Nasty Women Book Launch at Waterstones, Edinburgh

Last month I was lucky enough to attend the sold-out book launch for 404 Ink’s viral feminist anthology Nasty Women in Waterstones on Princes Street. The upper floor of the branch was full of eager listeners, and there was a positive, powerful atmosphere about the evening. There were also cupcakes, which is always a bonus!

The launch event featured a panel of speakers, who were all contributors to the essay collection, followed by a book signing. I’ll get onto the panel highlights in a moment, but first, some background information:

Indie publishers 404 Ink utilised crowdfunding to produce Nasty Women, running a highly-successful Kickstarter campaign that was prolific on social media. The anthology features a varied collection of essays, all written by women, and concerning women’s diverse experiences in the world today.

The panel was made up of Sim Bajwa, who wrote the essay Go Home, Christina Neuwirth, whose essay was entitled Hard Dumplings for Visitors, Alice Tarbuck, who penned Foraging and Feminism, and Chitra Ramaswamy, whose essay Afterbirth recalled her recent reflection on pregnancy, Expecting. The panel was chaired by Laura Lam, who also had an essay featured in Nasty Women.

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Each woman read from their essay, touching on its key points and answering questions from Lam. Bajwa’s essay reflects on, and responds to, anti-immigrant sentiments, some of which she has personally experienced. It’s a personal, striking and moving piece of work. On a different note, Neuwirth beautifully explores family connections and traditions. Tarbuck’s essay concerns modern fascinations with foraging, relating foraging practices to womanhood and witchcraft in a really smart way. Finally, Ramaswamy’s Afterbirth tackles motherhood, but more so, acts of writing and publishing. Ramaswamy pointed out how publishers were reluctant to take on her book because they thought the subject matter – birth – was too niche (or perhaps too female-orientated?) or specialist. However, Ramaswamy reminds us that birth is something that happens to all of us, much like death.

The content of each reading was so different, which is indicative of the collection as a whole. I think the panel reflected the multitude of voices and issues contained within the book itself. It was definitely a great introduction to Nasty Women. Afterwards, many stayed behind to get their book signed and discuss things further. It was wonderful and inspiring to attend a launch such as this one.

Photographs taken by Sineád Grainger. Nasty Women is available now. 

Tim Waterstone and the Honest Trade

Last week Edinburgh Napier MSc Publishing students had the privilege of a visit from Tim Waterstone, Chancellor of Edinburgh Napier and founder of the bookstore chain that changed the face of bookselling in the UK. Our doors were extended to Alumni and members of SYP Scotland, making for an eclectic mix of faces, conversation and industry debate.

“The book market was waiting for change”

Founded in 1982, Waterstone’s (yes, it originally had an apostrophe!) was a major game changer in the UK, filling a niche where the industry had become complacent and self-pitying. Tim explained how, with as much nerve as nous, he had convinced publishers to change the way they interacted with booksellers in order to grow one of the most successful and well known chains in Britain.

With someone of Tim’s experience to hand, most of the audience were concerned with his opinions of the future, especially in the wake of his interview with The Telegraph, in which he suggests ebooks may go into decline. The digital revolution is still a hotly debated topic in the publishing world and, though many agree that digital is here to stay (whether we like it or not), the road to turning it into a successful medium is as yet unclear for many. Continue reading “Tim Waterstone and the Honest Trade”

Bookie Updates: ‘Let Books be Books’

Just a little update to let you know how things have been progressing following a couple of hard weeks of negotiating and arranging meetings etc. for both of our publishing projects; Ah Dinnae Ken and The Day Boy and The Night Girl.

For The Day Boy and The Night Girl, following the successful reception of our first illustrations produced by the lovely Julie Pond. We have discovered an amazing new campaign called “Let Books be Books”.

Created by the children’s organisation Let Toys be Toys, which is their campaign slogan promoting the end of gender stereotypes within the children’s toy industry, which enforce and limit children’s development and creativity  from a young age. Their newest campaign has been focused on stopping childhood gender stereotypes within the publishing industry and they have experienced amazing results so far!

Not only have they gained the support of the largest book retailer in the UK – Waterstones – and a number of publishing houses including Parragon and Usborne. But they have also gained the support of so many amazing authors including the current and previous Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman (current) and Anne Fine, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and numerous others like Philip Pullman!

This has been such an exciting discovery for our whole team not only because it’s about books and the industry that we all love but mainly because they are promoting a campaign arguing for the same principles as we believe in for our project The Day Boy and The Night Girl. Gender should never be a limiting factor when it comes to children’s reading and labeling them in a way which dictates “who can and cannot read a book”.

So we have decided to get involved! You can follow our movement to support the removal of gender labelled books on our twitter @EdNapierPublish and on our facebook page DayBoyNightGirl for all our latest updates!

You can also find out more about this amazing campaign on Let Toys be Toys campaign page and this article by the Guardian.

Publishing Scotland Conference

publishing scotland comp.
Photograph By Lindsay Flannigan

The Publishing Scotland Conference was an event that attracted many different people from the industry. This year was special and particularly appealing because both publishers and booksellers attended on the same day. The change was meant to give publishers and booksellers a chance to discuss problems they are facing in this difficult economic climate, and perhaps come up with solutions, which resulted in many interesting conversations during the conference.

One person who joined the conference was the famous actor, and now new author John Gordon Sinclair. The session he held was both entertaining and informative. He had many interesting things to say about what he has achieved in his career, what drew him to writing, and how he felt about the whole process of writing a book. He was witty and funny and was a great start to the day.

Following John was a discussion of Retail Market Trends of 2012/13. This was presented by Steve Bohme. Hearing what he had to say made one feel better about the current problems facing publishers and booksellers. Yes, there were plenty of examples of drops in sales, but there was also evidence showing that things could be done to help improve the situation. Steve also managed to deliver this information in an entertaining way.

Then there was a panel of booksellers speaking of the future of the High Street. This panel included: Neil Best, Waterstones; Bob Kelly, Gardners Books; Patrick Neale, Jaffe & Neale; David Prescott, Blackwell’s; and Matthew Perren, Bookspeed. Much of what they had to say was about a need for a more personal store; a need for book shopping to become more of a positive experience for people. The discussion revolved around providing customers with  more than just books, also a pleasant atmosphere, and a reason to support the bookstore. Suggestions included getting involved in the community. It was all very interesting, and seemed to suggest a need to go back to what bookstores once were.

From there, a presentation was held about Digital. At this point the publishers and booksellers split into separate groups. Having been in the publishers group, I can say that what was discussed was very interesting. One can see the benefits of digital when used properly, especially for the purposes of market research. The first speaker, Lindsay Mooney from Kobo, had very detailed and interesting statics gathered from market research; information that can be extremely useful to any publishing company with an online presence. Then there was Charlie Stephenson from YUDU, who provided a great deal of insight into establishing a presence among communities online.

Following this there was a presentation held by Jamie Keenan and Jon Gray, two very funny, rather self-deprecating, and unbelievably talented cover illustrators. Their presentation of The 20 Irrefutable Theories of Book Cover Designing was very enjoyable. While hearing joke after funny joke, one also got to see a slide show of all the beautiful covers that these men have created. It was a lot of fun and one of my favorite presentations.

Next was a presentation about consumer’s ebook purchasing behaviors by David Walter from Nielsen BookScan. It certainly established things that I had suspected, and also surprised me. According to the research, while ebook purchasing is rising, print books are still the largest part of the market and therefore should not be neglected; something that should be of some comfort to publishers and booksellers alike.

Overall the conference was informative, entertaining, and in my opinion, a great success. The bringing together of publishers and booksellers did seem to be a positive change, and the discussions held were interesting and very much relevant to today’s issues. It was an experience I greatly enjoyed.

(Not Much of a) Battle for the Book

The Battle for the Book Debate
Website: http://www.bookweekscotland.com

On the 1st of December 2012, six major figures in the book industry – Fiona Hyslop, MSP; Neil Best, head of Waterstone’s business development; Karen Cunningham, head of libraries and cultural venues in Glasgow; Sara Hunt, publisher at Saraband Books; Ewan Morrison and Pat Kane, both writers – came together to discuss the future of the book. If we were to agree with their arguments, without Amazon and the digital revolution, it would be a bright future indeed. But e-books and Amazon exist and aren’t likely to dwindle any time soon, in fact, they’re prevalence in the industry is likely to continue is rather epic growth.

Karen Cunningham argued that libraries and physical books cannot be separated. E-books are “not the answer,” she said, especially when it comes to children. But if e-books are (and they certainly seem to be) the future how does the already endangered library survive? She also said, though, that virtual books might bring about virtual libraries, and she didn’t seem too terribly upset about this prospect.

Neil Best, whose livelihood, like Cunningham’s, might hinge on the endurance of the printed word, argued that e-books won’t overtake printed books (which I tend to agree with, at least for the time being) as the preferred way to read, but may actually enable publishers, authors, and booksellers to offer enhanced content/added value. Then Best brought up what probably everyone in the audience was thinking about: the dreaded scarlet Amazon. He spoke briefly and democratically about Waterstone’s acquisition of the Kindle. He called it a “compromise,” but did he mean a cooperation of two large companies or something more sinister with the word?

Sara Hunt and to some extent, Ewan Morrison then spoke pointedly about the evils of Amazon, without really naming any names. They railed against the problem of “discounting and global economics,” The ‘choose your own pricing adventure’ if you will, that stiffs the publisher and the author and steals consumers from the booksellers – both the big players and the little indies. They were passionate about this, sure, but they seemed to have no idea how to prevent it.

It was all quite congenial in the end, and though the panelists got their back-handed digs in at Amazon and the e-book, they all – and by a show of hands, we all – agreed that books, publishers, authors, booksellers, what have you, have a bright future. But whether this ‘decision’ was made thoughtfully and informatively or just to preserve our own self-interest, only time will tell.