Guest Speaker: Liam Murray Bell

December 9th, 2016 by nicole_sweeney | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Guest Speaker: Liam Murray Bell
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Today’s guest speaker is Liam Murray Bell, published author and Creative Writing lecturer here at Stirling University. His first book, So It Is, was published inImage result for so it is liam murray bell 2012, followed by The Busker in 2014. Both books were published by Myriad Editions, a Brighton-based publisher who focus on debut authors. Myriad is partly funded through the government, and they aim is to take a new author and establish their career. Bell stated that he chose this publisher with great care, as his first book So It Is was also his PhD thesis, and so wanted to ensure that the critical aspects of the work remained. Bell also stated the importance of face-to-face meetings with his publisher. His editorial process took around six months, and involved many different meetings with his editors.

Bell also highlighted the importance of reviews in newspapers like The Guardian, as they led to a spike in book sales. When So It Is was shortlisted for Scottish Book of the Year, this too had a massive effect on the sales of the title, and was hugely rewarding for a debut author. Bell stresses the importance of reviews, and events at book festivals for a new author. He tells us it was extremely rewarding to have an interview in The Herald (particularly because his parents read it). Bell’s contract for So It Is also stated that Myriad would take a look at the manuscript for his second book. They agreed to publish it, and Bell states that the advance for the book was not particularly large, and he was only able to work on the manuscript full time due to funding from the English Arts Council.

Bell also related to us the benefits of working with a smaller publisher. Working with Myriad for The Busker meant he could be involved with other aspects of the book – including the cover design. The publisher commissioned an artist to do three different designs, and Bell’s opinions were taken on board when choosing which one they would use. While discussing the editorial process for The Busker, Bell highlights the difficulties that can arise. The editor and the author must have a good relationship in order for the process to go well.  The edits take several months and not everyone necessarily agrees. He stresses  that a good editor should point out or discuss what the problem is, and allow the author to find the solution by them self. If the editor was to fix it themselves, it would not be cohesive with the rest of the book. He tells us that one of the hardest parts of the editing process is that as an other, you have to try and open your mind to discussion, not just automatically tell the editor they’re wrong. Bell argues that a good editor should question every single aspect of the book. This forces the author to justify each character and aspect of the plot, ensuring the book is the best it can possibly be.


Saltire Society Literary Awards 2016

December 9th, 2016 by ruoqi_sun | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Saltire Society Literary Awards 2016
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As one of the event of Book Week Scotland, this year’s Saltire Society Literary Awards was held on 24th of November in Edinburgh. As a publishing student, I went there to participate in this activity and that was the first time I had ever attended such an event. Fortunately, I met some classmates and it made me feel much better.

To be honest, all the information I know about this award before the event comes from Wikipedia and Facebook. Saltire Society is an organization which aims to promote the understanding of the culture and heritage of Scotland. This organization has a long history, and it has established numerous awards, involving a number of cultural fields. The literary prize is one of them.

Before the award, we got half an hour to drink something and chat with others. At that time, everybody can share their experience with others.  It is amazing that we did not know each other before but the topic was very natural to start. A bag was prepared for each guest in the seating area, including some brochures which introduce the awards of this year, the annual review of Scottish Book Trust and this year’s new book etc. This year’s awards include a total of more than ten items, the specific awards can be found from the following timetable, because I do not want this blog be simply reporting.timetable

Next I want to talk about a few things that impressed me. The first one is about the “Publisher of the year”. The shortlisted publishers are Birlinn, Black and White Publishing, Floris Book, National Galleries of Scotland and Saraband. I remember the last month we just finished a presentation about Saraband. At that time, we searched and found almost nothing about this publisher on the internet, except their homepage. I even thought it was a tiny and financially struggling publisher in Scotland although they have published His Bloody Project which has been popular over the last year. But through this award I changed my mind, Saraband makes its own contribution to the publishing industry even though it is not a big publisher. Its efforts are equally worthy of respect, and its persistence is more worthy of recognition.  It is also because of these publishers who know hard but still insist on it, the literary industry can constantly develop.

The second one is about our professor Claire, I did not know that she was present as an honored guest until her name appeared in the timetable. This made me feel that as a publishing student, I am really involved in the field of publishing, and this kind of opportunity which provided to students are rarely happens in my country.

Finally, I would like to talk about the importance of this kind of awards shortly. As publishers, it can be said our work is less pretentious but very essential. Readers are always attracted to the design and the content of the book, but they do not know all the efforts made by publishers. The publishing industry is not as fashionable as the film industry, and our awards are not as high-profile as the Oscars, but we also need such awards to recognize our efforts during the last year.  Whether it is a publisher which has long history or just a novice, we all need to have such an opportunity to know each other, to see what’s happening in our industry. These good ideas can provide new ways of thinking for more publishers and this trend is also a kind of virtuous circle for publishing industry.

You can get more details of 2016 Saltire Society Literary Awards from here:

By the way, the performance by Niall Campbell during the activity was really nice, fond and full of emotion.  You guys can search the video if you are interested in it.


The terrifying experience of drawing in public

December 8th, 2016 by michail_tsipoulakos | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The terrifying experience of drawing in public
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https-%2f%2fcdn-evbuc-com%2fimages%2f25635246%2f79986262757%2f1%2foriginalThe Edinburgh Comic Art Festival took place in Summerhall Venue on 26th and 27th of November, and of course I couldn’t miss it. The whole exhibition offered a variety of visiting speakers, free workshops to test your artistic capabilities, and panels with Scottish and British comic book artists displaying their work. And if you are a geek like me, all these things hold an extra value!

For this story, I will share with you the experience I had while participating in the quick-draw activity. As the name itself states, quick-draw was one of the many activities where you actually had to draw different images on a drawing surface, as fast as possible. Our instructors were Mr.…. and Mrs.…... Ok I admit it; I was late and missed the part where they introduced themselves. For our convenience, let’s call them Mr. Tall (for obvious reasons) and Mrs. Red (due to her bright red hair). 20161204-963567316_editedThe whole activity was designed for people who are new to drawing, for others with some existing experience, and for those who are TERRIFIED by it, like me!

The participants had to experiment with a range of different materials like white or coloured paper, different sketching pencils, markers with several colour options, while using different techniques, to explore the way real life illustrators create their work. The motto of our two wonderful instructors (Yes I’m talking about Mr. Tall and Mrs. Red) was: “You don’t need any fancy equipment to draw your hearts out. Some white paper and a black pencil and your empty canvas will transform into a work of art”. The first thing we had to do was draw a funny face. “Draw a line here and here, and there and remember, don’t push your pencil too much” Mr. Tall said. He made it look so effortless which by the way, wasn’t! I had to try really hard. The end result after 15 minutes of drawing and connecting lines looked like an uglier version of Mr. Potato from Toy Story. And yes, Mr. potato is already ugly enough! The first session was officially over with not much success.

Next stop, Nature! How to draw trees and flowers with a few easy techniques. Instructions followed again, this time by Mrs. Red. Initially, it seemed easier than drawing a face. Well it wasn’t, especially for someone who can’t draw a straight line, not even with a ruler. My picture was a complete disaster. Probably something that a 3 year old would draw. When Mrs. Red saw my picture, she was literally speechless. I managed to give the world talentless a whole new meaning. I’m quite sure that if we lived in a fantasy world, where Mrs. Red was the queen, she would have ordered my immediate incarceration, to prevent me from creating new abominations! All jokes aside, she was super cool and funny, and despite her initial shock, she was all smiles and compliments.

fotor_148081045839063Finally, for the third and final task, we had to draw anything we wanted. I decided to go with Doctor Strange. Since I had a cover of him in my bag, I didn’t have to search for my inspiration. The end result was quite tolerable. Finally, after all this time, I managed to draw something! Even Mrs. Red complimented me for my effort! And that was it, almost 45 minutes later, the quick-draw activity was over. The purpose of this workshop was to gain confidence in developing your own drawing skills. Did I become the new Dali? Hell no! But I had a great time, met interesting people who are equally bad at drawing, and finally had the chance to use a range of materials and techniques utilized by professional comic book artists. Now that I’m equipped with all this knowledge, I feel super ready for the Edinburgh Comic Con festival in February.

CAPITAL SCI-FI CON, here I come!!!

In Conversation with Isabel Greenberg

December 8th, 2016 by Lenka Murova | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on In Conversation with Isabel Greenberg
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I was dazzled by Isabel Greenberg, a London-based graphic novel writer and illustrator on Saturday, 26th of November, when I dragged along my two long-suffering friends to the Comics Art Festival in Edinburgh.

I am just going to come out and say it straight off, I had no clue who she was before the talk. All I knew came from the bit of research I had done while looking at the various events that were on. Isabel sounded interesting and I liked what I saw from the Google image search results on her work. So even though I didn’t know of her existence before the talk, I was absolutely smitten with her, both professionally and as a person by the end of it.

Isabel talked to us about her debut graphic novel The Encyclopedia of the Early Earth and then her recent release, The One Hundred Nights of Hero that came out this September. She was charming and very down to earth, talking about her beginnings as a graphic designer and illustrator, the struggle of getting her work out there and noticed by someone. Isabel freely admitted that if she had not won the Graphic Short Story Prize she would not be here now, talking to us about her second novel.

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The inspiration for her novels often comes from folk tales and ballads. Isabel said that she finds them so inspiring because the characters in them are often like blank slates, the themes are universal and this provides her with plenty of space to create her own stories. The One Hundred Nights of Hero is a collection of stories inspired by old folk ballads about women being wronged in some way. When asked about how she finds new inspiration, Isabel prompted us not to get stuck in what she calls the ‘second-hand viewing trap’. We all get caught up in looking at others’ works and comparing ourselves to them, losing our voice in the process of trying to measure up to others. This is why she said she goes out of her house to explore different places like museums, historical sites or just goes on a walk in a forest. ‘Go out and see stuff, not just on google images.’

She did not hold back, talking to us about her mishaps and missteps during her career. While admitting that she has learned a lot from the process of making her debut work, she advised us not to start off drawing/writing the parts that you are excited to do first, because you really should know what actually happens in the story first. Another advice was related to self-publishing — you should not get lured in by the fact that a print run of 1000 copies is only £50 more expensive than the one for 500 copies. Isabel had to throw out 500 copies of her work because she simply got bored of having to sell them.

This point connects to the one she kept coming back to the whole time: do this work because you love it. ‘Even if you can break even on your print run, but you can’t break even on your time.’ Isabel has proven that writing and illustrating a graphic novel is hard work, which is worth it only if you truly believe in your story and are passionate about it.

You can find more about Isabel on her twitter and her website.

by Lenka Murova

Edinburgh Comic Art Festival

December 8th, 2016 by Lenka Murova | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Edinburgh Comic Art Festival
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The Edinburgh Comic Art Festival took place on 26th and 27th of November and I am going to tell you about how cool it was.

During the two-day festival, you could pick what events you wanted to attend. There were talks, workshops and presentations about different aspects of the Comic and Graphic Novel scene in the UK given by professionals and enthusiastic fans alike.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to attend any of the workshops, but I walked through the Comics Market floor and talked to various artists and writers showing off their work there. Everyone was friendly and had a strong passion and love for telling stories through the medium of comic books.

From my various interactions, I could tell that the attitude of the creators was ‘Love this so much, but there is literally no money in this’.

I chatted with illustrator Chris Baldie, who works on the Space Captain series with writer and friend, Michael Park.  Chris got into working in comics when he got together with another friend Holley McKend to work on a web comic Never Ever After just for fun. During our chat, he admitted that there really is no money in this work and he just does it as a hobby on the side because he enjoys it. I asked him whether he feels like comics are just not taken seriously as a medium here. He replied by saying that it is getting much better now — a polite way of saying that it was horrible before but kind of bearable now. Chris said that he wouldn’t want to work full-time in comics anyway because he would probably come to resent the very thing that he now really enjoys. He was assured of this when he saw his friends who work as illustrators for the two giants (Marvel and DC) and even though they are paid a lot of money, he says that they spend their entire days stressed out of their minds. So Chris is just fine with working as a graphic designer and doing comics for the fun of it.

You can find more about Chris and his work here

I received similar responses from Paul Jon Milne, author and illustrator of the ‘Guts Power’ series (his Etsy store and Facebook page) and Kelly Kanayama (twitter) from whom I got a short custom comic for £2. There were many other creators on the floor, each stall selling interesting, unique art prints and comics (really dangerous for my wallet).

I feel that events like this give you the opportunity to experience something special. As they focus on individual authors, they give visitors personal one-on-one face time with indie creators, something that you just don’t get when a big publisher is organising an author signing.

I definitely would recommend going to next year’s festival, even if you have never read a graphic novel or a comic book, this might be your way to find the story that sucks you in. Even my two long-suffering friends that I dragged along took a liking to the world of comics. (Also, did I say the entrance to many events was free?)


15281974_10202410308814791_1626244598_nby Lenka Murova

Guest Speaker: Angie Crawford, Waterstone’s

December 5th, 2016 by emma_morgan | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Guest Speaker: Angie Crawford, Waterstone’s
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There were pretty high expectations for the last guest speaker of the semester, given the brilliant, funny and interesting talks that we’ve been treated to over the weeks.  There was also a problem of attention, with the impending last presentation of the year looming.  Angie Crawford, Waterstone’s Scottish book buyer, had a great deal to contend with in keeping our attention and interest.  She managed it easily, bringing samples of AI sheets and review copies ranging from the elaborate and well-backed to the…simplistic.

As a group of students hoping to make careers in the industry in which Waterstone’s is a major player, her career history was both interesting and encouraging, to see the passion and enjoyment that can exist from a career in publishing.  It was particularly nice to hear that it was at the University of Stirling, at another guest lecture, that Angie Crawford, inspired by and drawn to the field of children’s publishing, decided on her future career.

Her career followed the progress of the publishing and bookselling industry on a grander scale, working in the now-defunct Dillons bookshops, as well as Ottakers.  She worked in the industry through the process of digitisation and improvements in organisation that this brought, and acquainted herself with the Scottish market, typified by smaller-scales and a more fragile market than the London-centric industry at large.  From this interesting and varied career, Angie seemed to draw certain messages and principles out that had helped her in each role, one of which was, crucially, the importance of knowing both the market and the people in it, the customers.

The priority that Waterstone’s place upon engaging with their customers, and ensuring a ‘culture of friendly and knowledgeable service’ is the heart of their success, and this has come with the reinvention that followed their near-collapse.  James Daunt’s independent-minded influence was, according to Crawford, both immediately felt and transformative, doing away with ‘identikit’ bookshops and encouraging – sometimes reluctant – bookshop managers to take the reins and individualise their shops to the local customer.  This shift in philosophy, which was accompanied by major process and organisational rethinking, changed Waterstone’s for the better.

Angie Crawford, comforting fearful of publishing students everywhere, admitted to feeling under-prepared and uncertain of her suitability for her role as ‘Scottish’ Commercial Manager.  She shared that her main qualification for the post seemed to be that she was Scottish, and thus, in the minds of the London-based bosses, knew Scottish publishing.  Her reaction to this?  Like any good publisher, she did her reading, familiarising herself with the titles that sold, the titles that were loved and the things that worked in Scotland which might not work elsewhere.  It seems that the Scottish love a good murder – perhaps because it’s fun to say with our accent! – and crime fiction is a reliable high performer across Scottish bookshops.  However, our love for crime fiction aside, Scottish is not a genre, and Crawford noted that while her colleagues were focused on fiction, non-fiction, sport, etc; her role requires her to look wider, and often work hard to create cohesion between titles that span genres and which can seem entirely distinct from one another.

Angie Crawford has the experience to make any lessons she has to impart worth listening to, and she was able to pull out some key pieces of advice that she learned in her time in the industry:

  • Good relationships are more important than great deals – Book buying is a negotiation, but it is a negotiation between partners, and it is essential that both parties walk away with a workable deal, and their trust in the other party intact.  A chain like Waterstone’s might have the leverage to push for a heavy discount, but if this price means the publisher can’t afford to print the books, no one wins.
  • Keep an eye on the future – All of publishing is a business of planning ahead, and Angie frequently mentioned that the process of buying involves forecasting – or fortune-telling – what books people are going to want months ahead of time.
  • Sometimes, you just know – Angie mentioned that occasionally, it was just the feel of a book that was important, whether it felt right in the hand, opened easily, etc;  it isn’t an exact science and intuition is essential.
  • Go with your gut, but prepare to be wrong – Book buying has an element of gambling about it, sometimes a bet placed on an unknown author pays off when the stock sells out quickly, and sometimes the books sit on the shelf (or in the stockroom) and  haunts you.  Ultimately, it seems that a certain amount of bad choices are inevitable, but a successful book buyer reacts quickly and doesn’t get discouraged.

by Emma Morgan

Children’s Christmas Books 2016

December 2nd, 2016 by Rachel | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Children’s Christmas Books 2016
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The Christmas period provides publishers with the opportunity to capture huge Christmas market sales since so many people buy books as presents. Bookshops are quickly filled with snowflake covered book designs and the Christmas spirit is suddenly in full swing. It’s safe to say that the Christmas spirit is captured most successfully in children’s books, as they effortlessly transport us back to our own childhoods. Children’s books are selling better than ever and the publishing industry has produced quite a few charming titles this year.

The Girl Who Saved Christmas – Matt Haig 

the-girl-who-saved-christmasPublished by Canongate, The Girl Who Saved Christmas was written by Matt Haig and is a follow up to his last Christmas book. It’s about a girl called Amelia who starts out wanting to ask Father Christmas for a specific wish but ends up with the mighty task of having to save the spirit of Christmas. Last year Haig published A Boy Called Christmas and his new title is part of a two book deal he now has going with the publisher. A Boy Called Christmas was nominated for Children’s Book of the Year at the British Book Industry Awards. The success of Haig’s first Christmas book will likely encourage people to buy The Girl Who Saved Christmas and signing on the author to write a follow up this year was a pretty clever move made by Canongate. The book will also be available as an audiobook and will be narrated by Carey Mulligan.

The Christmasaurus – Tom Fletcher

the-christmasaurusThe Christmasaurus was published by Penguin Random House and written by Tom Fletcher. Fletcher already had a huge online presence before turning his hand to writing children’s books. He was a former member of the band McFly and has a YouTube channel, which he used to promote the book to thousands of his fans. Fletcher was essentially a publisher’s dream, and was heavily involved in the book’s promotion and consequently, its success. The Christmasaurus is about a boy called William Trundle and his magical Christmas Eve adventure involving a dinosaur. It has been well received so far by critics and parents, and is likely to guarantee Fletcher’s place as a prominent figure in the future of children’s fiction.

Ollie’s Christmas Reindeer – Nicola Killen

ollies-christmas-reindeerPublished by Simon & Schuster Children’s, Ollie’s Christmas Reindeer is possibly one of the most endearing children’s books that’s been published for the Christmas market this year. It’s aimed at younger readers and was illustrated by the author herself. The narrative follows a young girl with a love for reindeer who just so happens to encounter one in the story. It is beautifully illustrated, mainly in black and white with specks of red throughout, giving the book a unique visual appeal. It also has cut-out sections to make it more of an interactive activity for the child reading it. The picture book market has seen a significant rise in sales this year and Ollie’s Christmas Reindeer will likely do well this season given how attractive and unique it is.