enjoyed all the debates inspired so far, as we’re all pushing to read beyond our familiar genres and authors. Continue reading “Working Events for an Independent Bookshop”

Taking the next step into the real world for 2019:

With the semester is coming to an end it can only mean one thing: one step closer to entering the workplace and one step further in leaving university. Upon reflection, I have learned more about publishing and the impact that the industry has on society.  I have learned the importance of pushing to pursue a career in the field that may suit my skills in the future. It hasn’t been an easy year but it has certainly opened my eyes to what may be out there. Opportunity’s to attend events have been flowing in, such as SYP and LBF, to name a few and although I never did attend it is good to know that these exist to educate people on the industry and to network.

It’s been inspirational to see so many creative ideas formed throughout the course and I have even surprised myself, with the potential to not only create something new and exciting but challenge myself along the way. To me the software introduction such as Photoshop and InDesign have been my biggest challenge but also my most rewarding, and so I hope to continue to work with these in the future. I have learned the complexity of working out Adobes features, to piece together why they are relevant. In my latest project in which I have invested a lot of time due to such an interest I feel this is most relevant to the entire years’ coursework.  I have the passion of realising my own book has new potential and now with the right knowledge and direction I can push on with this project, on my own terms. The knowledge from the course has widened my experience and if anything taught me that there is still so much to leant after university has ended. The learning will be continuous, which is exciting as it aids in shaping a path for the future in publishing whether this be design, editorial or more personally becoming an author myself, it is an exciting path to take.

I hope to seek an opportunity in the publishing industry as an author soon but still feel I need to explore my options. The difficulty I have learned is that I still have areas that contain weaknesses and so are good to work on in the future. For example, editorial skills which are important could be easily improved with practice, workshops or mentoring and is overall key to further motivation in finalising my project.

With conferences like SYP and they provide an opportunity to network and although I never took advantage of this it is good to know there are events such as this to aid others in publishing.

Being a student at Napier and having the opportunity to study Publishing at a MSc level has been challenging. This challenge has been amazing and taught me the unexpected and why now more than ever, publishing is an important to our economy and education. To learn about publishing houses and companies alike that contribute, has truly opened my eyes and motivated me to want to learn more.

In 2019, the industry looks as promising as ever now that I have had more insight into what to expect. I look forward to graduating and finding my path into where I fit into it all, as anyone should. Knowing where my weaknesses are in aid to me in being conscious enough to be able to develop my skill set and work on what needs to be improved. As I leave behind the security blanket of university and seek opportunities in the real world, it shall he exciting. So far, my only goal for the reminder of 2019 is to begin to piece together all the current knowledge and exploit this to pursue in becoming an author in the industry.  Its exciting to know what 2020 shall bring and what changes in the industry shall occur.