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masters

By Its Cover: Suzanne Dean on good cover design

February 27th, 2017 by caroline_obrien | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on By Its Cover: Suzanne Dean on good cover design
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Suzanne Dean, the creative director for Penguin Random House, took the stage at this year’s Scottish Book Trade Conference to tell us all that, against a childhood’s worth of well-intentioned advice, we should, in fact, judge a book By Its Cover. Although much of her advice will be familiar to most of us at Stirling University from our design classes like all good advice it doesn’t hurt being repeated, and there was also much which was new and just as helpful. She was also able to offer an insightful and oftentimes very funny first-hand account of the frustrating, nerve-wracking, but ultimately fulfilling world of book cover design.

Dean was the one responsible for the Vintage logo update and some of her cover designs may be familiar to many of us, especially the work she did for Haruki Murakami’s novel. The simple, yet eye-catching, black white and red circle designs quickly became quintessentially Murakami. But, as any good designer will tell you, break your own rules. Dean certainly did, in an exceptionally well thought out way, by adding colour to Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki.

With quite a hefty bit of experience under her belt Dean is more well-versed than most on what effective design must be. Namely eye-catching, engaging to a reader, and thought provoking. After all, as Dean reminded us, we only have a few seconds in which to catch a browser’s eye and encourage them to pick our book up over all the others. In today’s world where books are increasingly becoming commodities like any others, sold on shelves between groceries and cleaning products, good cover design is more important than ever.

Through her work with Vintage Classics Dean is very well aware of this. Not only are classic books subject to the same fight for attention that new ones are, but they have a further added problem. As Dean asked, how do you convince someone to buy a book that’s probably freely available online?

Dean’s answer was simple.

By making them beautiful and desirable collectable objects.

Dean also found that a cover which hints at the contents receives a better reception than one which spells them out too heavily. Remember, with classics, the potential buyer has probably already read it, or at least is aware of the general plot, and so are more prone to spot and appreciate any little subtleties in the cover which, with a new novel, might only be appreciated after being read.

Of course, even while the contents of these classic books are well-known and familiar to many it is as important, if not more so, to keep the covers fresh and new. With content that has so many past covers it’s important not to become too similar. With their new Vintage Future editions Dean has managed to avoid this very pitfall. Using only a sheet of acetate and some line based designs this set of nine futuristic classics feature animated covers. The bold colours and psychedelic shapes combined with the animated feature and juxtaposed against the classic, black bordered layout perfectly capture the essence of these texts which, although written in the past, were always looking far into the future.

This seems to be a key theme brought by Dean to all her covers. Whilst they vary widely, and are each intricately tailored to suit their contents, there appears to be an emphasis on keeping them relevant, not just to our times but to all times.

But to achieve such beautiful, evocative, and timeless designs there is first a long process which must be traversed. As Dean revealed, one of her covers went through over seventy redesigns before it was finally accepted. It can also be very difficult to read a manuscript with the expectation upon you that a beautifully designed cover will simply emerge fully formed from your head. You must ‘rely upon the spark to happen’ and to keep on happening the next time and the next and the next. You must experiment, and engage with all forms of media. As Dean put it, ‘go out and see things,’ as many things as possible. You never know where inspiration will next come from.

And, most importantly, practice. For designers ‘just like dancers’ must practice before they can create something beautiful.

By Caroline O’Brien

In praise of serendipity

December 16th, 2016 by morven_gow | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on In praise of serendipity
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img_2140In praise of serendipity

Over this semester, we have all enjoyed learning at the collective knees of visiting speakers. They have represented all sectors of the publishing industry – bar one.  Best represented by the chaotic, Bernard Black of Channel 4 TV’s Black Books I confess a deep and abiding love for the mostly unkempt and tatty world of the preloved book.  Every place associated with a book is sacred and has the air of a temple. For me, there is no other book buying experience to top the emotional pull of a second-hand bookshop.

Crossing the hallowed threshold, it’s best to be in a state of mindfulness – open to the calls and vibrations coming your way from the waifs and strays on shelves, on tables or piled high in columns around you.  “What a load of tosh!” I can hear some of you cry out.  But others will agree with me.

You will discover exactly the book you didn’t know you needed or wanted on that day and at that time you ambled into the shop.  We behave quite differently depending on the reading material we require at any one time and, while a bricks/clicks-and mortar bookshop, or Amazon and others, can supply you with exactly what you know you want, their book shelf categories and algorithms cannot hope to compete with the happy discoveries which occur when the infinite random variables in your brain meet the ideas and thoughts bounding off the shelves, tables and columns.

If you are concerned about the ‘dark’, second-hand book economy, with authors, publishers and agents missing out on remuneration, as long as you remember to sing the praises of the books on sites like Goodreads, you will be playing your part in the book selling process, encouraging others to buy and read the books. You may even replace the preloved one with a new copy, if it’s a bit too tatty and it’s captured your heart.  In the photograph, there are some titles which called to me from shelves in Wigtown, Galloway; Arklow, Wicklow; Glasgow and Dunlop.  They have found their ‘forever home’ with me.

Go on.  Find your local ‘Black Books’. Bernard may even have a glass of wine waiting for you.

By Morven Gow

The terrifying experience of drawing in public

December 8th, 2016 by michail_tsipoulakos | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The terrifying experience of drawing in public
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https-%2f%2fcdn-evbuc-com%2fimages%2f25635246%2f79986262757%2f1%2foriginalThe Edinburgh Comic Art Festival took place in Summerhall Venue on 26th and 27th of November, and of course I couldn’t miss it. The whole exhibition offered a variety of visiting speakers, free workshops to test your artistic capabilities, and panels with Scottish and British comic book artists displaying their work. And if you are a geek like me, all these things hold an extra value!

For this story, I will share with you the experience I had while participating in the quick-draw activity. As the name itself states, quick-draw was one of the many activities where you actually had to draw different images on a drawing surface, as fast as possible. Our instructors were Mr.…. and Mrs.…... Ok I admit it; I was late and missed the part where they introduced themselves. For our convenience, let’s call them Mr. Tall (for obvious reasons) and Mrs. Red (due to her bright red hair). 20161204-963567316_editedThe whole activity was designed for people who are new to drawing, for others with some existing experience, and for those who are TERRIFIED by it, like me!

The participants had to experiment with a range of different materials like white or coloured paper, different sketching pencils, markers with several colour options, while using different techniques, to explore the way real life illustrators create their work. The motto of our two wonderful instructors (Yes I’m talking about Mr. Tall and Mrs. Red) was: “You don’t need any fancy equipment to draw your hearts out. Some white paper and a black pencil and your empty canvas will transform into a work of art”. The first thing we had to do was draw a funny face. “Draw a line here and here, and there and remember, don’t push your pencil too much” Mr. Tall said. He made it look so effortless which by the way, wasn’t! I had to try really hard. The end result after 15 minutes of drawing and connecting lines looked like an uglier version of Mr. Potato from Toy Story. And yes, Mr. potato is already ugly enough! The first session was officially over with not much success.

Next stop, Nature! How to draw trees and flowers with a few easy techniques. Instructions followed again, this time by Mrs. Red. Initially, it seemed easier than drawing a face. Well it wasn’t, especially for someone who can’t draw a straight line, not even with a ruler. My picture was a complete disaster. Probably something that a 3 year old would draw. When Mrs. Red saw my picture, she was literally speechless. I managed to give the world talentless a whole new meaning. I’m quite sure that if we lived in a fantasy world, where Mrs. Red was the queen, she would have ordered my immediate incarceration, to prevent me from creating new abominations! All jokes aside, she was super cool and funny, and despite her initial shock, she was all smiles and compliments.

fotor_148081045839063Finally, for the third and final task, we had to draw anything we wanted. I decided to go with Doctor Strange. Since I had a cover of him in my bag, I didn’t have to search for my inspiration. The end result was quite tolerable. Finally, after all this time, I managed to draw something! Even Mrs. Red complimented me for my effort! And that was it, almost 45 minutes later, the quick-draw activity was over. The purpose of this workshop was to gain confidence in developing your own drawing skills. Did I become the new Dali? Hell no! But I had a great time, met interesting people who are equally bad at drawing, and finally had the chance to use a range of materials and techniques utilized by professional comic book artists. Now that I’m equipped with all this knowledge, I feel super ready for the Edinburgh Comic Con festival in February.

CAPITAL SCI-FI CON, here I come!!!

Sharna Vincent, MLitt Publishing Studies 2016-2017

November 15th, 2016 by Sharna | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Sharna Vincent, MLitt Publishing Studies 2016-2017
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20161107_2128571At the tender age of 18, I thought (like most 18 year olds) that I knew what was best. Finishing up my A levels in Kent, I was adamant that I didn’t want to go to university and I was going to “find work” and “just live my life” and other relevant, angsty phrases you might hear from an 18-year-old. I worked as an office assistant during my gap year, and all I could think to myself was: I would much rather be doing something I’m passionate about. As much as I am grateful for that experience, I knew it wasn’t my calling.

From there, I went on to study my BA in English Language and Linguistics at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. I’ve always been known to be a bit of stickler for grammar and spelling. My first year housemates affectionately referred to me as the ‘grammar police’, but for three straight years, as soon as deadline time came about, I was the most sought after person.

Copyediting comes easy to me. I find mistakes everywhere; I find it’s either something you just see, or it’s not. I’ve been doing ad hoc editing work for one company for about 5 years now and I’ve also completed a work placement scheme with Sweet and Maxwell; both experiences have shown me that this is what I’m really good at. This may even be my ‘calling’ (although people say that a lot and I’m not even sure it has any real merit as a saying).

So anyway, here I am now, at the University of Stirling, 4 years older than when I left school (and not an awful lot wiser) studying for a masters in Publishing in order to become a more rounded and knowledgeable member of the industry. I look forward to the rest of the course and to establishing myself as a copyeditor in the future.

If you’re interested, take a quick look at my LinkedIn profile or have a glance at my Twitter and get in touch!

Puyu Cheng, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17

November 15th, 2016 by Puyu Cheng | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Puyu Cheng, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17
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Hi, I’m Puyu. I come from Beijing, the capital of China. From a young age, I wished to have the opportunity to study aboard. Now I am studying in Stirling, which is the best experience in my life.

When I was an undergraduate student, my major was editing and publishing. To be honest, this major was chosen by my parents, and they think the subject is very suitable for me. So I was just following my parents’ wishes. However, after studying some courses, I think this subject is really interesting. Reading is one of my favorite hobbies, so learning how to produce a book is always attractive to me.

As I was saying, studying abroad is one of my dreams. So when I graduated from college, I was wondering if I could go abroad for a master’s degree program. My parents have always told me that they will support any decision I make concerning my future. Therefore, thanks to my parents, I had the opportunity to come here to study.

The reason why I chose to study here is that there is a cooperative project between my university in China and the University of Stirling. So I believe it’s a wonderful chance that I can study publishing in depth. I am very glad that I chose the University of Stirling, which is known for future career prospects for the graduates and there is the most beautiful campus that I have ever seen. Also learning here is a challenge for me, due to the fact that English is not my first language and the teaching methods in UK are quite different from China. But I’m excited to face these challenges. It is good for me to learn some new approaches.

When I graduate, I aspire to work for a fashion magazine in china. Actually, in last summer, I worked as an intern in Marie Claire magazine, which is one of the most famous fashion magazines in China. And that experience was really interesting. So I want to be a fashion editor in the future. I hope my experience in Stirling can help me to pursue my career goals.

Find me on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Rachel Kay, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17

November 10th, 2016 by rachel_kay | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Rachel Kay, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17
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I can best characterise myself as a bit of a mix; having grown up on two continents as the poet in a family of scientists, I am both creative and analytical in my approach to the world. It is probably this mix which drew me to publishing, a field which I see as a fascinating combination between the worlds of art and business.

Growing up, I dev13007171_1163686976998578_3313351118242217563_noured books, composed questionable poetry, and edited various student publications. I have always found the written word a natural way of connecting with people. This was especially true when my family relocated from Florida to Italy when I was sixteen (collectively we spoke about ten words of Italian), and I got my introduction to a new school and culture through editing, designing, and producing our student magazine (the previous editor having just retired, probably out of exhaustion).

Inevitably, I gravitated towards an undergraduate degree in English, but before that began, I moved to Cambridge and spent a year working in a high street bookshop. Here I observed first-hand which titles and authors were selling, how marketing changed throughout the year, and how the categorisation of books impacted their readerships. This enlivened my interest in contemporary fiction, which I then pursued (from a more scholarly perspective) through four unforgettable years in the coastal town of St Andrews.

After graduation, it took another two years to fund my next step. I was well-aware by then of Stirling’s celebrated MLitt programme, and worked mere corridors away from the publishing department as a laboratory technician. I vividly remember being the source of grammar advice for reports in our office, and dashing off to the visiting speaker talks during my lunch break. So near and yet so far!

Eight weeks into the course, I’m grateful to be studying again and encouraged by the vast array of skills we are already developing. Publishing is an industry which is famously always in flux, but that only makes it more dynamic, multifaceted, and exciting to be a part of. Whatever my specific role in its future will be, a career spent promoting literacy is a pretty satisfying prospect.

You can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Morven Gow, MLitt Publishing Studies 2016-17

November 7th, 2016 by morven_gow | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Morven Gow, MLitt Publishing Studies 2016-17
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“How brave of you.” “How inspiring!” “I’d love to do that – good on you!”
Reactions to news that I have signed up to be one of the first humans trying to grow spinach in a cloche on Mars? Or perhaps to an announcement that I am contemplating a fire-walk, swimming Loch Lomond, and cycling the world? Neither of those. I find myself a Hero for the Middle-Aged Worker simply by returning to Uni.
What has brought me here to study publishing at Stirling? I wanted to shake up my skills and go back to the future, to focus on writing. After 30 years planning and buying advertising campaigns, with some PR experience, working on campaigns for some of Scotland’s bastions of culture (National Museums, National Galleries, National Library), newspaper publishers, retailers, banks, whiskies, political, and public health campaigns, I thought I would brush up my writing skills to suit the digital age adding what is known in the trade as content marketing to the skills I could offer my employer and my clients. A quick Google brought me to the Publishing Scotland website, and information about a day course on the subject. But I wanted something with more depth. I read information on the site about PG courses in publishing, and although I discounted the idea at the time, a small persistent voice (coupled with the louder voices of my friends) kept asking, “why not? Books are a passion for you, and you love a beautifully designed hip posh mag”. After a meeting with the course director, Frances, the idea blossomed, I applied – and here I am, loving my new life as a student on a well respected course, thinking new thoughts, on a beautiful campus, with fellow students from all over the world.
Now that the course has begun, I can see that the Publishing Studies course will repurpose me for the next stage in my life – rather like a classic G Plan chair, reupholstered and reoiled.
Officially self-employed, I am a consultant for my previous company combining blog writing and communication advice with media planning and buying, and looking for some experience in book and magazine marketing from publishers before I graduate, with an eye to moving into that area as a consultant at the end of the course.

I can be found at@Morv60 on Twitter and at Morven Gow on LinkedIn

Rachel Patrick, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17

November 4th, 2016 by Rachel | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Rachel Patrick, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17
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pictureFrom a young age, I always had a passion for reading and decided to do an English degree when I left high school. I ended up at the University of Stirling, which was quite convenient for me as it wasn’t too far from my hometown.

Since there’s no obvious career path to follow when you’ve studied English Literature, graduating from my undergraduate degree was an exciting time but also a slightly scary one as I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do next. After an awful lot of panicking and pondering I decided I wanted to undertake further study of some sort, but it had to be something involving books. Considering how much I had enjoyed my time at the university the first time around, I ended up looking into postgraduate courses at Stirling. I’d heard about the Publishing Studies course a few times already and had always thought it sounded like something I might like to do in the future, since the process of how books are put together is something that really fascinates me. I was particularly sold and excited after reading how highly past students had spoken of the course.

Before starting the course, I wasn’t sure which part of the publishing process I wanted to be involved in, but I think the recent SYP Editorial event I attended convinced me that I’d love to work in editing one day. I think this course will provide me with the skills to feel confident enough to pursue that career eventually.

I’m on Twitter and LinkedIn although I haven’t mastered either so far.

Stephan Pohlmann, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17

November 3rd, 2016 by Stephan Pohlmann | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Stephan Pohlmann, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17
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In a small town with forests, ironworks, two hiatuses and one diphthong in it, which was called Georgsmarienhütte, lived my past self by the name of Stephan Pohlmann. While I consider myself still very much alive, I have since moved to Scotland, from where I am hereby introducing myself to the internet.

My home town is in Lower Saxony, in the northwest of Germany, an area best known for the Teutoburg Forest, which used to be smiling at me through the window of my room. That might actually be why, for the most part of my time there, I ended up devouring books with extensive woodlands in the script, be it the forest of Fangorn, the primeval forests of Nordic and Celtic mythology, Birnam Wood, the Forest of the Carnutes (explicitly in the Asterix series), or Sherwood Forest.

I did my bachelor’s degree in what we so cryptically called “European Studies”, investigating laws, politics, literature, languages and culture of the European Union and its nations. Questions of nationhood and how literature branded these nations became my speciality, a further focus lay on Scotland and Ireland. Effectively, I did European politics combined with Anglophone language and culture, a combination that has risen just a tiny little bit in significance and media coverage during the last months. I might have contemplated going into politics, however I somehow must have found myself to be either not disillusioned enough or too idealistic for the job when, instead, I decided to dedicate my future life to influencing fictional worlds.

By autumn 2015, after an internship at a literature centre, I had made up my mind that it would have to be publishing. Furthermore, seeing that I spent the two previous years doing research on Scotland, I figured it would be about time to finally spent more than a holiday there. I found Stirling University, stopped looking for something else, and so far have not regretted the decision.

I am here to stay for a while, at least until I can finally understand MacDiarmid’s A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle. For the distant future, I would say that I will utilize my not-too-bad command of the German language and go into copy or translation editing on the German or UK market, but preferably in the intersection between the two. And regardless of how Jon Snow will be treated by the following A Song of Ice and Fire novels, I would like to prevent him from the most horrible fate of all; having his name translated even one more time into “Jon Schnee” for the German books. That is cruel. Moreover, I still very much like the idea of putting ideas out there. But right now, I am absolutely open to the possibility that these ideas might be about The Very Hungry Caterpillar; how to make proper Scottish shortbread; the next inspiring crime-solver; Bernd the Bread; the next forestal fantasy publication or whatever people will be wanting to read in five or ten years.

Feel free to find me, on Twitter and LinkedIn, either worthwhile connecting with or rather uninteresting.

Siqi Cai, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17

November 3rd, 2016 by siqi_cai | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Siqi Cai, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17
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Hi, I am Siqi, from China. To be honest, I would never have believed that I would be here in Stirling, studying publishing. I studied at the Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication, and my major was digital publishing. Now, I still am able to study publishing in depth.

When speaking about why I chose the subject, I have to mention my hobby from kid to adult. Reading books has been one of my favorite hobbies all the time. Growing up, I was gradually curious about how a book is produced professionally and magically.

Fortunately, I systematically acquired knowledge about publishing, editing, communication and so forth in the four-year study at the university. And, luckily for me, I can continue to study and explore the field in University of Stirling which is a prestigious and beautiful campus. Studying abroad is a challenge for me, but I have a founding belief I can accept the challenge and overcome it. I know that improving myself and changing beyond myself is difficult but I want to try and challenge myself beyond what I’ve done before. There are kind of differences that I found studying in UK and in my country. For example, in the UK I have to manage my own time and tasks effectively. I need to read a great number of professional books and resources. Having entered several weeks of course, I have broadened my own view and enriched my knowledge in publishing industry. I have learned business model about how a publisher operates and had an unforgettable experience of visiting bookshops. I have learned preliminary research skills. I hope that I will improve my editorial ability and enhance critical thanking and analytical ability after one year. It is beneficial to my employment in the future.

All in all, after graduation, I completely look forward to do related-publishing jobs in China, even abroad.