http://www.lebenssalz.ch http://www.paulplaza.nl http://www.ostendsurfing.be http://www.qsneaker.nl http://www.wtcbentille.be http://www.thegooddeal.ch http://www.kantoorencreatief.nl

authors

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
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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

Visiting Speaker: Zoë Strachan

November 26th, 2014 by Kena Nicole Longabaugh | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker: Zoë Strachan
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zoestrachanOn Thursday 20th November, author  Zoë Strachan paid us a visit as part of our visiting speaker series. Based in Glasgow, Zoë has three published novels: Negative Space (Picador), Spin Cycle (Picador) and Ever Fallen in Love (Sandstone). She also writes short stories, plays, libretti and essays and is a lecturer for the University of Glasgow’s Creative Writing programme.

To start off, Zoë discussed how the publishing industry has changed since the publication of her first novel in 1999. Her first experience of publishing was of an incestuous world: everyone knew everyone and you needed connections to get your foot in the door. With the support of her literary agent David Miller, she was able to sign a two book deal with Picador.

Next, Zoë discussed the pros and cons of working with a large publisher like Picador. Picador had many valuable resources and her book was heavily copy-edited to a high standard. However, there were several staff changes during the development of her first novel that left her with three different editors throughout the process. She had a much better experience with her second novel and described her editor as an ally who “really made me think, really challenged me.” She also stated, “If you’ve got a good editor, a good publisher…it is a tremendous privilege.”

Zoë’s third novel was published with Sandstone Press after being rejected by Picador. She said there was less money involved than Picador, but as a small publisher Sandstone was able to give her much more support and personalised attention.

To the aspiring author, Zoë gave some hopeful advice: “You just have to get your manuscript on the desk of one person who opens it, gets it and likes it. Only one person has to like it.”

Zoë’s talk was delightful and informative and provided us with insight into the publishing process through the eyes of authors. Moreover, she praised the role of publishers as supporters and gatekeepers, a refreshing sentiment to hear in a time when many are questioning the role of traditional publishers.

Saltire Society Literary Awards 2014

November 19th, 2014 by Callum Mitchell Walker | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Saltire Society Literary Awards 2014
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SCOTLAND ALBA LOGOOn Tuesday 11th November several of our MLitt & PhD students enjoyed an evening of literature, music and canapés at the Saltire Literary Awards hosted at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh. The Saltire Society, a non-political independent charity founded in 1936, hosts the annual ceremony to celebrate the finest Scottish literature produced in the past year.

The most prestigious award of the night, the Saltire Society Book of the Year, was won by an academic work detailing Scottish urbanisation in the 18th century, The Scottish Town in the Age of Enlightenment 1740-1820. Co-authored by professors Bob Harris and the late Charles McKean, the book was produced after a three-year long period of research and also won this year’s Saltire Society Research Book of the Year award. Exploring the transitional development of 18th century burghs and the importance of understanding these changes in society, the book was described as a “pioneering study” by judges. Professor Harris received a cash prize of £10,000 at the ceremony and told guests that he was honoured to win the award in a country “with such a rich tradition of writing”.

Winners in the categories of poetry, history, literature and first book, were awarded £2,000, including Alexander Hutchison for his collection Bones and Breath, which claimed the Saltire Society Poetry Book of the Year award. Described as a “masterly new collection” from the poet, the book mixes satire with affection. The History Book of the Year award was won by social historian Steve Bruce for his exploration of cultural and religious change in Scotland in Scottish Gods: Religion in Modern Scotland 1900-2012. Ali Smith took the Saltire Society Literary Book of the Year award home for her novel, How to be Both, described by judges as “an exhilarating read” in which two narratives are linked despite being set centuries apart. Celebrating the emerging talent of first-time authors who have not previously been published, the First Book of the Year award was won by Niall Campbell for his “remarkably powerful first collection” Moontide, which was praised as “one of the most distinctive lyric voices to emerge from Scotland in recent years”.

 

1113921311400The Saltire Society Publisher of the Year award was introduced in 2013 and is supported by Creative Scotland. Celebrating the vitality and innovation of Scottish-based publishers, this year the award was won by Dingwall-based small enterprise Sandstone Press. The publisher was awarded £4,000 to assist further developments in the company’s business and was recognised for their “enthusiastic pragmatism” and the quality of their editorial work. Sandstone faced strong competition from a shortlist including Backpage Press, Freight, Birlinn, Bright Red and Floris. Executive Director of the Saltire Society Jim Tough praised the shortlisted publishers for showing “[the] creativity and adaptability needed to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace”.

Other awards of the night included the Saltire Society Literary Travel Bursary, supported by the British Council. The award went to St. Andrews University student Lenore Bell, who won a cash prize of £1,500. This prize will fund her research for a novel set in Edwardian Brooklyn in the USA.

Supporting the next generation of academics, the Ross Roy Medal is awarded to the best PhD thesis on a subject relating to Scottish literature. This year’s winner was Stirling University’s very own Barbara Leonardi for her thesis, “An Exploration of Gender Stereotypes in the Work of James Hogg”. Dr Scott Lyall, Chair of the judging panel, commented that “Leonardi’s writing is beautiful, and she shows real conceptual and socio-historical nous in opening up Hogg’s writing to a feminist and postmodern analysis”.

Congratulations to all the winners of the night and thank you to the Saltire Society for celebrating the Scottish imagination, and giving us a fantastic evening!

 

 

 

 

My Weekend with Bloody Scotland

October 3rd, 2014 by Kena Nicole Longabaugh | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on My Weekend with Bloody Scotland
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BLOODYSCOTLAND

Lovers of crime writing had a wonderful weekend in Stirling as the Bloody Scotland festival made its mark on the city for the third year. Featuring authors like Ian Rankin, Kathy Reichs, Sharon Bolton and David Hewson, the festival was a great opportunity for readers to engage with their favorite crime writers and hear interesting (and sometimes hilarious) talks about everything from the writing process and getting published to the independence referendum and feminist protagonists. Along with these entertaining talks, the weekend featured interactive events for festival-goers, including a re-enactment of a serial killer’s trial and a crime scene investigation at Stirling Castle.

When I heard about the opportunity to volunteer at the festival, I immediately submitted an application–and I’m so glad I did! It was a fun and informative weekend where I was able to experience first hand the behind-the-scenes workings of a major literary festival. Moreover, attending the event made me realise how festivals like Bloody Scotland provide important marketing opportunities for publishers and their authors.

I was assigned to work in Albert Halls, a beautiful venue near the center of town. My main tasks included setting up the hall before an event, directing audience members to their seats, answering questions from attendees and assisting with author signings. One of the major perks of volunteering was the ability to sit in during author talks–I was lucky enough to sit in on two events. The first was between authors Sharon Bolton, Julia Crouch and Helen Fitzgerald and the second between David Hewson and Peter Robinson. Both sessions were highly entertaining and provided insight into the life of authors and the writing process. Of particular interest to me as a publishing student, author Sharon Bolton discussed the complex relationship she has with her editor; she described the feelings of frustration she gets when her editor sends back notes longer than her original manuscript, but conceded that in the end her editor plays an integral role in producing the best book possible. In a time when some are questioning the necessity of publishers, it was reassuring to hear an author recognize and praise the fundamental role of the editor.

For me, Bloody Scotland provided valuable insight as a publishing student and delightful entertainment as a book lover. I look forward to attending again in the future!

Aija Oksman, MLitt Publishing Studies 2012-2014 (PT)

November 26th, 2013 by Aija | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Aija Oksman, MLitt Publishing Studies 2012-2014 (PT)
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My interest in publishing stems from being read to when I was a child, growing up in very literary oriented surrounding and having done my undergraduate in Literature and Linguistics at the University of Salzburg. My time in Edinburgh is split between the MLitt Studies, my two jobs and volunteering for Rock Trust. I enjoy being busy, I enjoy putting my gathered skills in actual use and I look forward to be part of publishing world.

I have lived as an expatriate (so far I have lived in Finland, Belgium, Ireland and Austria) for over thirteen years, I have developed a new appreciation for my own language as well as for translated literature. Therefore, my personal interests have been developing towards literary agency and marketing, as well as minority and international literatures – so the ultimate dream would be to be able to find my place in the world where I could combine most of that. That, or alternatively I could open my own little restaurant, with walls covered in bookshelves. Food for the tummy and mind.

Bloody Scotland Masterclass – Agents’ and Publishers’ Panel

October 7th, 2013 by Aija | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Bloody Scotland Masterclass – Agents’ and Publishers’ Panel
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One of the perks of this year’s Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival in Stirling was the opportunity to hear the best of the field offer advice to hopeful writers on the process of writing, publishing and whatever comes in between.

The Agents’ and Publishers’ panel was lead by Claire Squires, director of Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication on September 13th. The panel discussed what happens after the next hopeful front list bestseller has been written and when the author seeks to have the manuscript accepted either by an agent or a publisher.

Taking part in the panel were Jenny Brown, of Jenny Brown Associates, and David Shelley, of Little Brown. Jenny is equally inspiring and intimidating for an aspiring literary agent such as myself, having opened her agency in 2002 after years of formidable experience, not forgetting being the founder of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. If that’s not enough, she and her associates have become the biggest literary agent in Scotland and one of the leading agencies in UK, with international reputation.

David on the other hand represents the other hurdle in the writer’s way towards bestselling stardom – the publisher. David, who has worn many a different hat under the general title publisher has not settled for one particular job title – he also guests as an editor for a few selected authors within Little Brown, including Val McDermid and Mitch Albom (and yes, JK Rowling too, but let’s focus on other exciting aspects of David’s career, shall we?).

Jenny launched right into the session by emphasising how crime writing is still the fastest growing genre in the UK (and one of the leading internationally), with approximately 30% of the book market. David agreed – crime writing is definitely the most commercially growing genre that is remarkably consistent despite other market or trend fluctuations – fluctuations we know all too well that publishing is harshly dependent on. As the trend moves on, so will the publisher.

Both Jenny and David agreed that trends are nearly impossible to keep up with; what is “hot” right now could very well be over by the time you have the manuscript of a bestseller that nicely fits into that pigeonhole all finished and ready to be pitched. Trends move on faster than anyone can write, and rather than focusing on fitting into that niche, both Jenny and David emphasised, an aspiring writer would do well to focus on being passionate and finding your own voice, your niche, rather than doing lavish imitations of others’ work. Jenny also – to my great pleasure – emphasised how translated crime writing is breaking the barriers and entering the UK market. David remarked upon the cold realism of marketing; it is nearly impossible to bring out a title that is based on the same basic idea as one published before. There is no space in the market for two great Fife based detectives, but there might be space for one great detective from Fife, and the other from – why not – Stirling. How you present your setting is what makes you, as a writer, unique.

Classic crime is being brought back as well as being retranslated. Foreign authors are intriguing, whereas deceased writers are proving to be some of the toughest competition to the wave of new writers. One particularly interesting piece of advice that David provided for budding writers was to imagine further than one novel. He has found himself attracted to authors who can envision at least a couple volumes of a series, can explain character traits and subplots beyond that one particular event in the novel they are currently pitching. A good series of novels with an ever-evolving character can very well be the key to cracking your way into the crime-writing scene.

Claire led the discussion to the actual publishing process; what channels are there for new writers? How can one get their manuscript read, represented and subsequently published? As expected, both David and Jenny agreed on this point strongly; get an agent. It is nearly impossible to break into publishing without being professionally represented. Most publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts so agents act as a quality control filter for publishers. Jenny emphasised having manuscripts edited by a professional freelancer – never submit anything you are not absolutely sure is the best it can be. And this is doubly important for self-publishing authors.

Be confident, know your trade, know your next few steps and especially – know whom you are talking to when making a pitch. Let your story do the talking. It is even more advisable to target your agent and publisher. Do your homework – know whom you are pitching to and make sure they know why you have chosen them. Or perhaps if you’re desperate and unsure of your manuscript, a box of chocolates never hurts – doesn’t necessarily help either, but definitely never hurts.

Claire opened a topic that is much debated in publishing circles – self-publishing. Jenny explained how self-publishing allows more control and can lead to enticing a wide readership, which in turn encourages word-of-mouth and reviews before landing under the ears or eyes of an publisher. Self-publishing allows the writer to test the waters and to cater for the readership before attempting to break into the market. Although, writers would do well to note, that if you have already published something on the internet, the good bet is that a hopeful publisher would prefer to publish something completely new from you – or perhaps offer you a series deal. David did mention how even editors browse through self-publishing platforms – such as Authonomy – as you never know what you might find.

The panel concluded with questions from the master class participants; one particularly memorable was one lady from the master class, who has a number of novels (18 to be exact) published online but no one had yet approached her nor returned her numerous attempts to contact agents and publishers. Jenny’s initial reaction was to enquire what does she believe an agent could do for her that she cannot do herself? What indeed. To leave on a hopeful note, Claire asked both David and Jenny to give the master class some final words of inspiration. David encouraged the budding writers never to give up, as the first book published is rarely the first book written, and to especially venture into other avenues than traditional forms of publishing – digital, self-publishing and the like can prove to be a writer’s saviour, enabling an initial point of contact, enticing on its own merit. Jenny emphasised the necessity of wide reading, because all that we read will feed into what we write, how we write and how we present ourselves. There is hope for everyone.

My Bloody Brilliant Weekend at Bloody Scotland. :)

September 20th, 2012 by Stefani Sloma | Posted in Blog | 2 Comments
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The first full weekend I was in Stirling saw me volunteering at Bloody Scotland, “Scotland’s First International Crime Writing Festival.” I’d heard about the event before arriving in Scotland and offered to volunteer during the weekend. I am SO glad that I did. I had the time of my life!

Due to my previous experience volunteering at the Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium at Mississippi University for Women, the Front of House Manager for Bloody Scotland, Dom Hastings, asked if I’d be willing to volunteer more than one four-hour shift. I wanted to say “Are you kidding me??!! DUH!” but I politely said, “I can be here whenever you need me.” I ended up being on the schedule all three days (Friday through Sunday) for pretty much the entire day; this was exactly what I wanted.

Friday was the first evening of Bloody Scotland, and I worked the Author Hospitality room, where I checked authors in to the festival and gave them their name badges and goodie bags. I also worked at and helped set up the reception for the authors, which was the kickoff for the festival. After the reception, it was back to Albert Halls for the opening session called, “Why Bloody Scotland?” featuring Alex Gray, Lin Anderson, and Ian Rankin. This session was followed by an author signing, which is where I started getting authors to sign my program (more on this later). I loved these duties because it meant that I was able to meet EVERY author who came into the Stirling Highland Hotel to check in. Friday Night Highlight: Ian Rankin remembered me! I’ve met him previously, as I interviewed him last year for my honors research project (“The City as Character: Edinburgh in the Works of Ian Rankin”), and I was hoping that he’d remember me when I saw him again. HE DID! It made my entire weekend. We had a short conversation about the future of publishing and editors at the reception before I left him alone so he could socialize with other authors.

Saturday began at 9 a.m. with the Author Hospitality room. I spent all of that day at the Stirling Highland Hotel. I worked FOUR signings that morning, meeting authors like Allan Guthrie, Sara Sheridan, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Caro Ramsay, and more. After that I worked inside front-of-house for two events, which meant I operated the roving microphone and made sure the authors got to their signings after. My shift on Saturday was supposed to end around 3:30 p.m., but I was still needed so I didn’t leave until 7:45 p.m. I worked about 8 hours that day alone! Saturday Highlight: “Meet My Alter Ego” session with Gillian Galbraith, Aline Templeton, Tony Black, and chair Lin Anderson. At the session, the authors spoke as if they were their characters. This was fantastic, because at one point Gillian Galbraith spoke as her character about her author, so it ended up sounding something like, “Sometimes Gillian writes about things that even I don’t know!” or “She explains what happens to me even better than I could!” It was great.

Sunday was the last day, and I can’t even explain how sad I was about this. It was spent at Albert Halls, where I worked inside front-of-house and signing for “The Next Big Thing” with Jade Chandler, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Val McDermid, and Barry Forshaw. While they didn’t stay on topic much, it was a laugh and very interesting. I also worked inside FOH and the signing for “A Formidable Duo” with Quintin Jardine, Anne Perry, and chair Peter Guttridge. Sunday Highlight: I was able to attend the dramatized performance of “The Red-Headed League.” Stuart MacBride as Holmes was amazing.

Every author I met this weekend was fantastic. Alex Gray remembered my name ALL weekend and called me “wonderful” and “a star.” I thought this was amazing. Also, Gordon Brown (not the ex-prime minister, but the red-headed crime fiction author, as everyone joked at Bloody Scotland) was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. I got him, Craig Robertson, Gillian Philip, and Gordon Ferris to sign books I’d bought by them. I also had TWENTY-FOUR authors to sign my program, which is something I will always treasure; I plan to have it framed! I am so glad that I decided to do this; I couldn’t afford to buy one book by every author I wanted to read and have signed, so I used my program. I think it was a great idea!

I learned a lot about publishing, and I came to realize that I’d one day like to work festivals. It has also fueled my love for crime fiction, and I think I would like to work with it in the future. I think Bloody Scotland is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever been involved in.

I’ve since had a few of the authors follow me on twitter, which is an honor. I hope to keep in contact with them and see them again next year!

-Stefani Sloma

AHRC Digital Transformations Project: The Book Unbound

February 15th, 2012 by Claire_Squires | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on AHRC Digital Transformations Project: The Book Unbound
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 We’ve just heard that the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication has been awarded a grant from the AHRC in its Digital Transformations Research Development call.

Our project, ‘The Book Unbound: Disruption and Disintermediation in the Digital Age’, will be led by the Centre’s Director, Professor Claire Squires, with Dr Padmini Ray Murray (Lecturer in Publishing Studies) and Dr Paula Morris (Lecturer in Creative Writing) as Co-Investigators. The staff team will be completed by Scott Russell, as an External Consultant. We’ll also be working with the Electric Bookshop in order to present some of our findings, and there will also be opportunities for collaborations between creative writing and publishing students.

The project will examine changing business models in the digital publishing environment and their impact on the communications circuit and notions of authority, authorship, audiences and access. It will do this both via a series of case studies, and an experimental mode (live publishing – watch this space!).

We’ll have a new website up with full details of the project soon, but if you’d like any information about it in the meantime, please get in touch via our Contact page.

“Publish and Be Damned”: Banned Books at the National Library of Scotland

November 15th, 2011 by Nuria_Ruiz | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on “Publish and Be Damned”: Banned Books at the National Library of Scotland
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A selection of Banned Books from the exhibition.

‘Banned books: Censorship of the printed word’ was a major exhibition at the National Library of Scotland, running from 24 June to 30 October 2011.  Although the exhibit has now ended, all of the books on display are available for consultation in the Library.  For those who missed their chance, Jan Usher and John Nicklen have produced an excellent guide in the current issue of Discover NLS.

Bring me your blasphemous and raunchy, your libellous and seditious, your controversial and vitriolic.  A trip to the “Banned Books” exhibition which ran at the National Library of Scotland until 30 October 2011 promised an afternoon of thought-provoking displays and analysis on a subject which has existed almost as long as books themselves have existed – censorship.  It did not disappoint.  The history of banned books is indeed a tale of the unexpected and the uncomfortable.

Arranged around the juicy themes of sex, religion, politics and society, the exhibit threw up some familiar old favourites – and some surprising additions.  Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Satanic Verses, the ‘official’ biography of Linda Lovelace, these I expected.  But Bambi? The Bible?  Housewives’ favourite Woman’s Weekly? Surprising too was the sheer number of children’s picture books and stories.  Sometimes it is not profane language and incendiary politics that offend the most, but the simple introduction of different worldviews.  Three books selected for special attention were And Tango Makes Three (2007), The Rabbit’s Wedding (1960) and Daddy’s Roommate (1991).  All three are children’s stories which to this day are attacked because of their perceived alternative messages on lifestyles and relationships.  Yet taking time to read them, I was struck more by their captive storytelling than anything else.  Banned Books posed the question, what role should editors play in censoring an author’s work?  To author Garth Williams after all, The Rabbit’s Wedding was “only about a soft, furry love and has no hidden message of hate”.  To this I answer that the point where a story becomes something else is highly subjective; perhaps no editor can ever prevent a book being misrepresented somewhere along the line.

What moved me as I walked between the glass cases was the preservation of these books and magazines.  From Republicas del Mundo, written by Jerónimo Roman y Zamora in 1575, to Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho from 2007, all of these books were in excellent condition.  They may have had their words mutilated and obscured, their pages stamped with brands of shame, and their covers confined by shrink-wrap to protect innocent eyes, yet someone, somewhere had loved this book enough to keep its dangerous words safe.  They may not have liked its content, but perhaps a respect for the written word is culturally ingrained in all of us?

My optimism lasted precisely for the minute it took me to walk from the themed displays to the ‘Living with Censorship’ section, where I was confronted with the history of book burning and the growing violence of censorship.  For every book the National Library had on show, a hundred thousand more have been ceremonially destroyed in the name of censorship.  I can understand, in a historical perspective, why books have been banned and entire libraries have been burned.  While I may not agree, I can understand.  But the trend for individualised violence against books is not something that I can comprehend.  There have been books considered so controversial that they have become living things to these societies, to be issued death warrants, burned alive with their authors, and actually hanged.  Mass book burning is acknowledged as a public event that makes a political statement, but just what kind of statement trying and hanging a lonely book makes is another matter entirely.

Heinrich Heine, the German poet and essayist, noted in the nineteenth century that “where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also”.  This led me to ponder on the vogue publishing development of the moment, the electronic book.  How does the digital word fit into the centuries-established tradition of literary censorship?  You cannot burn an electronic book, nor does it carry the connotations of personification that so characterise the printed word.  Moreover, while you may ban citizens from buying a book, it is infinitely more difficult to stop them downloading an illicit copy.  As this exhibit clearly illustrates, for much of their history, books have been contentious because of their ideas.  The twenty-first century however, has rather different concerns: the book’s physical form.  Yet in the furore about an e-book not ‘being a book’, perhaps we are missing a new and exciting chapter in the history of censorship.

The Road to Becoming An Agent, and Where It Is Heading

October 8th, 2011 by Kate_McNamara | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The Road to Becoming An Agent, and Where It Is Heading
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Literary Agent and consultant Maggie McKernan of The McKernan Agency ended up in her position in an interesting fashion. After studying Philosophy and Logic, she got on a train and ended up in Paris. She took it into her head to become a writer, and spent three very hungry weeks with no fixed accommodation before she stumbled into the Shakespeare and Company bookshop, where the owner offered her a bed on in the library above the shop in exchange for work. McKernan took him up on this offer, and spent her days working at the till, reading, and serving a few customers. At night she slept upstairs among rats with writers who boarded there. McKernan watched them come and go, and  slowly began to realize that she did not actually want to write, but work with writers.

The turning point came when a young Sebastian Barry wandered into the store. Speaking to him, she discovered that what she really wanted to do was publish people like him. Determined now to work in publishing, she wrote to sixty publishing houses in London and got a job, which she partly puts down to her looking up the name of a managing director and addressing her letter to him personally. She began working in design and production, as this was the only way in. She never believed that she could work in editing like she wanted, but her views on editors were soon to change.

“None of them were quite as clever as they first seemed, and you could become an editor,” she told us. She worked for a while, then moved houses, set up a literary fiction imprint, and worked more and more with writers, which she loved. Her particular approach was to keep the writers’ interests to the forefront of what she did. “My strength as an editor…”, McKernan said, “was what they call in publishing Author Management.” This entailed working closely with the authors, managing their expectations and helping them to achieve what they wanted to achieve.

Four years ago, she changed tack and became a literary agent as she wanted to be her own boss, as commuting to London was no longer an option for her. This was a good move for her personally, and everything was going quite well. And then along came the recession.

McKernan was undeterred. She began to take on a client list, and now has between twenty and twenty-five writers, which she hopes in time will become fifty.

McKernan doesn’t seem overly spooked by the technological advances in publishing and what these will mean for the literary agent: ““As long as writers are still enabled to write I will be happy, and I may have to do something else, I may have to make my living some other way.”Her attitude to e-books is refreshing: “All that really matters is that people keep writing books and that we keep being able to find books.”  Naturally, McKernan clearly sees the need for the literary agent – they are a way of filtering out unpublishable material so that publishers do not have to employ a whole division solely to read new manuscripts. Surprisingly for a literary agent, she is fully supportive of the idea of self-publishing: ““If you do it yourself, you get all the money…the writer sees the possibility of getting all the money, and why should they not?” However, she does mention that self-publishing authors may want to consider hiring someone to do P.R for them. Unlike some agents, she gives no indication of wanting to be both publisher and agent to her authors, but she does insist that ebooks are an area she would love to work with if she was just starting out.

In spite of this attitude, McKernan realises the publishing industry is changing drastically for everyone:“Challenges and opportunities are almost the same thing…technology has frightened everyone, and agents in particular….Will people still print books? Will they still buy books?” All those in the industry must watch and wait as technology and e-publishing develop further before these questions may be answered with any certainty. Whatever happens, it seems McKernan will take it in her stride and continue to put the author first.

By Kate McNamara