Interview jitters, accosting tourists and a public toilet tour: a few months with The Wee Book Company.

In December 2018 I had a Skype call with Susan Cohen, director at The Wee Book Company, to discuss a marketing and publicity internship position that was due to begin in January 2019. I was nervous, and self-doubt was kicking in hard. What could I possibly offer her, having never worked for a publisher before? However, after about five minutes of conversation I felt eased by Susan’s enthusiastic, understanding and relaxed tones, and I felt nothing but excitement for the upcoming projects. I was delighted to be accepted into the team.

In early January we met at the fascinating yet, as Susan will exclaim profusely, extremely haunted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre for the first time with the whole team to plan and discuss the coming months.

Already I was experiencing new things. Taking a tour of this historic building that I’d never been to before and learning about the variety of holistic work that now goes on there: besides the ghosts in the basement you can get nutritional support, take an exercise class, or even have your own psychic reading from a professional medium! We talked over coffee and cake about the titles coming out this year and the marketing work that would need to be done during our time with the company. Tales of grannies saying funny things and men in kilts wurkin’ oot were very much on the agenda.

The first job for Sophie and I on the marketing and publicity front was to establish a social media presence for TWBC outside of Facebook, which Susan had already created. We made Twitter and Instagram pages which we were able to populate with content gathered at the Scottish Trade Fair we had attended in January. The next step was to generate content for Grannies’ Sayin’s, which was soon going through a second print run, and we had the idea of collating video clips of tourists out and about in Edinburgh attempting to read passages aloud from the book which is written in broad Scots.

Our first stop was the Castle and then we took to Greyfriars Bobby to find participants. Although we were apprehensive about approaching members of the public with our phone cameras, we were met with great enthusiasm at getting involved in our publicity task. Not even I, a native Scot, can fluently read some of the Scots phrases in the book, so I think our unsuspecting visitors did a grand job. Once released online, the two videos were received with zeal and we managed to generate over 1000 views overnight in both cases. Our total views pushed over 6.3k and we had around 700 engagements. Not bad for two new interns; Sophie and I were extremely proud.

The next book on our ‘to-market’ list was The Wee Scottish Book O’ Cludgie Banter. This time, instead of making videos, we thought we would take the book on a photographic tour of Edinburgh’s many public toilets and review the facilities at each attraction. Not only could we tailor these to be posted regularly on the run-up to the book’s release, we could make them light-hearted and a bit of fun to align with the company’s playful ethos. We’re excited to see how this photo series pans out and you can follow our #CludgieTour across our socials!

It is coming up to three months with The Wee Book Company and I am loving every second. Susan and her husband have been nothing but welcoming, passionate and insightful, and I feel we are learning lots about the industry from them and they are making it very accessible for us. Whilst at the Scottish Trade Fair in late January, we got to attend a marketing seminar and speak with potential buyers, publishers and book distributors. This allowed me to think about careers in distribution and sales that I had never even considered before. It was an invaluable day, and it showed me that taking that first step into the industry didn’t have to be as intimidating as I thought it would be. People are willing to talk to you. They are delighted to see interest in their industry and talk about what they do, so don’t be afraid to strike up a chat and ask questions!

Of course, none of this would have been possible for me had I not sat in front of my laptop a few days after Christmas, nervously awaiting a call from Susan. The whole experience so far has taught me to grasp every opportunity, even if it makes you anxious, and I implore you to do the same.

I can’t wait to see what we get up to over the rest of our time with this dynamic, humble team.

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Choice Cuts from the SYP Scotland 2019 Conference

For an industry that thrives on the sharing of ideas, publishing has a long way to go before it can say it’s easily accessible to everyone, from its workforce to its consumers. At this year’s conference, access was the key issue as captured by its title, “Building Bridges and Breaking Walls”.

In the programme the SYP Scotland Co-Chairs, Mika Cook and Jamie Norman, declared that the “conference was organised to look at how the publishing industry can work to pull down the walls which separate like from like, how it can open up discussion, foster collaboration, and build networks” and as a result “cultivate sensitive and attentive relationships between publishers, booksellers and readers.”.

Throughout the day the panels displayed this desire to become a more welcoming industry at all levels. From the opening keynote from Marion Sinclair, Publishing Scotland CEO, that showed pride for the current state of, and optimism for, the future of Scottish publishing, to the closing keynote by Perminder Mann, Bonnier Books UK CEO, who stands as a testament of the results of hard work and determination.

Throughout the day a few moments that stood out and stuck with me (although I enjoyed all the panellist’s comments I promise, and besides I don’t have to share all my favourites – you should have paid for a ticket really). Hopefully, you’ll find something useful in them too.

“We can’t sit on our English-speaking silo forever; those days are gone.”

Marion Sinclair

Whilst Scottish publishing has been successful, in order for it to keep growing and prevent stagnation, it must grow beyond the geographical limits of Scotland. Building bridges between publishers, authors, sellers, and readers, can ensure further success.

“Everyone wants to read the same thing and be a part of the global cultural conversation.”

Andrea Joyce

The joys of popular publications are not limited to the UK charts. In general, those who love reading love to read what everyone else is reading and by becoming a more openly global industry, this can be taken advantage of by the publisher, ensure author and seller success, and bring more to the reader.

“People who watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer are reading Norman Mailer.”

Francis Bickmore

Genre is an essential tool in many aspects of the industry, from the publisher to the reader. However, it can be misconstrued as a way of preventing readers from accessing things they think they wouldn’t like or as a form of elitism. Francis handily sums up the truth well; read what you want to read, genre is a tool, not a rule.

“Everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in the media. Everyone deserves to have their story told.”

Claire Heuchan

Before I started the course, I had no idea of the current state of children’s publishing and the severe lack of representation of anyone who isn’t white. Claire clearly puts the argument, unfortunately in a place where you would hope an argument wasn’t needed, forward; everyone should be able to find themselves in what they read.

“If you have a seat at the table, you have earned it – and you have a right to be there.”

Perminder Mann

I’ve personally suffered from what’s known as “imposter syndrome”. That feeling of not belonging or deserving to be in a position. It was relieving to hear this and I’m sure it was just as empowering to everyone else in the room.

P.S.

I’d like to thank the SYP Scotland Conference Committee who not only put together such an inspiring and intelligent programme but also provided extras like food (from one of my faves, Social Bite) and a sesh afterwards.

SYP Scotland Copywriting Workshop at Canongate, November 2018

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.

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Canongate Books, Edinburgh

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!

‘The Minute You Play It Safe, You’re Done’ – MagFest 2018

MagFest 2018 is the biggest (and arguably, the best) magazine festival in Scotland and acted as the first main event on the postgraduate publishing calendar. If I’m speaking honestly, I haven’t read a magazine since Mizz and Blush circa 2003. However, after a talk from Laura Dunlop, who came into university to tell us about the event, I was really excited for MagFest and the opportunity to learn about this area of the publishing industry that I have never before explored.

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I made it to Central Hall in Edinburgh bright and early for registration and the atmosphere was already buzzing. I was worried about looking out of place but I soon found some familiar faces from the course and, after a much-needed caffeine hit, I was ready for the day. The schedule was broken down into different talks and Q&As held in the main hall. Throughout the day we heard from some very prominent figures in the publishing industry as well as many new, up-and-coming publishers which was great to see. The theme of the day was ‘Ideas Factory’ and many of the keynote speakers touched upon what some might call the ‘uncertain future’ of magazine publishing. It was encouraging to hear that, despite differing opinions, everyone felt optimistic and committed to working harder towards maintaining the future of the industry. Continue reading “‘The Minute You Play It Safe, You’re Done’ – MagFest 2018”

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. Continue reading “Lizzie’s List of Postgrad Pointers”

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. Continue reading “Back in Germany with Napier’s publishing postgrads”

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. Continue reading “Highlights from Napier’s Publishing Trip to Germany”