Over the two-week Easter break, I was given the opportunity to complete a work placement at Luath Press, a small but established publishing house based here in Edinburgh. Named after Robert Burns’ collie Luath, the press is located just a few steps away from Robert Burns’ first lodgings on the Royal Mile. For a small, independent publisher, Luath publish across a diverse range of genres; they cover fiction and poetry in their titles, as well as art, history and guidebooks — their sole aim being to publish well-written books worth reading.
On my first day at the placement, I was greeted by Jennie, who has been taking care of events and publicity at the press, while also running a second-hand bookshop in the nearby West Port area. Jennie guided me up to the office, which is based on the top floor of the building, and is brimming with stacks of books and paper. After allowing me time to get settled into what was to be my working environment over the next couple of weeks, Jennie explained some of the work I might expect to be doing during my time on the placement, before setting me off on my first task as an intern. I began with some design work on some bookmarks which were to be used for an upcoming launch event for Anne Pia’s Language of My Choosing. With guidance from Jennie, I tweaked the text and layout of the bookmarks in InDesign, and checked that the measurements were correct before they could be sent to print. This allowed me to put some of my InDesign skills from the course into practice in the publishing workplace, while also receiving useful feedback and advice along the way. After the bookmarks were approved by Jennie, I was then given a manuscript to proofread. As I have a particular interest in the editorial aspects of publishing, this was a brilliant opportunity for me to practise my skills and learn as much as I could about the process in a hands-on way.
For the rest of my first week, I continued proofreading the manuscript between other tasks that required more immediate attention. Alongside continuing my editorial work, I also drafted an invite for an event taking place the following week, and collected the required contact information to which the invites were to be sent. After the invites were approved by Jennie, I then emailed them out to the list of contacts I had compiled, including a link to the Eventbrite page to allow recipients to register to the event. I was also given a poetry manuscript to proofread by Jules, a former Napier student now working at Luath who always made the time to answer any questions I had. As the poetry manuscript was to be sent out to the typesetter that day, Jules asked me to check for any possible minor errors before it was sent out. Therefore, I checked that the page numbers in the contents page matched up to the corresponding page numbers within the body of the text, and likewise with the titles of the poems. In the run-up to the events taking place the following week, there were also several smaller tasks that required immediate attention in between my ongoing editorial work, such as delivering books and posters to the venues in which the events would be taking place. Through this variety of tasks, I began to better understand the importance of prioritising workload in the publishing environment; it can often be a balancing act in which the most immediately urgent tasks must be given priority over less pressing work.
As I began my second and final week on the placement, I was introduced to Luath’s director, Gavin MacDougall, along with a fellow intern who had just started at the press. After providing an overview of Luath’s history and development, Gavin checked up on my progress on the placement so far, and provided me with a checklist of tasks to focus on for the remainder of my time there. As this was a lengthy checklist considering my limited time at the press, it was agreed that it would be most useful for me to focus on certain tasks based around the manuscript I was currently proofreading. Over the course of my final week, I finished my proofreading of the manuscript (helped along by continuous one-to-one feedback with Jennie), drafted a press release for the title, as well as an AI sheet and a blurb. I also wrote a reader report for the manuscript in which I detailed what I considered to be the strengths and weaknesses of the work, and any improvements I thought could be made going forward. By focussing the majority of my work on this one particular manuscript, I felt I gained a well-rounded, practical insight into the various elements involved in the pre-publication process of a single title.
Over the course of my time at Luath, I was given the perfect opportunity to put all I have learned so far on the publishing course into practice. I feel I gained a well-rounded insight into the day-to-day dynamics of a small, independent publisher, and learned that no day is ever the same — adaptability is essential. And also, you will get used to the sound of bagpipes everyday!
Many thanks to everyone at Luath Press for this wonderful opportunity.