What’s the craic with Northern Irish Publishing?

Any undergraduate student hopes for a job in their field of study. But what about Masters students, who pay a lot of money they don’t have to study something they are passionate about, but then discover their country doesn’t have a strong voice in their field of study?

When I wanted to apply for Publishing, I adamantly searched Google, almost twenty pages deep, in the hopes of there being a course here at home, in either Ireland or Northern Ireland. However, it was never God’s plan for me to study at home because I have learned so much here and love the city of Edinburgh and the people in it. Still, I did wonder, why isn’t there a course at home?

I was told, once people heard about me moving here, that I would never come back home because if I wanted to join the publishing industry, I would have to stay on the mainland. Since I rarely listen to other people, I wasn’t put out by their comments, because I knew I would be home again. And I am going to be because I know there are many publishers in Northern Ireland – you just have to look for them, because their voices are small.

It was through looking for Northern Irish companies that I got a job. Ever the inquisitive, I began emailing the ones that caught my interest back in October, in the off chance someone might have an opening, or simply, for them to bear me in mind when I returned in April. All were lovely in their responses, as so many are in this industry, and one company even told me they had a part-time, work from home, opportunity opening, which is exactly what I needed, with not being at home. To make it even better, they were a Christian Publishing House.

Since February, I have been editing and proof-reading for them, and it is so refreshing to be doing something I love. I am continuously building up my skills and gaining vital experience for the future.

Last week, I attended the London Book Fair (LBF), which has 1500 exhibitors displaying their publishing businesses, and I discovered something – out of 1500, 1 was Northern Irish. And the only reason it was being represented was because it had recently been bought by a bigger Irish company. Even the Irish publishers only had one stand. In the back of my mind, Northern Irish publishing and its status in the publishing world, has always plagued me. Since discovering this at LBF, it has spurred me on to write my dissertation on my little home country and where it stands in the publishing industry and how it can be improved.

I remain optimistic that Northern Irish publishing has a big future, not only in the UK, but worldwide.30784610_10213226848560554_1647210126_n

Photo: Mussenden Temple, Downhill, Co. Londonderry – which used to be a library where the master of the house (left) used to go for peace and quiet while reading – a fancy book nook!


London Book Fair: A First Impression

A publishing student talks about her experience tackling #LBF18

There has been a lot of talk, both in my classes and out of them in the last few months, about London Book Fair. Talk about how big it is, the idea that it might be overwhelming when you first see it, that there will be a lot of publishers there: not just from the UK but worldwide. Where will you stay? How long are you going for? What panels are you planning to go to? Which stalls do you want to visit? Do you have any meetings set up? No- do you?

Honestly by the time I got on the train last Monday morning I was sick to the back teeth of talking about London Book Fair (LBF). I just wanted to see it. Continue reading “London Book Fair: A First Impression”

Placement at Pain Concern

What a placement as an editorial assistant at charity, Pain Concern, looks like

For our MSc Publishing placement module, I decided to do something a bit different to working in a publishing house and applied to help out at a charity instead.

Pain Concern is a national charity that supports and informs people with pain and those who care for them – including loved ones, carers, and professionals. They do this by providing information through their website, podcasts, and information leaflets which circulate pain clinics around the UK. They also raise awareness about pain through Pain Education sessions and fundraising techniques, and campaign to improve the provision of pain management services.

My role in the charity is as an editorial assistant, and I was really keen to volunteer some of my skills that I have developed on the course to a charity which would really benefit from them.

In-house they are a small team, but this is fleshed out by the vast array of volunteers nation-wide who help out in whatever ways they can. On my first day, I arrived to find that they were extremely welcoming and made me feel comfortable straight away. I was also pleased to find that they wanted to push me into developing into new areas and gain more experience in a variety of ways and as far as I wanted. This included the possibility to write some press releases when they appeared. There was also the chance for me to develop my web skills through updating their website and finding ways to make the articles published on the website more discoverable.

Currently, my role entails transcribing their monthly podcasts and condensing them into a short blog article to publish regularly on their website. This means I have to work closely with the trustees to ensure the articles meet The Information Standard quality checks and disseminate the correct medical information as this is so important for the patients and carers reading them. I also monitor emails and check in with the transcribers and listeners of the podcasts to relay when a new podcast is coming out, and to make sure that they send in their transcriptions to be published on the website, too. In addition to this, I will be helping the team ensure that their current and upcoming publications also adhere to The Information Standard and achieve the Crystal Mark for quality, which is one of the most important jobs.

Luckily, I had the opportunity to meet the trustees in person. Visits from the trustees don’t happen too often since they have to travel from all over the UK. The fact that they braved the ‘Beast from the East’ to be there that day proved their commitment to the charity and to those who rely on them, and I found that pretty inspiring. As well as the sandwiches, the staff meeting was thoroughly enjoyable. I got to sit in and hear about all the developments within the charity and the office itself, and to learn about the ways they will continue to grow in the coming months. This was exciting! I was encouraged to give feedback and it was nice to feel that even though I was so new, my views were still appreciated and even wanted.

Overall, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Pain Concern – so much so that I will probably stay on as a volunteer after this module has ended. I’ve learnt new skills and enhanced the ones that I brought with me to the charity, and I’m hugely grateful to the team for letting me join in on all the great work that they do!

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Images © Pain Concern

Upcoming Release: A Hardy Woman by Violet Jacob

“She was a hardy woman now,” Violet Jacob writes in her story “Thievie,” describing the character Janet: a woman “unremarkable in feature, yet remarkable in presence,” determined to take her future in her own hands. As part of my Publishing Production project, I decided to collect seven short stories and a novella by this wonderful – and largely forgotten – twentieth-century Scottish author, all featuring her most unconventional and fascinating female characters. Titled A Hardy Woman, this collection will include fiction from The Fortune-Hunters and Other Stories (1910), Tales of My Own Country (1922) and The Lum Hat (published posthumously in 1982).

The book will be edited and designed by Alice Piotrowska. Feel free to contact and follow me on Twitter and check out my Goodreads profile.

Projects & Placements, we have the skills you need!

We are now in the third week of the new trimester and things are moving fast!

We have submitted all our book title ideas and are keen to share them with you… soon!

We are also excited to be publishing a full-colour magazine! This will be the all-signing, all-dancing new incarnation of Publishers Inc. The article proposals are undergoing scrutiny as we write and we will be revealing all to you very soon!

But we don’t want to keep you waiting – if you have any relevant placement opportunities, please get in touch NOW.

We are an industry-accredited programme, and we can help you!




Inspiring Women

For me, one aspect since beginning the MSc Publishing course at Edinburgh Napier University that has inspired me the most is the many women speakers at events and lectures that I have had the opportunity to attend, not to mention the wonderful industry women I have had the pleasure of communicating with directly. In their own way, each of these women have not only helped me to better understand the industry that I am just entering into, but have inspired me to really seize every opportunity, whether it be by providing valuable advice, an insight into their role or an opportunity.

The thing that has stood out to me this trimester is the strength of the women I have come across in the industry. One of the first events that I attended, Magfest, opened with speaker Zillah Byng-Thorne, Chief Executive Officer at Future Plc. She encouraged, ‘be open to the unexpected’ – impacting advice considering how dubious climbing the career ladder can be in an age where many top positions are filled by men. Not for Byng-Thorne, her advice was unflinching, frank and encouraging – don’t think there is only one path for you; take every opportunity; go for it. That there are many different roles in publishing, often unexpected or intertwined, is a message which has since been recurrent throughout this course. What has become increasingly clear to me, is the importance to have confidence and to be open to taking chances.

Each one of the many guest lecturers that have visited have imparted experience, knowledge and advice in indispensable, unique ways. Most of these guest lecturers were women, and strikingly for me, inspirational in their passion. Ann Crawford, spent the day with us on two separate occasions, giving an insight into the progression of her career in publishing through the years and the power of give and take as she delved into publishing house dynamics. At the forefront of everything, however, was her love for what she does. Helen Williams, another guest lecturer, inspired with her passion and expertise in Print Production – this industry is certainly not lacking in passionate, expert women.

Susan Kemp’s masterclass was particularly motivating. From her experienced position as a freelance editor and as Publishing postgrad alumni, her insight made me think not only about where I might fit into publishing, but to value the skills that I have as well as the efforts of others. Kemp’s understanding and compassionate air with her unwavering resolve shows that you do not need to have one or the other – there is strength in each of these qualities. Knowing my own worth in whichever area I decide to go into, being open to continuous development, having empathy for authors and clients, and the importance of an entrepreneurial attitude stood out to me as invaluable advice going forward.

Whether it be from a visionary outlook, expertise or an entrepreneurial perspective, each of these women have carved a place for themselves in authoritative, creative and innovative roles.

There is also an element of shared experience and support among many women in the industry. My first-hand experience of this has pleasantly surprised me. The readiness of various women who I have been in contact with, most of whom have been in managerial roles, have amazed me with their support and willingness to provide opportunities; from providing me with an open and honest insight into the inner workings of their company, to being open to my input, to providing reading and writing experience. In each case, the insight and skills I have gained have been invaluable, and the opportunities to get involved have strengthened my belief that the publishing world is where I should be. Indeed, I believe that these women, selfless in their support and encouragement, pave the way for future generations of publishers.

Of course, it is not simply industry professionals and guest speakers who inspire me. Most of my classmates who I have had the pleasure of learning with since September are women, and not only share a love of books and creativity, but in my experience, are supportive and encouraging of each other (as are the men) – a great sign as one day we may be colleagues.

However, I must add, these are just a handful of the many women who have inspired me in trimester one, and I am positive there are many more to come.

Overall, I am feeling optimistic about the variety of jobs that are out there for women that are achievable through hard work, and encouraged by the supportive community of women who make the industry seem less daunting for newcomers like myself. Of course, seeing an aspect of the industry that is working well – inspiring, supportive and motivating – those areas which are truly lacking have become glaringly obvious to me: many top positions are largely occupied by men and a recent survey shows that there is still a gender pay gap at 15.7% (bookcareers.com). There is also a striking lack of diversity in the industry which publishers don’t seem to have the answer to yet. Luckily, I have next trimester to explore these pertinent issues further!

Fail to Succeed

Here’s the thing: life is an amalgam of clichés. ‘Time is a healer’; ‘When one door closes, another one opens’; ‘Everything happens for a reason’. The list goes on. The one crucial aspect of the surprisingly trivial matrix known as Life is how you deal with failure. Setbacks can feel disheartening at best, and catastrophic at worst. Nevertheless, with time and the perspective it gives, things more often than not fall into place. All you need to do is let them.

Robin Williams in ‘Good Will Hunting’. He gets it.

This probably all sounds a little too cryptic without any context. Being one of the ‘older’ students on Napier’s MSc Publishing course, I was well aware that many of my peers had only just completed their undergraduate degrees, while my life so far had been interspersed with inconsequential jobs, and desperate—often pipe-dream—attempts at finding that most nebulous of concepts: a direction.

Being someone who has made a habit of making their life more complicated than it perhaps needs to be, my impulsion has (up to now) always diverted me away from my greatest strengths. For example, I have always written. I created my first book when I was six or seven, by folding A4 paper in half, stapling the spine, and filling it with a Gulliver’s Travels rip-off thinly disguised by the fact that all the characters were reindeer (I hasten to add that I created this gem around Christmastime). I finished my first novel-length story when I was 16, and have written two more since. They’re certainly not of a quality fit for actual publication, but that’s not the point. All those hours spent writing involved a great deal of self-editing. Subconscious processes of assimilation were unfolding without my knowing: I began to understand the innate rhythm of prose as well as poetry, the importance of mimetic descriptions, when to be deliberate with adjectives, when to avoid adjectives altogether. In short—and here’s another cliché—to “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

And yet, despite my compulsion for the written word, I never considered it as a career choice. It seemed too unrealistic to me that anything would come of it. Of course, I have now learnt that this was a sensible choice: my first trimester studying publishing has revealed that authors are paid a pittance unless they perchance get a movie deal with Warner Bros.

I jest, of course. Authors write because they are compelled to, not for the lucrative royalties. Publishing, and everything it entails, is a risky environment in which to dabble. It is rife with gambles and misjudged endeavours. Nevertheless, take a look at all the outstanding books out there. More often than not, those books—nascent, untouched by anyone other than their author—began their lives as a risk worth investing in. After tripping through my life thus far, tiptoeing into academic pursuits beyond undergraduate-level, working for a year in Waterstones and then, bizarrely, for Ralph Lauren (I folded polo-shirts with such exactitude you’d think a machine had done it, and I did that for at least four hours a day. That’s the truth), and finally, a brief venture into teaching English in Japan, it felt to me like I had returned to where I’d begun: with writing.

But not quite. Here’s another cliché: “Know thy self, know thy enemy”. Why did I not take a creative writing course? you may well ask. I do feel that in certain circumstances, “classes will dull the mind, destroy the potential for authentic creativity.” The other answer has actually been proven to me in taking this course in publishing: the creative industries were a complete unknown to me until I was thrown in at the deep-end in September. I hasten to add that my fascination with publishing has naturally evolved from my fascination with literature. Ironically enough, it has been my own complete ignorance regarding publishing as an industry, which led me into taking this degree. I write, but how in the hell does this attempt at a novel transform itself into a printed, distributed piece of work found in bookshops, and even more terrifyingly, on Amazon?! Publishing was the enemy: I had no other choice but to become familiar with its nuances and idiosyncrasies.

To date, it is no longer an enemy. True, I experienced a week of total panic at the start of the course, half-resigning myself to the belief that I had made a mistake and got myself in too deep with this publishing malarkey, and that I’d be heading back to the hellish phantom of those polo-shirts waiting for me in a Godforsaken corner of east London. But time is a healer. And life is what you make of it. It may have taken me a little longer than others to get to this point in my life, but I don’t for a moment believe that any of my experiences so far have been useless, or wasted time. If you fall off the horse, you get back up in the saddle. If you’re living life properly, then you are inherently risking setbacks. There is, however, something remarkably transformative about failure. My advice to you then, would be this: if that risk feels like a worthy one, take it.

In the meantime, I’m no longer panicking. That panic seemed to pass through a paradigm shift overnight, and I moved into the next day with a swelling enthusiasm. That day led into the next week, and before I could even find my bearings, the first trimester had come to a close. Within three months I had taken on volunteering work with Streetreads, had got a freelance copyediting job with ArtMag, could produce (just about) a basic book template on InDesign, and can now claim that I am at least a little bit knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the publishing industry in the UK and beyond. Now that it’s the Christmas break, I don’t know what to do with myself. I’ve been twiddling my thumbs for the past five days.

So, here’s the thing: or as Teddy Roosevelt put it: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

Risk failure, and live vibrantly. That’s why I’m here, and why, despite the trials and tribulations of getting through my twenties with my sanity just about intact, I have found an industry—a community, even—in which I feel quite at home. Publishing has so much to offer, but conversely, it has so much growing to do. Grab hold of that beanstalk, I say. My career has only just begun.