Cheridan Smith, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2012-2013

December 21st, 2012 by Cheridan Smith | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Cheridan Smith, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2012-2013
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My name is Cheridan Smith and I’ve come from Manchester to study in Stirling. My initial aims for studying on the MLitt Publishing Studies course are to learn about the publishing industry and gain the experience and knowledge needed for a career as an editor. When I was shown pictures of the university campus and around the area I knew where I wanted to study, and upon reading the course teaching programme I was happy to see it would be as promising as the landscape. From the overview of the modules on the course, it seems thorough in its content and structure which will be beneficial for getting as much knowledge as possible about publishing.

Having completed an English literature with English language course at undergraduate level from the university of Salford, I have had experience in analysing literature and the contents of books or publishing materials; however, this is the first time I have gained any official experience in how publishing works. Every part of this course is therefore exciting and I’m passionate about learning all I can from it. Hopefully my passion for reading will be a good start for book publishing and I will be able to get more involved with how books are marketed, conceptualised, edited, and produced. Once completing the course I aim to work specifically in the editorial sector of the industry but the other departments are also interesting to me.

“Kids Need the Best Books!” – Meeting Keith Gray

December 21st, 2012 by Miriam Knafla | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on “Kids Need the Best Books!” – Meeting Keith Gray
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Keith Gray, advocate for the physical book and supporter of school libraries, visited us to give a passionate talk about the boom and development in children’s and young adult’s publishing, the beauty of books, and, well, his admiration for John Green.

From when Keith first started writing to today, a lot has changed in the children’s and young adult’s literature market. Back in 1996, a category for young adult’s fiction did not even exist. Barriers had to be brought down; teen fiction had to be established as its own category. Junk by Melvin Burgess, which, according to Keith, can today be seen as the first YA’s novel, and the big selling Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling introduced novels to the market that were neither written for children nor adults but for teenagers. Ever since, the young adult’s book market grew; competition got fierce. The positive side of this is that there is a lot of good material out there today which is brilliant as Keith states: “kids need the best books!” A matter that seemed to be close to Keith’s heart in this context is the closure of school libraries. To him as an author for whom school libraries are the biggest bridge to reach his audience and who wants to see children having access to good literature in general, this is an alarming trend. He has joined in on the protest and I think everyone should. Of what worth are the best books if you take away one major platform that enables children to access them?

Another topic that Keith couldn’t avoid talking about is the controversy around the digital book. If we talk about the best books, about which format are we talking? Does the format even matter?

“A book is a solid block of virtual reality – why put buttons on it?”

Read digitally, read enhanced or stick to the traditional pleasure of skipping pages, smelling paper, feeling the texture of a book cover? Which format has more to offer? Which format is more suitable for children? Books become more and more what can be called media packages. “Everything is turned into an app.” Book characters have their own fictional blogs and websites; entire communities are created around them. And even though Keith sees the potential of such promotional activity, he also considers it to be a worrying trend. What will become of simple books? What will become of authors who are reluctant to give away what happens to their characters once the book has finished. Can they keep up with the competition? Will younger and future generations still acknowledge the beauty of the physical book? Keith’s tip is to make a book into an object that you want to own, something you want to show-off on your bookshelf, something you like to identify with. Make every effort to turn a manuscript into a “lovely, brilliant book experience.”

Finally, after a lot of swooning over the physical book, and don’t get me wrong here, his enthusiasm was delightful and entertaining, he started to rave about a certain author. As I am a fan of that author myself, I was quite delighted when he mentioned him and his promotional strategies on today’s competitive and fast evolving YA’s market. The author he was talking about, and this shouldn’t be a surprise as I mentioned him in the introductory lines, is John Green. Green can be seen as a prime example when it comes to reaching his audience. He and his brother Hank built up an online community par excellence over the past years. The two brothers share their everyday life experiences in a weekly Vlog-format and talk about interesting matters that come to their minds, all on YouTube. Their channel VlogBrothers currently has over 807.000 subscribers and more than 261 million views. Their Nerdfighter community not only watches their videos and reads John’s books but they also attend conventions and events that the two participate in. ‘Terrifying’[1] gatekeepers such as parents, grandparents, librarians and teachers are simply bypassed and the target audience directly addressed. This guarantees Green a sturdy fan base and a solid clientele. On a personal note, it is exactly this social media strategy that got me hooked to start reading his books. And after Keith’s talk, I realised that a friendly character can indeed make sales and it wouldn’t surprise me if the next book my classmates bought, would have the name Keith Gray on it. I, at least, already have a copy of one of his books on my bookshelf.

Keith Gray is an author of children’s and young adult’s fiction and has recently worked as an anthologist and collaborated with other authors to write about intriguing topics such as losing one’s virginity (Losing It) and what would/could/should happen in an afterlife (Next). His publications reach from Creepers published in 1996 by Mammoth, about gangs of kids who do garden creeping respectively hedge hopping or, how the police would call it, trespassing, to his latest book Ostrich Boys which won the Angus Book Award and the silver medal in the Smarties Prize and which was also adapted into a play. Keith usually targets his books towards boys (he does have a female readership as well, though) dealing with the overall theme of what it is like to be a young boy.


[1] Yes, they can be terrifying; they can be your alley or your worst enemy. Try to market a novel so that both the adult, (who might be of an overprotective kind) who usually provides the book, and the kid, who is supposed to read it, like it. Your book can be held up at so many stages before it actually reaches the child it was dedicated to.

Joanne Marjoribanks, MLitt Publishing Studies, 2012-2013

December 19th, 2012 by Joanne Marjoribanks | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Joanne Marjoribanks, MLitt Publishing Studies, 2012-2013
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I have had a lot of career aspirations in my life – teacher, meteorologist, dancer, political researcher – but the only constant passion in my life since I was a child has been my love of books. There is even some hilarious family video footage of me at about one and a half years old enthusiastically waving a Disney book around and then trying to flip through the thick pages with my little stubby fingers. When I graduated with my undergraduate degree, I was convinced that my future career lay in the world of politics, even going so far as to take up an internship with the Scottish Liberal Democrats during my year out. However, although the internship was a really great experience, I left convinced that a political career wasn’t for me.

Disillusioned, I turned to my mother for advice, and she suggested publishing. I felt so stupid – of course, why hadn’t I thought of that?! I immediately began a Google search and quickly found the MLitt Publishing Studies course here at Stirling. For some reason that still eludes me, I had never considered a career in publishing before. I loved books and literature, yet I didn’t want to be a teacher, so I felt that my passion would have to remain a hobby. However, publishing seemed like the perfect fit for me, and this course the perfect avenue into the industry. I have no direct experience working in publishing – although what I learned during my Lib Dem internship has helped me a lot – however I have been published twice in poetry anthologies via two national poetry competitions run by Poetry in Print.

I completed my undergraduate degree in American Studies at the University of Dundee in 2011. The flexibility of the course was fantastic and allowed me to study modules in English, Politics and History, which were completely focused on the USA. In my final two years I was able to narrow my focus in terms of the modules that I chose. I also had to decide which of the three module subjects I would focus my dissertation on. Considering that at the time I thought I wanted to work in the political sphere, it would have made sense to undertake a dissertation in politics. However, I couldn’t shake my love of literature, and to that end I wrote my dissertation on the significance of the wolf symbol in American Literature, beginning with Native American legends and ending with a number of late 20th century novels featuring the wolf as a central character. Despite the stress involved, I actually really enjoyed the process, and only wished I could have written more than the 11,000 word limit allowed!

I am only a few weeks into the course, and having finally gotten to grips (I hope!) with the classes schedule and all the assignments for this semester, I feel I am finally settling down to enjoy what I am learning. I already feel that the way I look at the world is changing, not least because I am now seeing Helvetica everywhere! When I pick up a book and see that the paper it is printed on is of a poor quality, I wonder what led the publisher to make that decision. I find myself looking at posters, leaflets and magazine advertisements and trying to decide whether or not they represent examples of effective marketing. I can only imagine how my impressions of books and the wider world will have changed still further by this time next year, but I am definitely looking forward to finding out where this course will lead me.


Forward Thinking – Bookseller article by Centre Staff

December 19th, 2012 by Claire Squires | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Forward Thinking – Bookseller article by Centre Staff
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As part of the AHRC Digital Transformations Research and Development project The Book Unbound: Disruption and Disintermediation in the Digital Age, Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication staff Professor Claire Squires and Dr Padmini Ray Murray have published this week December 2012, pp.22-25) in the UK publishing trade journal The Bookseller an article based on their research findings, examining how independents are staying ahead in digital publishing. As Squires and Ray Murray begin:

‘With E-Books, tablets and social networks, the digital future of publishing seems less the stuff of science fiction and more an uncomfortable reality. But instead of consigning traditional publishing models to a black hole, Will Atkinson, Faber & Faber’s sales and marketing director, ag many publishers are trying to operate in a “duplicate universe”, retaining traditional print-driven models of publishing alongside newer ones. In the turn to digital, traditional job roles are “creaking”, says Atkinson, and the linear production process is being undermined – but most publishers are yet to arrive at a 360 approach towards commissioning, production, marketing, sales and distribution.’

Focusing on case studies of five independents, the article discusses the quick thinking and agility of publishers in the digital arena. The publishers taking part in the study are And Other Stories, Blasted Heath, Canongate, Faber and Guardian Books.

More on the Book Unbound project is available via the project website.

Laura Florence Jones, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2012-2014

December 13th, 2012 by Laura Jones | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Laura Florence Jones, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2012-2014
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Having completed my undergraduate degree in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh I found myself at a loss. How exactly does one find a use for an English Literature degree at such turbulent times? I love books too much to abandon the hope of working with and around them in the future so I had to choose my next step carefully. Studying Publishing at the University of Stirling seemed like a no-brainer after some frantic research. Though Stirling is lovely I couldn’t find it in myself to leave Edinburgh so I decided to study part time to prolong the experience and to get as much as I can out of the degree.


My current work as a sub-editor for an energy company means I have the chance to expand my editing skills helped only further by the course. Every element of the publishing process has fascinated me and I hope that the course helps me find my focus in one department, as is necessary for career direction. My current internship at independent Glasgow publisher Saraband has given me a wide range of experience from slush reading to strategic marketing, from InDesign to app and audiobook development. I owe a lot to Sara and am very thankful for the opportunities she has provided.


Whilst I learn my way around the publishing industry I love to draw, write, blog, all the usual creative stuff. In January 2013 I started a new blog called Publishthings which contains my opinions on news in and around the book industry. I condense my thoughts into tweet-sized bites on Twitter and am far too active on there, feel free to follow me!


I greatly look forward to the next two years and all the challenges coming my way, I hope it prepares me for the ever-changing industry and that vital foot in the doorway.

Aileen-Elizabeth Taylor, MLitt in Publishing Studies, 2011-12: From the Classroom to the Office

December 2nd, 2012 by prm | Posted in Alumni | Comments Off on Aileen-Elizabeth Taylor, MLitt in Publishing Studies, 2011-12: From the Classroom to the Office
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Around this time last year the 2012 MLitt in Publishing Studies class enjoyed a fascinating talk from David Martin of Martin the Printers. Earlier this month I had the pleasure of meeting him again – this time in my office of my new job. As a soon to be graduate of the course I am very pleased to have been offered a job at Oxford University Press as a Production Assistant in the English Language Teaching division. I have been at my job for about two months now and I can see the clear benefits of the course. For example when editors send me corrections in titles, I already know the mark up signs from the editorial classes. It’s one less thing that has to be explained and taught to me while learning the job. Having a good general knowledge of the overall publishing industry has definitely stood me in good stead. What I find fascinating about English Language Teaching publishing is how local economies, politics and culture can play a big role in shaping market trends.

I love my job so much I look forward to Mondays – apparently that’s strange but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks M. Litt in Publishing Studies, couldn’t have done it without you!

Aileen-Elizabeth Taylor

MLitt, Publishing Studies, 2011-2012


Claire Jeffery, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2012-2013

December 2nd, 2012 by Claire Jeffery | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Claire Jeffery, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2012-2013
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I appear to have come to publishing in a very roundabout manner. I loved books as a child but, as I grew up, I switched to reading stories written online – even when electronic books were still just a fanciful concept. Because of this I have a certain love of eBooks and find digital publishing fascinating. Even then, I still considered publishing to be an unrealistic dream and decided to get a sensible degree in the “easy” subjects of Economics and Chinese.

And what I discovered was that these subjects only got me more interested in studying publishing. Who couldn’t look at an Economics presentation and worry mainly about the consistency of the slides? And in translation, who wouldn’t become more fascinated by the subtleties of their own language when attempting to translate from another? While studying abroad, I visited museums with old manuscripts and wandered through shops with the latest technology. I came back home determined to find a way in which my background in business and language could get me into publishing.

And so here I am. Entering the publishing market on the cusp of industry-defining changes. And I couldn’t be more excited for what the future holds.