The Importance of Print: Neilsen Book’s UK Children’s Summit

Back in March I was able to attend the London Book Fair. This is staged annually where Publishers from all over the world can interact. Alongside some of the most prestigious international publishers negotiating sales, there is also a number of extremely interesting talks and seminars going on from various industry officials over the course of the three-day event.

Children’s publishing plays a major part in the fair, with many prominent publishers in this industry present (pictured above is Usborne’s amazing stall). On the final day of the fair the Neilsen Book’s UK Children’s Summit, which I was lucky enough to be able attend, was held. They presented the latest data concerning the children’s book publishing industry and we were able to gain an insight into how the industry is progressing in this area.

The day was packed with insightful talks: from industry experts like Steve Bohme, the Research Director at Neilsen Books, to Joanna Feeley from TrendBible, who detailed how trends such as how our house layout can affect reading habits. These all gave a specific insight into a different area of the industry, and one that made a particular impact on myself was Cally Poplak’s, of Egmont Publishing, presentation on their research project ‘Print Matters More’. This presentation detailed Egmont’s most recent study, which was conducted in partnership with Foyles, in order to gain an insight into how children can be encouraged to read more.

The project was aimed at fifteen families with a child who was a reluctant reader. They were given a £10 voucher for their local Foyles every week for six weeks, during the summer holidays. In return, the families promised that they would spend 20 minutes every day reading together. According to Poplak “Being read to is a key factor in becoming an independent reader” and this was evident in the data presented.  The children throughout the weeks went from being reluctant readers, because of factors such as a disinterest in books or struggling with the level of content, to clearly engaging with books and enjoying the time that they spent reading.

Seeing the way these children began to connect with reading in such a short space of time, not only within the allotted being ‘read to’ time but also individually, was unbelievably heart-warming. It was a showcase of how both being read to and the whole experience of choosing a physical book contributed to their enjoyment of reading overall.

The take away from this talk was definitely that given the opportunity, all of these children began to not only enjoy reading so much more but also their reading skills improved vastly. It was clear to see the connection in how well readers connected with books when they were also being read to by an adult regularly. It was incredibly interesting to identify how the experience of picking a physical book from a bookstore affected these children’s desire to read, not only with parents but eventually on their own. These children were not only reading more but also for enjoyment, rather than finding it a chore as they had often found before. ‘Print Matters More’ gave an inspiring insight into the barriers behind children’s reluctance to read, and what the Children’s publishing industry can perhaps do to remove these barriers.

Internship Insights: My Placement with Ann Crawford

Recently, I began an internship with publishing consultant Ann Crawford. Ann has a wealth of experience and contacts in the UK publishing industry which she has decided to bring to consultancy. She also works on editorial and marketing projects for several businesses. This seemed ideal for me, as someone who would like to learn more about the nooks and crannies of Scotland’s publishing industry.
A capable pair of hands indeed, Ann is also multi-skilled and passionate about many different creative projects. As a result, the placement has several aspects to it. One aspect is assisting Ann with her editorial duties in anyway necessary, such as research, looking into promoting and marketing, and compiling databases of contacts. The other is helping her to establish an online brand, business plan and website for her consultancy company. A role that I have been playing a very specific role in is designing the look of the company’s brand.
One of the most interesting things about working with Ann is that she has done a lot of publishing work for companies and institutions that aren’t publishing houses, but do make use of publications. She currently works on projects for companies in this way. There are certain challenges in working with businesses like this, which has broadened my interpretation of the publishing industry considerably. This is of great benefit to a publishing student who will soon be looking for work in a competitive industry.
Something Ann has been keen to do, on the side of all her other work, is use publishing to benefit those in need. Together, we found a common interest in investigating ways that publishing can help people who have found themselves homeless. To this point, we have been plotting a project that we hope may take flight well beyond the realms of an internship project. It has meant a lot to me that this is a project Ann is willing to share with an intern.

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Logo design work space – but no sneak peaks!

Working with Ann is refreshing in many ways, and particularly because her passion for all things publishing is an unstoppable force in itself! It is easy to become jaded or stressed with publishing and its many deadlines, but Ann’s outlook on the work is a breath of fresh air and is certainly an outlook that has had an impact on me.

From the beginning of this placement, I have been overwhelmed by Ann’s kindness and her enthusiasm for hoping that I will able to learn from her. Though it is early days in this placement, I certainly have already learned from Ann and know that I will continue to do so.

My Placement at Luath Press

Over the two-week Easter break, I was given the opportunity to complete a work placement at Luath Press, a small but established publishing house based here in Edinburgh. Named after Robert Burns’ collie Luath, the press is located just a few steps away from Robert Burns’ first lodgings on the Royal Mile. For a small, independent publisher, Luath publish across a diverse range of genres; they cover fiction and poetry in their titles, as well as art, history and guidebooks — their sole aim being to publish well-written books worth reading.

On my first day at the placement, I was greeted by Jennie, who has been taking care of events and publicity at the press, while also running a second-hand bookshop in the nearby West Port area. Jennie guided me up to the office, which is based on the top floor of the building, and is brimming with stacks of books and paper. After allowing me time to get settled into what was to be my working environment over the next couple of weeks, Jennie explained some of the work I might expect to be doing during my time on the placement, before setting me off on my first task as an intern. I began with some design work on some bookmarks which were to be used for an upcoming launch event for Anne Pia’s Language of My Choosing. With guidance from Jennie, I tweaked the text and layout of the bookmarks in InDesign, and checked that the measurements were correct before they could be sent to print. This allowed me to put some of my InDesign skills from the course into practice in the publishing workplace, while also receiving useful feedback and advice along the way. After the bookmarks were approved by Jennie, I was then given a manuscript to proofread. As I have a particular interest in the editorial aspects of publishing, this was a brilliant opportunity for me to practise my skills and learn as much as I could about the process in a hands-on way.

For the rest of my first week, I continued proofreading the manuscript between other tasks that required more immediate attention. Alongside continuing my editorial work, I also drafted an invite for an event taking place the following week, and collected the required contact information to which the invites were to be sent. After the invites were approved by Jennie, I then emailed them out to the list of contacts I had compiled, including a link to the Eventbrite page to allow recipients to register to the event. I was also given a poetry manuscript to proofread by Jules, a former Napier student now working at Luath who always made the time to answer any questions I had. As the poetry manuscript was to be sent out to the typesetter that day, Jules asked me to check for any possible minor errors before it was sent out. Therefore, I checked that the page numbers in the contents page matched up to the corresponding page numbers within the body of the text, and likewise with the titles of the poems. In the run-up to the events taking place the following week, there were also several smaller tasks that required immediate attention in between my ongoing editorial work, such as delivering books and posters to the venues in which the events would be taking place. Through this variety of tasks, I began to better understand the importance of prioritising workload in the publishing environment; it can often be a balancing act in which the most immediately urgent tasks must be given priority over less pressing work.

As I began my second and final week on the placement, I was introduced to Luath’s director, Gavin MacDougall, along with a fellow intern who had just started at the press. After providing an overview of Luath’s history and development, Gavin checked up on my progress on the placement so far, and provided me with a checklist of tasks to focus on for the remainder of my time there. As this was a lengthy checklist considering my limited time at the press, it was agreed that it would be most useful for me to focus on certain tasks based around the manuscript I was currently proofreading. Over the course of my final week, I finished my proofreading of the manuscript (helped along by continuous one-to-one feedback with Jennie), drafted a press release for the title, as well as an AI sheet and a blurb. I also wrote a reader report for the manuscript in which I detailed what I considered to be the strengths and weaknesses of the work, and any improvements I thought could be made going forward. By focussing the majority of my work on this one particular manuscript, I felt I gained a well-rounded, practical insight into the various elements involved in the pre-publication process of a single title.

Over the course of my time at Luath, I was given the perfect opportunity to put all I have learned so far on the publishing course into practice. I feel I gained a well-rounded insight into the day-to-day dynamics of a small, independent publisher, and learned that no day is ever the same — adaptability is essential. And also, you will get used to the sound of bagpipes everyday!

Many thanks to everyone at Luath Press for this wonderful opportunity.

The Printed Book

In March at this year’s SYP 101 conference, Jenny Brown gave the opening remarks and discussed themes and trends occurring in the publishing industry. One theme was the rise in printed book sales. Brown pointed out that Waterstones made the first profit this year since the 2008 financial crash. There has also been a decrease in ebook sales which has resulted in bookshops like Waterstones removing e-readers from most of its stores.

But why?

There are two popular theories regarding the price of ebooks and the general physical medium coming into vogue.

Take a stroll through Amazon and you’ll see a surprising amount of ebooks being higher or similar in price to a printed book. For example, at the time of writing this Zadie Smith’s Swing Time is priced at £6.29 for the paperback version and £8.99 for the Kindle edition. Fumio Sasaki’s Goodbye Things: On Minimalist Living is £6.99 for the paperback version and £6.49 for the Kindle version. J K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is £3.85 for the paperback but £5.99 for the Kindle. Even if an ebook version is a little cheaper people still prefer a printed version as they feel the difference in price isn’t large enough to outweigh the benefits of owning a physical book. Another reason is that to read an ebook you have to own a device to read it on, keep it up to date and charge it. Whereas a printed book can be read anywhere, for as long as you like and keep in your bookshelf until the end of your days. There is also a concern that ebook technology will become outdated and all files could become inaccessible.

The second theory is the rise in the physical medium. In the last five years there has been an increase in Polaroid, camera film, record player and vinyl sales. These are all mediums which have modern digital alternatives, but people have become fascinated with the more ‘vintage’ and ‘real’ options. As printed book sales increased so did vinyl sales, and 2016 saw the highest vinyl sales in 25 years. As we are saturated with digital media, people crave the singularity and simplicity of a device made for one purpose. This suggests a future not dissimilar to the one portrayed in the 2013 film Her, directed by Spike Jonze. Her is set in the not too distant future; a world where the 1950s and 2050s have somehow come together to create a tactile high tech land. Theodore, the main protagonist, has a job at a bespoke letter writing company that specialises in writing and sending physical love letters to people for any occasion. In this world paper seems to be a rarity and so unused that being given a physical letter is not just a nice surprise or gesture like it is today, but a beautiful precious rare object.

Another interesting conversation is the immediate future of the printed book and its rise in popularity. Will is stay? Will it go? Will it become something else entirely? At this year’s London Book Fair, I attended a talk discussing Graphic Novels: The Last 10 Years and the Next. When discussing the next ten years of the industry it was suggested that the printed graphic novel would remain the primary medium and digital mediums would be used to accompany the printed versions. For example, a graphic novel could be packaged with interviews with artists and writers, as well as preliminary sketches and character development. Could this be the norm for the future of publishing as a whole? Could the printed book come with a code or link to a file for you to download the accompanying content? Or will there be a special box delivered to your house containing beautifully packaged extra content goodies? Of course, there are already books which provide extra content in a similar way, but the question is could this be a standard requirement for every book to have some sort of added insight into the writing, design and publishing process? Something that goes beyond stalking a Twitter or Facebook feed, something that only a reader has access to. Will social media campaigns be enough to engage the reader in the future?

For the moment, sitting at home listening to some vinyl with a french pressed coffee with a good printed book in hand (and an iPhone close by), is a good time. Which, honestly, is fine by me. However, I’m excited to see what the future brings and how the relationship between the publisher and the reader evolves.

 

White Light Media Placement

In April I was fortunate enough to secure a two week design internship at White Light Media, a content marketing agency based at The Shore in Leith, Edinburgh. I first became aware of White Light Media after reading a copy of Hot Rum Cow, a charismatic drinking magazine that explores the endlessly entertaining world of booze through great storytelling, photography and illustrations. They are also the organisers of World Whisky Day, a day that “invites everyone to try a dram and celebrate the water of life.”

After reading the magazine and researching the company and its projects further, it quickly became my mission to secure an internship there. In late 2016 I applied for the SYP mentor programme, specifically requesting a mentor at or related to WLM. I was very lucky to be paired with Christina McPherson, a Senior Editor at WLM. From career advice to guiding me through the process of creating my own magazine, she is incredibly supportive. Christina was kind enough to put me in touch with Eric Campbell, Managing Director at WLM and the Creative Director of Hot Rum Cow magazine, whom I secured the internship with.

During the internship I was given a variety of briefs and tasks to develop my ideas and design skills. These ranged from designing menus and invitations for a live client to developing illustration ideas for Hot Rum Cow to practicing my magazine layout skills.

During the projects I was able to develop my Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator skills. However, I also got back to basics and started the majority of my graphics with pen and paper. The feedback given throughout the internship was constructive, honest, professional and inspiring. If something wasn’t right they told me exactly why and how I could resolve it. I was reminded that design is about balance; familiar and new, obvious and hidden, fun and informative, perfect and imperfect.

The team at White Light Media are amazing, and they work together to create the best solutions they can. The office environment is great as well, there’s always laughing, lots of tea and treats, and some games on the office foosball table at the end of the day. They have a great collection of whisky, magazines for inspiration and a wee office dog called Angus. My internship at White Light Media reminded me how much I love being in a fast paced, idea driven, creative environment. If I end up working for a company like White Light Media I’ll be very lucky indeed.

I would like to say a final thank you to the entire White Light media team. I learnt so much in those two weeks and I really appreciate all the help and advice you gave me.

You can find out more about White Light Media and their projects at: http://www.whitelightmedia.co.uk

Check out Hot Rum Cow magazine at: http://www.hotrumcow.co.uk

Check out World Whisky Day at: http://www.worldwhiskyday.comWL-Logo-stacked-COLOUR

Advice on your new publishing world!

I applied for MSc Publishing at Edinburgh Napier University pretty late on last year. I had graduated with an Honours in English Literature and was a bit stuck on what to do. This course was suggested to me by a careers advisor. I applied after doing a bit of my own research, and was accepted to the course to start in September 2016. Initially, it was daunting, as any would any masters course would be, and in the run up to my start date I began looking online for some more information about what I would be doing.

It’s hard to go through blog posts and material that may not be relevant by the time you start, so here’s a list of what I believe to be important and that won’t change in the near future. Hopefully this will give you a bit of help if you are about to embark on what’s, no doubt, going to be one of the quickest years of your life.

Take notes. There’s a significant amount of information to be absorbed and I took a lot of notes. I managed to get myself into some sort of order, with thanks to my dad who bestowed upon me a diary that he wasn’t really using (in which I found my birthday wrongly recorded. Cheers, dad!). I gave this diary a new quality of life and used it constantly, making sure I wrote down all deadlines and dates. Coming to the end of the first trimester I was so glad I had dedicated a bit of time to getting myself sorted, as it gets hectic. A diary is also great for looking back on if reflective essays are required of you, and it’s nice that past you is taking care of present you in these moments.

Attend events. Go to everything you can. It’s all experience and a great way to meet people, get to know classmates, and begin to understand this massive industry that you’re getting into. I took up work experience in the Scottish Poetry Library, whose events I recommend greatly because they allow for some mingling (wine) before and after the event. It’s a great way to meet people as well as hear some poems in a really beautiful part of Edinburgh. Go to book launches: Waterstones, Blackwell’s, The Edinburgh Bookshop. Look for free events on Facebook and Twitter (if you haven’t already – get a Twitter!). Go to ALL the SYP events and meet publishing people outside of the course. There are SYP conferences, advice seminars, talks, mixers, socials, throughout the year. They are worth going to. Familiarise yourself with the people speaking at these things, you’ll see them around more than once. Finally, go to London Book Fair. You’ll be told about this on your very first day and it’s an important experience. Research this.

More than anything, enjoy it! A year is not a long stretch. The course requires a lot of work, which is difficult at times, but worth it when you get to where I am now. The industry can be intimidating and making sense of it in your own way takes time, but hopefully you’ll enjoy this year as much as I have.

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Can You Be a Parent and a Publishing Student?

Publishing blog
That’s lovely, darling. But wouldn’t you rather read a book?

When I applied to do the Publishing MSc in June 2016, I had worked in various forms of publishing as a journalist, copywriter and editor, so deciding to study it seemed like the logical next step in my career. However, unlike the average student, I had been out of higher education for seven years and I also had a daughter (the spirited creature above) who had just turned two.

Now that I’m at the end of the second semester of the course, I have some advice for any parents thinking of making a return to higher education, because I know from when i was researching courses that a lot of the information I read was tailored towards students who didn’t have any dependents.

I was not the first parent to go to university, and I will not be the last. I hope this blog post helps someone thinking of returning to university after a long break, or someone who is thinking of applying for a course for the very first time.

Be Realistic

The biggest mistake I made when I started the course was thinking that I was the same as all my peers. The reality was, that at 31, I wasn’t the same person that I was at 23, and I had very, very different priorities to the ones I had before.

I had to manage my time effectively and decide what to prioritise. It was no use comparing myself to anyone, because we are all in this together, and I just had different things to deal with.

I had to sacrifice going to a few parties, and I’ll admit it, I did a few all-nighters before big deadlines. (Don’t do this) And yet, after submitting my assignment, I still got my daughter to nursery, and got myself to university, which was on the other side of town. All by 9am(ish). (I’m not entirely sure how I managed to do this on more than one occasion).

Ask for Help

I can’t stress this enough: ask for help, and ask for help EARLY. When I started the course, I mentioned that I had a child, but I didn’t ask for extra help because I didn’t think I needed it.

It turned out that I really did need a bit of support, especially as after having my daughter, my short-term memory was totally unreliable – if you have trouble recalling really vital things, like  “What is a paragraph style?” and get the cold sweats every time someone starts a conversation with “You will recall…” then, take my advice, and write EVERYTHING down – and I was very tired a lot of the time.

There is no shame in asking for a little bit more support. Don’t be proud, be selfish! The lecturers and my colleagues were very helpful throughout the course, and other students would often pick me up when I was feeling down with a few much-needed words of encouragement.

Routine

Trying to build a routing around a toddler can feel a bit like stapling jelly to the ceiling; it’s messy, it’s endless and throughout, you’ll also be questioning just Why On Earth you’re putting yourself through it.

I had to be strict with myself and ensure I went to bed at a decent hour, and that i got up when my alarm went off around 6am. It wasn’t easy, and I didn’t always manage it, but having a good routine throughout the course meant that I could (usually) manage to get to class on time.

Support

I couldn’t have returned to university without the help of my friends and family, who offered to take my daughter at least once a week, and when I had impending deadlines. And I couldn’t have got through the course if my colleagues and lecturers hadn’t been so supportive.

So, yes! It is possible to be a student and a parent. You need to be realistic with your time and priorities, find the strength to ask for help if you need it, create a routine that you can stick to and use the support of anyone and everyone who can give you it.

Returning to high education has not been easy, it’s meant that I’ve had to be very strict with myself and re-learn how I work best. However, I’m at the end of the second semester, my daughter will be three next month, and I’m really glad that I applied to the course. Remember, if I can do it, then so can you!