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!

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‘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”

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. Continue reading “A Cracking Placement”

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”

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. Continue reading “Stepping into a New Role: How My Internship Restored my Confidence”