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6×6 With PublishED and SYP Scotland

November 10th, 2017 by Ana Tratnik | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on 6×6 With PublishED and SYP Scotland
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October’s event organised by SYP Scotland introduced six speakers who work in publishing sphere. The six minute talks were on Editing, Right Sales, Production, Publicity and Marketing, Sales and Bookselling. Each speaker talked about their roles and responsibilities they are facing every day at work.

The first speaker was Rosie Howie, Publishing Manager at Bright Red, talking about her editorial role. It is very important to build a relationship with all colleagues if you want the work to go as smoothly as it can. An editor is involved in content creation from the moment a manuscript has been delivered to proofreading, and has to be able to produce quality material with limited sources.

Laura Jones is a freelancer and co-founder of 404 Ink, an independent publisher of books and literary magazines. Her talk was about her first success, magnus opus and the first mistake, she was talking about importance of style and design, and how easy is to make ebooks ugly.

Laura was followed by Jamie Norman, Campaigns assistant at Canongate and writer, who showed us the importance of marketing and publicity for publishers. His work is to promote books in magazines, newspapers and blogs, be sure to market them soon after they are published and to keep in contact with partners and try to meet them face to face. Canongate also keep talking about their books on social media and create big physical ads, which are expensive but make a huge difference. To make them effective it is important to engage people with design and think who is going to look at the advert.

Vikki Reilly energetically took us to the world of Sales. She happily works for Birlinn Ltd, daily talking to book buyers and booksellers, who are passionate about books as much as she is. She organises author events in bookshops, where she gets a feedback about a book from readers. Working in sales she gets to know everything, what formats work for specific books, design, she has to stay in contact with editors to really know the book etc. If deadlines change, she has to let bookstores know. When she gets a book report, numbers make sense to her, because she knows the story behind them. So, her answer to a published book is not I cannot sell it but how can I sell it, whilst being imaginative and honest with booksellers.

The talk I was looking the most forward to was by Rights Manager at Black & White Publishing, Janne Moller. Her role is to know the taste of as many commissioning editors around the world as possible. She sells translation rights at book fairs and via email by selling catalogues. Since book fairs are very expensive it is good to get funding or fellowships. She was also talking about how meetings at book fairs look like, what is the role of subagents and literary scouts and why are they important.

Mairi Oliver beautifully concluded the evening with sharing her passion for the Lighthouse, the Radical Bookshop in Edinburgh. There they organise events, festivals and book fairs. It is an independent bookshop which brings new voices to the market and aims to hold 15 % of female writers and 15 % of black or minority–it curates the world that is out there.

All the speakers interestingly described their daily publishing world and perhaps encouraged students to try themselves in a role they had not thought about before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: SYP

The Invisible Crowd – Ellen Wiles

November 3rd, 2017 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The Invisible Crowd – Ellen Wiles

We congratulate PhD researcher Ellen Wiles on the publication of her novel The Invisible Crowd, published by HarperCollins.

The Invisible Crowd focuses on the experiences of Yonas, an Eritrean asylum seeker in the UK, and Jude, a British human rights lawyer who takes up his asylum case.

Ellen, who was previously a human rights barrister in London, is also the author of Saffron Shadows and Salvaged Scripts: Literary Life in Myanmar Under Censorship and in Transition (Columbia University Press, 2015). She directs Ark, an experimental live literature project, which ties to her PhD research into live literature, funded by the AHRC.

The Invisible Crowd is available to buy in bookshops and online.

Floris Books – Chani McBain & Sarah Webster

October 30th, 2017 by Kate Bailey | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Floris Books – Chani McBain & Sarah Webster
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Our visiting speakers in week five were Chani McBain and Sarah Webster (a graduate from our MLitt) from the marketing department of Floris Books in Edinburgh. 70% of the books Floris publishes are children’s books, making them Scotland’s largest children’s publisher. The other 30% of their output are books for adults based around Rudolph Steiner education, philosophy, and holistic living. Floris likes to keep most of their work in-house, so they use very few freelancers and the people that work there usually work on all of their titles. The exception is that they have one person working exclusively on the adult books because he has specialist knowledge of the subject.

Chani explained to us that all the departments in Floris work very closely to make sure that all the elements of a book related to one another. For instance, the content needs to be reflected in the blurb, in the cover design and in the marketing materials. Apparently this can lead to some very strange tasks being shared across departments! Chani told us that the week before she came to visit, she and one of the production controllers had been scribbling on a copy of their new sticker book to see if the paper used in it was also suitable for a colouring book they would like to release next year!

Sarah’s day-to-day work in the marketing department is quite varied. She writes and proofreads marketing materials such as ebulletins to be sent out by email telling people about their upcoming or newly-released titles. Sarah warned us not to write this kind of marketing off – it is still one of the most effective forms of marketing that Floris uses! Design also plays a big role in Sarah’s work, as she uses programs such as InDesign or PhotoShop to create posters for events, catalogues or other promotional material. One of the new marketing strategies that Floris tried for the first time this year was having a Snapchat filter available for visitors to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where users could put their silhouette on the cover of Claire McFall’s Ferryman, which was published in June (see left). However, because Snapchat does not have live data analysis, they were not sure if it was a successful experiment or not!

When starting a new project, Chani says she finds it is helpful to imagine who her target consumer is for the book she is trying to market. She thinks about who they are, why they might be buying the book, how they might like to be contacted and where they might hear about the book. This helps her it market it towards this person in the most effective way. These things are obviously quite different for the children’s list and the adult’s list. For one thing, children are not the main consumers of children’s books, their parents are! So the children’s marketing is actually aimed at parents that might want to find their kids something to do on a long drive or while they are on holiday in Scotland. Whereas the adult’s books are more niche and the main consumers might look for them in speciality bookshops or hear about them online on community forums.

 Overall, Floris sounds like a really positive place to work and I am sure I was not the only person to leave Chani and Sarah’s talk to think seriously about a career in marketing!

 Picture credit: Floris Books

The Twitter War

October 25th, 2017 by Hollie Monaghan | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The Twitter War
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Now that the dust has settled, wounds have healed and friendships have been, somewhat, repaired it is a good time to write about the social media training class on the 5th of October; or as it is now dubbed ‘The Twitter War’. As part of the MLitt Publishing Studies course, we had a class in which we set up Twitter accounts in order to network and establish contacts. All of that may sound nice and harmless but a hardback copy of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant (yes that Kazuo Ishiguro) was announced as a prize for whoever had the best tweet and that was when all hell broke loose.

We were to tweet using the hashtag #stirpub and within minutes Twitter was inundated with our very vocal and vicious fight for the book. As fellow publishing students Laura and Katie put it:

Group B was the first group to to have this class and a normally chatty class was rendered silent during this Twitter battle with all that could be heard being the furious tapping at keyboards and the occasional chuckle. Nothing will get a class of book-lovers more motivated than the incentive of a free book. There were some fantastic and hilarious tweets and there were also ones that very much advocated for violence as this tweet shows (a deserving winner I shall say from a completely unbiased viewpoint…)

Our professor Claire had put up a document on Google where we could see everyone’s Twitter handles and follow everyone on the course. This meant that we could all find each other easily and interact, yet it also meant we could attack each other in our bid for a free book! Additionally, a list of Twitter handles of influential and interesting people in publishing was made available to us as a starting point in who to follow in order to gain a wider understanding of the relationship between publishers, authors and social media. Then, many puns, insightful comments, insults and cat pictures later a winner was chosen:

So well done to Marija for her excellent tweet (and the cat picture from her other tweet which surely helped towards her win)! As amusing, and brutal, as the Twitter session was it did help us all to actively use our Twitters and interact not just with one another but with our lecturers and other people in publishing. An entire group of people were made social media savvy in just a few hours.  Looking at Twitter recently the social media class seems to have worked its magic as so many of the 2017/18 publishing students are still using the platform to interact with authors and publishers and even bookshops. There has even been a book club Twitter made for those on the course at stirpubclub. In essence, the social media class worked well, but perhaps just a bit too well.

Credit goes to:

iamlauraod

KT_CHAR_ELL

kat_marija

HollieMonaghan4

 

Hollie Monaghan

 

Professional Publisher’s Association – Laura Dunlop

October 23rd, 2017 by Megan Carney | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Professional Publisher’s Association – Laura Dunlop

On Thursday October 19th, visiting speaker Laura Dunlop, Business Manager at Professional Publisher’s Association (PPA), injected our class with a new enthusiasm for the magazine industry. Admittedly, magazine publishing is not an area that I myself had considered greatly prior to this presentation. To my shame, I found that I had been completely unaware of the industry’s magnitude and significance in the UK, an ignorance which Laura certainly has remedied.

The magazine industry in Scotland is far bigger than I had anticipated, with PPA representing over 700 magazines. This industry, valued at a whopping £154 million, employs approximately 1300 full time staff, 560 part time staff and 4400 freelancers. PPA does an immense amount of work within the industry, such as promoting members, organizing events (such as the PPA Awards), lobbying the government on issues which affect the magazine industry, giving advice to people both working in the industry and those looking to break into it, as well as supporting new magazines. One area which PPA works in which particularly caught my interest was environmental regulations. As part of their services PPA do green audits for companies and show them how they can be more environmentally friendly and efficient in their business. Bearing this in mind, one would be forgiven for thinking that PPA had large offices, filled with workers who were all run off their feet. Laura informed us however that this is not the case at all, and that she does the bulk of this work, impressively claiming “I am PPA”.

Along with her, Laura had brought a box filled with an array of magazines, from The Skinny to Hot Rum Cow. From looking through these, we were able to see how differently each magazine is designed, in terms of both layout and materials. For example, while The Skinny very much resembled a newspaper, Hot Cow Rum seemed far more highbrow, like a luxury buy for the reader. These were quite different to the classic idea I had of magazines, with glossy covers and celebrities on the cover page. Many of these magazines had varying types of paper, beautiful photography, humorous satirical articles and interesting typefaces. A magazine which stuck out for me was Controlled Demolition, which featured very little text coupled with interesting modern art and photography. Each of the magazines Laura showed us fell into one of the three areas of periodical publishing, these being consumer, business to business (B2B) and contract. However, we were primarily looking at consumer publications.

We were shown a list of the top twenty selling magazine publications in Scotland, and I will admit I was surprised by the top-dogs in the industry. The top three, in order, are ADSA, Tesco and TV Choice. Laura explained to us that often magazines which do not charge their readers, such as ASDA or Tesco, have the biggest readership, as people can idly pick up the publication without considering whether or not they wish to purchase it. These magazines would be subsidized by companies advertising in the magazines or sometimes by content marketing, which is when journalists are paid by external bodies, such as the government, to write an article. I found it interesting to learn that print magazines are making a come-back in a big way against the tide of online magazine publishing. Laura explained that this was a reaction to the unreliability of the context in which your magazine might appear on someone’s newsfeed, it could be alongside inappropriate material, which might affect someone’s inclination to click on it.

The presentation ended with a lively discussion, where Laura gave us a chance to come up with our own idea for a magazine as a class, and consider how we might go about publishing it. We came up with an idea for a magazine aimed at the Polish community in the UK, wittily named ‘Pol-ish’. We considered our target audience, the contents, where it would be sold, how it might be designed, what the price might be, and how it would be distributed. In doing this, we covered some of the major components of magazine publishing, giving us an enthusiasm for the work. Certainly, I found that after Laura’s invigorating talk I was considering working in the magazine industry for the first time, and I am sure I was not alone in this. On behalf of the class, I would like to thank her for sharing her enthusiasm, knowledge and creativity with us all.

Bookshop Crawl, or the Power of Twitter

October 19th, 2017 by Ewa Balcerzyk | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Bookshop Crawl, or the Power of Twitter
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I must admit that when we were first told that interacting on Twitter was essential to the development of our professional life in the publishing industry, there was a part of me that considered pursuing an immediate career change. I was never the one to thrive on social media, even my Facebook account felt like too much at times. However, seeing as I didn’t really have much choice (one of our assignments on the course involves live tweeting), I decided to give it a go. A couple of days later I found myself joining a spontaneous bookshop crawl organized by complete strangers…and all because of Twitter.

It was through following the Twitter account of Edinburgh’s City of Literature that I found out about 7 October being Bookshop Day. Then, using the traditional Google search I tried to look for related events in Edinburgh. Imagine my disappointment when I found none. Reluctantly, I turned towards Twitter. Imagine my surprise when in seconds I had a potential outing organized. All it took was one search and two hashtags.

As it turned out, fellow publishers-to-be from Edinburgh Napier University were going to celebrate Bookshop Day in the best possible way, that is with a Bookshop Crawl. A brilliant concept that transforms the infamous British tradition of pub crawls into a nerdy day of rummaging through piles of books. Lea, my friend from the Stirling course, and I both loved the idea – it was an opportunity not only to indulge our predilection for buying new books, but also a great way to explore Edinburgh for the first time.

To begin with, we met the Napier students at the Edinburgh Bookshop. Definitely a good starting point: we arrived just in time to see the bookshop owner Marie put on a bright orange “Books are my Bag” T-shirt (BAMB is a nationwide campaign promoting reading and bookshops). She was clearly responsible for giving the whole bookshop a very friendly air – running to and fro, attending to individual customers with lots of enthusiasm and a great sense of humour. A quick browse through the shelves revealed that the bookshop had a very good selection of intriguing and thought-provoking fiction and non-fiction. The owners have put it this way: “If ‘Radio 4’ was a bookshop, it would be like this…”

The next bookshop we visited – Edinburgh Books in West Port – despite a close name resemblance, had a very different aura to it. It is one of the city’s most recognizable second-hand and antiquarian bookshops. The first thing you notice inside is an imposing head of a water buffalo hanging on the wall, a very characteristic hallmark. There is an incredible range of books on offer, but that’s not all: downstairs in the basement you can even purchase sheet music.

 

Clarence the water buffalo

West Port is also home to another one of Edinburgh’s second-hand bookshops that we visited as part of the bookshop crawl – Armchair Books. The abundance of books offered by Armchair was astonishing. Volumes were stacked to the ceiling and shelves squeezed into every possible nook. Also, the place was surprisingly busy, swarming with book lovers, who could not resist spending their Saturday among piles of antiquarian jewels.

 

The joy of finding old-time favoutites

 

 

Antiquarian jewels on display at Armchair Books

 

From Armchair Books we bookshop crawled to Transreal, a haven for science-fiction and fantasy enthusiasts. Not being one myself, I decided to skip it and conclude the day in Blackwell’s bookshop. As an aspiring academic publisher I was astonished by the sheer size of the scholarly section. An enormous part of the shop was reserved for serious studies ranging from philosophy to marine biology.

All in all, the day was a great success. The event was certainly low-key, but that’s what made it special – from the bottomless sea of meaningless Twitter interactions we managed to fish out something sincere and worthwhile. At the end of the day, sitting on the steps of the Scott Monument – apparently the largest monument to a writer in the world – I thought to myself: Edinburgh really is a city of literature.

My week-long internship at Palimpsest

May 24th, 2017 by isabella_pioli | Posted in Blog, Internships | Comments Off on My week-long internship at Palimpsest
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In all honesty, this was my first internship. Understandably, I was nervous, so much so that my internal monologue on the way to the first day of my internship was, “You cannot possibly mess up so terribly that they don’t want you to come back.” I prepared myself for all the clichés of internships, but I must be the luckiest person because my internship was a godsend. Everyone was so nice and friendly and encouraging. It wasn’t the coffee-fetching nightmare most internship stories seem to prepare you for – I was the one offered tea. So aside from the societal niceties, the internship was a learning experience. I asked questions about the programs and how they were used. I asked about day to day stressors, personal motivation, and whether the work was rewarding. I had the mind-altering revelation that when so many people are working on a book, a lot of people have to keep the plot a secret, and are usually legally obligated to do so. Overall, the best thing I learned is that my past work experience and my education can easily be applied to many aspects of the work done at Palimpsest. Learning that I am actually employable is a huge relief. So what exactly is it that Palimpsest does? I figure the best way to explain that is to tell you about my week.

Monday was typesetting. Not the old fashioned kind that I had training in from undergrad, but typesetting digitally via InDesign. The page layout is specified by the publisher (margin measurements, line count, where the page number should be). The text is then inserted into the document and it is then that the text is formatted (paragraph styles, flush-left openers). I forgot to bring a notebook the first day, which was a huge mistake because learning from someone who knows the ins and outs of typesetting like I know the plot of Pride and Prejudice means that there was a lot of detail and shortcuts that I could have been writing down. That was the first big lesson. BRING A NOTEBOOK. You may look like an overachiever, you may look too eager, but you will be the most prepared. Thankfully, I already knew the basics. After a one-on-one lesson, I was given a desk and a job spec and sent off to try and apply what I had just learned. Again, I must repeat this would have been easier had I brought a notebook. Palimpsest has paragraph styles for every inevitability and they are a time-saver. It’s just figuring out which one to use and when to use them that was a struggle. By the afternoon, I was given a massive manuscript full of editor’s corrections and had to input them into the text of another project. That was quite a bit of fun. Deciphering an editor’s handwriting is a new form of code-breaking. The standard editor marks are used, but text insertion is just a lot of eye-squinting and hoping for the best. But really, if the editor’s handwriting cannot be understood, the proofreaders can usually figure it out, and if the words are still unintelligible, an email is sent to the editor to clarify. That was my first day done.

Tuesday was digital publishing, and yes, I brought a notebook. There is certainly a more technical aspect to the digital publishing process, but my describing it would be lacking. My brain may have gone into overload as soon as I realized that coding was involved. What I can explain is the process of checking the document before and after uploading it to ePub conversion website. Trying to explain this makes me feel extremely inept, but I’ll forge on. While the original typeset document was made in a more recent version of InDesign, the file gets converted into an IDML so that it can be read by earlier versions. The file is then opened in an older version of InDesign. The paragraph styles are checked. The copyright page is double-checked for being the e-book version, not the physical edition. URLs are hyperlinked, images are embedded, and the color is checked as RGB not CMKY. After all this, the file is then uploaded and converted to ePub. Then the ePub is checked for errors and if there are any the process is done again. Digital publishing is an involved process and while it was being explained, it sounded doable. I am one of the most technologically inept people ever. I’m not a grandma who doesn’t understand the internet or how to use “The Facebook”, but I struggle. This is a process that I could eventually learn, but it was certainly the most trying part of the week, well outside my comfort zone. In the afternoon, I went to work with customer service and it was here that I realized that my past work experience is applicable to publishing. Emailing vendors, inputting job information, staying on top of incoming emails – been there, done that. The nicest part of this form of customer service is that there is no person-to-person aspect of it. No fake smiles, or earnest customer service personas, just emails and data entry. It’s like raking a zen garden for me.

Wednesday was proofreading and I was given a checklist. I love checklists. It was an ebook checklist. Basically, the ebook creation of Tuesday was then corrected on Wednesday. Is the copyright page accurate? Is there a hyperlink to the publisher’s website? Is the body text justified? Does the linking in the book work? When you click on a footnote does the ebook take you there? When you get to the footnote can you go back to your place in the text? Do all the formats work on the differing devices: Kindle, ePub, Apple? Like I said, I love checklists. In the afternoon, there was more proofreading. It was nice, but the level of attention to detail is certainly a learned skill. Also, trying to not read the books I was proofreading was really difficult. The easiest way to not read the book was to realize that if I had a choice, I would never read some of these books. Once the plot was dismissed, it became easier to pay attention to hyphenation, spacing, and stacking. I also learned that proofreaders have to depend on the aesthetic decisions of editors. To all, widows are never welcome, but orphans are fickle things (please read this as the typographical terminology, not humanitarian terminology). Some editors don’t mind if three lines end on the letter e whereas other editors circle every stack they see. Double stacks are forgivable if only one word, triple stacks are unacceptable. So on and so forth. It is a lot of detail and when I closed my eyes that night, I dreamed of stacks I had missed.

Thursday started with operational management. If you think about what keeps a company going, operational management is that. Keeping the office supplied, mailing and receiving packages, scanning in books, dealing with outsourcing, and general office management. It was a lot of singular responsibilities that culminated into a very busy job. Having to juggle multiple responsibilities can be exhausting, I learned that a few years ago being the bookkeeper/office manager/customer-service person at a small company. I was taught the various aspects of the job and then got to scan in a book which would later be outsourced for keying. Then I went back to proofreading where I went through a few more manuscripts. I found most of the mistakes, but I still need a lot more practice.

Friday, I was supposed to start in proofreading and then go back to typesetting later in the day to enter more editor corrections. However, Friday was chaotic and very stressful in the office. But that was another kind of learning experience. How a company handles pressure and treats its employees during stressful times is important. I’ve had jobs where the stress in the office impacted everyone negatively. If anything, I thought that was how stressful moments were typically handled in a work atmosphere. Palimpsest seemed to become stronger. They were kinder, more considerate towards one another. They took a step back, re-assessed, re-prioritized, and pulled through. It was impressive to say the least.

After a week of working at Palimpsest, I realized that I could be very happy working in book production. However, I’m still going to keep my options open. Trying new things can be scary, but asking questions can help mitigate those fears. Honestly, the hardest part was waking up early to make the bus on time. The people at Palimpsest were what I hope to find in my future employment – kind, supportive peers. The work was stimulating and feeling like a part of a bigger picture was the ultimate reward.

by Isabella Pioli

Publishing Showcase 2017

May 17th, 2017 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing Showcase 2017

We’re delighted to invite you to the 2017 Publishing Showcase on Monday 22 May to see some of our MLitt in Publishing Studies students’ coursework, and celebrate the conclusion of the taught part of the programme. The Showcase will be held in Oscars in the Pathfoot Building. The schedule will be:

2.45-3.45pm Industry Advisory Board round table. Our IAB will discuss current issues in publishing.

3.45pm-5pm Informal networking, drinks and showcase of student work, with brief speeches.

If you would like to attend, please drop us a line via our Contact page to let us know.

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
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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
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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