Publishing 101: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

March 20th, 2017 by ailsa_kirkwood | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing 101: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
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The Society of Young Publishers (SYP) Scotland held their second Scottish publishing conference in Central Hall, Edinburgh on Friday the 3rd of March. Its debut in 2016 was so popular that they decided to bring it back in 2017, bigger and better than before.

Keynote speaker Jenny Brown, of Jenny Brown Associates, took to the stage to give us young aspiring publishers a motivational, inspirational and very memorable speech. She started by describing the publishing industry at present as an “interesting and important field, at the best time in history.” I found the manner in which she discussed the differences between being labelled as a Scottish or UK Publisher of great interest. Branding a company as “Scottish” generally limits its reach of publication; Scottish publishers tend to only publish for a nation of 5 million, which is much smaller than that of the English book market, a nation of roughly 60 million people. Although, she mentions that regional books from publishers tend not to reach further than their region, Scotland and Scottish literature has international reach unlike other small nations. She claimed the reason behind Scotland’s wide reach is that “we can stand on the shoulders of those literary giants [like Stevenson, Scott and Burns] and share our voice to the world.”

In 2002 Jenny established her own literary agency, Jenny Brown Associates, which since then has become one of the UK’s leading literary agencies. She stressed the importance of passion and innovation to get ahead, “passion costs nothing, but counts for everything” and “making your voice heard, take risks and innovate.”

Jenny’s keynote speech was one of my personal highlights of the conference; she was truly inspiring to listen to, full of positive insight of the publishing industry. It is no wonder her writers think so highly of her, “you are really in a job of making dreams come true.”

The second event of the day was the The Brexit Questions Panel. Alby Grainger of comic store Little Shop of Heroes kicked off the Brexit debate, by describing the exit result for him as “catastrophic increase in costs.” Alby’s business mainly relies on imports from outside the UK, roughly 90% of his products are imported from US sources. Brexit was a nightmare for him, within 3 days of the result the cost to import products rose a staggering 26%, resulting in him having to let a member of staff go. Janet Archer, the chief executive of Creative Scotland, highlighted this growing anxiety on the topic of job security in light of this specific political decision. Derek Kenny, of UK printing company Bell & Bain, agreed that nationally there is currently a prominent theme of “uncertainty in an uncertain world”. He did however, mention that along with the negative implications there are also positive effects and opportunities being created within the UK, for instance larger UK publishers looking for a stable UK printer and distributor. Bell & Bain have witnessed a 9-11% growth in the last 3 years and are even considering crossing the Atlantic, to open an office in America. Timothy Wright of Edinburgh University Press, a wholly owned subsidiary of the University of Edinburgh, experienced a completely different impact from Ably at Little Shop of Heroes. EUP are mainly an export led business, with a significant amount of business in America, so since the Brexit result they witnessed a 20-25% increase in business, mostly due to the strength of the dollar and weakness of the pound. Gráinne Clear explained that post Brexit, disaster struck for Little Island Books, an Irish publishing company with a UK branch, which is apparently pretty common for Irish publishers, when they converted their pounds sterling into euros this resulted in a massive financial hit. Overall the general message of this panel was that quite honestly, no one has any idea on what to expect economically or socially, it’s just going to be a case of wait and see.

Another memorable feature was the Marketing 5 x 5 session which quite honestly was one of the most enjoyably parts of the SYP Scottish conference, apart from the free wine and pizza obviously. It wasn’t until I started the marketing module of my publishing postgrad that I started to find marketing of greater interest. Out of the panel of 5 marketing gurus, each demonstrated completely different and innovative whilst very successful campaigns. Unsurprisingly a prominent component in most was the importance of utilising social media, for not only the publisher but also the author’s online presence. Social media has become so important to marketing because it offers a free platform. It is quite common for most publishers to have little or no budget, so it is vital to achieve as far and wide a reach as possible. Flora Willis from Serpent’s Tail, an imprint of Profile Books, was in charge of marketing for the republication of Chris Klaus’s novel I Love Dick, which was originally published in American in 1997. Her campaign mainly consisted of grass roots marketing, with badges, stickers and of course #ilovedick on Twitter. Unsurprisingly Willis thinks the utmost and foremost important part of working in publishing, more specifically marketing, is to have and use a sense of humour when trying to engage with your audience, a sentiment that resonates throughout this particular campaign.

The Publishing 101 conference was packed full of industry insight and inspirational speakers. I would like to thank the SYP for organising and hosting this event. I walked away feeling happy, motivated and truly part of a community.

– by Ailsa Kirkwood

Publishing Scotland Conference 2016: Adapting Books for TV & Radio

February 29th, 2016 by Isobel Anderson | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing Scotland Conference 2016: Adapting Books for TV & Radio
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TV & Radio panelOn 25th February Publishing Scotland and the Booksellers Association held their annual Scottish Book Trade Conference in Edinburgh. While all of the presentations were extremely interesting and informative, with one involving a number of amusing Star Wars references, the session I was most looking forward to was Adapting books for TV & Radio. Chaired by journalist Sheena McDonald with panelists Gaynor Holmes (Head of TV Drama at BBC Scotland) and Bruce Young (Head of Radio Drama at BBC Scotland), the session provided an informative insight into the work it takes to successfully adapt a novel for television or radio.

In the past decade eleven of BBC Scotland’s fifty eight television productions have been adaptations, such as Case Histories and Hamish Macbeth. It can take anywhere from eighteen months to three or four years to adapt a novel for television so those in charge look for known titles, award-winning or best-selling novels, to adapt in order to increase their chances of attracting the five to eight million viewers who regularly watch BBC One dramas. Gaynor explained that while it is inevitable changes will have to be made to the original content, producers must adapt the novel with a great deal of integrity and remain respectful of the original intent. When trying to get around obstacles in the adaptations, writers sometimes change element after element of the plot in order to suit television, but Gaynor stated that it is at this point a step back must be taken and the following question asked: should we just write an original drama? Sometimes the plot of a novel is simply used as inspiration to create original content, such as Monarch of the Glen.

While many of us wince when we hear that our favourite novel is being developed into a television show or film and instantly worry about the content that will be changed or simply ignored, Gaynor explained some of the challenges of adapting a novel. The majority of productions are bound by their budget and so merge characters and locations together, especially as there isn’t enough time to develop each individual character if they are not integral to the plot. Some novels simply do not lend themselves to adaptation at all, such as stories that involve a lot of internal monologue. One of the main rules of television is “show, not tell”, and this simply cannot be done in some cases.  While BBC Scotland try to remain as faithful to the text as possible, it must be accepted that the content will be different for different mediums. Perhaps these are points we should consider the next time we are about to despair that one of our favourite scenes didn’t make the final cut.

Though some books may not be suitable for television, they may be easily adapted into radio productions, and Gaynor light-heartedly bemoaned the fact that a number of books she has failed to adapt have been made into radio programmes by Bruce. Sixty hours of drama and readings are commissioned for Radio 4, Radio Scotland, Radio 3 and Radio 4 Extra each year, and Bruce said that Radio Scotland try to strike an even balance between producing readings of international books, such as the recent East of Eden, and Scottish books, such as 44 Scotland Street; this is in spite of a recent complaint asking why so many Scottish voices were being heard on the radio. The question was raised whether authors have a hand in adapting their material for radio and Bruce answered that most leave him to do the work, with one author stating something along the lines of: “If we take the money, we must accept the changes”. However there are some authors, such as Alexander McCall Smith, who write both the book and the adaptations; quite an amazing feat. Once radio adaptations are made they are enduring and can be enjoyed by generations for years to come.

The forty five minute session passed by extremely quickly and the panelists were fantastic to listen to. It certainly gave me an appreciation for all the work that goes into creating BBC Scotland’s wonderful productions and I look forward to seeing what they will adapt next.