Internship at Think Publishing

April 21st, 2017 by Sharna | Posted in Internships | Comments Off on Internship at Think Publishing
Tags: , ,

Towards the beginning of the year, I applied for and was offered an editorial internship with Think Publishing, a membership communications agency. If you’re not sure what ‘membership communications agency’ really means (which I didn’t until I did some pre-application research!) it just means that they create publications on behalf of professional membership organisations, charities and corporations. These are usually magazines, books, e-newsletters, and online content channels.

Before I started, I was advised that my time as an editorial intern would include: article research and writing, phone interviews, interview transcription, image research and proof reading. Through the course of the internship, I did complete all of these tasks except for phone interviews, which I guess is a bit of a blessing because I don’t know how I would have fared at that.

The first big issue that I had to deal with on arrival, was an iMac. I purposefully do not use macs because I can’t get my head around them, they make no sense to me, and windows forever! But that’s all I had, so I had to just work around it, and quickly! But it was not as bad I expected it to be even considering the fact that one particular day the keyboard and InDesign stopped working. But apart from that.. spot on! (insert slightly sceptical face here).


I had the wonderful opportunity to actually work on a variety tasks for different organisations. This meant that my work load was different every day which, obviously, kept things far more interesting than reading the same publication day in/day out. The changes in tasks also helped me to develop more practical skills. Previously I had been an editorial intern (there’s clearly a theme here) at Sweet & Maxwell in London, and, yeah, I had different sections of work to do, but all I was doing was reading legal jargon and doing copy- and structural edits. At Think I got to write articles, do image and article research, as well as copy-editing and proofing. As much as copy-editing is my ambition, it was nice to put some of my other skills to use as well.

All in all, working at Think was a great experience! The whole experience allowed me to take in some of the new things I’ve learned on the course and it was so interesting to me that I found myself enjoying the other parts of publishing almost as much as my main interests (okay, maybe not as much, but pretty high up there!) I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone at Think, firstly for giving me the opportunity, and for being helpful when I needed help and being very supportive of me in general.

by Sharna Vincent

Internship at Stirling Council Library Headquarters

April 21st, 2017 by helene_fosse | Posted in Internships | Comments Off on Internship at Stirling Council Library Headquarters
Tags: ,

Hi, I’m Helene. I’m interning at the Library HQ. Yeah, the HQ, yeah. It’s really cool, it’s the HQ you know, such a cool word. Am I James Bond? I might as well be.

I could actually have 3D printed myself a cool gun (in secret obviously, don’t think anyone at the library would have been very pleased if they found out, and obviously it would be for the sole purpose of pretending to be James Bond) to look like James Bond. That was actually part of my job, creating things on Tinkercad and finding cool designs on and 3D printing it.

More often though, I could be found hogging my mentor, Ray’s, computer, designing posters, flyers, web banners, training programme resources, websites and booklists. Most of Stirling Libraries’ materials seems to be on MS Word, which doesn’t exactly lend itself to great design. A big chunk of my job making most of these things was extracting information out of old MS Word documents and putting them into InDesign and zhuzhing it up. Some of the materials hadn’t been updated for eons (circa the year 2007) and had explanatory screengrabs that did not make sense because they were from the time when everyone used Windows XP. Other times it was just a 57-page long Word document with nothing but text on it that had to be separated into nice pages with pictures to go along, so I did some picture research as well.

For the most time, I was given more or less complete artistic freedom. The booklists, the webpage and Taste IT (the training programme) came with few – if any – instructions, which can be intimidating at first. But I jumped into it and ended up learning a lot. When there are no instructions, you have to trust your own instinct. Also, when there is no one else to blame but yourself if something isn’t popular, you have to be sure in your project and be willing to stand behind it. Take constructive criticism though. As nice as it is to have complete control over something, it is easy to find yourself becoming completely lost in one thing and overlooking something else. A second, third and fourth opinion can never hurt.

There is always something to do at HQ. Ray is constantly running about, doing about a million jobs at a time and I cannot for the life of me comprehend how he gets anything done if he is doing that plus all the work that I have been doing as well. If I finish the task I have been set for that day, there is always mountains of booklists to compile and website design to do.

Overall, it has been a great experience which has mainly taught me to trust myself and my own instinct when it comes to design and to not be afraid to stand up for something that I have made when it meets criticism, but also to be open to other input and change. I have also learned that teaching yourself how to use software such as InDesign and Photoshop from scratch is just as valuable as having professional training. It’s different, yes, don’t get me wrong. But Ray was constantly showing me how to do things, and it was often the simple things that you might not learn from training, like how to group objects in InDesign or how to paste in place instead of just paste. Equally, I feel like I gave Ray some pointers. On my first day, first project, I set up a new document and added guides. Ray looked over and said, “Whoa, what’s all those crazy lines?!”, and I told him all about them being there to help you align things.

I feel like I have come out of this internship with a stronger set of skills in design, but also in picture research, proofreading, editing and quality control, which I am very grateful for.

When the Swedish Academy got to meet Bob Dylan

April 21st, 2017 by anna-corrine_egermo | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on When the Swedish Academy got to meet Bob Dylan
Tags: , , , , ,

Only half a year has passed since Bob Dylan was announced winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature and he has already managed to go pick it up. This past weekend he had a concert at Waterfront in Stockholm so on Saturday evening, before the concert, he had a private meeting with twelve of the Swedish Academy members. According to attending sources they drank champagne and spent some time looking at the back of the prize medal. It’s all hush-hush and no media was invited. Personally I think a sense of mystery is the best marketing strategy one can use, under the right circumstances, and I even imagine Dylan might have watched some The Young Pope.

Modern version

Another student already wrote about the prize when Dylan was announced winner; and there was a lot of opinions going around in general. There is nothing we love as we love some controversy. Hence, as a publishing student I still feel the need to think about the questions his win raises.

First of all: what is literature? Dylan does not write what we commonly associate with literature – he writes songs. The Swedish Academy acknowledges as much, and this is what they rewarded. On the one hand, one could argue that they take the sense of tradition to an extreme, considering that my education in literature taught me that the troubadour tradition belongs within literature. It is basically poems about love with music composed to it, and some people do like to argue that the same goes for contemporary lyrics.

Less modern version (Guillaume IX d’Aquitaine)

Without going into detail, this is an argument which could be made and it may be convincing. But why is it so upsetting? For one of our recent seminars we read an article by the sociologist Joel Best called “Prize Proliferation”  (Sociological Forum, 2008), on the topic of the title. Best states that award giving is the “want to recognize and reward exceptional performance, to bestow esteem on the deserving”. It “affirms and embodies the group’s values”, meaning that we as a social group are affirming Dylan as the most deserving within the category of ‘people making literature’. Subsequently, we have a problem with our collective values not being reinforced if we don’t agree on the basic premise that Dylan is, in fact, making literature. Do we even belong together? Can the Nobel Prize continue to represent our collective idea of literary taste?

Since Dylan never used to be seriously considered to be making literature, the debate was easy to predict. Some people called the Academy’s choice “brave”, but I am not convinced bravery is what it took. Rather, we got a wonderful show in the media and all over Twitter which implanted the Nobel Prize in the minds of millions of people. This will not be forgotten, it will be written about and remembered as a highlight in the history of the prize. We will see it on encyclopedia pages forever after and ride off into the sunset. It is hard to imagine that for example Herta Müller’s win in 2009 will be remembered as a landmark, but this might.

So when Vanity Fair wrote that “Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize has been something of a saga”, I agree. It has been a wonderfully entertaining marketing trick allowing us all to be more emotional this year than usual (at least in Sweden), and publishers got to sell more books. But most important of all: the Swedish Academy finally got to meet Bob Dylan.

Let’s toast to that!

Visiting Speaker – Rights Director Andrea Joyce

April 3rd, 2017 by rachel_kay | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker – Rights Director Andrea Joyce
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Stirling’s MLitt Publishing students were recently delighted to hear from Andrea Joyce, who spoke to us about her role as Rights Director at Canongate, and what it takes for a book to successfully transcend geographical borders.

Canongate Books is one of the biggest publishers in Scotland, currently employing about 40 people in Edinburgh and London. It has been an independent publisher since 1973, and aims to “unearth and amplify the most vital, innovative voices” with a strong international focus encompassing countries from Albania to Vietnam.

Keeping Pace

Canongate’s aim to “publish authors, not books” involves a tailored approach for each project as their authors continue to explore. Matt Haig, for instance, had published two novels before venturing into non-fiction with the wildly successful Reasons to Stay Alive. Now, with A Boy Called Christmas, Canongate is delving into children’s publishing, including their first visit to the Bologna Book Fair. These kinds of challenges keep things interesting for the rights team, who are constantly expanding their networks to keep pace with an author’s needs.

Outside the publishing house, foreign markets also continue to evolve. What worked five years ago does not work now; for instance serial and book club rights are much less lucrative than they used to be. Joyce says that this time of change and uncertainty can be both exciting and frightening. Working in rights means continuously working to develop and maintain contacts and to stay up-to-date with other publishers’ lists. According to Joyce, it is essential to have an idea of who, down to the editor, a book is likely to appeal to before approaching to make a deal.

Choosing Wisely

Not every book is suitable for licensing abroad, and Canongate needs to be selective. It is important to think about a book’s potential international audience from the start, even those which are not immediately obvious. For instance, The Radleys, superficially a YA book about vampires, can also be read as a story about teenage experience, or the burial of a wild youth in middle age. As a result, this story effectively transcended geographical borders, underwent a 9-way auction for the German rights, and was ultimately published in over 26 territories.

Joyce says it can difficult to boil down the formula for major international success, but that “the common ground is universal themes and great fiction”.

Making Changes

Successfully selling rights to a book is only the first step in a process which then involves many changes before a physical copy is produced. In the majority of cases the text needs to be translated, and the cover also redesigned to appeal to its local readers.

Flexibility over a book’s contents can be crucial. For The Novel Cure, international publishers wanted permission to customise the concept to suit their regional markets, including adding different “ailments” that needed a literary “prescription”. The outcome of negotiations was that foreign publishers were allowed to change up to 33% of the content. On the other end of the spectrum, no changes were allowed to be made to Letters of Note, a carefully chosen collection of 100 unusual and inspiring letters, due to the curatorial aspects at the core of this book.

Working in Rights

Rights selling can fit in at any stage of the publishing process, from acquisition to post-publication. However, it is usually ideal if international editions can be published simultaneously. This allows foreign publishers to anticipate demand in their area and also to harness the hype generated by Canongate’s marketing team. Thus, a rights seller needs to be kept in the loop with other departments, and attuned to the stages of a book’s development.

The role doesn’t require law training, but does entail lots of contracts work, an eye for detail, and an aptitude for selling. You don’t need to be bilingual, but it certainly helps, and travel is often involved. Looking at Canongate’s 2016 rights sales by value suggests where frequent destinations might be: last year the USA and Canada held 45%, Germany held 16%, and Asia held 8% of their market.

Many thanks to Andrea for an informative talk!

by Rachel Kay

Working @ Oxfam

April 3rd, 2017 by mette_olesen | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Working @ Oxfam
Tags: ,

While attending some of the LBF17 seminars on ‘how to get into publishing’ we were told (again and again) that hands-on work experience meant more than having a degree in publishing. And though this sentiment was devastating, frustrating, and anxiety inducing to hear as an in-debt publishing student, I do see the merit of it. Getting your hands dirty (from new ink) will definitely provide us with insight that the course, for obvious reasons might be lacking in. For though we have access to Nielsen data and we have visiting speakers from book shops, we won’t gain the experience of actual customers coming in and asking for book recommendations etc. And working in a book shop will give us that new and different perspective to the things we learn in classes. So, I decided to jump right in.

Since that decision was made, I have started to volunteer at the Oxfam bookshop in Stirling. And though I have not worked there that many hours yet, I have tried a bunch of tasks related to book sales. On my first day, I was helping with book pricing, till service and rearranging book shelves. Firstly, pricing books, and seeing how a books value is changed as it passes to another person, was really interesting. It dawned on me, to a greater extend than it had before, that books keep on selling, when they leave the high street shops. But seeing their price reduced, to sometimes extremes in my opinion, made me happy. I kept thinking: “This is so great! Lower prices on all of these amazing books will mean that people might be more prone to buy more books.” And we all know, that anything that makes people read more is a huge plus!
Secondly, working at the till enabled me to see what customers actually bought, and what they were looking for in the shop. For though Oxfam is second-hand, the sales in that shop still reflect the trends of the overall market. The figures and features genres in the bookseller is also what is reflected with Oxfam sales. In the future, I am hoping to do some work on the shops social media pages and to enhance both their visibility and my skills on that score.

Ultimately the things I’ve learned through the course and the things I’ve experienced in Oxfam and hope to experience and build up in the future, will deepen and broaden my understanding of the publishing industry, which will in turn, I hope, help me further my career.

Also – I have to be honest – working in the storage with all of the more expensive and old books is definitely a dream of mine, though I’m tempted to spend all my money on them – which I guess is the danger of a book lover working in a bookshop.

by Mette Olesen