Fame versus Genius: Is Literary Celebrity good for Literary Culture?

November 30th, 2009 by Claire_Squires | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Fame versus Genius: Is Literary Celebrity good for Literary Culture?

Claire Squires, Director of the Centre for International Publishing and Communication, will be contributing to a panel that addresses the topic of literary celebrity – and celebrities as ‘writers’ – at Birkbeck, University of London, on Thursday 3 December. In the age of J K Rowling and Jordan, the panel will ask, is literary celebrity good for literary culture?

She will be speaking alongside the biographer Claire Harman and novelist and short-story writer Toby Litt.

Borders goes bust!

November 30th, 2009 by Claire_Squires | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Borders goes bust!

Borders closingAt the end of last week, it was announced that the bookselling chain Borders was going into administration, as reported in the trade journal The Bookseller.

Over the weekend, stores around the UK had deliveries of posters advertising closing down sales. Our picture is from the Borders Glasgow store over the weekend.

Whether you loved or hated Borders’ style of big-box bookselling, the sight of a closing-down sale just before Christmas is a troubling one…

Paul Mihailidis, MLitt in Publishing Studies, 2001

November 30th, 2009 by Claire_Squires | Posted in Alumni | Comments Off on Paul Mihailidis, MLitt in Publishing Studies, 2001

I cannot say that the Publishing course at the University of Stirling was the only reason for my success, but it has been a great help. I began work with Pearson Education in New York as a Production Assistant and after 18 months I had been promoted to Production Editor. What the course gave me was a number of significant advantages and insights.

First, the practical knowledge I gained of editing, production, marketing and the whole business of books gave me a clear idea of where I wanted to go in the industry. Secondly, because I had gone on the course, I had marketable skills which I found publishing houses were eager to use.

The Stirling course provides a sound training for the real world of publishing. The staff are experienced, knowledgeable, and highly approachable. The laboratory facilities are state of the art and the course content is relevant and highly practical.

If you want a career in publishing, there is no better place to start than Publishing Studies at the University of Stirling. Years after graduating I am still using the knowledge and skills I learned at Stirling.

Thirty-Six Years of Fun

November 30th, 2009 by Claire_Squires | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Thirty-Six Years of Fun

001‘Thirty-Six Years of Fun’ is how Willie Anderson recently encapsulated his career in bookselling during a talk to students at the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication.

After a swift departure from a career in banking, Anderson began work at John Smith and Son in Glasgow, the oldest existing bookselling company in the world. Rising eventually to the position of Deputy Chairman, Anderson oversees a company with branches in Scotland, England and Ireland, as well as a number of countries in Africa.

Bookselling in the 1970s was a staid, pleasant and gentlemanly (and ladylike) occupation, dominated by people who loved books. But the job was in fact very physical – books are ‘very heavy, dirty things’, that need heaving around the bookshop.

Calling on his decades of experience, Anderson explained to students the change that came about in the book retail sector as a result of the end of the Net Book Agreement. This brought in price promotion: the 3-for-2 and heavy discount offers seen in all chain bookshops, supermarkets and online retailers. Before this, Anderson thought the trade was moribund, with little drive to improve.

However, Anderson’s perception is that the biggest mistake of high street retailers – for all the value and attractive environment that they bring to the consumer – is to try to compete directly with the supermarkets rather than to differentiate their offer.

In his discussion the impact of Amazon and the digital age, Anderson described bookselling as ‘under the biggest amount of threat it has even been’. Speaking shortly before one of the UK’s biggest book chains, Borders, went into administration, his words were prescient.

Weegie Wednesday, 18th November 2009

November 30th, 2009 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | 2 Comments

Weegie WednesdayLast Wednesday, November 18th, was to be the first time I would take part in Glasgow’s publishers and writers monthly social gathering which is fondly referred to as Weegie Wednesday. Heading into the Universal Bar, me and the girls were palpably apprehensive about what lay ahead of us for the evening. But it was our own choice to be there, no backing out now.

By the time we got there the room was filled with people and we bashfully situated ourselves on a couch away from what initially seemed to us, the hoards of people present. The fact that Weegie Wednesday is a monthly occurrence led me to presume that many of the people there, unlike me, were familiar to the scene and therefore knew everyone else there. It was at this point I began to chicken out of immersing myself in the crowd. Mingling is so much more intimidating when it seems that you are one of the only people doing it. Thankfully, we were joined by a writer who introduced herself as Victoria and suddenly I didn’t feel like such an outsider.

The speeches were to come next. Karen Cunningham was first up. Head of Libraries, Culture and Sport Glasgow, Karen spoke of her position as Director of Aye Write – an annual Scottish book festival. Although unwilling to inform us of the writers who were shortlisted for the festival, Ms. Cunningham was extremely encouraging to the talents of all present.

The second speaker was David Neville, a producer at BBC Scotland’s Radio Drama Department. His speech consisted of informing us on how to write drama for radio, the means by which playwrights can get their dramas aired, and his radio lab workshop programs which seek to nurture new writers’ talents.

Post-speeches, everyone was free to mingle again and once it was discovered that we were students, we were inundated with writers and other guests coming to chat with us. The attention we received for simply having shown up was definite encouragement to attend future Weegie events.

I must admit, the highlight of the night for me – who am I kidding, the highlight of my week – was meeting crime writer Helen Fitzgerald. As soon as she sat down with us I totally geeked out! I was like a child at Christmas talking to her and asking her questions about writing and her career as a writer. Part of me was inwardly screaming, “Aah! This could be me some day! Successful author!” meeting someone who is currently and successfully doing what I have always dreamed of, well, it was fantastic.

What else can I say?

Bring on the next Weegie Wednesday.

Helena O’Leary

That 5.30am moment…

November 18th, 2009 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on That 5.30am moment…
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‘I finished the stories early in the morning and wanted to phone him straightaway. Then I realised that calling someone at 5.30am on a Sunday morning wasn’t very sensible.’ Last night at Edinburgh’s Central Library, Jamie Byng, publisher at Canongate, described the moment of excitement when he finished reading a batch of short stories from Michel Faber.

Michel FaberHe managed to wait until 7.30am to make the call, which was promptly answered by the normally phone-phobic author. They had a lengthy conversation about the stories and the possibilities for publication, thus beginning a strong friendship – and publishing partnership. Faber’s writing career with Canongate includes the Whitbread-shortlisted Under the Skin, The Fire Gospel and The Crimson Petal and the White, set in Victorian London and described by the Guardian as ‘the novel that Dickens might have written had he been allowed to speak freely’.

Faber began the evening by reading a tantalising passage from a novel-in-progress, stopping just before his protagonists have sex in a motorway lay-by en route to an airport parting. The entertaining and candid discussion that followed, chaired by the literary agent Jenny Brown, addressed the relationship between author and publisher.

The speakers touched on the reasons why a successful author might remain with his original publisher rather than being lured away by the big London conglomerates. In the case of Faber and Byng, a shared interest in music is one, but a passion for literature and a frank interchange of editorial and publishing values are others.

Byng concluded the evening by mentioning a piece of advice passed down by generations of publishers: ‘Never expect gratitude from an author, but be grateful when you get it’. But it was clear that in this author-publisher relationship there was gratitude on both sides – and a story of literary integrity and achievement.

The event was organised by Edinburgh Central Library.

— Alastair Coats

Scholarships available from the Stationers’ and Newspaper Makers’ Company

November 10th, 2009 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Scholarships available from the Stationers’ and Newspaper Makers’ Company
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The Stationers’ and Newspaper Makers’ Company is currently advertising a range of scholarships which can support the study of publishing at University level.

The range of awards offered include the Quarterly, Annual and the Francis Mathew Stationers’ Company Awards. Please see the Scholarships page of the Company’s website for more details.

For more details on study opportunities at the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication, see our Study page.

Ye Xin (Robert), MSc in International Publishing Management 2009

November 10th, 2009 by SCIPC | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Ye Xin (Robert), MSc in International Publishing Management 2009
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Associate Professor, Master Tutor of Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication, China.

Robert(Xin Ye)‘As one of the earliest departments of publishing in the world, the Centre for International Publishing and Communication at the University of Stirling, has an advanced concept of teaching and a perfect curriculum structure. It benefits from teaching staff and visiting speakers of high-level scholarship and wide professional vision, uses case studies of strong applicability and currency, and flexible and varied teaching methods. As a Chinese colleague of higher education of Publishing, I benefited a lot from it and will apply it in my Chinese teaching practice.’

Class trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair (2)

November 9th, 2009 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Class trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair (2)
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Members of the MSc in International Publishing Management recently attended the Frankfurt Book Fair. Shaofang Tian reports on her visit:

Before, when I mentioned the name Romy Schneider, I would think of the movie Princess Sissi. But now, I will also think of the related novel. This change has happened since I started my studies in Stirling. It is very good that I had the chance to go to the movie’s home country to attend a book fair.

On 14 October, I arrived in Frankfurt to attend the 60th Frankfurt Book Fair with my classmates. The Frankfurt Book Fair is a meeting place for the publishing industry’s experts, like publishers, booksellers, agents, film producers or authors. Each year in October, they all come together and create something new. This time, China is the Guest of Honour, so I am very proud of it.China Guest of Honour

Because the Guest of Honour delegation involved more than 800 people, including 500 representatives from the publishing industry, I met many compatriots at the Fair. I spoke with them and receive some useful information. I attended two seminars about digital development in China. The High-Level Education Press contracted with Cambridge University Press to establish a digital database. It’s completely a good piece of news.

I also visited other countries’ stands. In London Book Fair in May, I met the publishing companies Random House, HarperCollins, and Hachette which were mentioned at class, and this time I met them again. I took a photo of “Penguin” – it’s not an animal! I talked with a publisher from America about tie-in books. When they heard that I have worked for five years in the movie industry, they were very happy because they want to exploit their business in China. We exchanged the contacts and hope to communicate further.

Besides books, there were performances of Chinese culture, like the Beijing Opera. I also watched a Germanic movie with my classmates.

This trip is an unforgettable experience to me. I hope I will attend Frankfurt Book Fair again in the future.

Class trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair

November 9th, 2009 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | 1 Comment
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Members of the MSc in International Publishing Management recently attended the Frankfurt Book Fair. Shiqin Zhang reports on his experiences:

Working for a Beijing-based education publisher for years, I have been to the Beijing International Book Fair several times. The fair offers me a good opportunity to learn about the trends and gaps in the market. At the London Book Fair in 2009, again I not only researched my field and attended a number of lectures, but met some friends with Pearson Education and HarperCollins. Pearson Education even invited me to work with them over the summer. I accepted the offer and learnt about what “international publishing” is really like. What could the upcoming Frankfurt Book Fair offer to me? I was very much looking forward to it.

This year the Frankfurt Book Fair was of special significance to us: China was the Guest of Honour country. After its successful show at the 2008 Olympics, China was under the spotlight of world media again in Frankfurt. Under the auspices of the department, we decided to go to the fair to support, witness and learn about this event.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is about literature, art, and culture. Among the 1000-strong Chinese delegates, quite a few of them are modern Chinese authors. Some of these authors delivered lectures at Frankfurt University, and shared with the audience what effects the transformations within Chinese society are having on their creative process. They even invited us to reflect on what it means to write in the context of Chinese modernity. At the fair, a show featuring the best of Chinese art and culture was preformed twice a day. Traditional Chinese music, lion dance and Peking opera could be enjoyed. It was such a great delight to see leading Peking opera artists Yu Kuizhi, Li Shengsu and others there. Language can be a big problem, as these artists speak no German, but the meaning got across to the audience through their fantastic performance. There were lots of cheers! The western audience seemed very interested in Chinese culture.

However, these were just some of the snapshots. I came to Frankfurt not to enjoy our Chinese culture, but to look at how the western people view Chinese culture and if the Chinese side presents it in a proper way. China has long been weak in soft-power influence of the sort that the U.S. and Europe achieve through their prominent roles in media and arts. I believe China saw the fair as a good way to promote its clout overseas. My impression is that it would be better if these events were presented in a way that is more relevant to the western people. In other words, it’s better to involve them than to tell them.

My colleague in Beijing told me about the launch ceremony of three new books by our company, so I invited two of my classmates to join. It was the first of the three books and the author is formerly the Vice Premier of China. Also participating were several senior officials from China, the OUP president, as well as the executives of our company. The ceremony lasted about 40 minutes. No beer or any other drinks were offered to us, and it was quite a disappointment.

In addition to these events featuring China, I also visited some stands collecting information regarding law publishing in Central and Eastern Europe in preparation for our group presentation. When I told them my purpose, the staff in those stands were very helpful. Also I went to research the reading device to see if there is a digital future in China for the foreseeable future, which I shall cover in my final report writing.

What I was particularly impressed with was the exhibition hall for TV and Film. Actually, in addition to the book and film industries, representatives of the creative industries of photography, games and design also found their way at the book fair. Some of the issues facing the publishing world require people to think beyond the boundaries of the industry and into the neighbouring sectors for solutions. Now is the time for us to rethink and reposition in the midst of changes.

Possibly because of prohibitive prices of luxurious hotels and the ongoing credit crunch, a cross-section of the publishing industry stayed in the hostel I chose. I met publishers from the States, journalists from the UK and rights people from China, and it is always nice to talk with people from the industry. But the bigger surprise is to hear western people speak Chinese. Outside the book fair, we were stopped by a friendly German. “Do you speak Mandarin Chinese?” When we said yes, he seemed very eager to practise his Chinese with us.

What lovely people they are! What a wonderful city! See you again.