Fun at Ferment

The opportunity to complete a placement as part of my degree was one of the deciding factors in my decision to undertake an MSc in Publishing at Edinburgh Napier University. Having the chance to put theoretical skills into practice in a real professional environment is obviously valuable for any student. When the time came to choose a placement I knew that I wanted to learn more about magazine publishing, particularly drinks magazine publishing, so Ferment, the UK’s No.1 Craft Beer Magazine, seemed like the ideal candidate. 

I first came across Ferment at the Professional Publishers Association (PPA) Scottish Magazine Awards in 2017 where they won Best Customer Magazine. Having expressed an interest in magazine publishing after completing my case study on another drinks magazine, I was fortunate enough to be offered this opportunity through the MSc Publishing course. It was a really helpful insight into Scottish magazines, giving me an overview of what was out there and who were the ones to watch. Plus, it introduced me to Ferment and gave me the perfect opportunity to force myself into the dreaded territory of networking.

Fast-forward a month or so and my placement was all sorted. We worked out a mutually convenient day for me to come in, Friday, and discussed what I wanted to learn and how I could help the magazine. In the end we agreed that I would focus on organising a bottle-share type event across different cities, ultimately defining a template for these events that the magazine could use after I’d finished my placement. The events were designed to serve two purposes, the first was to supply content for a double-page spread in the new city guide feature, whilst the second was to strengthen the sense of community amongst the readers.

Organising the first of these in Glasgow was so much fun. I loved getting everything ready, choosing the venue, securing which beers would be featured and even making up goodie bags with branded freebies and old-fashioned sweeties. Having come from a bartending background with experience in cocktails and craft beer, I really relished being responsible for an event like this. When we arrived at the venue it was a friend I’d worked with previously who was leading the tasting, which really made it much easier to orchestrate it exactly as I’d planned.

The event went perfectly in the end and the template has now been set, making subsequent events much easier to organise. At the end of it all, magazine publishing, and publishing in general, is a people business where the connections you make become your most valued possessions. Above all else, that’s what I’ve taken from my time at Ferment. Well, that and a new found appreciation for Bluegrass covers and cups of herbal tea. Thanks guys! 

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My Placement with Muddy Pearl Publishing

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One aspect that I have been very eager to learn about during my time on this Publishing MSc has been the area of independent publishers. How do they differ from their larger competitors? And how do they thrive?

In January of this year, I was lucky enough to be taken on as an intern for Muddy Pearl, an Edinburgh-based publisher that print “books that are true to Scripture and to the Spirit.” They produce high-quality titles by key Christian writers who are experts in their fields and write with a genuine insightfulness; navigating the reader through modern life. I have been encouraged to read their backlist titles and have loved seeing the breadth of topics covered.

A lot of my workload consists of helping with marketing, which I have thoroughly enjoyed as I have gained very practical experience in how publishers generate interest and sales from books. Rather than a scatter-gun approach, marketing materials such as AIs and press releases are focused and tailored to individual parties. Invariably, it was here that a positive response was received, and I have learnt the benefit of finding a common ground with the recipient in order to stand out in their inbox!

Also, I have proofread titles with a marketing focus in mind, looking to see where there are opportunities to collaborate with others and find ‘hooks’ with which to catch readers’ interest. I have learnt a lot from this, as even at the initial stages of editing, the publisher is thinking “How can I sell this?” Given the topical nature of Muddy Pearl’s titles, this was not too difficult, but I’ve realised that a good understanding of your customer’s profile is essential.

Consequently, in growing my knowledge of how we market books, Muddy Pearl’s personal and well-researched approach has struck me as a very effective way of bypassing larger companies and aiming their titles towards an engaged audience. My placement at Muddy Pearl has been a brilliant opportunity to learn first-hand how an independent publisher thrives in this environment and it has cemented even more my wish to work in this area!

Festivals on Your Doorstep

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about UK publishing outside of London, thanks to the dedication and the hard work of organisations such as the Northern Fiction Alliance to get the voices of publishers outside the bubble of London heard. Unfortunately, before my time at Edinburgh Napier and studying my MSc in Publishing I didn’t even know that companies outside of London or Edinburgh even existed, let alone ones so close to me in the Yorkshire city I did my undergraduate degree in.

Hull.

Aside from the fact that I am now following all the right people on twitter to hear about such companies, one thing that helped me discover the literary scene in Hull was the urge to get a placement. It seemed fitting that I would head back to the place where I first learnt that publishing could be an option for me as a career path and started my journey to Edinburgh. To have my first placement with Wrecking Ball Press it completed a nice narrative circle for me, and as I learnt more and more about working in a small publishing company I also learnt about something else.

There is a thriving literary scene surrounding the area that had simplly seemed to pass me by before, and I like to claim that literature is what I love the most. I was beginning to hear of festivals because of the fact Wrecking Ball Press often helps bring such events into reality. Such as Lyricull, which celebrates music and song writing in Hull, and Humber Mouth a literature festival that focuses on literature and draws attention to the city of Hull and its passionate people.

Hull and Wrecking Ball pooled so much into their literature, art and culture ventures in the past year as they also celebrated being the City of Culture for 2017, (something I was gutted to have missed out due to the fact I graduated a year before this took place). With events happening every day to help spread the awareness of the city’s thriving culture, it simply proved that Hull has such a large wealth of talented people committed to the arts.

Poppies
Weeping Window – an art installation during the City of Culture 2017 (25th March -14th May on the Hull Maritime Museum), originally held at the Tower of London. A poppy tribute to those who served in the army.

However, learning all this got me thinking, what other cities have such thriving publishing, literature and arts scenes that are simply hidden by the size of London’s stake in the pool of festivals and companies? I was surprised at how much happens in Edinburgh when I moved here 8 months ago and it’s a capital city, so what else is out there that I simply didn’t know about before because I didn’t have the knowledge to find them and check them out?

Literature festivals help publishers, writers, readers, and even people who don’t count themselves as readers, to connect and share in their love of literature. It is platform that has helped Wrecking Ball showcase their works to a wider audience and I’m proud to know that these things were, and are still, happening in Hull. So now, wherever I end up, I will be on the look for festivals and events that will help keep me connected to literature as I pursue my career into publishing. There’s always something on your door step, you just have to look.

My Placement with Luna Press Publishing

One of the qualities I most wanted to work on at the start of my MSc Publishing course was time-management and organisational skills. I loved the idea of being responsible for finding a placement by myself and choosing a publisher that best suited the sort of skills that I wanted to improve. It seemed as if smaller publishers tended to give their interns more responsibilities and autonomy over their duties whilst on placement. I also wanted to better understand the running of and issues that affect smaller, niche publishers both due to personal interest for a future career and to assist in the writing of my dissertation on that topic.

Luna Press is a small company dedicated to the publishing of science fiction, fantasy and academia; it is run by the author Francesca Barbini. Before myself, Luna Press had never taken on a student on placement due to having only been founded in 2015. Despite this, Luna Press has already produced books that have been shortlisted for awards. I met with Francesca to discuss whether I would be a good fit for Luna Press and whether Luna Press would be able to offer the sort of work experience that would be useful to me.

My placement consisted of mostly work from home with a few in-person meetings to check in. I think this sort of structure helped me to learn to prioritise my work for university and deadlines for my placement. I kept Fridays free to work on my weekend blog posts for Luna Press and this gave more structure and enabled me to keep on top of both. I really enjoyed being able to have a creative outlet and have importance placed on my opinions and advice which was the basis for many of my articles. My placement with Luna Press had a great deal of emphasis on bringing together work and my MSc Publishing education; consolidating my skills by making them transferrable was very useful for me. For example with InDesign, I was able to show my new skills learned whilst at university and be given advice on how to hone them whilst on my placement.

I was given one-on-one feedback and a real insight into the day-to-day running of a small publisher. I mentioned that I would find looking over some contracts interesting as we had looked at some in class and I was curious to see how they would differ at a smaller company. At the next in-person meeting I was shown a few examples and Francesca offered to go through them with me and explained some of the more complicated clauses and spoke about the negotiations and process that those involved went through to arrive at the final contract. This led to a discussion about how Luna Press conducts business and the ways they offer authors something different to larger publishers. Francesca wants everyone that works with Luna Press to be able to feel like family. This was a huge incentive for me when I was researching publishers to do my placement with. When I came across the website for the company, I was very interested in the “Luna Family” page and the dynamic there. I felt very much as though this rang true to my placement because I was always asked what would best help me and what responsibilities would most fit in with my schedule. I cannot wait to see what Luna Press achieve next and hope to stay in contact to see those well-deserved successes in the future.

 

Check out Luna Press Publishing!

https://www.lunapresspublishing.com/

Photo: One of our in-person meetings to discuss the placement progress. These took place in cafes and bars and were informal.

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!

Marketing and Publicity Placement at Canongate Books

The opportunity to complete a work placement as part of our degree is definitely one of the most exciting aspects of the Publishing course. At the beginning of this year, I was delighted to secure a ten-week internship with the Marketing and Publicity department of one of my favourite UK publishers, the “fiercely independent” Canongate Books. Canongate works to unearth and promote the most diverse and exciting voices – and after a couple of months on the team, I have come to admire how much planning, effort, and creative thought happens behind the scenes to ensure the success of every new title.

With two full days per week, my internship was an intense and invaluable learning experience. Although I had received a list of potential tasks, I quickly found that working in Campaigns involves doing something new and exciting almost every day. One morning I would be drafting Twitter moments based on the newest reviews or pitching upcoming audiobooks, another – accompanying a Canongate author on her visits to local bookshops. If there is anything I know for certain after my time on the team, is that Marketing and Publicity is an excellent choice for anyone who dislikes routine.

Throughout the placement, I had the chance to practise my design skills by learning how to create effective promotional materials. I designed and put together showcards for festival and bookshop events, created press releases, and used Adobe programs to design quote card templates or put together pack shots. One of the highlights of my internship was seeing a showcard I designed in the local Waterstones – it was easy to be enthusiastic about the ongoing campaigns with the knowledge that my work is of actual use to the team, and that I take an active (if small) part in promoting the books that I am genuinely excited about.

I also appreciated the opportunity to use various industry-specific software and online tools. Whilst the Publishing course provides us with many practical skills, there are some aspects that can only be learned in a professional environment. Once I start a full-time publishing job within marketing and publicity, it will be invaluable to know Biblio and NetGalley or to be able to create effective newsletters on MailChimp.

Besides helping with the ongoing campaigns, I was glad to assist with the activities that are part of daily department work. I mailed out hundreds of review copies and catalogues to journalists and bloggers (allegedly becoming a master of folding press releases). I searched through piles of newspapers and magazines to scan any Canongate mentions. While these tasks might sound mundane, it is ultimately not only a necessary but also a rewarding part of Publicity work – sending review copies is crucial for building relationships with journalists and bloggers, and seeing the resulting reviews and social media engagement reminds that this work is always valuable.

As Canongate has offices in both Edinburgh and London, every two weeks I would participate in weekly department meetings that gathered all Marketing and Publicity employees to discuss the ongoing promotional activities. During a larger, monthly meeting, I had the fantastic opportunity to learn how book campaigns come to life, with all the details, challenges, creative ideas, and teamwork involved in the planning stages. On two occasions, I also sat in the meetings of the Production department and could observe the impressive team effort involved in delivering the final product.

As much as the Publishing course aims to give us the knowledge and skills to enter any publishing sector, it is also a lot about discovering what makes us tick – and over the last few months, through various projects that involved managing events and social media and finally through my placement at Canongate, I came to realise that Marketing and Publicity really is one of “my” areas, allowing me to use creative ideas, writing, and design to bring the books I love to a wider audience.

Interning at Canongate was a great experience and I couldn’t recommend it enough to anyone looking to gain valuable skills and insights into the campaigns process. The wonderful Publicity team were always friendly and ready to answer my questions – and I got to work in the same room with Sylvie the (cutest) Dog!


Go check out some of Canongate’s amazing latest (and upcoming) releases (click on the cover to learn more):

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