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.
One aspect that I have been very eager to learn about during my time on this Publishing MSc has been the area of independent publishers. How do they differ from their larger competitors? And how do they thrive?
In January of this year, I was lucky enough to be taken on as an intern for Muddy Pearl, an Edinburgh-based publisher that print “books that are true to Scripture and to the Spirit.” They produce high-quality titles by key Christian writers who are experts in their fields and write with a genuine insightfulness; navigating the reader through modern life. I have been encouraged to read their backlist titles and have loved seeing the breadth of topics covered.
A lot of my workload consists of helping with marketing, which I have thoroughly enjoyed as I have gained very practical experience in how publishers generate interest and sales from books. Rather than a scatter-gun approach, marketing materials such as AIs and press releases are focused and tailored to individual parties. Invariably, it was here that a positive response was received, and I have learnt the benefit of finding a common ground with the recipient in order to stand out in their inbox!
Also, I have proofread titles with a marketing focus in mind, looking to see where there are opportunities to collaborate with others and find ‘hooks’ with which to catch readers’ interest. I have learnt a lot from this, as even at the initial stages of editing, the publisher is thinking “How can I sell this?” Given the topical nature of Muddy Pearl’s titles, this was not too difficult, but I’ve realised that a good understanding of your customer’s profile is essential.
Consequently, in growing my knowledge of how we market books, Muddy Pearl’s personal and well-researched approach has struck me as a very effective way of bypassing larger companies and aiming their titles towards an engaged audience. My placement at Muddy Pearl has been a brilliant opportunity to learn first-hand how an independent publisher thrives in this environment and it has cemented even more my wish to work in this area!
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.
With no previous publishing experience out with the MSc publishing course, I was eager to delve into the foreign world of rights, contracts and royalties.
Founded in 1973, Canongate Books remains one of the oldest established independent Scottish Publishers. With a renowned reputation (both in Scotland and internationally) and a vastly dynamic front and backlist, I was delighted to hear that I had secured a 10-week placement within the Rights Department.
The Canongate office is charmingly situated just off the famous Royal Mile, down the historic Tweedale Court close. Eagerly stepping through the original wrought iron gates, I crossed the cobbles to enter the welcoming office. Greeted with a somewhat cave like reception with exposed brick work, shelves upon shelves of books, smiling faces and the warm aroma of freshly brewed coffee, I was welcomed into the world of Canongate.
The Rights Department at the Edinburgh office has 3 members (with one other in London), and it was this small team that I joined for the duration of my placement. My first task was to make myself acquainted with Biblio – the publishing software used by the majority of publishing houses in the UK. This involved learning how to log information on authors, contracts, reviews and payments. Having never heard of Biblio before, the opportunity to learn how to use this system will prove extremely valuable for my future career in publishing.
Week by week I was given a variety of tasks from organising and logging royalty statements, creating a catalogue of Canongate’s backlist music titles (that will be sent to foreign publishers), sourcing book reviews, researching authors and much more!
Perhaps the highlight of my placement was the opportunity to sit with Caroline during several of her meetings at the London Book Fair in April. This was the first book fair that I had attended, and I was very keen to find out what was being discussed at these meticulously planned meetings! I was kindly invited to sit in on conversations with publishers from Japan, Israel and Poland. Hearing how to push titles, learning about the market in that specific territory and the terms used in rights negotiating, is something that I found extremely rewarding, and I am very grateful to Canongate for this opportunity.
Now nearing the end of my placement, I can without doubt reflect upon this positive experience and say that I have been given a truly great first hand experience of what it is like to work within a Rights Department at an award winning, independent publishing house. I will be leaving Canongate with a much greater understanding of what is involved in the buying and selling of rights (both within the UK and internationally), the importance of communication and keeping on top of your royalty statements!
I would just like to thank Andrea, Caroline and Lina for welcoming me into your Rights Department, and to everyone at Canongate for this wonderful opportunity. Thank you!
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.
As 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.
Over 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. 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.
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.
A new year sees a new team working on Edinburgh Napier’s MSc Publishing App. You can find out more about the app and the team, including exclusive behind-the-scenes articles here: http://publishersinc.co.uk
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”
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…
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 😉