Publishing Scotland Conference 2017: An Overview

It’s been 24 hours since the Publishing Scotland Conference left me equally overwhelmed and excited by my chosen career path so I hope this overview will give people who weren’t fortunate enough to attend a taste of what the day was like.

After a welcome from Publishing Scotland, the Booksellers Association and Jenny Brown of Jenny Brown Associates, the day started with a key note speech from Barry Cunningham . Not only do I hope to work in children’s/YA publishing one day, but I am a long-time fan of Chicken House. I was all ears on the necessity for fueling “book growth by providing a wider variety of book of all kinds” and how readers can discover these books. ‘Book huggers’ became an integral part of my vocabulary and Barry’s business card a coveted addition to my wallet.

Next came a statistical breakdown of 2015/16 retail market trends courtesy of Nielsen BookScan data, and while your eyes may have glazed over just reading that sentence, believe me it was one of the highlights of the day. Who would have thought there was a marriage to be made between David Bowie and bar charts? Steve Bohme for one (apparently it was Star Wars last year!)

Sam Eades, Editorial Director at Orion Books, shared her innovative ideas for creating debut novel buzz without the benefit of a big publicity and marketing budget. With materials even Blue Peter might struggle to craft together, she revealed the roles a dismembered mannequin and Portsmouth bus lane played in two successful campaigns. She also stressed the importance of spear-heading trends, from psychological thrillers to cosy crime; and of recognising the opportunity for partnerships – even if those opportunities come in the form of two ice sculptors. After all, “publicists are great blaggers.”

I gained a whole new appreciation of the art of the book cover from the Creative Director at Penguin Random House, Suzanne Dean, whose journey between the hardback and paperback editions of Paul Kalanithi’s, When Breath Becomes Air, was paved by 70 rejected covers. And I’ll never look at the negative space and allusions of Haruki Murakami’s covers the same way now that I know a little of the complicated effort masquerading as the effortlessly simple.

When it comes to working better with authors (and selling more books), Lucinda Byatt from the Society of Authors reminded us that, despite falling advances and royalties, “authors remain the only essential part in the creation of a book.” How must it make them feel to often earn less than their editor?

We heard from the front lines in sales and bookselling where the successful bookstores are the ones with “experiential content that’s not available on the internet”, Kevin Ramage, The Watermill: “booksellers that diversify … throw in a bit of coffee … offer as much as possible to the customers”, Sabrina Maguire, Bright Red Publishing.

For my elective breakout session I was glad to have chosen to learn from Eleanor Collins, Senior Commissioning Editor at Floris Books, about editing narrative openings (but sad to miss out on the three other workshops that sounded equally fascinating). With the “artifice of the narrative most evident in the beginning” and a tendency for authors to begin the story before the action, editors can choose to alter the structure, chronology and/or voice. In other words (Eleanor’s words): start with the Ballroom instead of the Country Walk; or reference it and the Conversation during the preparation for the ball.

One of the most inspiring parts of the day, however, was an introduction to OWN IT!, London from founder, Crystal Mahey-Morgan. Crystal’s goal is to tell stories using books, music, fashion and film, starting with the multimedia book, Don’t Be Alien. Above all I respected her recognition that we have to see the commercial viability of diverse authors instead of just the moral necessity.

With people and pioneers like these, I’m happy to say that the future of the book does not look as bleak as it is often believed to be. Many thanks to Publishing Scotland for making the MSc Publishing students of Edinburgh Napier Universirty so welcome.

In conclusion, prep your calendars for 2018 and place your bets on who/what Steve Bohme will use to front his market data next time.


By Kellie Jones


La vie (du livre) en rose; or: my four-day romance with the Scottish publishing industry

Strolling through The Meadows, its beautiful cherry-blossoms in bloom, on my way to Luath Press

Nestled in a cosy corner of Edinburgh’s lively Royal Mile and sharing the same stretch of road as the Scottish Storytelling Centre and Deacon Brodie’s Tavern – a pub honouring the chap said to have inspired Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Luath Press seems to be the most happily situated publishing house in its vast UNESCO City of Literature. It is to Luath that I’m winding my way on an unusually fine spring morning in search of publishing experience – I’ve already practically floated through The Meadows, with its dreamy avenue of cherry blossoms just beginning to bloom, and as I cross George IV Bridge, gazing around me with all the awe its impressive architecture is owed, I begin to understand why writer Alexander McCall Smith calls Edinburgh ‘a city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again’. As a publisher who take their name from Robert Burns’ wee collie dog and were set up in answer to a need for good-quality travel guides on picturesque Scotland, I venture towards my placement with high hopes that in Luath I’ll find the heart and soul of the Edinburgh literary sphere; a company that provide a platform for authors who are so inspired by bonny Scotland and its cultural heritage they can do nothing but write of it.

Royal MileAs my destination lies at a stone’s throw from the castle, I battle through gaggles of tourists to reach the door, my plight underscored by the ditties of a long-suffering bagpipe player standing a few yards up the road. I reach a rather plain and unassuming door and begin to second-guess my orienteering skills (and my Google Maps smartphone app). Thankfully I spot Luath’s familiar collie dog logo perched next to one of the buzzers, and tentatively ring for entry. I’m greeted moments later by Rosie, Luath’s brilliant Sales, Marketing, and Digital Projects Coordinator, and she leads me up several flights of stairs that twist towards the top floor where the Luath office resides. Its windows reveal gorgeous views of the Old Town to one side and the New Town to the other, and suddenly I feel I’ve been let in on Edinburgh’s best-kept secret. I sit at the desk I’ll be poring over during my placement, quietly taking in the boxes of freshly-printed books, the newly submitted or marked up manuscripts, and the launch event posters that lie around me, and I can’t help but think I’m going to like it here.

Luath Press LogoOver the next four days, I enjoy a whistle-stop tour of the inner workings of the Scottish publishing sector, beginning with a wonderful overview of Luath’s history and a summary of how it operates today from Director Gavin MacDougall, who is also kind enough to offer hints and tips on getting started in a publishing career. He emphasises the importance of finding your niche within the publishing workflow, whether it be in editorial, marketing, or production, for example, and suggests honing your skills in that area to reach the top of your chosen field. Later, I take calls from keen readers who enjoyed a Luath title so much they want to order additional copies for their relatives, from writers eager to know if their prized manuscript has arrived at Luath HQ, and from Luath’s distributor, HarperCollins, calling to check on an order detail with Gavin. Throughout the week I also meet Jennie Renton from nearby Main Point Books who assists with Luath’s marketing one day a week, and I revel in the achingly well-informed bookish conversations that take place between her and Gavin. I am also introduced to a freelance designer, and a BBC journalist, and later I meet the talented Editorial and Production Manager, Chris, just returned from holiday, who I discover is a fellow alum of the University of Dundee’s Humanities department. I beseech my brain to adopt “sponge mode”, as I’m acutely aware of how valuable it is to be in an environment like Luath and absorb as much as possible of what is playing out around me.

My tasks during the week are wonderfully varied, and I begin with laying the foundations for a Twitter campaign surrounding David Torrance’s culturally-pertinent title, General Election 2015: A Guide for Voters in Scotland.David Torrance_General Election 2015 I set up a list of relevant Tweeters to follow, including the accounts of all the major political parties and their leaders, to be utilised as a marketing tool as the election draws near. I come to know Torrance’s title quite well during my time at Luath, and also compose a blog post to market the product on Luath’s blog, BookBanter.

I likewise get acquainted with Stuart McHardy’s Scotland’s Future History, and draft an example blurb, an advanced information sheet (which includes creating an ISBN barcode), and a press release around this title, all intended as an exercise in good marketing practice. Keen to gain editorial experience, I am given the opportunity to proofread Rosie’s monthly digital newsletter and suggest changes. Perhaps my most important task, however, is to work on the design and production of a Luath catalogue intended for circulation at the upcoming London Book Fair, and I devote much of my time during the placement to this assignment, aiming to create a publication that represents the values and objectives of Luath, while showcasing their diverse backlist and frontlist titles.

Books from Scotland_London Book Fair
The ‘Books from Scotland’ section at the London Book Fair, which includes a number of Luath titles

I alight again onto the Royal Mile on Friday evening, lamenting the rapid speed at which my time at Luath passed over, yet triumphing in the great wealth of experience I amassed during that same short spell. Passing once more through the grandeur of George IV Bridge and onto the long cherry-tree lane that skirts through the Meadows, I think again of Edinburgh’s great literary heritage, and I feel privileged to have been amongst people who devote their time to both preserving and growing this beautiful tradition.

My Placement at Oh Really / Word of Mouth Publishers

Image courtesy of Oh Really Creative Solutions


When initially it came to choosing my placement company, my focus was a little different from the majority of my fellow publishing students. My experiences to date include a number of group projects I have been involved in at Edinburgh Napier, as well as my existing experience producing my own blogs. I have been exposed to many marketing opportunities, and interest in this area of publishing encouraged me to delve further into the sector to gain more experience.

Upon my discovery of Oh Really as a placement option I felt that it would be perfect. As it is a combination of companies – Oh Really Creative Solutions, a PR and Marketing company and Word of Mouth Travels Publishing – run solely by Mr Owen O’Leary, it represented the perfect environment to gain as much experience as possible, not only of the publishing industry but the extended creative industries. Word of Mouth Travels to date have produced two books The Locals Guide to Edinburgh and The Locals Guide to Glasgow. These travel guides have taken an entirely new approach to the traditional tour guide. They have also taken advantage of a niche in the travel market which has been in decline in recent years due to the growth of tablets and portable internet devices. … Continue reading “My Placement at Oh Really / Word of Mouth Publishers”

Degree Show Madness!

Following all the madness of last week, posters have been printed, presentation slides have been created and converted for the show. However the biggest task in preparing for our degree show last week had to have been our initial set up of our room for the show. This involved a little volunteer work on Wednesday and some very fashionable choices…

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This lovely looking group was joined by a couple of stragglers who you can see throughout the slideshow. Following a later than average start, we had a day full of painting display boards – which turned out to be quite the challenge but fun because we were rewarded with Cake!

But today is finally the day where we will get to show everyone what we have achieved and the magnitude of the projects that we took on this year!

We really do hope that you can come along and visit sometime as the Degree Show is on until June, so loads of time. Our displays will be in The Glassroom in Edinburgh Napier’s Merchiston Campus, 10 Colinton Road near Morningside.

Take a little look at what we have on show, plus there will be some goodies available from both groups’ displays… not that we are trying to bribe you 😉

Best of luck to everyone today!!

Bookie Updates: Cupcakes & Freedom…For now

cupcakesAs we mentioned in our previous post – today is our final submission day for all the details and business plan for both of our book proposals, Ah Dinnae Ken and The Day Boy and The Night Girl. To say that we have been getting happier as the day has progressed would be a bit of an understatement. We can practically smell our freedom… or that could be the sugar? Cupcakes were therefore decided to be a celebratory requirement. 🙂

However, the longer I spend with this group of crazy publishing students, the more I wonder, ‘How did we ever manage to get anything done?’ 😀

eating cupcakes
Working hard or hardly working, girls…?

We love Joanna our Editorial Manager but sometimes we get a little worried that she works too hard… It’s clear that she is also having an effect on the rest of the editorial team. That today represents the end of the module seems to have gone to their heads a little! Meanwhile, Kate is busily finishing up our final submission. “We don’t finish until 5 o’clock girls!”

Joanna has also been spontaneously breaking out in song and dance –  she is our very own Maria! Now why I didn’t have my camera out I don’t know but it went something like:

Joanna at door“We have new covers!! We have newww coverrrrssss!
For Day Boy Night Girl!”

It doesn’t come across quite as magically as it did in real life. But we hope you are having as good a day as us. Cupcakes all round!!!



Bookie Updates: Submission Day!!

The whole team is busily beavering away, finishing up for the submission of both of our book projects for our final assessment – which will ultimately decide whether our books will be sent to our chosen printer, Bell and Bain!! We are all so excited for finally reaching this point, regardless of all the stressful days and numerous obstacles which have come our way – we are so close we can almost see the books!! When we look back on what we have managed to achieve: editing, financing, producing, negotiating rights and marketing TWO books in just 13 weeks – I can speak for all of us in saying how proud we are of ourselves and every member of our little Wednesday Team!!!


contents filigree2

In recent weeks we have been able to finalise so many things, from confirming the support of Cordelia Fine and Helen Sutherland who are providing a foreword and an author biography for one of our projects (GO Rights Team!), The Day Boy and The Night Girl – for more details check out our Project page: The Day Boy and The Night Girl – through to the production of the covers for both books, which are looking amazing. A  big well done to our awesome production team!!

Collectively we have done so much to pull together and we have been able to achieve so much!! The Publishing Degree Show is coming up very soon and is open to the public from Friday 23rd of May until the 1st of June. You are all welcome to come along and see this year’s projects. There are also opportunities for you to get involved and vote for our selected covers for Ah Dinnae Ken. There will be four to choose from and we would love to hear what you think about them and vote for the winner.

This is a sample of one of the covers that will be on show for Ah Dinnae Ken:

Rachel ADK V2

And one for The Day Boy and The Night Girl:


We are also continuing to approach independent bookshops across Edinburgh and even researching retailers further afield; however, our sales are strongly dependent on your interest. Therefore, if you are really interested in getting a copy of our illustrated edition we would love to hear from you, and hear which bookshops are convenient for you and which you would be interested in purchasing from.

If we can find reassure bookshops of the interest that exists, we can create more sales and make them more accessible to you. Please send us a comment or a Facebook message if there is anywhere you are particularly interested in. Any bookshops interested in buying a number of copies please feel free to contact us also.


Bookie Updates: Ah Dinnae Ken and Crowdfunding

Following our decision to join the Let Books be Books  for our childrens project,  The Day Boy and The Night Girl  we also wanted to update you further on our YA project Ah Dinnae Ken.

Now things have also been progressing rapidly for our other project, Ah Dinnae KenRight now we are halfway through our crowdfunding campaign to support the print and distribution of Ah Dinnae Ken.

And we wanted to take this time to share our message and our belief in this project in the hope that you would be interested in supporting and becoming involved in our project.

So here is a little summary about who we are and why we are doing this. And a little sneak peek at the supporters we’ve gotten so far!

Sponsume Link:


Hello there! We are a team postgraduate publishing students at Edinburgh Napier University who are currently working on a live book project for Merchiston Publishing, in-house publishing arm of Edinburgh Napier University and the Scottish Centre for the Book. Merchiston Publishing is a not-for-profit publishing house which distributes copies of its books freely, and is supported by the generous donations of organizations such as the Edward Clark Trust.  See more at:

What does it mean to be Scottish? Can Scottishness be defined, and is there really a difference between Scotland and the rest of the UK? Some of today’s leading Scottish authors for young adult literature – Cathy MacPhail, Claire McFall, Cathy Forde, Diana Hendry, J.A. Henderson, and others – address these questions and more, in this thought-provoking collection of stories about national identity. Each story is unique, some are amusing, others moving, but together they show how different people, ideas, and even dialects make up the Scotland we know and love today. The book also features a foreword by Scottish journalist and broadcaster, Stuart Cosgrove. See more at:


We really believe in this project and we want to copies of the book to as many schools as we possibly can. So please take a minute to check out our link and watch our little video featuring Kenny the Book who just wants to be shared in schools.

Thank you x