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Marion Sinclair, Publishing Scotland

November 4th, 2014 | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Marion Sinclair, Publishing Scotland
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­The fourth speaker to come and visit us this year was Marion Sinclair, Chief Executive of Publishing Scotland.

Marion Sinclair Source

She spoke to us about the overall state of publishing in Scotland and shared her perspective on the future of the publishing industry. She also shared a few stories about some of her early experiences working in the publishing industry. After graduating from the University of Stirling from this very same Publishing course (albeit, by her own admission, a number of years ago!), Marion’s journey in publishing began in a bookstore in Glasgow. One of her tasks was to sandpaper and polish down the covers of books that were to be returned to the publishers. Not exactly a glamourous start to a career! Yet Marion moved on from there to become one of the most prominent figures in Scottish publishing. Marion’s attitude towards publishing was wholly positive, telling us that by being on the MLitt we “are doing the right thing to get into publishing”.

After sharing some of her own experiences, Marion spoke about where Scotland currently stands within the larger publishing world. Marion shared that the Scottish Publishing industry is worth somewhere in the region of £350m, which, to help put this number in context, is the same value as the cashmere and smoked salmon industries. She stated that around 3,000 new books are published each year in Scotland alone, not including reprints or new editions. Publishing Scotland employs around 1,700 people directly and employs countless others indirectly. It should be noted here that these figures are rough estimates as trying to get the actual statistics on creative industries in Scotland is rather difficult. This difficulty is due to the very nature of the publishing industry, along with the problem of defining what counts as a publisher and what does not.

On the subject of publishing in Scotland, Marion shared that the very nature of Scottish publishing is that it is a niche market. But does this status as a niche market mean that if you publish in Scotland you need to identify as a Scottish publisher? It seems as though many of the larger houses avoid Scotland for this reason. Marion spoke about how there seems to be a pull towards London: many authors are drawn south sooner or later and major names in Scottish publishing sometimes leave to join the larger houses. Marion also mentioned the ongoing debate of whether being labelled as a ‘Scottish’ publisher is a good or a bad thing; it seems that the label can have both positive and negative effects for publishers. But as Marion said in her presentation, publishing has become a part of Scottish culture, particularly in Edinburgh, where “print and publishing go hand in hand”. The sheer size and volume of participants in the Edinburgh International Book Festival (to name just one of the many festivals which takes place each year) is a testament to Scotland’s strength and determination to remain prominent in the industry. Publishing Scotland is there to help Scottish publishers stay on track and continue to thrive.

Publishing Scotland turns 40 this year! Source

Speaking about Publishing Scotland, Marion explained that the organisation is there to support the “professional practice of publishing in Scotland”. With the help of Creative Scotland, Publishing Scotland is able to support a number of publishers of different sizes to ensure their on-going success. Publishing Scotland enables publishers to carry on with their work as they are supported and guided by a larger umbrella organisation that has the interests of the publishers at its heart. It is important to note that Publishing Scotland itself is not a literary organisation but a publishing members’ association. The organisation is there to support and encourage publishers.

The message that Marion left us with was, on the whole, a very positive one. Her outlook on publishing (not only in Scotland but worldwide) is that the industry is looking up. She said that while it can be difficult to get into, this is a very exciting time to be entering the industry. She encouraged us all to jump in and get involved in any way we can and to embrace any opportunity that comes along.