Postgraduate Publishing studies at Edinburgh Napier University. INDUSTRY APPROVED Publishing courses (accredited by the Professional Publishers Association and Creative Skillset). MSc Publishing was the first Publishing programme in the UK to be approved by the Professional Publishers Association. It is one of only two UK courses to be accredited by Creative Skillset. MSc Magazine Publishing is the only course of its kind in Scotland.
In past seven months on the Edinburgh Napier Publishing MSc, I’ve learned so much: skills in design and editorial, personal and professional development, developing a more comprehensive understanding of the publishing industry, as well as taking advantage of placement opportunities here in Edinburgh. However, the decision that has had the most significant impact on all of those elements was becoming a member of the Scotland chapter of the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) back in September.
While I may not have attended many casual mixers (social anxiety and general fatigue don’t usually put me in the party mood), I have gone out to workshops, events, and the annual conference in February 2019. At each and every one I learned so much. As you can imagine, for these reasons alone I would recommend joining the SYP, and if you are looking to get into publishing, I would suggest seeing if there is an SYP group in your area.
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.
A publishing student talks about her experience tackling #LBF18
There has been a lot of talk, both in my classes and out of them in the last few months, about London Book Fair. Talk about how big it is, the idea that it might be overwhelming when you first see it, that there will be a lot of publishers there: not just from the UK but worldwide. Where will you stay? How long are you going for? What panels are you planning to go to? Which stalls do you want to visit? Do you have any meetings set up? No- do you?
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.
Before deciding to study publishing, speaking to people came naturally. I could approach a stranger at an event easily and spark a conversation because there was no ulterior motive for doing so, other than the sheer enjoyment of human interaction. Now, however, I do have an agenda: I want to be noticed. I want to be remembered. I want to make an impression so that someone, somewhere will one day think I’ll be an asset to their company.
When I began Napier’s course, I was encouraged to attend as many events as possible and to grab every opportunity by the horns. This had never been an issue for me before because I either decided to go to an event or I decided to stay at home. If I wasn’t feeling up to it, or had a rare day of feeling shy, I felt no guilt in curling up in my jammies and spending the evening binge watching Netflix instead. But now, I can’t afford to stay at home and miss out on meeting all the important people. The guilt is real. I know that if I don’t go, I’m only disadvantaging myself and my future career. That being said, whilst I do want to emphasise the importance of getting out there and interacting with people in the industry, because hey, they’re bloomin’ incredible folk, I have discovered an absolute saviour in the networking business: Twitter.
Twitter is definitely something I stayed away from pre-publishing degree. I didn’t understand how to use it properly, and again, I had no real agenda. Connecting with friends was far easier via other social media platforms, such as Facebook and Snapchat. But upon venturing into the publishing industry, Twitter has become my holy grail for when I need to network but am not particularly feeling up to it. I cannot stress the value of this incredibly, sometimes dauntingly, fast-paced-updated-by-the-second environment. There is no better way to stay in the loop and up-to-date with the publishing industry. I can refresh my feed every minute and someone will have a new opinion, there will be a new article to read or a new connection suggested. Even better, I can do it all in my pyjamas with Netflix on in the background.
One of the many major benefits of Twitter is the ability to participate in live conversations. The SYP are extremely well versed in this, and often host live chat Q&A evenings. These typically last an hour and allow people from all over the world to engage with people in the industry. You can voice your fears and receive comfort, share your experiences, teach others valuable lessons and learn anything and everything in the space of an hour. Above all, you can make those all-important connections, whilst simultaneously cooking dinner.
Various events I’ve attended have shown me that having a strong Twitter identity really pays off when meeting people face to face. If you’re active in the community and your profile is recognisable and memorable, then chances are someone will remember that conversation they had with you, where you helped them overcome a fear, or gave them advice they later followed.
Finally, I suggest really getting to know how Twitter works. Use ALL the hashtags, even base your tweets around being able to hashtag as much as possible and include the publisher in your tweets when talking about a book.
Show that you have an interest in the industry and that you appreciate someone’s work. The engagement these tweets can generate is unreal and allows people in the industry to see that you’re an active member of their community.
If you’re new to Twitter like I was, build an identity that you’d be happy to show a potential employer. Be someone that your mum would be proud of and that someone in the industry would want to meet. It’s also great when someone’s accusing you of not being productive because you’re on your phone, (I’m looking at you, boyfriend) and you can tell them they’re wrong: you’re networking.
When we started our MSc Publishing degree back in September, one of the first things we were told was to get on Twitter. It wasn’t until I saw a social media internship advertised for Linen Press Books that I fully realised the significance of being an active member of the Twitter/Publishing community. The tweet read:
‘Love women’s writing? Love living online? Be actively involved w a small indie press? Fab social media intern needed asap!’
After answering yes to all three questions and realising that the internship could be done remotely, I eagerly applied! Since joining the Linen Press team, I have been fortunate to be involved with a variety of different aspects of the publishing process. Predominantly, I have been managing their Twitter feed and implementing a marketing campaign for their debut novel, The Dancing Girl and the Turtle.
However, it’s been a lot more than just tweeting. I have provided feedback and criticism for author submissions. I’ve created graphics for social media and I’ve actively put together a marketing strategy with an author and the rest of the team. I’ve felt that my voice has been valued every step of the way.
One of my favourite aspects of this internship was putting together some author videos for an upcoming campaign for Sometimes A River Song. We had discussed the idea of video marketing in a meeting and I volunteered to create them. I edited together ‘Author Confession’ videos during my placement at Scottish Book Trust and I wanted to create something similar for Linen Press. I put my Adobe Creative Cloud knowledge to good use and I am really proud of the finished result! (Click on the photo below to see them)
My time with Linen Press has come to an end, as I start my internship with The Publishing Bureau next week, but I loved every minute of my experience. I’ve met lots of interesting and talented women and I’ve built my confidence as a publisher-to-be.
The first time I met Allan, the founder and soul of Vagabond Voices, was on a rainy Scottish day at a reading held at the Golden Hare Bookstore in Stockbridge.
My placement at Vagabond Voices had been agreed but had yet to start, and I had taken care to familiarise myself with the publisher’s catalogue before meeting Allan. I had been impressed: bookselling and publishing in general are living difficult times, but being able to find a market for translated literary fiction of the kind that Vagabond Voices produces takes a lot of passion and dedication.
I knew my main task would be the redesign of Vagabond Voice’s website, and I had ideas – lots of them, in fact – but I wasn’t sure if Allan would let me implement them.
When he gave me the freedom of just drafting a flatplan for the website and presenting it to him, I was thrilled and a bit anxious. A website, after all, is the window through which the internet would view Vagabond Voices. It was no small responsibility, and I set to work right away.
Working mainly remotely, the experience was a bit different than it might have been in an office. It was nonetheless a valuable learning experience, especially for someone who’s inclined towards a freelancing profession rather than a traditional 9-5 one (anyone who’s ever worked in publishing is laughing at that second number, I know).
I had to set my own schedule and goals. I also had no specific, step to step guidance, I had instead to analyse the existing website by myself, trying to see what could be improved and how, and tailoring it to Vagabond Voice’s specific identity as a publisher. In the course of my meetings with Allan we would then go over my ideas and discuss them, then course-correct or change details to better fit his vision. I learned how to listen to a client and understand what they needed, and how to argue my conviction making it clear that my first interest was the customer’s satisfaction.
When finally the day came to swap the new website with the old one, I have to admit I was rather nervous. The number of “what if…” that went through my head was innumerable. But, as they say, all is well that ends well.
The most interesting part of my placement, though, would have been the conversations with Allan after all the order of business had been talked through. Having the privilege of talking and listening to a passionate and engaged lover of books was, to me, a true treat. That we could go seamlessly back and forth between sentences in Italian and English was just a bonus.