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.
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.
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.