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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Work Placement at Edinburgh University Press

When trying to crack the publishing industry, I think work experience does you a world of good. For me, MSc Publishing’s focus on giving students the opportunity to go out and put into practice what they’ve learnt was one of the main attractions prior to joining Edinburgh Napier way back in September.

As soon as the time came to organise a placement, Edinburgh University Press (EUP) was at the top of my list. EUP is one of the leading university presses in the UK, and specialises in producing academic books and journals across a wide range of Humanities and Social Sciences subjects to the highest standard. As a History undergraduate, I regularly used EUP’s books, so relished the chance of getting to help the team produce its latest titles.

Whilst working at EUP, I was based in the Production department where I was supervised by Ian, the Head of Production, as well as Gavin, Digital Production Controller and MSc Publishing alumnus. Over the course of my ten weeks as a production intern, I worked closely with Ian and Gavin as they taught me the ins and outs of the production process, whilst fuelling me with an abundance of tea, leaving me with what I believe is a more well-rounded understanding of production than simply typesetting and cover design. Consequently, I was able to get well and truly stuck into the production process, and learnt new skills such as converting covers from Hardbacks and PPC (Printed Paper Case) to Paperbacks and how to send books to print. Whilst adding to my new skills every week, I put into practice existing ones like proofreading; a personal highlight for me was being able to work on two sets of proofs for the Scottish Historical Review, where I was completely in my element.

But, as important as production is, editorial and marketing are equally important functions to the publishing process. During my placement, I was able to spend time with both Anna, the Head of Marketing, and Nicola, Head of Editorial where I was able to obtain a better grasp on their roles within the company. It’s invaluable to be able to pick the brains of those who make everything at EUP happen, and by having an almost mastermind-esque conversation where the special subject is EUP, I believe I’ve come away with a more solid understanding of the day-to-day running of a company.  These opportunities gave me the chance to develop a more holistic understanding of the publishing process as a whole which was hugely beneficial, especially when departments work so closely together in modern publishing.

EUP’s nomination for Academic, Educational and Professional Publisher of the Year for the 2018 British Book Awards shows there are few better to learn from in Scotland. I’ve had a brilliant time on placement at EUP, a company full of lovely people who’ve been incredibly helpful and supportive from week one, no doubt a great place to have got my first taste of publishing.

My Luath Placement

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A snippet view from the window above my desk.

After my hike up the Royal Mile, and more stairs than my legs are used to, I was greeted at the door by fellow Napier student, Jules. After waiting for the arrival of the second intern — another fellow alumnus from Glasgow University — we were introduced to Luath’s director, Gavin MacDougall. Gavin gave us a synopsis of Luath’s history and development, and an overview of the publishing process. We were then issued with a checklist for a number of tasks that could arise during our time with Luath. This checklist was the foundation of my placement, and allowed me to shape my own experience, and enhance my editorial portfolio. We were then allocated a desk and provided with a guide that was created by a previous intern, which proved incredibly useful for navigating the shared drive. I was then quickly given documents for proofreading and so, in keeping with Luath’s fast paced operations, my workload began almost immediately.

From reading previous blog posts I knew I wouldn’t just be photocopying and making coffee runs but playing an active role in live projects — however, I hadn’t anticipated to what extent! Continue reading “My Luath Placement”

Sandstone Press: working with the International Highland Publisher

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(c) Sandstone Press, used with permission

Sandstone Press is based in the small town of Dingwall in the Scottish Highlands. Outside the office, which is shared with the Ross-Shire Journal, lies a field full of cows with hills and trees rising up behind. The loudest noise which penetrates is the cries of young seagulls fighting one another over food. With so many companies based in Edinburgh and Glasgow, this is not perhaps where one would expect to find the Saltire Society’s Publisher of the Year but Sandstone Press like to do many things differently.

In a number of ways, Sandstone behaves like a much larger publisher. With a list of only thirty books per year many companies would specialise but Sandstone choose instead to publish a wide range of books. Their list includes a balance of fiction and non-fiction and a Gaelic imprint, Lasag. There is no preference given to local writers as the company’s approach is international. Books recently released include newly translated Scandinavian Noir, a literary novel set in Africa and a non-fiction work focused on the Biblical figure of Abraham. This is not a company afraid to take risks.

The sign for Sandstone Press
The sign for Sandstone Press outside its Highland office

Because the company is small, with only three members of staff based on-site, I have been lucky enough to gain an insight into all aspects of their work. Moira Forsyth, the editorial director, takes the time to go over the editorial policy with me in depth before letting me loose on the submission pile and even a manuscript Sandstone is looking to publish sometime next year. Keara Donnachie, herself a recent graduate from MSc Publishing, is more than happy to have me watch how she handles the marketing and publicity for the upcoming releases and let me pitch in. Sue Foot, the company’s administrator, is extremely patient as she explains the intricacies of the finance and book prize submissions, both of which come under her purview.

Robert Davidson's bookcase
Robert Davidson’s bookcase

I’m especially lucky in that managing director Robert Davidson is only too happy to discuss the company’s strategy, illustrated with many stories from his years of experience. A number of the questions which arise are to do with the practicalities which as students we do not always appreciate. How do the books physically get to where they are going? When a company uses outside contractors, how clear is it whose responsibility which aspect of a job is? And when things go wrong, what is the best way to stay on good terms with other businesses while sorting out the problem? There is no question I can ask which goes unanswered, nothing I do not understand which is not explained. This is easily the best learning experience I could have asked for, with some of the most passionate people I have ever encountered.

By the time I’ve asked my long list of questions, Robert has said, “You’ll be starting your own company next.” If I do, it will be in no small part due to my time with Sandstone Press.

An Office with a View: My Placement at Luath Press

Located just a stone’s throw from Edinburgh Castle on the Royal Mile are the offices of Luath Press. With views of the Royal Mile on one side, where you could watch tourists take selfies during your lunch break, and panoramic views of the city and the Forth of Firth on the other, you definitely feel as though you are working in the heart of Edinburgh. FullSizeRender

On my first day of my two week placement at Luath Press, the director Gavin MacDougall talked me through the history of the publishing company and the wide range of books on their lists, which range from poetry to fiction to history and more. I was introduced to the lovely team and then it was time to get to work.

I was given the opportunity to work on a wide range of tasks, from marketing to editorial and everything in between. I wrote blurbs and created AIs, proofread texts, added event listings to the website. I also conducted research for potential new books. One of my favourite tasks was getting to look at some of the manuscripts that had been sent in. Luath Press accept manuscripts for consideration so I had the chance to read some interesting manuscripts for potential publication, from poetry to historical fiction.

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It was wonderful to get some experience in aspects of publishing I hadn’t worked in before. I feel like I learned a lot during my work placement and it was very beneficial to my career development. Thank you to all at Luath Press!

Bothies and Trig Points: My Placement at CMYK Design

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When it came to choosing a company for my placement, I was really lucky to get a place with CMYK Design. CMYK Design is based in Edinburgh and covers all areas within publishing including producing magazines, newsletters, design, advertising sales and distribution. I knew that a placement with this company would be a great opportunity to take on new, unfamiliar roles and experience various aspects of a publishing house.

Before starting the placement, my main objective was to get more experience in Editorial. CMYK produces a number of publications and I got the opportunity to work on their Scotland Outdoors magazine. I researched and wrote about upcoming outdoor events for the magazine’s website. (There are lots of outdoor events in Scotland!) I wrote about featured competitions, proofread a few spreads, contacted photographers for images to be used in the next issue of the magazine and contributed to their regular e-newsletter. I also got the opportunity to interview people, for articles on the website, including an Outdoor Camping feature and a feature celebrating the 20th anniversary of the National Cycle Network.

As well as that, I gained insight into other areas of the company including learning how to use the database, researching potential advertisers and handling subscriptions. I learned about the various social media accounts of Scotland Outdoors and how a combination of different aspects can drive traffic to the website and reach new readers. I also got the chance to work on InDesign and prepare magazine spreads and received some handy tips from Neil, the owner, on how to photoshop a penguin. (It made sense in that particular spread!)

I really enjoyed my placement at CMYK and found the whole experience very positive and informative to my future career. The team are extremely welcoming and there is always an opportunity to ask questions and learn more from the company. And, thankfully, there was never a shortage of tea and cakes!

Bagpipes and Books: Luath Press Placement

I’d heard that Luath Press was hard to find. Luckily, I knew exactly where to turn off the Royal Mile to find the entrance to my home for the next fortnight. After being buzzed in, I anxiously climbed the stairs to be greeted by a perplexed-looking Chris, part of the small Luath team. Turns out I was bit eager to start and had arrived an hour early!

Slightly abashed, I was introduced to Luath’s Director Gavin MacDougall and briefed on the history of the company, from its inception in Ayrshire (where I’m from) to where they are now. Next I was given a run down of the publishing process at Luath, from manuscripts to distribution. Gavin emphasised the enduring need for publishing houses, despite the rise in self-publishing:

‘It’s easy to sell the first 100 copies of your book – publishing houses are here to do the rest.’

It was comforting to hear, as self-publishing seemed to be the hot topic at London Book Fair this year. After being presented with a checklist of possible tasks to complete during my time here, I was ready to get started.

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My desk for the fortnight

Chris gave me a copy of their current title list for 2015, as he showed me around the shared drive. Accustomed to having interns, they have a comprehensive Luath Wiki set up, which helped enormously with the tasks I was given. Throughout my placement, I got the opportunity to draft AI sheets, compile blurbs, design event posters, and compose press releases – all of which helped to have templates and examples to follow. Rosie and Jennie, two more members of the Luath team, were always happy to help with any other queries I had. I was particularly excited to have a go at putting together a supplementary ‘Reader Offers’ handout on InDesign, which is to be featured in the Scotsman later this year.

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They’re a friendly bunch at Luath

I was also fortunate enough to get hands-on editorial experience, as I am most interested in this field. After being equipped with the Luath House Style, I got to edit a new Walter Stephen text on the life of Patrick Geddes. Likewise, I was given the opportunity to read through a selection of manuscripts and assess them. I found a gem, which I hope will see the light of day! The text I got to know best was The Tycoon and The Bard by John Cairney (referring to Andrew Carnegie and Robert Burns), which I got the chance to proofread and suggest changes. I was invited to sit in on a meeting with the author’s daughter Jane, who was a pleasure to meet. I was asked to read through the text with her and clarify any changes, which I was then able to update on the manuscript. With my knowledge of the text, I was able to confidently produce a blurb and work on a press release for it.

My time at Luath Press was an enjoyable and rewarding experience, accompanied by the sound of bagpipes every day from the Royal Mile! As a small publisher, there was always something to be doing and I was pleased to get involved with so many tasks. I was well prepared to attempt everything I encountered, and felt reassured that the skills I have learned on the course are practical and applicable in the real, fast-paced world of publishing.