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AHRC

On PhD Research and Longselling Books

November 24th, 2016 by Helena Markou | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on On PhD Research and Longselling Books
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One year into my PhD exploring the sales life of contemporary trade non-fiction books and I still feel like I am just scratching the surface of my topic. So what is life as a researcher like? On a day-to-day basis I divide my time between:

  • immersion in my subject area – reading journals articles and scholarly publication to keep up with innovations in the fields of publishing studies, literary studies, and the broader fields of cultural studies and digital humanities.
  • writing – ranging from annotated bibliography entries, notes made at events, results and findings of my research and data analysis, or blog posts like this one. The important thing is to write often.
  • wrangling sales data – using a combination of familiar tools and techniques such as vlookup in Excel, box plots in SPSS, or tools that are new to me such as big data analytics using python and weka.
  • skills training – living half way between Glasgow and Edinburgh allows me to take advantage of many events organised within my own institution, University of Stirling, or the other institutions that make up the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities.

But why study the sales life of books at all? Well because the UK produces huge quantities of books. It has the highest per capita output in the world and the third highest number of new and revised titles published each year (behind China and the USA). This number of new and revised titles has risen steadily since the end of the Second World War from an almost standing start of 6,000 new titles in 1943 to over 200k in 2015.

Graph: Volume of New and Revised Titles Published in UK by Year

Graph: Volume of New and Revised Titles Published in UK by Year

[Various Sources: Bookfacts, Nielsen BookScan, Publishers Association (2016)]

These statistics alone invite many questions: who is writing all these books? How many more people are involved in the design and refining of these products? How and why does the machinery of publishing manufacture and distribute at such a vast scale? However, my research is more interested in the next stages of the supply chain. What happens when these new titles are added to those already in print; the millions of titles which make up UK publishers’ back catalogues known as the backlist? How are all these books, both new and established, squeezed into bookshops (physical or otherwise)? How are they merchandised and sold? How long is the window of opportunity for them to succeed or fail? What does success look like in modern bookselling terms – and which authors and titles have achieved this? In the so-called age of abundance, which books have persistent sales and why?

My research objectives are ambitious (or so I’ve been told); to quantify the average sales life of non-fiction titles by subject category, identify longselling titles that have remained relevant to the UK book buying population over long time period, then explore the qualities, and cultural significance of some of these books via case studies.

An example of a longseller from one of the slowest selling bookshop categories,   “Music and Dance”, is The Inner Game of Music by Timothy Gallwey and Barry Green. Originally published in 1986, this book is not the bestselling title in its class (that would be the BBC Proms Official Guide), but it is one of the few titles that appear in the top 5000 physical book sales charts for both 2001 and 2015.

Ranked 54th in the category of Music & Dance in 2001, it sold just under 2000 units and continued to rank in 312th position in 2015 with a modest 500 units sold in that year. Clearly, the sales for this title are declining, however three decades of bookshop sales is a noteworthy achievement and warrants a closer look.

Scrutinising the quantitative data alone provides some clues that The Inner Game of Music might be atypical for a book about music. It is certainly not a beginner’s guide to guitar, or piano, as are most of the other longselling titles within Music and Dance. However, the next step in the research journey is to explore the historical and commercial context for this book’s success and the opinions of its readership.

Initial investigation uncovers that the “inner game”, as a concept, was not originally developed for musicians. It is a spin-off from Gallwey’s NYT bestseller The Inner Game of Tennis, a book which teaches tennis players to improve their practice through awareness of psychological barriers, removal of self-doubt, and correction of bad habits.   This philosophy is something Gallwey adapted and applied to other walks of life (golf, work, stress and music). He appears to have made a successful career out this brand through consultancy, public speaking and book sales. The Inner Game of Music also appears frequently on university reading lists, lending some academic weight to its commercial popularity.

This looks like a promising start for a case study, offering up a number of avenues for further research. How do readers discuss the book via online reviews? How is the book is positioned and sold within general and specialist bookshops; What is the impact of proactive and consistent marketing of the book by the author? Is self-improvement a common theme within longselling books?

All these questions demand answers, provoke my curiosity and spur me on to continue researching longselling books. And on that note, I guess I had better finish procrastinating via this blog article and get back to the PhD.

 

Helena Markou’s professional career spans publishing, bookselling and digital consultancy.  Within her academic career she has lectured in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University and Digital Book History at the School of Advanced Studies, University of London. She is in her 2nd year of an AHRC funded PhD at University of Stirling. You can follow her online @helena_markou

Catriona Cox, PhD in Publishing Studies

October 19th, 2015 by Catriona_Cox | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Catriona Cox, PhD in Publishing Studies
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DSC_0061Working Title: Publishing in Scotland 1968-2018

Topic:  In collaboration with Publishing Scotland my research will look at the history of the publishing industry in Scotland. I hope to gain valuable information from the Publishing Scotland archives and also conduct interviews with publishers based in Scotland to gain a complete picture of the businesses and their own histories.

Research interests: Scottish publishing, book history, book marketing, metadata, literary awards, arts funding, Irish publishing

Supervisors:

Scholarships: AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award

 

 

Links:

Catriona on Twitter: @CatrionaMCox
Catriona on LinkedIn
Catriona on Academia.edu

Email: c.m.cox@stir.ac.uk

Helena Markou, PhD in Publishing Studies

October 8th, 2015 by Helena Markou | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Helena Markou, PhD in Publishing Studies
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biog_helena_markouWorking TitleThe Shelf-Life of Books: An Exploration of the Lifecycle and Longevity of Books in the UK in the 21st Century

Topic:  With 180,000 new titles now published each year, there is fierce competition for space on bookshop shelves.  This research aims to identify and investigate longselling titles within UK trade publishing (namely the books you find in high street bookshops).  It will first establish an overview of the typical lifecycle of books across genres, using quantitative data analysis.  Then seek to identify and explore the cultural significance of those titles that, against all odds, remain on bookshop shelves.

Through this research data analysis methods will be developed and the themes of longevity, obsolesce and the impact of online bookselling on the UK publishing industry explored.

Research interests: bookselling, publishing, product development, consumerism, book history, book culture, creative industries, digital publishing, digital book history, digital humanities.

 

Supervisors:

Scholarships: SGSAH AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship

Links:

Helena on Twitter: @helena_markou
Helena on LinkedIn
Helena on Academia.edu

Email: h.l.markou[at]stir.ac.uk

Rosie Cunningham-Siggs MLitt Publishing Studies 2013-14

November 5th, 2013 by Rosie Cunningham- Siggs | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Rosie Cunningham-Siggs MLitt Publishing Studies 2013-14
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I discovered the MLitt in Publishing Studies offered at Stirling during the final year of my English Literature degree at the University of Dundee, driven by the fast approaching ‘real world’. I was drawn to the course’s balance of academic and practical training, along with the stunniing campus surroundings. Over the past year I have been able to explore publishing processes such as editing and design by helping out at Stewed Rhubarb – a small poetry press based in Edinburgh. The fun I had there helped to reaffirm that I was heading in the right direction!
Recently I have developed a keen interest in the production of children’s books and the importance of reading material that genuinely engages and attracts young readers. I am also keen to further explore the different attractions of the printed word and ebooks, stepping away from my knee-jerk preference for books as physical objects. Thanks to the practical components of the course I am already on my way to demystifying the black arts of InDesign and Photoshop!

I was prompted to apply for funding by the immensely approachable and friendly staff on the course, after which I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Along with the level of publishing know-how that has been fitted into the first two weeks of the course, I am re-assured that I have landed on my feet and ended up in the right place!

AHRC PhD studentship ‘Developing Literary Glasgow’

June 7th, 2013 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on AHRC PhD studentship ‘Developing Literary Glasgow’
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FULLY-FUNDED AHRC PHD STUDENTSHIP: DEVELOPING LITERARY GLASGOW

Glasgow Life and The University of Stirling are pleased to invite applications for a three-year Studentship under the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) Scheme, to commence 1 October 2013. The studentship is fully funded by the AHRC (UK/EU rate) and Glasgow Life will provide additional financial support to cover travel and related costs in carrying out research of up to £1,000 a year.

This studentship will be a collaboration between the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication at the University of Stirling and Glasgow Life. The doctoral project will develop a strategy for a reading, writing and publishing city that builds on and develops the existing infrastructure, and showcases its literature for its citizens, and its visitors. The student would be expected to place knowledge exchange and research impact at the heart of the project, enabling Glasgow Life and Glasgow as a city to develop its literary expertise, profile, practice and impact.

The applicant should plan their research project in relation to the Glasgow Life’s existing infrastructure relating to literature and literature development (including Glasgow Libraries, the book festival Aye Write!, and its creative industries policies), as well as the city’s commercial and community-based environment, which is frequently supported by Glasgow Life/Glasgow City Council funding. Areas of research could include (but are not limited to):

  • the history and current profile of Glasgow as a city of writers
  • the history and current profile of Glasgow as a city of publishers
  • the role of literary events and book festivals (including but not limited to Aye Write!) in Glasgow’s literary environment
  • literature, literary heritage and tourism
  • books and literature within the creative industries and wider arts, cultural, and commercial environment of Glasgow
  • the relationship between public-funded, commercial and community-based literature-based organisations and environments
  • books and literature in relationship to schools (including via the Curriculum for Excellence) and libraries

The precise scope and emphases of the work will be shaped by the interests and initiative of the successful application in consultation with the supervisory team. This primarily comprises the academic supervisor, Professor Claire Squires (Professor of Publishing Studies and Director of the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication, University of Stirling) and the Glasgow Life supervisor, Karen Cunningham (Head of Libraries and Cultural Venues, and Director of Aye Write!, Glasgow Life). The successful applicant will be expected to divide their time between Glasgow and Stirling.

Applicants must have gained a good undergraduate degree in an appropriate subject and a Master’s degree, or be about to complete an appropriate Masters level qualification – or have other professional experience relevant to the scope of the project.

Eligibility to Apply

In order to apply, you must fulfil both the academic and the residency criteria laid down by the AHRC.

Academic eligibility – you must:

  1. Have applied for and been offered a place to study at the University of Stirling (such an offer will be made to the successful applicant for this studentship);
  2. Hold a relevant postgraduate Masters degree, or be about to complete an appropriate Masters level qualification – or have other professional experience relevant to the scope of the project.

Residency eligibility – you must:

  1. Be a British national normally resident in the UK; or
  2. Be an EU national normally resident in the UK, the EU or Switzerland; or
  3. Have been resident in the UK or EU for the past three years for reasons other than education.

For full details (particularly regarding residency eligibility, which has many conditions and exceptions), please see the AHRC’s Student Funding Guide (pdf).

Further information on the studentship and on the application are available here: GlasgowLifeCDA_fps2 (pdf). Potential applicants are welcome to contact Professor Claire Squires (claire.squires@stir.ac.uk) informally with any questions they may have.

Deadline for applications: 4pm Wednesday 17 July.

Interviews will be held at Glasgow Life on Wednesday 14 August 2013.

 

LSE Review Festival of Books: ‘The Future of Publishing in a Digital Age’

February 17th, 2013 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on LSE Review Festival of Books: ‘The Future of Publishing in a Digital Age’
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Our Director, Prof Claire Squires, will be speaking on Saturday 2 March at the LSE Review of Books Space for Thought Literary Festival.

Her panel is entitled ‘The Future of Publishing in a Digital Age’. Other speakers on the panel are author and indie publisher Ben Galley and Oxford University Press’s Damon Zucca. The event will be chaired by Jonathan Derbyshire of the New Statesman.

The talk links to Claire Squires’s AHRC-funded research project, The Book Unbound, which has explored digital publishing.

Tickets for the event are available here.

AHRC Studentship Grant – Perspectives of a Current Holder

January 13th, 2013 by Joanne Marjoribanks | Posted in Blog | 1 Comment
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If you’re planning on studying in the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and COmmunication in 2013-14 and are a Home or EU student, you may be eligible for an AHRC studentship. Joanne Marjoribanks, a current studentship holder, writes about her award:

The award of the AHRC studentship grant has been of enormous benefit to me as I have progressed with the MLitt Publishing Studies course.

I have often thought of scholarships as being very competitive with complex and demanding application requirements, therefore I was initially reluctant to apply. However, after further consideration I decided to pursue it. Thankfully, the application process was not as complicated as I thought it would be, and both my course director Claire Squires and Sheilah Greig in the Graduate Office were very helpful. I was absolutely delighted when I found out that I had been selected to receive grant funding. Considering that I almost didn’t apply and that I wasn’t at all confident in my chances, I was even more grateful that I had been chosen. It just goes to show that you should try for things even if you don’t think you’ll be successful.

I was very pleasantly surprised at the level of funding which has been allocated to me. It has paid my tuition fees in full, which, without the grant I would have had to drain my personal savings account to pay for. Being able to retain my savings is obviously a great advantage for my future, especially in this economic climate. Payment of my tuition fees alone would have been a huge help; however, the addition of a quarterly stipend is proving to be an even greater benefit to my studies.

Throughout my academic career, I have found that I work best when I have peace and quiet in my own space. The grant money is enabling me to rent a very comfortable flat by myself in Bridge of Allan, which has provided me with a productive environment for my studies. Furthermore, the grant funding has meant that it is not necessary for me to have a part-time job to pay for my living costs. This has obviously been very beneficial, as I have more time to focus on my studies. The extra time also allows me to get involved in other activities related to publishing, such as attending events run by the Society of Young Publishers, which serve to enhance my experience of the publishing industry while at university.

The grant continues to be a great help to me in pursuing the completion of my degree, and I’m sure it will be a great asset to my CV as well. I would strongly encourage anyone who is eligible to apply for it. You never know, you might have a better chance than you think

AHRC studentships available for Studying Publishing 2013-14

January 11th, 2013 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | 1 Comment
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If you’re thinking of studying on our industry-leading MLitt in Publishing Studies with us in 2013-14, as a Home or EU student you may be eligible for a prestigious AHRC Professional Preparation Masters studentship.

Details of the scheme are available via the Universities of Stirling and Strathclyde AHRC Block Grant Partnership website.

The deadline for receipt of applications is Friday 22 March 2013, by which time you must also have made a full application for a place on the programme.

Read the perspective of a current AHRC studentship holder here.

Forward Thinking – Bookseller article by Centre Staff

December 19th, 2012 by Claire Squires | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Forward Thinking – Bookseller article by Centre Staff
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As part of the AHRC Digital Transformations Research and Development project The Book Unbound: Disruption and Disintermediation in the Digital Age, Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication staff Professor Claire Squires and Dr Padmini Ray Murray have published this week December 2012, pp.22-25) in the UK publishing trade journal The Bookseller an article based on their research findings, examining how independents are staying ahead in digital publishing. As Squires and Ray Murray begin:

‘With E-Books, tablets and social networks, the digital future of publishing seems less the stuff of science fiction and more an uncomfortable reality. But instead of consigning traditional publishing models to a black hole, Will Atkinson, Faber & Faber’s sales and marketing director, ag many publishers are trying to operate in a “duplicate universe”, retaining traditional print-driven models of publishing alongside newer ones. In the turn to digital, traditional job roles are “creaking”, says Atkinson, and the linear production process is being undermined – but most publishers are yet to arrive at a 360 approach towards commissioning, production, marketing, sales and distribution.’

Focusing on case studies of five independents, the article discusses the quick thinking and agility of publishers in the digital arena. The publishers taking part in the study are And Other Stories, Blasted Heath, Canongate, Faber and Guardian Books.

More on the Book Unbound project is available via the project website.

Creating an app: the initial stages

July 12th, 2012 by Paula_Morris | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Creating an app: the initial stages
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The months have whizzed by since our first meetings in February with Claire Squires and Padmini Ray Murray to discuss the parameters of the AHRC Book Unbound  project.

Neither Scott Russell nor I live in Stirling, so our first production meeting was a phone call one chilly Monday in late February, where we discussed everything from mission statements to page counts, Twitter feeds to job descriptions. As Scott mentioned in his blog post, we presented these job descriptions, along with a call for content, to the Publishing and Creative Writing students, and waited for their response.

In March, the full steering committee – the Gang of Four – met to discuss the applicants for the project assistant roles. We had a lot of CVs and ideas to sift through, but we soon agreed on the three most suitable candidates: Helen Lewis-McPhee as Associate Editor, and two Production Assistants, Louisa Preston and Aileen Taylor. Our aim was to create a balanced team, with a range of experience (and, hopefully, some good ideas).

Our fleshed-out production team met in April, in a typically dispiriting university conference room. We gathered around the white board and discussed practical issues – like information-sharing via Podio and Dropbox – as well as creative ones. What kind of content could we expect for the app we were developing? What kind of attributes did we want the finished product to have? How would everything work together? What could we call this thing?

At this stage, Scott said, no idea was out of bounds. (‘Out of Bounds’: one of our title ideas!) Everything went up on the white board. We agreed that none of the title ideas were quite the thing, but that was OK. Maybe something would emerge from the content, or from the process of reading and working with the content. Two-and-a-half months later, we still don’t have a title. It’s still OK. I’m confident that something will strike one – or all – of us, as the app continues to take shape and come to life.