Postgraduate Publishing studies at Edinburgh Napier University. INDUSTRY APPROVED Publishing degrees (accredited by the Professional Publishers Association and Creative Skillset). MSc Publishing was the first Publishing programme in the UK to be accredited by the Professional Publishers Association (PPA). It is now accredited by Creative Skillset (only one of two courses to hold this award). MSc Magazine Publishing is the only course of its kind in Scotland and is the only publishing course in the UK to be accredited by the PPA. The PPA is the lead body for best practice in training, development and people management for the magazine and business media industry.
With a portfolio which boasts clients ranging from the Scottish Prison Service to the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, CMYK’s design skills are impressive to say the least. However, my time at CMYK Towers did not involve improving my own design skills. Instead I came to learn about the fast paced world of magazine advertising.
Most of my time was spent on the hunt for potential advertisers for Scotland in Trust (the customer magazine for members of The National Trust for Scotland), and aurora (the passenger magazine for Highlands and Islands Airports). This has seen me on the phone to spectacular country estates, numerous outdoor clothing companies and even the agency which handles the marketing for Duchy Originals – though sadly not to HRH himself.
Working with advertising has been completely absorbing, and the support and enthusiasm of the CMYK team has made this placement a truly fantastic experience.
My placement at Word Power Books was worth waiting for. In ten days we covered three busy author events, a sales promotion, and all of the admin and stock taking in between. The book launches, readings and sales represent the side of the industry not always thought about in publishing, as it is certainly more of a bookseller’s promotional tool. However, some editors and representatives of the publishing industry joined the family showing up to reserve seats and friends travelling from across the country to support the author.
As to be expected, there were readings from the books, question and answer sessions and plenty of wine flowing, followed by sales of the book. The first of these events was for ‘The Echo Chamber’, the debut novel by Luke Williams, a local author. It had received amazing reviews and sold well. The launch was exciting and informative- there were friends of the owners who offered plenty of advice and were happy to chat about their work in the industry, and the following week saw more guests just as enthusiastic.
Through the ten days I was there, more authors came in offering to do talks over the festival period, and the Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair is hosted by Word Power in October, so there will be lots more people to see and books to hear about. These events are hosted regularly at Word Power Books, so get on their mailing list, check their website and show up. They’ll be happy to have you and you can chat to authors, editors and designers, as well as take some time to browse around the shop and find something new to read.
They came from a land far-far-away… well actually from Falkirk. Two magnificent 3 metre high Kelpies reared up at Craighouse campus to celebrate our new edition of classic Scottish children’s book, The Kelpie’s Pearls. Written by Mollie Hunter, the novel has been given a fresh lease of life by students on the university’s MSc Publishing course through its Merchiston Publishing imprint.
Hundreds of copies of The Kelpie’s Pearls will now be given free to primary schools in the capital along with teaching materials based on Hunter’s magical tale.
Amanda Fisher, who helped project manage production of the book said: “Promoting literacy and the pleasure of a good read is at the heart of Merchiston Publishing’s remit, and we saw The Kelpie’s Pearls as the perfect book to capture the imaginations of a whole new generation of young Scots.”
For a placement on an MSc Publishing course, an independent bookshop might not sound fitting. What could one learn that would be of relevance when applying for jobs with Penguin or Faber & Faber? The answer is: quite a few things. My placement with Word Power Books in Edinburgh has enhanced my knowledge of the book industry, which until now has been very much one-sided (the one side being the publishing aspect).
On the first few days of this placement I was introduced to one rather important activity for this indie: running a bookstall. The occasion was a forensic psychoanalysis conference at the Apex Hotel in the Grassmarket, with the enticing title of Murder in Mind. While the rest of Britain was watching Kate Middleton walk down the aisle, I was selling books with titles such as Pedophilia, Violent Adolescents and Murder and Madness. This experience was further enlivened by the authors present, who saw me in charge of the stall and concluded I had all the answers, especially to why there was only one copy of their book at the stall, and why no-one had bought it yet.
One of my main tasks for my placement was to re-design the signage for the shop, to make customers more likely to pick up a book (which in turn increases the chances for a sale). To familiarize myself with the stock, I took on some stocktaking, a new experience to me, as past jobs have been mainly pub-oriented. I will never again waltz into a bookshop, pick a book of the shelf, for then to casually put it back any old place. For the signs, I worked from home where I had access to InDesign, a sofa, and an endless supply of coffee. To judge the success of these, have a peak into the bookshop on West Nicolson street to make up your own minds.
During the placement, I had the opportunity to observe rep appointments. It was interesting to see the connection between publisher and bookshop first-hand, and eye opening how quickly the manager made her decisions and turned the page to the next AI. The reps were ready with comments and opinions of the books, but knew from experience not to go for a hard sale in this particular shop.
This placement was a very worthwhile experience, enhancing my understanding of the book business at large and the current situation for independent bookshops in a world of chains and online giants.
My placement at Canongate Books has been a unique experience. Yes, I have become fairly well acquainted with the photocopy room, but I have also researched and contacted the ‘Lairs’ of pick-up artists around the country, worked out convenient ways to communicate with Religious Education teachers around the UK, and put real names to the Twitterati of the UK’s music and men’s magazines. I’ve also sat in on a meeting where the possibility of hiring Del Boy and Rodney lookalikes and the Trotter’s Reliant van was raised… just another day in the marketing and publicity department at Canongate!
It’s an interesting time for the company. Recent acquisition Go The F**k To Sleep shot into the Amazon UK Top 25 as a preorder and the BBC adaptation of Michel Faber’s excellent The Crimson Petal and The White has generated a lot of media interest (I know – I filed the clippings!) Consequently it has been an interesting time to be an intern, and there is much to be learned if you pay attention.
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.