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Editors

SYP Scotland: Editorial: First Draft to Finished Book #SYPedit

November 1st, 2016 by evangelia_kyriazi-perri | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on SYP Scotland: Editorial: First Draft to Finished Book #SYPedit
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On Thursday 27th October, the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) Scotland organised the first editorial event of the year, which took place in Edinburgh at the David Hume Tower. If you are considering a career in the publishing industry, editorial is one of the top choices on the list, functioning as the fundamental department of a publishing company.

The panel of the event, chaired by Rosie Howie, Publishing Manager of Bright Red, consisted of three highly experienced people in editorial departments: Jo Dingley of Canongate Books, the freelancer editor Camilla Rockwood and Robbie Guillory of Freight Books. All speakers shared their experiences on publishing and the reasons why they chose editorial in particular.

Most of the speakers started as editorial assistants, making their way up as editors. All of them emphasized the fact that editorial is a matter of choice and discovery, with Jo and Camilla highlighting the special moment when they get the finished book on their hands, as a reward of working in editorial and one of the top reasons they chose it as a career path.

Communicating with the author and establishing a close relationship with him is an essential part of working in editorial. Apart from the strong engagement with the author, commissioning editors tend to work directly with the author’s agent as well. One of the key parts of editorial, after author care, is to read carefully the manuscripts and share your opinion with the editorials colleagues at weekly meetings, as Jo points out.

People who work in editorial spend a large amount of time considering submissions and familiarising with the house style. Editors and proofreaders should be careful “not to get involved with the content of the manuscript when editing one”, Camilla warns. A useful advice was the fact that editors should be careful with judgement and suggestions as some authors get quite sensitive and over-protective of their manuscripts. This is the reason why editors should approach authors carefully when answering to queries, encouraging face to face meetings with them.

Robbie emphasized that editorial is not “exam marking”, it is a service: “editing is not about eliminating errors; you’ve got to be really curious about things and ideas”. This is one of the hard parts of the job, along with the fact that editors have to manage authors’ expectations, as the target is to keep the cost as low as possible. Jo advised that it is important for editors to be friendly and give reasons to potential rejections of manuscripts: “You should give feedback to rejections and explain what you are looking for at the moment, by giving more information”.

For students who are particularly interested in editorial, all the speakers advised to “put yourself out there” and find internships and work placements for experience. Furthermore, as Camilla suggested, even working in retailing as a bookseller, offers you experience and shows that you are interested in the publishing industry. Familiarising yourself with software such as InDesign, Photoshop and Microsoft Excel, in addition of being aware of new technology and tools is essential. One of the most important advice was also being active on social media and knowing what’s current in the industry. Although it’s a highly competitive industry, all the panel encouraged people who pursue a career in editorial “not to give up”, as trying other areas of publishing is a great way to end up in the department they desire.

By Elina Kyriazi-Perri

“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.