The Cookbook: Fundamental or Fad?

March 23rd, 2017 by amandasarahbain | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The Cookbook: Fundamental or Fad?
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Penguin Random House imprint Michael Joseph has just announced its 20th cookbook collaboration with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. The book Jamie’s Quick & Easy 5-Ingredient Food is to be released in conjunction with a new channel 4 tv series of the same name. Oliver, having previously topped the Christmas bestsellers list for three consecutive years between 2010 and 2012, has generated £149,383,819 in revenues from the sales of his cookbooks according to Nielsen Bookscan data. Despite Rux Martin, editorial director of Rux Martin books once suggesting that “nobody is going to be using cookbooks again”, the cookbook industry has been enjoying an impressive resurgence with unit print sales in 2016 rising 6% on the previous year, demonstrating the demand for cookbooks is still strong in the UK sales market.

This resurgence can be attributed to numerous factors. The prevalence of health and wellness gurus such as Ella Woodward (Deliciously Ella) and Joe Wicks (The Body Coach) has undoubtedly contributed to the growing popularity of the cookbook, with the former’s debut Deliciously Ella: A Bible for Plant Based Living becoming the fastest-selling debut cookbook on record. Such cookbooks have become a gold mine for publishers and with impressive social media followings – Woodward and Wicks boast 171,000 and 263,000 twitter followers respectively – both authors have reinvented the traditional cookbook making cooking accessible to a new generation with little time and great expectations. Joe Wick’s debut Lean In 15 sold 77,097 in its first week, outselling Delia Smith’s 2008 bestseller How To Cook. The health-food craze has created demand for a new kind of cookbook and the food blogger has willingly filled the gap in the market. Alice Liveing (Clean Eating Alice) is a qualified personal trainer and nutritionist who overhauled her lifestyle and is now an instagram sensation, boasting 525,000 followers. Liveing’s debut cookbook The Body Bible: Feel Fit and Fabulous from the Inside Out has sold an impressive 50,644 copies since its publication on May 19th 2016 and it has outsold Mary Berry, Deliciously Ella and Jamie Oliver. The rise of “clean-eating” has forced the cookbook industry to become multi-dimensional and publishers are now beginning to see the benefits. The modern day cookbook author has to become a brand in order to be successful. Food bloggers turned authors have vast social media empires which guarantee a ready-made market of fans eager to buy their titles and with the health-food craze showing no signs of slowing, this seems to guarantee the continued growth of cookbook sales.

Although the health craze is largely responsible for the rebirth of the cookbook, there is still demand for more traditional titles. The Great British Bake Off is perhaps one of the most influential factors in the cookbook’s resurgence. Ratings for the 2016 final won by Candice Brown peaked at 14.8 million viewers, a vast increase on the 2015 final which recorded 13.4 million viewers. Such popularity has meant that the series has spawned no less than 18 cookbooks since its inception in 2010, yielding an impressive £14,032,553 whilst restoring the nation’s love for baking. Despite a book deal seeming likely for any Great British Bake Off Winner, it does not guarantee commercial success. Whilst content is indeed extremely important for any best-selling cookbook, the likeability of the author is also paramount to success. 2015 Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain is arguably the most popular of the shows alumni and her cookbook Nadiya’s Kitchen has sold 38,927 copies since its publication on the 16th of June 2016. The book offers innovative twists on traditional classics alongside her favourite bakes and has been billed as full of perfect family recipes. Nadiya’s Bake Me A Story was then published by Hodder Children’s Books on September 8th 2016 and has since sold 33,870 copies. The cookbook’s premise is to encourage families to enjoy baking together by introducing children to baking through storytelling, inspiring a new generation of bakers. Hodder and Hussain have tapped into a new consumer group in the cookbook market which is sure to see the demand for such titles to continue to grow.

Since his discovery by the BBC in 1997, Jamie Oliver’s authenticity and easy to follow recipes have propelled him into stardom and he is now the best-selling non-fiction author of all time in the UK. It seems that regardless of the competitive cookbook market, Oliver appears set for success in 2017 and beyond given that his 2016 title Super Food Family Classics has already sold 156,241 copies since July 14th 2016. Oliver announced his excitement for the publication of his new book via twitter where he regularly interacts with his 6.4 million followers. There is no doubt that social media is effective at marketing books. Authors such as Jamie Oliver can utilise online interactions with fans to aid sales by reaching a wide audience without the need for expensive marketing and Oliver’s 22,400 tweets suggest that such strategies are beneficial.

The nation’s obsession with food has made cookbook’s a profitable commodity once more. However, it is author likeability and interactivity that have propelled cookbooks to the top of best-seller lists and thanks to the social media age it seems that the cookbook is here to stay.

by Amanda Bain

‘India at 70’ at the London Book Fair, 2017

March 22nd, 2017 by Kanika Praharaj | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on ‘India at 70’ at the London Book Fair, 2017
Tags: , ,

14th March, 2017: It’s my birthday and I’m at the London Book Fair. I am also nursing a horrible headache. I make my way to the English PEN Literary Salon for what is the first seminar I will be attending at the LBF. Friends and classmates OtienoKatharina, and Lenka come along with me. I sit up front and psych myself up for what I think will be a drab discussion. Boy, am I wrong.

Chaired by Jonathan Morley, the ‘India at 70’ seminar had doctoral researcher Somrita Ganguly, writer and activist Bidisha Mamata, poet Mohan Rana, and translator and editor Arunava Sinha as speakers. The aim of the talk was to discuss the multilingualism that characterises India and the role of literary translation in the Indian publishing sector.

Mohan Rana started off the seminar by talking about growing up in one language and living in another. While he writes in Hindi, he believes that the translation of his poems opened up new worlds for his words. His poems have now been translated into Spanish, Italian, Norwegian, German, Dutch, Marathi and Nepali. He lives in the UK now, and is comfortable with “being a Hindi poet in a space that is totally occupied by English.” He then read out a section of his poem ‘This place is enough’, which is now available as a part of a collection in a bilingual chapbook.

Bidisha took the floor next as she stressed the need to “honour the variety of the world” and a contemporary Indian writing which panders to no stereotypes. She talked of the recent drive amongst Indian writers to write in Indian languages instead of privileging only English. She then cited the examples of writers such as Rushdie and Naipaul who write in English not because they’re trying to increase their readership but because their privileged upper-class educations have made English a language of their own. She also talked of the Indian writers of yore who are now being reclaimed and put back into the Indian literary canon. However, she warned against creating a new hierarchy that replaces English with a chosen few of India’s many languages. According to her, the question that needs to be answered here is “what do we want to say and how do we want to say it?”

Arunava Sinha then provided a history of the sub-continent and its languages, essential for those in attendance who weren’t that well-versed in the same. He pointed out the fact that India is extremely diverse when it comes to its languages and people and that it would make more sense to say the “literatures of India” instead of Indian literature. India makes for a large market for English language content, which brought in major international publishers into the picture. These publishers began by translating Indian writing into English, which isn’t happening that often now. According to him, publishing works with a more utilitarian perspective now, changing books into what he calls “book-like objects”. He believes that smaller publishers (such as Seagull Publishers, whom he works with), however, can afford to be more “whimsical” in what they publish. He finished by saying that English is a very convenient “bridge language”, which makes it the language that is generally chosen when it comes to translation.

Next, Somrita Ganguly picked up where he left off as she talked about the politics of the mother-tongue. English, she claimed, is her first language. While it is important to promote Indian languages in the country, it isn’t an act of betrayal if one chooses to speak in English. We need to be wary of the politics of assigning a mother-tongue to a child who grows up in a region where another language is the lingua franca, as many do in India. She pointed out that English is considered by many to be a “caste-less” language, which meant that marginalised sections of the Indian populace decided to opt for it instead of Sanskrit which they were not allowed to speak. English is no longer considered to be a foreign language in India, with plenty of upwardly mobile people using it in their day-to-day lives.

The session was brought to a close with Mohan Rana reading out another poem of his, ‘The Photograph’.

What all the speakers agreed on was the fact that a single, cohesive India doesn’t exist. Neither should it. The complexities and contradictions that make up the country make it a fertile ground for all sorts of writing and publishing to thrive. While we may not agree with all that the speakers have said, it is important to keep the discussion going. There is plenty of potential in the creative industry in India to fuel decades of successful publishing, if we choose to work towards fulfilling this potential.

Kanika Praharaj

Chinese Publishing Companies on 2017 London Book Fair

March 22nd, 2017 by Yun HAO | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Chinese Publishing Companies on 2017 London Book Fair
Tags: , , ,

London Book Fair (LBF) is a large international book fair that pools worldwide ambitious publishing companies and institutions. However, it is also a West-dominated activity, and this can be vividly illustrated by looking at the proportion of the exhibitors’ countries. The top ten countries exhibiting on the LBF are Britain (586 stands), the US (245), France (76), India (69), Germany (64), Poland (56, which is Market Focus country of 2017 LBF), Italy (35), Canada (30), Romania (29), and Russia (28). The only Asian country, India, is also an English-speaking country by and large. According to the data, we can see that companies from Asian countries took up only a very small proportion on the LBF. To find out characteristic of the publishing companies from periphery countries on the LBF, I conducted an investigation of Chinese companies.

Firstly, Chinese government plays an important role in Chinese publishing industry’s involvement in the LBF. 18 Chinese companies and institutions appeared on the 2017 LBF. Among them are twelve publisher institutions, four printing companies, one international rights agency and one book fair host. Ten publishers in the twelve are large state-owned publishing groups, which indicates a strong government background and presence. For example, Confucius Institute Headquarters is affiliated to Ministry of Education. China Universal Press is the organizer except for a publisher. One of its duties is organizing state-owned publishing companies to attend all kinds of book fairs in various countries. On the LBF those big state-owned publishing groups were placed in large, eye-catching stands in the center of various halls according to their categories. Only two of the twelve, China Reading and SendPoint, are civilian-run independent publishers. China Reading is the largest platform of digital reading and writing, as well as a publisher of successful self-publishing works. SendPoint is an art publisher. Most of their books are in English and are faced to English-speaking countries. The two civilian-run publishers could occupy only very small stands in periphery positions as many other small independent publishers.

Secondly, Chinese culture display and ideology propaganda are the main purpose of Chinese publishers on the LBF. Most books on display are about Chinese language learning, typical Chinese culture, and propaganda of Chinese politics. A staff of Confucius Institute Headquarters said that the revenue of the books in display certainly cannot cover their costs since the main purpose of the books, to put it simply, is culture importing. One phenomenon resulted from the motivation is that the staffs in the stands were young people who had little experience in the industry and not in charge in most times. The junior staff don’t have the power to decide anything. The only job for them is introducing the company and culture if any foreigners are interested in it. For instance, the young staff in China Education Publishing and Media Holdings were very nervous and did not know what to do when a Slovenia publisher came to ask possible cooperation in China. She also felt lost when an author came to promote her book. China Universal Press and Publications even recruited volunteers to look after their stand. I found nearly half of staffs of Chinese publishers could not clearly tell their purpose other than culture communication on the LBF in my interviews.

To conclude, Chinese publishing companies had a strong presence but weak involvement on the LBF. This is not very strange considering the strong government background of the Chines publishers. Language is another main barrier for Chinese publishing companies. Many of them looked nervous when talking in English. These characteristics were not confined to Chinese publishing companies. Strong government presence, culture display rather than book trade as the main purpose and language barriers can also be seen in other periphery countries such as countries in the Middle East. This proved my hypothesis that the London Book Fair is mainly an international book trade platform for Western countries, especially English-speaking countries. The periphery countries still have a long way to learn how to take full advantage of the platform.

by Yun Hao


LBF: East Meets West on Mobile Storytelling Platforms

March 22nd, 2017 by Puyu Cheng | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on LBF: East Meets West on Mobile Storytelling Platforms
Tags: , ,

I went to London to attend The London Book Fair from March 14th to March 16th, held at Olympia Exhibition Center. It was my first time to participate in such a grand publishing event, I felt so excited. And I have to say, I really learned a lot from this event. I took part in a lot of interesting seminars that gave me a better understanding of the publishing industry.

“East Meets West on Mobile Storytelling Platforms” was one of the most impressive seminars for me. The seminar has four panelists, including: Octavio Kulesz, a director of a digital publishing company called Teseo and a researcher on digital culture; Kat Meyer, representing Radish (twitter), a mobile storytelling platform; James Pullin, Digital Marketing Manager for Oolipo (twitter) and is interested in emerging platforms, storytelling and big ideas; and Alicia Liu, she runs a communications agency that works closely with publishers in China. The chairperson of this panel was Sophie Rochester, who is the founder of The Literary Platform, and she explores digital literatures in the UK and China. At the seminar, they talked about that whether readers in the East and the West respond in similar or distinct ways when it comes to the consumption of mobile stories.

In recent years, with the rapid development of mobile reading in China, the West had always watched China’s mobile reading phenomenon with interest. Alicia Liu said: “the Chinese publishing market includes government-led educational content, but teenagers want romantic fiction, sci-fi etc.” Therefore, in China, young people prefer to use mobile devices to read novels they are interested in through some literature platforms such as Qidian and Cloudary. The stories published on these platforms are serialized stories. On these platforms, everyone can become an author, as long as you can write wonderful stories. The platform will sign contracts with potential authors. The authors will publish their novels according to the chapters, first few chapters available for free, but when you are interested in the novel, you need to pay to read the following chapters. And these readers are paying for stories in new and interesting ways,they are making micro-payments through their phones. It is really convenient for readers.

The interesting publishing model has attracted the attention of many Western Publishers such as Radish. Radish thinks this model can also run in the west, and they want to bring this revolution in storytelling to the West. Meyer told us that Radish will be launching a new mobile storytelling platform where you can write, share and monetise bite-sized serial fiction stories for smartphones – and writers get paid. So it can be seen that Radish believes that this mobile reading model has great potential for development. And in addition to Radish, Oolipo is also trying to reach smartphone users with ‘serialised, media-driven storytelling’. Therefore, I think the West may also have a mature mobile storytelling platform in the future.

Nowadays, digital reading is still evolving. So in my opinion, the phenomenon of China’s mobile reading indicates that the model still has a great development space. And for some readers, payment by chapter may be a good way to read some novels, which allows the reader to have more choices. So I believe that in the future, mobile storytelling platform will become an important part of the publishing industry.

You can find more information about The London Book Fair 2017 on their website and twitter.

                                                                                                                                                                         by Puyu Cheng

8 simple rules to survive Comic Con

March 21st, 2017 by michail_tsipoulakos | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on 8 simple rules to survive Comic Con
Tags: , , , , , ,

8 simple rules to survive Comic Con

Comic Con in Edinburgh is less than a month away and we have to be prepared for what’s coming my fellow nerds. Am I a comic convention veteran? Hell no! I’m coming from Greece where comic related festivals are nonexistent. Actually my first serious experience was a couple of weeks ago when I attended the capital sci-fi con in Edinburgh, which marked my first official experience at a nerdfest. Everyone was there, from Stomtroopers and Han Solo, to Chewbacca, Doctor Strange, Wolverine and Harley Quinn. Given the chance, cosplay as well my fellow nerds. That will give your con experience some extra fun. But whether you cosplay or not, you need to remember a few things that I will mention briefly in a while.

First of all, you need to understand that comic con is not a VACATION!!! OK, that was over dramatic. Actually it is like vacation but in a more nerdy way. Do you have chills when someone whispers the word Batman? Then yeah that will be some awesome vacation for you, otherwise don’t bother going there. And now it’s time to mention the rules I promised you about.

Rule number one, choose comfort over style. You will have to stand still for many many hours so style is not an option, you need to be as comfortable as possible.
In case you are cosplaying, then I’m sorry for you, but everyone will find you super cool so it’s totally worth it!
Advice number 2, embrace the lines. Seriously, there are lines everywhere, even when visiting the bathroom. And we’re talking about really loooong lines. Sorry pal but you can’t do anything about it. On the plus side, lines are a great way to make new friends and meet new people. So, accept the lines and try not to whine about them.

Advice number 3, have an extra phone battery with you (sorry iPhone people, you can’t have that!) or at least a power bank. There is nothing worse than your phone dying in the middle of a selfie with Dr Strange (a fake one obviously, not Cumberbatch) or the moment you take a video of the Game of Thrones panel. You need power!

Advice number 5, bring money with you.  Yeah I know, you don’t need a weirdo to tell you that! What I mean is that you need actual-physical money and not a debit card. You’re going to a comic con convention not the Opera. So, bring money with you and don’t neglect the change, you need them as well.

Advice number 6, bring food with you. The alternative is you starving or dying of diabetes due to the food they serve there. Really it is that bad! We are talking about hot dogs (literally speaking!), or nachos with what they claim to be melted cheese, which I know for a fact that it isn’t. Just wake up an hour earlier and make some food. You don’t have to win the Michelin prize, do something simple.

Advice number 7, don’t get super frustrated if you can’t attend every single panel. You are only human after all. Try your best and choose carefully the ones you prefer more. That’s why we have YouTube after all, something will inevitably be leaked on-line a few hours later.

Finally, advice number 8, be prepared to get sick right after. No, I am not joking. There are hundreds of people there which means millions of germs. Even if you rub your hands with a sanitizer every 5 minutes or eat the whole bottle, it makes no difference. You will get sick eventually. My experience left me with sore throat, low fever and sneezing. But hey, you can now say that you have the con-flu and this is a big achievement within the nerd community!

And that’s pretty much it, follow my advice and you’re gonna have one hell of a time! I forgot to say “have fun” because you’re gonna have fun anyway! See you there in a few days my fellow geeks and remember to wear comfortable shoes. Seriously, If I hear you complaining about your feet hurting, you will feel my nerd rage! Unless you’re huge and intimidating… 


London Book Fair 2017 — Self-publishing Discussions

March 21st, 2017 by yao_huang | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on London Book Fair 2017 — Self-publishing Discussions
Tags: , , , , , ,

I was honoured to participate in the London Book Fair 2017. Publishers from many countries grabbed this opportunity to show their shining projects and conduct rights trade to each other.

On 15th March, there were two discussions about self-publishing. The first one, two speakers talked about the current situation of self-publishing and some problems people who want to involve with had to be aware of. The following discussion invited three bestselling authors to share their interesting experiences of self-publishing and what they did for the success. They are Rachel Abbott, L J Ross, Mark Dawson and Keith Houghton. All of them agreed that they wrote for themselves at first, not for meeting readers’ expectations. Rachel mentioned that editing for professional editors was really important because she edited her manuscript 30 times altogether without editors, the number surprised me. And she emailed her first hundred readers, each of them. I suppose that this behaviour can make readers know their reviews and opinions are valuable, are considered by the author. Also, it is a good way for the author to close the distance between readers and herself. L J Ross pointed out that binding was crucial because people judged by the cover. Although Keith published books via traditional publishers, he still enjoyed self-publishing. He could completely control the process, especially how and when to promote, and he was satisfied with the final version. Finally, authors were expected to give some advice for other authors, Mark only said one word: “Professional”.

Self-publishing has been a popular choice that could not be ignored and more and more writers would like to do. Challenges and opportunities exist at the same time. Traditional publishers think they are so professional that can make the package right, know the distribution and market but most authors do not. So if an author wants to self-publish, you have to know the industry as much as you can, do lots of research.

I appreciate Mark’s advice, everything should be professional although it would take a lot of time and energy. The more carefully you treat, the more returns you obtain. For a self-published book, the competitors are not only books published by traditional publishers but also by thousands of independent authors. So be professional, let yourself be a strong “publisher”.

by Yao Huang

Publishing 101: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

March 20th, 2017 by ailsa_kirkwood | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing 101: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Tags: , ,

The Society of Young Publishers (SYP) Scotland held their second Scottish publishing conference in Central Hall, Edinburgh on Friday the 3rd of March. Its debut in 2016 was so popular that they decided to bring it back in 2017, bigger and better than before.

Keynote speaker Jenny Brown, of Jenny Brown Associates, took to the stage to give us young aspiring publishers a motivational, inspirational and very memorable speech. She started by describing the publishing industry at present as an “interesting and important field, at the best time in history.” I found the manner in which she discussed the differences between being labelled as a Scottish or UK Publisher of great interest. Branding a company as “Scottish” generally limits its reach of publication; Scottish publishers tend to only publish for a nation of 5 million, which is much smaller than that of the English book market, a nation of roughly 60 million people. Although, she mentions that regional books from publishers tend not to reach further than their region, Scotland and Scottish literature has international reach unlike other small nations. She claimed the reason behind Scotland’s wide reach is that “we can stand on the shoulders of those literary giants [like Stevenson, Scott and Burns] and share our voice to the world.”

In 2002 Jenny established her own literary agency, Jenny Brown Associates, which since then has become one of the UK’s leading literary agencies. She stressed the importance of passion and innovation to get ahead, “passion costs nothing, but counts for everything” and “making your voice heard, take risks and innovate.”

Jenny’s keynote speech was one of my personal highlights of the conference; she was truly inspiring to listen to, full of positive insight of the publishing industry. It is no wonder her writers think so highly of her, “you are really in a job of making dreams come true.”

The second event of the day was the The Brexit Questions Panel. Alby Grainger of comic store Little Shop of Heroes kicked off the Brexit debate, by describing the exit result for him as “catastrophic increase in costs.” Alby’s business mainly relies on imports from outside the UK, roughly 90% of his products are imported from US sources. Brexit was a nightmare for him, within 3 days of the result the cost to import products rose a staggering 26%, resulting in him having to let a member of staff go. Janet Archer, the chief executive of Creative Scotland, highlighted this growing anxiety on the topic of job security in light of this specific political decision. Derek Kenny, of UK printing company Bell & Bain, agreed that nationally there is currently a prominent theme of “uncertainty in an uncertain world”. He did however, mention that along with the negative implications there are also positive effects and opportunities being created within the UK, for instance larger UK publishers looking for a stable UK printer and distributor. Bell & Bain have witnessed a 9-11% growth in the last 3 years and are even considering crossing the Atlantic, to open an office in America. Timothy Wright of Edinburgh University Press, a wholly owned subsidiary of the University of Edinburgh, experienced a completely different impact from Ably at Little Shop of Heroes. EUP are mainly an export led business, with a significant amount of business in America, so since the Brexit result they witnessed a 20-25% increase in business, mostly due to the strength of the dollar and weakness of the pound. Gráinne Clear explained that post Brexit, disaster struck for Little Island Books, an Irish publishing company with a UK branch, which is apparently pretty common for Irish publishers, when they converted their pounds sterling into euros this resulted in a massive financial hit. Overall the general message of this panel was that quite honestly, no one has any idea on what to expect economically or socially, it’s just going to be a case of wait and see.

Another memorable feature was the Marketing 5 x 5 session which quite honestly was one of the most enjoyably parts of the SYP Scottish conference, apart from the free wine and pizza obviously. It wasn’t until I started the marketing module of my publishing postgrad that I started to find marketing of greater interest. Out of the panel of 5 marketing gurus, each demonstrated completely different and innovative whilst very successful campaigns. Unsurprisingly a prominent component in most was the importance of utilising social media, for not only the publisher but also the author’s online presence. Social media has become so important to marketing because it offers a free platform. It is quite common for most publishers to have little or no budget, so it is vital to achieve as far and wide a reach as possible. Flora Willis from Serpent’s Tail, an imprint of Profile Books, was in charge of marketing for the republication of Chris Klaus’s novel I Love Dick, which was originally published in American in 1997. Her campaign mainly consisted of grass roots marketing, with badges, stickers and of course #ilovedick on Twitter. Unsurprisingly Willis thinks the utmost and foremost important part of working in publishing, more specifically marketing, is to have and use a sense of humour when trying to engage with your audience, a sentiment that resonates throughout this particular campaign.

The Publishing 101 conference was packed full of industry insight and inspirational speakers. I would like to thank the SYP for organising and hosting this event. I walked away feeling happy, motivated and truly part of a community.

– by Ailsa Kirkwood

Visiting Speakers: Witherby Publishing Group

March 20th, 2017 by helene_fosse | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speakers: Witherby Publishing Group
Tags: , , ,

When I first decided I was interested in publishing, I knew very little about the business, and – as many laymen do – thought that trade fiction was the only way to go. It was the only thing I wanted to do, because it was more or less the only thing that came to mind when I thought “publishing”. And I wanted to be an editor.

In my final year of undergrad, I had made some inquiries about the publishing course at Stirling, and consequently was updated by email about publishing events that I could attend. The visiting speaker sessions was one of these events, and I went along.

When I emerged from the talk two hours later, my whole conception of publishing was shattered and all the little pieces had reformed into something entirely different. Publishing is so much more than trade fiction, and if it is publishing you want to do, I have come to realise that the nature of the content isn’t always that important. And so I went into my Masters with much more of an open mind, thanks to the lovely Gillian Macrossan and (Stirling alumna) Jo Marjoribanks.

Sitting through the talk for the second time, I could remember some things from the previous year, but being almost two semesters into my degree this time, things made a lot more sense. The importance of things such as carbon footprint, living wage and paid internships are examples of things that I could not put into context two years ago, but now I know how important these things are for the health of the publishing business. Also, cheaper isn’t always better if you want a good quality product, and it might actually turn out not to be cheaper at all. For example, production might be cheaper in China, and you’re sitting in your office rubbing your hands together … but then the shipping bill comes and evens it all out.

Something else that becomes apparent in this talk is the importance of editing. It can literally be a case of life and death if a mistake is printed. Witherby publish marine literature, manuals, guides, training literature for mariners (not seamen, we do not like that word!) among other things. They might be massive bricks about one particular part of a ship, and laymen wouldn’t look twice at them, or their price tag. But can you imagine what can happen if a mistake went unnoticed when it comes to something as massive and heavy as a ship? Death isn’t actually that far-fetched.

One other thing that I took away from this talk (both times) is how important it is to network, apply for internships, be openminded and to not shy away from opportunities. This inspiration I mainly got from Jo, as she landed the job at Witherby through an internship that kept on getting extended until she finally was given a full-time job. I will admit that my brain was exhausted just listening to all her different responsibilities, ranging from fighting pirates to editing to doing copyright work. But imagine getting a job like that where you can do so many different things! That has to be the dream.

All in all, this visiting speaker session is something that everyone, if you’re interested in publishing and want a real boost of inspiration and energy, should attend. Gillian and Jo are two very talented women who make the publishing business a much less scary place to a mere mortal.

And remember: Editing kills.

– by Helene Fosse

Visiting Speaker: Vikki Reilly, Birlinn Books.

March 14th, 2017 by Rachel | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker: Vikki Reilly, Birlinn Books.
Tags: , , , , ,

Last Thursday we welcomed Vikki Reilly from Birlinn Books, one of Scotland’s leading independent publishers. The talk covered her experience working in a sales team, getting into the publishing industry, and advice about internships.

Birlinn and being part of the Sales team

Although Birlinn are a fairly small publisher with a team of around 20 employees, they punch significantly above their weight, publishing around 160 titles a year. One of their more  distinguishing features is that they proudly publish books that tell the stories of all of Scotland – not just the central belt. This leads to a more national conversation, which can only benefit the book industry in Scotland.

Vikki works specifically in the sales department, and provided us with some valuable insight into working in this sector:

  • Nurture your relationships with booksellers.
  • Be trustworthy – people can tell when you’re lying.
  • Know what market a book sells best in.
  • The best way to sell a book is face-to-face, and sales teams are developing more now as publishers begin to recognise this (hooray!).

Getting into the industry

Vikki talked us through her experience of getting into the publishing industry, including completing the MLitt in Publishing Studies at Stirling University and interning for several publishers, including Canongate. But her presentation emphasised that it is crucial to expand your frame of reference. One of her main pieces of advice was to “never underestimate what you can learn on a shop floor.” Taking on jobs in music shops and bookstores is useful, and will enhance your ability to relate to other people’s interests, which is useful in publishing. Additionally, her presentation stressed that people rarely have a singular career path in publishing now, so be flexible and don’t let good opportunities pass you by.


Birlinn offer an internship programme where interns spend 3 months at a time with them, and Vikki informed us that they have a space coming up in April. During these 3 months interns can get the most out of the experience and gain new skills. Vikki offered some useful advice for all the existing and future interns out there:

  • Don’t go in there with a sense of entitlement, (there’s nothing wrong with making a cup of tea occasionally).
  • While it can be difficult, try not to be too shy! You will get more from your experience by asking questions and being enthusiastic – people like it when you take an interest.
  • Remember that everyone is still learning, not just you. Meaning, no question is too stupid (this was definitely reassuring to hear).

At the end of the presentation we were provided with lovely catalogues of Birlinn’s titles as of 2016 (and cake). Overall, the presentation was lively and engaging, and I think most people left the room feeling really inspired.

– by Rachel Patrick

So, You Want to Be a Publisher?

March 14th, 2017 by barbora_kuntova | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on So, You Want to Be a Publisher?
Tags: , , , , ,

We can all picture it – a guy or a revolutionary woman (because, let’s be honest here…) 50 years ago, in an office where the walls are bookshelves, smoke is curling up at the ceiling, there’s an old typewriter, and piles upon piles of (unread) manuscripts. This is the idea of what a ‘publisher’ does. This is the romanticised version of the job from times long gone.

Fast forward to the present, and adjust your image of a publisher:

  • bookshelves are still cool to have if you’re a publisher, though there has to be some order, and also, you need space for more vital things so keep it down to one or two
  • smoking is a big no inside the office
  • typewriters? Not even computers older than 7 years. You have to move with the flow if you want to make it in this business. With the flow and the technology, really.
  • you may still have piles upon piles of manuscripts – though, sadly, they are now mostly emailed, because who can afford to print what is basically a book, and pay shipping for that on top of everything?

Then there is the word ‘publisher’ – who is she, really (see what I did there)? Is a publisher one who works in a publishing house? One who replies to your emails with ‘sorry but your manuscript does not fit well with our image, keep trying though’? One who finds the next big thing in the world of bestsellers? One who puts together the layout and design of what is soon to become a book? Or the person who makes you notice that there is an interesting title being released this spring, through the media campaign? Or one who tweets and updates other social media on behalf of the publishing house?

All of them are publishers, one way or another. In order to have a successful publishing house you need several things:

  • time and space (it can be your bed, indeed)
  • a budget (we’ve learned at the latest SYP Conference that things can be done well on a very small budget)
  • a good team

People are essential in this business. You need them to read the manuscripts, pick which one will make it (which sounds like a scary but very exciting thing to do), edit it, edit it, edit it, proofread it, typeset it, design it, market it, print it, sell it. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t sound like a one person job to me. And like with everything in your life, you need people you can rely on.

So, you want to be a publisher – a vague term, though often mistaken for a very concrete job description. If you want to be a part of the world of publishing, you need to find a cranny, get yourself in there, and know that you might end up doing whatever is needed to be done. You need to know that publishing books is a time-consuming, exhausting process, often not really appreciated by the public – nobody cares you were the one who made the book happen. The important thing is that it did happen.

As publishers (editors, marketing teams, sales teams, proofreaders, copy-writers, designers, typesetters, interns, etc) we are invisible to the world, working to get the best of writing out to you, the reader. We don’t have our names on the book covers. We rarely even have them printed anywhere inside the book. But we love what we do, we believe in the process, and we are very passionate about our jobs.

Oh and, if you are a writer, keep writing those words. Keep sending manuscripts. Don’t let us destroy your dreams with rejection emails. We want your words, heck, we need your words. We would not exist if it weren’t for those who write. So write.

Yours sincerely, 

Barb Kuntova