An Education

Collected Stories and Sketches Vol I: Photographed on the Brain

I recently undertook my MSc Publishing placement with the Glasgow based publishing company Kennedy and Boyd, an imprint of Zeticula. This, however, was a work placement with a difference as unlike most of my MSc Publishing colleagues, I would be working for Kennedy and Boyd from home.

Whilst avoiding the potential pitfalls of endless filing, photocopying and tea-making, working from home came with its own set of (procrastination related) challenges. However, my resolve remained strong as I managed to step away from the kettle, keep the TV switched off and Indesign switched on.

I was delighted, and a little nervous, about being given sole responsibility for the marketing of one of Kennedy and Boyd’s forthcoming publications, Collected Stories and Sketches – the complete short stories, essays and sketches of R.B. Cunninghame Graham. This involved working on a wide variety of jobs including designing web pages, making AI sheets and designing front covers for each of the five volumes of Collected Stories and Sketches. I was also tasked with researching potential promotional opportunities for this new publication (keep an eye out for volume one in the Spring 2011 issue of The Bottle Imp, the ASLS’s bi-annual e-zine).

Industry experience is undoubtedly invaluable for anyone considering a career in publishing. As well as consolidating and expanding the skills learnt on the MSc Publishing course, working for Kennedy and Boyd brought home a few truths about working in the publishing industry in the middle of an economic downturn that cannot be fully appreciated through academic study alone. Time really is money, and with tight budgets and schedules to adhere to there is little room for sentimentality. This did much to alter my rather idealistic view of the industry – sitting up in the ivory towers of Craighouse, austerity Britain seems like a world away – and I now feel far more prepared to embark upon my career in publishing.


R.B Cunninghame Graham

For my ten-day work placement I’ve had the opportunity to work with Stuart Johnston of Kennedy and Boyd in the role of production manager. The project he set out for me was the publication of some of the works of Robert Bontine Cunningham Graham, a Scottish author and the first ever socialist MP in Westminster, who also helped found the Scottish Labour Party. Continue reading “R.B Cunninghame Graham”

My Placement: Hodder Gibson


The staff of Hodder Gibson (and me!)

My placement took place at Hodder Gibson in Paisley, the Scottish imprint of Hodder Education – the textbook publisher.

My first challenge was trying to remember which Standard Grades and Highers I sat six years ago, as Managing Director John Mitchell asked which textbooks I had used in school! 

Over the course of my placement, I was given first hand experience of writing copy-editing briefs and text design briefs as well as marking up corrections on proofs and on published textbooks due to reprint. Although I was at first hesitant to write on a book, I was soon scribbling away with my red pen, using the standard proofing marks taught in the first trimester. Not only did I practise skills I had already established on the MSc Publishing course, but I was also challenged to develop my skills in the business side of things such as dealing with budgets, estimates and sales.

In a small office consisting of four people, I not only gained editorial experience but I also gained knowledge of other people’s roles within the organisation, the workflow process and that if more than one person is having coffee, you get ‘posh’ cafetiere coffee as opposed to instant!

An incredibly worthwhile experience, I am extremely grateful for how welcome I was made to feel at Hodder Gibson. The staff went out of their way to make sure I was learning about the industry and doing things of interest – not just learning about how to work the photocopier!

Biscuits and Books with Brown

Unless you possess a particularly charming smile, although I still have my doubts about this theory, getting into London Book Fair’s International Rights Centre without an appointment is going to be no easy feat. On no account mention that you are a student. The best way is undoubtedly to resort to shameless blagging.

And so, I’m proud to say, began my first day at the London Book Fair. Once past the stony-faced guards, your eyes are rewarded with, well, beige. Everywhere. A truly inspiring atmosphere in which to excite publishers and sub-agents with your rights list.

Sadly this is more or less where my first day ended as Jenny Brown, of Jenny Brown Associates where I have been doing my placement, was busy in meetings each time I battled my way into the IRC. All was not lost though as I did spot the promising glimmer of a pile of Tunnocks biscuits.

Day 2 and armed with this new knowledge, I once more ascended the escalator in search of the Tunnocks-sponsored agency. This time I was in luck, and soon found myself sitting in on rights meetings, praying no one would turn to me with a searching question. It was fascinating to watch agents pitching titles, hear what different publishers were interested in adding to their lists and what is particularly popular in their respective countries.

Despite all of this, when Jenny turned to me, mid-meeting, and suggested that I pitch the text I’ve been working on, I was a little tempted to quickly stuff a tea cake in my mouth. The opportunity to pitch such a great text proved too good to miss though; I only hope I haven’t done any permanent damage…

My Placement at The Scotsman Publications Ltd

My two week placement was based within the special reports team of The Scotsman Publications. This team work on supplements for The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday, Edinburgh Evening News and Herald & Post newspapers in addition to producing the monthly Pulse Magazine.

While on my placement I gained industry experience in proof-reading, sub-editing, picture research and page design for the newspaper supplements and The Pulse; all whilst obtaining a glimpse into the magazine industry’s practices and obstacles.

I am fortunate to have arrived at my placement just as the May 2011 issue of The Pulse was being finished.

Think Alice in Wonderland meets Heston Blumenthal.

The striking photography, whimsical fashion pieces and the scrumptious food features, all made this issue the most stunning yet; and I should know – I also archived the back issues.

What became apparent during my placement is that no person within the team performed one single role. In fact many of the team members were multi-talented and undertook editing, page design, photography and journalism. In discussing this with the special reports editor Gabe Stewart, she revealed that this was the natural progression in which many magazine and print publishers were taking in response to the current economic climate. This emphasises the importance of studying MSc publishing at Napier, which provides its students with a broad range of skills and knowledge essential to success within the current marketplace.

My Placement: The Media Company Publications

Front Conver of Edingburgh Festivals Magazine 2010.

You may think I am mad if I say I’m feeling festive, but think again. The Edinburgh Festivals may be months away in the minds of the anticipating crowds, but the build-up has already started at The Media Publishing Company Ltd, creators of  Edinburgh Festivals magazine.

Much of the magazine content is still top secret, including the all-important cover star.  We all know to never judge a book, or shall I say magazine, by its cover, but last year’s image of Alan kept us Cumming for more in Edinburgh Festivals 2010. To top that excitement, I have Byrne-ing suspicion that this year’s cover will produce the same reaction.

Before all that, the team at The Media Company have all their fingers in an especially hot pie, with the launch of seven Foodies festival’s this year kicking off with Brighton this may!

My Placement at Bright Red Publishing

I did my MSc Publishing placement at Scottish independent, educational publisher Bright Red Publishing.

At first the experience was a bit daunting for me, as I had never actually worked in an office environment before, having worked abroad as a teacher since I finished my BA. The first hurdle to overcome was learning how to answer the phones. A simple task you might think, but made more complicated by having to remember the codes to put people through to different desks, not to mention trying to memorise the ‘list’ and all the discounts to tell customers. Luckily, one of the Directors, John had a help sheet written up, made for a past intern no doubt, which I could refer to when I got lost.

During the first few days of the placement I got used to being in the office, answering the phones and dealing with customers. I also had the chance to read a proposal from an author about a new book, and do some editing for layout of the author’s text. This was really interesting and gave me a much better insight into the development of a text from start to finish; from an author’s initial proposal, to the first draft that is edited and re-edited between the Editors, Directors and the Designer until it is finally perfect and ready for printing.

Apart from editing, the other main tasks that I assisted with were focused on marketing. While at Bright Red I updated the monthly newsletters, drew the winner for the weekly Bright Red Book Draw, wrote sales letters and emails and even cut out posters for display in Waterstones. I didn’t have to do any filing, but I did help to stuff 400 envelopes full of proofs and sales letters to be sent to schools!

All in all, I can say that the internship was an invaluable experience. The team at Bright Red were very welcoming, and it definitely gave me a better idea of the reality of working in the publishing industry, and the kinds of tasks that have to be done on a day-to-day basis. Thanks to this I’ve realised the type of job I would like, ideally, to do, which is to be a Development Editor, enabling me to better focus myself, and my CV.

If I could give some advice to anyone else starting a placement now, it would be not to be shy about asking questions if you’re unsure about something, be enthusiastic about the work and interested in the host company, and of course, don’t forget to offer to make teas and coffees once in a while!