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publishing studies

Visiting Speaker – Kathryn Ross

November 11th, 2016 by rachel_kay | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker – Kathryn Ross
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Last Thursday, our publishing class had the privilege of spending a few hours with literary agent Kathryn Ross. Alongside Lindsey Fraser, Kathryn runs Fraser Ross Associates Literary Agency and Consultancy (www.fraserross.co.uk), which the pair established in 2002.

logoKathryn didn’t take the traditional route to becoming a literary agent. She began as a secondary school English teacher, overseeing the school library, and eventually collaborating with the department head to set up a mobile bookstore in a van. When this venture did well, she left teaching and got a position running the children’s tent at the Edinburgh Book Festival, afterwards moving on to work at the Scottish Book Trust. Kathryn spent ten years here, where she met Lindsey and built up a long list of author and publishing contacts. Finally, with the encouragement of author Vivian French, the pair took the leap of setting up their own literary agency with Vivian as their first client.

Fourteen years down the line, she says her job is hard work, hugely rewarding (emotionally, although not always financially), and that she gets a lot of joy from seeing authors set off, and in helping them grow their careers. Fraser Ross Associates now represents about sixty-five writers and illustrators, most of whom work in children’s fiction (although some write across all age ranges and genres).

booksWriting for children is challenging. There’s a lot to accomplish in a short format, including fleshing out the characterisation, problems, and emotions that form a complete story. Children’s books must be equally appealing to parents- these are the buyers, and the ones who will be reading the book over and over. Children’s authors need to be good at summing up and pitching their content, and are now expected to do more marketing and publicity than ever before. An author’s success has increasingly come to depend on things like doing events and getting positive online reviews.

Agents are integral within this process, acting as sounding boards, cheerleaders, and business advisers to an author. This includes ideas development, networking, brand-building, and actively pursuing sub-rights. When taking clients on board, Kathryn and Lindsay look for long-term partnerships, where the content and the personalities both fit. Good communication is essential, as are trust, openness, and honesty, as everyone needs to be able to talk through ideas and problems.

Authors / illustrators and literary agents are often recommended to each other, one of the reasons that networking is vital. Kathryn and Lindsey also seek out new talent, such as by attending end-of-year college art shows. On top of this, they receive unsolicited manuscripts, about 200 per month. Many of these come via email, and Kathryn says she misses the physicality of receiving packages in the post- although she doesn’t miss the occasional extras, like glitter stars, crushed biscuits, melted toffees, etc. Kathryn has gotten some extremely creative submissions over the years, and was able to give us extensive, and often hilarious advice on what not to do, including why penguins and polar bear must never meet.

Each ‘day in the life’ of a literary agent is different, but typical tasks include:

  • Reminding publishers to pay invoices
  • Checking/negotiating contracts
  • Polishing submissions before they’re sent to editors – lots of editing!
  • Meeting with publishers, especially in London
  • Pushing for better royalties for her clients
  • Reading Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and The Bookseller
  • Attending launch parties
  • Negotiating permissions fees
  • Talking authors through outlines, edits, and cover design
  • Giving advice to cold callers
  • Informing authors of success / rejection
  • Discussing deadlines, delays, relationship problems, moving house, etc. with clients
  • Paying authors
  • Submitting manuscripts
  • Sending congratulations cards of all types
  • Reading unsolicited submissions
  • Attending book fairs, especially Bologna
  • Reading, reading, reading, reading, reading, reading, … and emails.

Many thanks to Kathryn for sharing her time with us, and for bringing back the nostalgia of story time for us Masters students!

Ruoqi Sun, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17

November 10th, 2016 by ruoqi_sun | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Ruoqi Sun, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17
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img_8321Hi, I am Ruoqi Sun, and I come from China. You can call me Ricky, although I realized this is not a female’s name since I came here. Anyway, the pronunciation is very similar with my Chinese name and that is the reason why I choose this, just for convenience. I lived in Beijing before I came here, and that is a totally different place with here. It is crowded, busy and has many opportunities, and we described it as a place where you can make money no matter what you do. It is a good place to enjoy life but not a good place to live.

Speaking of my major, my undergraduate degree was in Editing and Publishing. I didn’t even know about it until I was in college. Like most of Chinese students, I focused on my study all the time in high school in order to pass the final exam and go to the college.  Then I began to get confused when I received the admission, as I had achieved the goal of learning and I did not know what to do next. So I had a colorful university life: participating in clubs, making friends, and doing part- jobs. I did all the things I could think of, except learning, until the third year in my university, when everybody began to prepare for work or apply for a postgraduate course. I realized that my four-year life was about to pass. I began to want to plan the future carefully and I also found some internships related to publishing in traditional press in China. After the internship, I found that there are some problems in traditional publishing, but I can not change. I do not like this feeling. I think it was probably at that time that I began to enjoy reading.

It was also at that time I saw the cooperation project of University of Stirling and our  university. I took the IELTS exam, prepared the application materials, and tried my best to apply for this opportunity to continue my studies. Some of my friends said I was escaping the reality of graduation, I think it is better to say that I am not reconciled to end my campus life in this way. Fortunately, I got this chance and I came here at the beginning of August, which is a beautiful season for Stirling.

Now, I cherish and enjoy my life and class time here. Although I am not adapt to the model of our curriculum totally, because it is a kind of different with Chinese. But I still enjoy it and it is interesting. Now I am full of expectation for every day, and I am satisfied with this situation.

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

The Man Booker Prize 2016

October 28th, 2016 by Aleksander Pęciak | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The Man Booker Prize 2016
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The Man Booker Prize logoWho would have ever thought that one of the most prestigious British book awards may be given according to one, simple criteria: “the best novel in the opinion of the judges”? The uniqueness of the Man Booker Prize lies also in the jury which is not (as someone would predict) contained only of literary critics or professors of literature – but also readers reflecting multiple backgrounds: politicians, actors or journalists. Honesty and simplicity that is expressed in this prize seem convincing even for me, a rebel always skeptical to the tastes of highly regarded authorities. And it must mean something.

The general idea behind the prize is to encourage readers to read the winning book – and a true success of it can be measured by the increase of its sales. Every year since 1969 winners are granted with £50,000 for their books published in The United Kingdom, which makes it one of the richest prizes in the world. In addition to the main prize since 2005 there has been the International Man Booker Prize awarded to those whose work’s translations appeared in English. The money are shared between the international author and the translator of the book. The winner of the International Man Booker Prize was announced earlier this year – “The Vegetarian” by Korean author Han Kang, a story about woman embracing her idea of living “plant-like” existence, translated by Deborah Smith, a founder of non-for-profit Tilted Axis Press.

In 2016 we can be sure that satire is still alive. On 25th of October Paul Beatty became the first American winner of The Man Booker Prize. Two years ago the prize changed its rules and opened to authors from outside the Commonwealth, what makes his winning even more significant. His winning book, “The Sellout”, “takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and snarl”, and is, as described by judges, “a novel for our times”. Parodying racial stereotypes, Beatty presents the story of Bonbon, African-American living in Dickens, Los Angeles, and his struggles with accusation of reintroducing slavery and segregation in a local high school. The author has received the trophy from the hands of the Duchess of Cornwall. A victory of Paul Beatty is also a victory of small and independent trade publisher – Oneworld. Based in London and active since 1986, Oneworld presents novels advertised as “intelligent, challenging and distinctive”. I could not imagine better gift for the year of their 30th anniversary.

The Man Booker Prize for Paul Beatty is also a great disappointment for the raised hopes for Graham Macrae Burnet’s “His Bloody Project” published by Contraband, the crime imprint of Saraband. It was the bestselling novel on the shortlist and had the best recognition amongst its rivals. A Man Booker Prize would be the true icing on the cake – “His Bloody Project” translation rights in six countries as well as film and TV adaptation permissions were sold. The publisher is struggling now to meet the demands for the books.

But in the terms of the mission of the prize, we can easily say that it is completed – sales for all the nominated books has risen, which proves its real impact on the readership and readers’ choices.

Therese Campbell, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17

October 25th, 2016 by therese_campbell | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Therese Campbell, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17
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As clichéd as itProfile Picture sounds, my love for books began at a young age. As a quiet child, I was definitely a bookworm and could immerse myself in whatever book or story I was reading. My Mum – the English teacher – always encouraged me to read and helped me develop my love for literature throughout my childhood and teenage years. Being 17 and having absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I decided that studying books for 4 years seemed like a not-so-terrible idea and chose to do a degree in English Literature at the University of Strathclyde.

While I truly enjoyed studying literature during my degree, I began to ponder the processes and people behind the books but, at the time, had limited knowledge of publishing. For my dissertation, I was given the opportunity to interview playwright Chris Hannan, who had adapted Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment for theatres. During the interview, Chris spoke about his relationship with his editor and I realised how important the author-editor relationship was, as well as how influential the editor was to the final product. It was at this point, I began to consider a career in publishing, but I had no idea how to pursue it!

I was lucky enough to spend the end of my Honours year and the following months residing in Osaka, Japan. I eagerly trawled Japanese bookstores, amazed by their size and their eclectic range of books – none of which I could read, but I did enjoy looking at pictures of cats balancing oranges on their heads… one of the less disturbing books we found.

After returning from Japan and spending time working in the soul-destroying world of retail, I discovered the Publishing Studies course online and applied right away. I was over the moon to find a course which encompassed my interests but would also help me develop them in a more vocational sense. It’s been a challenge adjusting to student life again after time out, but the course and the opportunities it offers are certainly worth it.

Jo Ripoll, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17

October 20th, 2016 by jo_ripoll | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Jo Ripoll, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17
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student-profile-imageHi, I’m Jo, and no, my name’s not short for anything. I am born and bred in New Orleans, Louisiana in the US, where the cultures are varying and the food is flavorful. I’ve been fortunate enough in my 22 years to have travelled all over with my family, which instilled in me a love for adventure, new places and a fascination for other cultures. It is one of the many reasons that brought me to Stirling, Scotland for my Master’s degree.

Books and stories have always been a part of my life, but I have not always been on the publishing track. For most of my young adult life, I thought I wanted to be a social worker. That is, until my life took a sharp left turn right before I started college. As I reevaluated what I wanted to do with my life, I always came back to my books. That’s when I first thought about publishing as a career in an abstract sort of way. So, I got my Bachelor’s degree at Louisiana State University in English: Rhetoric, Writing and Culture, enhancing my reading and writing skills while uncovering an understanding of developing society through theory and linguistics courses. Also, my minor in Communication Studies allowed me to better my understanding of interpersonal skills and interactions, especially in a changing society that has become so computer mediated.

Most of my undergraduate years were spent peer-editing and proofreading fellow classmate’s writing, both academic and creative. The more time I spent copy-editing and proofreading, I realized how much I enjoyed helping to make people’s writing the best that it could be and building the bridge between writer and reader. My internship with Sophisticated Woman Magazine solidified my interest in publishing and editing and allowed me to get my feet wet in every aspect of the publishing industry. After my internship came to a close, I continued to work with them as a book review columnist.

I knew, however, that I needed to learn more to successfully break into publishing, which led me to the University of Stirling’s Publishing Studies program. Stirling offered me what no other school could: the chance to learn more about my chosen field in great detail while being able to live in this beautiful, magical place and interact with a largely international student body. This program has opened my eyes to consider every aspect of publishing and just fall in love with it (and books) that much more.

Ailsa Kirkwood, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17

October 20th, 2016 by ailsa_kirkwood | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Ailsa Kirkwood, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17
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Hi, I’m Ailsa and I’ve always found describing myself one of the hardest and most awkward things to do, but here goes…

Before coming to the University of Stirling for Publishing Studies (MLitt), I graduated in Scottish Literature at the University of Edinburgh. Having grown up in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, I fancied a change of scenery and have happily relocated to Stirling.

Like most people hoping to pursue a career in publishing with a background education in literature, stating my love for books may seem like a cliché, but it is unavoidable. Living in Edinburgh made my passion for literature an easy one to explore, as Edinburgh itself is a vibrant hub for literature. Every August the city hosts the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the only redeeming part about living in Edinburgh during the entire month of August. Without fail, the Festival has excellent line ups of authors and guest speakers, not to forget the fabulous bookshop of new releases – all in one tented village. I’ve been privileged enough to have seen Chuck Palahniuk, James Kelman and the late William McIlvanney, to name a few, provide fascinating and mesmerising talks and would have seen Alasdair Gray last year had he not fallen outside his flat at precisely the wrong moment.

It was during my time at Menzies Distribution, magazine and newspaper distributors that I decided to pursue a career in publishing but I wanted to swap sides and become part of the creative industry instead. It was this decision which prompted my return to education for my undergraduate and now here I am in Stirling. It seems that most of my classmates have already picked a specific field within publishing they wish to work in; I am, however, quite content exploring the different aspects before I find and choose my place.

Visiting Speaker 13/10/16: Jonny Gallant from Alban Books

October 17th, 2016 by Alice Laing | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker 13/10/16: Jonny Gallant from Alban Books
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13872919_10153621715627121_7098822134678477676_nSometimes all you can do is laugh…if only to stop yourself from crying. At least that is Jonny Gallant’s approach to looking back on any and all of the mistakes that he has made in his career.

From working with Cannongate in 2004 (when publishing was made easy from the sales of Life of Pi) to Walker Books, Alma Books, and St. Andrews Press, Gallant has found himself in the role of Managing Director of Alban Books.

Alban Books is the UK distributor for eleven Christian publishers outwith the UK. Most of the publishers they work with are based in the US with others in Europe and Israel. For a relatively small company  they have 7000 active titles under their care, with an average RRP of £23.55. With a team of five people marketing and selling over 500 titles per year, working with 400 trade accounts, 400 libraries, 700 academics, and 600 reviewers Alban Books know how to keep themselves busy.

Gallant himself knows how to grab the attention of a room full of publishing students, managing to inspire laughter throughout his visit by being candid about the mistakes (or, as he colorfully referred to them, f**k-ups) he has made in his career thus far and offering us a few lessons along the way.

Lesson 1: Always double check the zeros on your shipping forms to avoid sending the entire print run to Australia.

Lesson 2: Learn how to spell ‘Stationery’ and always believe the person with two degrees in Literature from Oxford University on the spelling of ‘Stationery’.

Lesson 3: There’s an odd amusement to be found in witnessing 800 people enthusiastically agree to your redundancy.

Lesson 4: Brexit is a sh*tstorm that is causing Gallant’s publishing related misery as he tries to safely make it through, with Alban Books relying heavily on their backlist, which accounts for 88% of sales. However, there is always Pope Frances, who is likely responsible for 10% of their sales, to be thankful for.

Lesson 5: When one door closes, a better one will more often than not open – mainly if you accept invitations for coffee.

Lesson 6: Always question why people don’t blink at spending £3 for a greetings card, but expect a 250+ page book to be £6.99.

Gallant did an excellent job at showing a room full of post graduate students that you shouldn’t fear making mistakes, as there are always opportunities and a lesson to be learnt. Time spent worrying about what could go wrong, or even what has gone wrong, is time wasted and there’s not a lot of time to spare in the world of publishing and distribution. It’s not too clear how Brexit is going to continue to affect Alban Books and the rest of the industry, but one thing that is clear is that ‘Visiting Speaker Day’ is fast becoming a class favourite and we’ve been left with very high expectations – no pressure.

by Alice Laing

First Visitor Talk of 16-17: Nikki Simpson, PPA Scotland

October 13th, 2016 by morven_gow | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on First Visitor Talk of 16-17: Nikki Simpson, PPA Scotland
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ppa-scotAt 2.45pm on 6th October, with a retinue of publishing students bearing boxes of precious periodicals, Nikki Simpson (Business Manager at the PPA – Professional Publishers Association) strode through the seemingly endless corridors of the University of Stirling. She was a woman with a mission. Her aim, to convert Unbelievers – those students convinced that their future lies 100% in the world of book publishing rather than that of the magazine.

A passionate presenter, Nikki soon had many of the most hardened book career diehards rethinking their options and goals. The PPA represents over 700 magazines in Scotland, an industry valued at £154m which supports 1,300 full-time, 560 part-time and 4,400 freelancers. DC Thomson is the largest employer with around 600 employees, but the smallest publisher could have a couple of people working on a “passion project”. Annual events, the international Magfest (make a note in your diary, 15th Sep 17) and the Scottish Magazine Awards (The Beano won in 2015), provide the perfect platforms for the industry to celebrate the drive and passion of those working to produce regular magazines of the highest quality. The PPA is also planning to open a centre for magazine publishing in Edinburgh which would act as a hub for the industry and raise the profile of the sector. Exciting times!

magsThere are three areas of periodical publishing – Consumer, B2B and Contract. The boxes were soon opened and magazines representing each of these areas passed around. To appreciate magazines, it’s vital to get hands on and we certainly did. Delighted sounds filled the room as we were given a design lesson in the art of the mag. Everyone is familiar with the glossy mag, but what caught the imagination in Nikki’s presentation was the sheer variety of paper stock used and glorious typography and images. Smooth, matt, cut outs, glow in the dark, QR codes, VR – seemingly unlimited creative options. Titles like Modern Farmer, Delayed Gratification, Boat, Little White Lies, Oh Comely, ‘Sup, the Gentlewoman and Hot Rum Cow had many fans and turned the head of many a committed book careerist on the day.

It’s worth remembering that the big players are those with circulations audited every six months by ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulations). The UK top five are: supermarket mags for Asda, then Tesco; TV Choice, What’s On TV, and Waitrose magazine. Their combined circulation figures, a mighty 6.8 million.

What makes a magazine successful? Nikki explained that in addition to the basic funding models of subscriptions, copy sales, advertising, and crowdfunding, brand extensions via websites, apps, award nights, supplements (even shops in the case of Tyler Brule’s Monocle) are all so important. The issue of ad blocking was discussed. Half of us in the room admitted to using these. After Nikki’s cri de coeur against their use for magazine sites, “Die! Die!” but “I love your content!” and the particularly vivid “ad blockers stab newspapers in the face”, those students using adblockers were swearing off using them again.

Nikki covered 16 possible career areas in magazine publishing from design to insight, through ad sales and procurement – and editorial, of course – as it’s always worth keeping an open mind regarding opportunity for experience.

She rounded off her rallying call for magazines with examples of cutting edge creativity – links below.
Marie Claire
Augmented Reality

Paper Tablets

Google Glass

Following questions from the audience, those magazines which had been objects of desire during the talk were handed over to some lucky recipients, and our first visitor talk in this semester came to an end. Nikki’s presentation had qualities essential for a career in magazine publishing – passion and creativity – and she succeeded in making many of us consider a career in magazines for the first time.

By Morven Gow

Claire Furey, MLitt Publishing Studies 2016-17

October 11th, 2016 by claire_furey | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Claire Furey, MLitt Publishing Studies 2016-17
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photo-croppedDia dhaoibh! I hail from the beautiful rainy Galway, on the west coast of Ireland. At least I don’t have to adjust to the Scottish weather! It’s taken me a long while to get here, but it’s been worth it. I graduated from NUI, Galway in 2008 with a BSc in Physics and Astronomy. That may sound impressive, but please don’t test my knowledge on any of it… I realised half way through I did not want a career in physics, but as I was having such a great time socially and really had no idea what else to do with myself, I finished the degree.

I worked in various jobs for a few years – the most interesting being for an online education company where I had some editing, proofreading and general quality assurance roles. I also did some part time freelance work as a proofreader which I loved. I always toyed with the idea of going back to education. I adored books, words and anything to do with the English language so I looked into English literature, journalism, or librarian studies, but I couldn’t quite see myself in a career in any of those contexts. So instead I took off travelling.

I travelled and worked around the world for about 2 and a half years, and had the time of my life. When I got back, I decided it was time to get serious and focus on a career. Somehow publishing came onto my radar – a natural extension from the proofreading I enjoyed so much I guess! Stirling seemed to call to me out of all the places I looked at! Now I’m here I know I’ve made the right decision – both in terms of the course and the location. Before I started I was all about the copy-editing aspect of things, but the more I learn about all the other areas of publishing, the more excited I get about the prospect of a career in any of it. Particularly production. I can’t wait to see what the next few years bring!