‘The Minute You Play It Safe, You’re Done’ – MagFest 2018

MagFest 2018 is the biggest (and arguably, the best) magazine festival in Scotland and acted as the first main event on the postgraduate publishing calendar. If I’m speaking honestly, I haven’t read a magazine since Mizz and Blush circa 2003. However, after a talk from Laura Dunlop, who came into university to tell us about the event, I was really excited for MagFest and the opportunity to learn about this area of the publishing industry that I have never before explored.

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I made it to Central Hall in Edinburgh bright and early for registration and the atmosphere was already buzzing. I was worried about looking out of place but I soon found some familiar faces from the course and after a much-needed caffeine hit I was ready for the day. The schedule was broken down into different talks and Q&As held in the main hall. Throughout the day we heard from some very prominent figures in the publishing industry as well as many new, up-and-coming publishers which was great to see. The theme of the day was ‘Ideas Factory’ and many of the keynote speakers touched upon what some might call the ‘uncertain future’ of magazine publishing. It was encouraging to hear that, despite differing opinions, everyone felt optimistic and committed to working harder towards maintaining the future of the industry.

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As a newcomer to world of magazine publishing I don’t pretend to know all the key players just yet, but I was certainly dazzled by the all-star line-up which included Mike Soutar from Shortlist Media (and The Apprentice!), Joanna Geary, head of content curation at Twitter, Mark Frith, editor of Radio Times, Marion Reilly, art director at Hello! Fashion and finally the legendary Mark Millar, best-selling author of Kick-Ass and Wanted – to name a few!

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As the day progressed, I began to feel more comfortable and my initial hesitation to speak to other attendees gradually subsided – although certainly didn’t disappear completely! I knew that we should take this opportunity to ‘network’ and I had built this up in my head to be much worse than it actually was. I quickly realised that everyone was friendly, open to having a chat and actually excited to speak to us because in reality, as scary as it sounds, we are the future of publishing!

All in all, I had a really great time at MagFest 2018. It was great to meet some of the leaders in the industry and I even managed to overcome my apprehensions and speak to a handful of them! I discovered a whole new side of publishing that I had never even considered before and, without sounding cheesy, left the event feeling really inspired. And to make things even better, I entered the raffle and won a free ticket for next year – hooray!

Finally, I’ll leave you with my takeaway comment from the event which, of course, came from Mark Millar, ‘The minute you play it safe, you’re done’

Thanks for reading!

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Learning Adobe InDesign

Software programmes. They can be intimidating. When we were told that we would be learning Adobe InDesign – a publishing software programme – I was worried. Would I be able to learn how to use this software programme within a few months?

During my previous MSc in Spatial Development and Natural Resource Management, I had learnt how to use ArcGIS, a geographic information system. There’s something fascinating about putting data into a programme, and seeing the visual end result. I’ve always been intrigued by how I can best use software programmes, and remember spending hours learning how to use Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, when I first learnt of them in primary school.

I soon realised that my working method for Adobe InDesign would be similar to how I worked with the other software programmes I knew. The main part of learning how to use any software programme in my experience, is knowing how to search for a solution when you get stuck. I love the challenge of thinking of the most efficient way to word my problem so that I can type it into the search engine and find solutions to my problem. Another part that I find important to do at the beginning is to learn the keyboard shortcuts, it always gives me this feeling that I understand the software better, which in turn makes me feel more comfortable with using it.

As with any software programme, I find that I learn best by using the software. Thus, I was intrigued our projects this trimester would be to typeset a book and design a book cover, as well as, create a magazine spread this trimester. The projects provided me with the opportunity to practise my skills, and with that practice my skills improved.

I enjoy using Adobe InDesign now and I’m not intimidated anymore. I like working with numbers, so using the reference points and tabs to ensure that all objects line up, makes me very happy. It’s easy to use and doesn’t require the knowledge of a programming language. And I feel like there’s always more to discover about it, whether it’s a new shortcut or a new tool, thus I’m never bored.


About the author
I’m Sinead, an MSc Publishing student at Edinburgh Napier University. I’m the Communications Officer and the Inclusivity Officer at SYP Scotland. My blog Huntress of Diverse Books focuses on reviewing and promoting diverse books. I’m also a co-host at Lit CelebrAsian, an initiative aiming to uplift Asian voices in literature.

Editorial Internship at Fledgling Press

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.

 

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Proof from Nikki Simpson that there is more to a magazine than meets the eye

By Katy Sheen

Sub-editor: Claire Cunningham

Magazines are so much more than celebrity style guides and the exploitation of women. Nikki Simpson, Business Manager of the Professional Periodicals Association (PPA) Scotland, began her talk with this crucial point. The magazine industry is diverse and exciting; there’s a publication for every topic imaginable, and magazine publishers are generating revenue in a wider range of ways than ever before.

But magazines can still be tarnished with the size 6-obsessed brush. That’s why the PPA exists: to promote, protect and advance the magazine industry. The magazine industry within the UK is worth £4.1bn, £154m of which is based in Scotland. The 700 magazines based here cover the three main categories of publication: consumer, trade and contract.

Reaching target audiences

In the contract publishing sector, which is better known as content marketing, Nikki highlighted White Light Media, who produce the quirky and beautifully designed Hot Rum Cow. The publication has a dual role as an alcohol enthusiast’s magazine and an advertising tool for White Light Media’s high quality services. Realising that Hot Rum Cow may not appeal to their more ‘serious’ clients, White Light Media recently launched a second magazine called Poppy, which is aimed at marketeers in the financial industry.

Contract vs consumer magazines: advantages+disadvantages

The advantage of working for a contract publishing company is that you can be involved with a number of different projects, across a plethora of subjects. In a consumer magazine, you are likely to be focused on one topic at all times. However, as Nikki pointed out, you don’t necessarily need to be a magazine’s target market in order to work on it. A great example of this is People’s Friend, which has a massive circulation of 230,000 copies a week. DC Thomson, one of the largest publishing companies in the UK, wouldn’t exist without it. The magazine is, almost exclusively, read by women over 60, but you won’t find a team of old age pensioners producing the magazine in DC Thomson’s Dundee office.

Top quality Indies

In contrast to the long-running People’s Friend, Nikki showcased some of the large number of independent magazines that have launched recently in Scotland, the UK and beyond. Many of these magazines feature top quality illustration, photography and design, as well as approaching the concept of a ‘magazine’ in innovative ways, from fold-out to glow-in-the dark pages.

The future is in our hands

Nikki pointed out that this class of Publishing students could soon be adding to this pretty pile of publications – all we need is an idea for something a bit different. There’s no problem with focusing on a very specific topic, as long as you have readers; to paraphrase Nikki, there is a market for niche magazines as long as there is a market within that niche.

Vagabond Voices: An Author’s Perspective

During my placement with Vagabond Voices, I had the fortune of attending two of their launches:  Allan Massie’s Surviving (to conclude a memorable first day) and The Lost Art of Losing by Gregory Norminton, the second book of aphorisms to be published by Vagabond Voices.

After the latter event, I approached Gregory to ask about the unusual form of the aphorism, and why we haven’t seen more of them in print, to which he replied, “I suppose the perception that no one would purchase a book of aphorisms is the main reason we don’t see more in print.” Among those who had arrived to pick up a copy of Gregory’s “little book” were Alasdair Gray, Bernard MacLaverty, and another of Vagabond Voices’ writers, Chris Dolan.

The seemingly irresistible little volume is perfectly proportioned to be picked up and dipped into for moments at a time; as Gregory summarized, with his characteristic concision and style,  “After all, when should the book be read if not in snatches: on the Tube between proximate stations, or for a moment while brushing your teeth?”

When asked about his experiences with Vagabond Voices, Gregory lauded the creative support and personal touch which developed through working with a small publisher, and described the benefits of the intimate author-publisher collaboration which could be achieved in this setting: “Working with a small publisher, specifically Vagabond Voices, I find an attention to detail, a care and a commitment to each book, which can be missing from bigger publishing houses. The former has to nurture, within its limited means, every hatchling” – a statement with which, as an intern of Vagabond Voices, I can readily identify.

Men assert, women know.

Toleration should not be confused with respect. Of course you are entitled to your opinion – as am I to treat it with contempt.

Fearless” is an epithet which bigots apply to themselves. An open mind grapples constantly with dread.

http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Lost-Art-Losing-Gregory-Norminton/9781908251060

@Vagabondvoices

Congratulations!

Congratulations to this year’s students who have secured employment before even graduating!

The MSc Publishing team are delighted to wish the following students every success in their new roles …

ANGELA ROBB who has now started her new job with Oxford University Press! Earlier this month Angela started as Production Editor in their English language teaching division, working on OUP’s series of graded readers. http://ukcatalogue.oup.com

GEMMA GREIG who fought off over 80 applicants to secure a long-term Editorial Internship at Edinburgh University Press. www.euppublishing.com

CHRISTOPHER WILSON who was snapped up by global media giants Haymarket publishers in London at the beginning of the summer. Chris is working on their recruitment brands. www.haymarket.com/home

KATY SHIELDS who was appointed Publishing Manager at Editions as early as June this year! www.editions.co.uk

Congratulations also to all our other students who are now in publishing – do keep in touch and let us know how you are getting on!

Best wishes,
MSc Publishing team
Edinburgh Napier University

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MSc Publishing Welcomes Head of Publishing Scotland

This year’s new arrivals to MSc Publishing at Edinburgh Napier University were welcomed to the industry by one of the most important figures in Scottish, if not British, publishing.

Marion Sinclair, Chief Executive of Publishing Scotland, opened the door on the exciting world of publishing and provided a taste of the calibre of speakers who regularly give of their time to talk to our students.

Photo shows Marion Sinclair (left) and Prof. Alistair McCleery speaking to MSc Publishing students in our Castle Room, Craighouse Campus.