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.

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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.

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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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My social media: Twitter | Goodreads | LinkedIn

Editorial Internship at Fledgling Press

When you want to get your foot in the door of an industry, it’s often advised that you carry out a substantial period of work experience with an appropriate company; undertaking an internship not only allows you to experience first-hand, the environment you hope to someday work in, but it also looks great on your CV. However, the prospect of working unpaid for a length of time can be incredibly daunting and this is why it’s particularly important the company you’re working for recognises that and does everything they can to help you in other ways.

When I responded to Fledgling’s advert for Editorial work experience, I was not initially aware of what the working hours would be, I just knew that I wanted to apply and if successful, do everything I could to commit to the hours asked of me. I’d been aware of the publisher beforehand and admired their commitment to publishing debut authors as much as possible.

‘Fledgling Press are an independent publisher in Edinburgh, committed to publishing work by debut authors, emerging talent and new voices in the literary world.’

They also state on their website that they ‘have a healthy intern programme where [interns] don’t just have to make the tea.’ I in no way expected to be successful, having (I’ll admit) missed my initial interview slot because I went to the entirely wrong address. So, after the rescheduled interview and heading home annoyed at myself, I was shocked and delighted when Clare Cain emailed me to offer me the placement.

What I want to share the most about my experience so far is how completely and utterly accommodating and understanding Clare has been from the outset. When she emailed me offering me the position, she stated that it would be around six months long (February to September), but that the hours were one day a week on Wednesdays, 9:30am-3:30pm, 45-minute lunch break inclusive. That though the placement itself is unpaid, travel expenses would be taken care of and that come September, if I don’t want to leave or am looking for a job and feel it beneficial to stay, then I certainly can.

In addition to this flexibility, on a weekly basis Clare asks me how my course is going, what my workload is like and if I’d rather not come in the following week in order to focus on my studies. Though I have not yet felt the need to take any time off, it is incredibly comforting to know that I need only phone in, to let Clare know I won’t be able to make it, and that it would truly be okay.

Fledgling Press is run from Clare’s home in Portobello, by herself, husband Paul and designer Graham. Myself, Clare and a fellow intern spend our Wednesday’s sitting around the kitchen table, drinking copious amounts of tea (always offered to us by Clare) and trying our best not to get distracted by her beautiful dog, Charlie. Clare’s family are also often around, equally as welcoming as Clare, and with one daughter at university herself and another at the end of high school, it’s easy to relate and chat away about all our different career goals.

In terms of my involvement with the work itself, I cannot commend Clare enough for the access and control she gave me right from the beginning. On the first day, I was given login details to submissions, encouraged to turn down those I felt were better suited to a different publisher’s list, and to request the full manuscript of those I was interested in. At first, I was trepidatious about turning people down, reading as much as I could, convinced I would decide they were suited to us. Clare laughed nostalgically at this and assured me she was the same when she first started out. But that to keep up with the volume of submissions, you had to have the heart to say no and move on.

As Fledgling are a small, independent publisher, typesetting is done in-house, and I’ve had the opportunity to put the skills I’ve been learning in class to the test, sometimes even surprising myself when I’ve been able to show Clare something about InDesign she didn’t know. Though the role is Editorial, it has become clear to me that the roles are widely shared in a small publishing house and it’s all the more enjoyable for that. In my interview, I asked Clare what it is that makes someone really stand out to her, someone she can see going far in the industry, and she replied that an awareness of the industry as a whole is essential. It bodes well for someone to have an understanding of the areas outside of their own.

Though I could write forever about how much I’m enjoying my time there, I will say one more thing. The first full manuscript I worked on, where I carried out the final proof, was a genre I would never usually intend to read. However, I treated the writing with immediate respect and sat down, ready to pay full attention and to try to understand the author’s vision and world they had worked so hard to create. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement and I spent a great deal of time after, gushing to Clare about how much I loved it and how wonderful it was that I was one of the first people to ever see the work before it becomes a book.

I can assure you that travelling that little bit farther (really only a 30-minute bus journey from the city centre) to a little seaside town every Wednesday has been, and I’m sure will continue to be incredibly worth my time. I am learning so much from a powerhouse of a woman who has truly made Fledgling Press what it is today, and I feel nothing less than valued for the help I am able to give, as a complete beginner in this exciting, supportive and passionate industry that is publishing.

 

Latest Releases:

 

Important Links:

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Imagery ©Fledgling Press

 

 

 

Vagabond Voices Placement

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As part of our publishing course we have the opportunity to apply for practical placements in the second trimester. Thus, in December began the hunt for internships. The first people I e-mailed were Vagabond Voices, based in Glasgow, and I got a quick response from the person who runs the publishing company, Allan Cameron. I was beyond excited to hear from him and after a few more exchanges they took me on board and I began my placement in the middle of January.

Vagabond Voices are an amazing, small, independent publisher focusing on publishing translations and literary fiction. They recognize the importance of translated literature and the stories of different people and cultures. The publishing industry is currently discussing the issues of diversity and inclusivity and Allan has been trying to tackle all these problems for the last 10 years by translating a variety of stories into English.

I am also very interested in the power of the translated voice so this seemed like the perfect placement for me. I started my first day with great enthusiasm that has not waned since then. I utterly enjoy spending my Fridays there doing a variety of tasks. Dana, Allan’s right hand woman, understands how important this placement is for us and does her very best to make sure we make the most of it. She lets each intern try a bit of everything.

I started by helping out with the social media. I have always been a bit afraid of social media and marketing but I found out that tweeting and creating posts can be fun and engaging. I also realized that it takes much more time than I had thought.

I was also allowed to dip my finger into the submissions, an activity that I am still doing. I think this has been the best part for me so far. The sheer volume of submissions that a small publisher receives is staggering. There is always so much to read but I have found out that I really enjoy doing it. There is rarely a hidden gem in the pile of pages but every manuscript teaches you something new and I am started to understand how to separate my own literary preferences and the text itself. I have learnt that objectivity and decisiveness are key when reading submissions and practice indeed makes perfect.

With practice in mind, Dana let the interns proofread a manuscript that is to be published this year. This was an incredible and valuable experience as we were allowed to see quality writing and exercise our judgment in tweaking the manuscript. The amount of work that goes in editing and proofreading a piece of writing is amazing and a person needs to pay attention to every miniscule detail. It is definitely a task that appeals to me. I put into practice everything I have learnt so far from my course and definitely enjoyed the feeling of holding a manuscript and doing my best to make it even better if possible.

As a whole, I can only recommend Vagabond Voices. Allan and Dana are amazing people with a lot of knowledge and it is a privilege to work with them, pick their brains and have a chat about books and publishing as an industry. I have tried a variety of publishing tasks and I have come to understand a bit better how a publishing company works on a daily basis. What I would like to emphasize in the end is the way interns are treated at Vagabond Voices. Both Allan and Dana fully realize that interns are not paid and they do their best to make up for this fact. The hours I do on Fridays are flexible and Allan always says that we are to come and go as we please since we are not getting paid. This flexibility and way of thinking is vital for publishers who open their doors to unpaid interns. Dana has played a major role in my placement so far. She is the one that usually gives the daily tasks and she always tries to give us something new because she realizes that we are there to learn. She has offered us a range of work and at the moment she is preparing a feedback on our editorial job and all of this is on top of her actual work. This understanding and effort have really impressed me and I really urge everyone to go and check Vagabond Voices out as the work their doing is amazing.