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saraband

What is the relationship between author and publisher?

December 11th, 2017 by Sofia Fernandez | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on What is the relationship between author and publisher?
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A few weeks ago the author of 2016 Man Booker shortlisted novel His Bloody Project, Graeme Macrae Burnet, and Saraband founder and owner, Sara Hunt, visited the University of Stirling to discuss the relationship between authors and publishers. The interview was held on a Wednesday evening, with tea and biscuits to accompany the charismatic talk for the creative writing and publishing students.

His Bloody Project became the largest-selling book in the Booker shortlist after being shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize the past year. However, Burnet’s success first started with his union with Saraband when working on his first novel, The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau. Just like all good stories begin, Graeme submitted the manuscript of the novel to different publishers before Sara called him. 

The starting point of this magnificent story commenced with Burnet finding an agent who was willing to work on the manuscript. After some editorial work done, the manuscript was sent to different publishers, all of which rejected Graeme’s novel. That was the point when the possibility to send the novel to independent publishers arose.

He got interested on Saraband thanks to the description on their webpage about their new Contraband imprint, that was seeking crime fiction, “but not purely crime —  centering on the originality and quality of the narrative, either crime fiction, thrillers, mystery or noir”. He thought, “well, here you have a quirky novel, set in France and written by someone who’s not French”. Burnet describes The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau as a character study, “it is a sort of crime novel, but it doesn’t easily slot into a specific genre. It is all about the character”.

Saraband originally started in 1994, dedicated mostly to illustrated non-fiction books but, as publishing was evolving, in 2014 Sara and her team decided to create Contraband imprint, “kind of crime related but not genre crime particularly”, something different that would not fit into a publishing standard. She explains Saraband’s motto would be to provide books with quality or passion more than genre or fitting in a particular market.

Hunt found the manuscript impeccable and fitting into what she wanted for the new imprint so she decided to call Graeme, who was in that moment painting the ladies toilet of a building. He giggled while affirming “it is not easy to make a living as a writer”. Nevertheless, Graeme told us that all the recent events have had a very big impact on his life. After the shortlisting of his second novel by the Man Booker Prize he was immediately invited to a high profile events such as the London Book Fair. He explained that as a “newbie” in the field he decided to attend all events as they were all big and beautiful opportunities, but obviously it got pretty exhausting. However, despite all the social appearances, he already finished The Accident on the A35 published by Saraband this last October 2017.

Then, the students were given the opportunity to ask the guests, and the eternal question arose among the audience, “why did you decide to set His Bloody Project in a city of Scotland that is not your hometown?” Burnet argued that imagination is emphasized when you are in a foreign place, “sit down in a place without a phone or a book and you’ll be surprised by all the things you can reckon”, he proposed.

When another student asked Graeme what moved him to write he advised to be authentic, “looking for commercial trends to inspire some writing might not work”.  And that is something he and Saraband share. Hunt explained, “if something is on trend that’s a bonus – for us it’s about quality and having passion for the book”.

An intrepid publishing student asked then whether, after all the success he’s been through, other publishers have offered him to publish with them. Graeme appeared very open to share it with us and Sara. He did receive other offers but “every relation with an author is different”.  He felt Sara had done an amazing job and built a great relationship. Burnet is very comfortable with Saraband. “It is very difficult to find someone that believes in your work at an early stage and holds the faith on it”. Moreover, Sara feels fine with Graeme moving to other publishers, “it’s not bad to have authors going to larger publishers because it gives you advertising. It is fruitful anyway”, she said.

The clock was marking the last five minutes of the hour, but Sara and Graeme kept telling us the most encouraging stories to make the work in publishing an amazing place:

Sara: “It’s important to have faith in the people you are working for”.

Graeme: “It is striking to have freedom to write about what you want”.

Sara: “Saraband’s thing is that with Contraband we are keeping authors, not trends of novels”.

Graeme finished the talk with profound feeling and advice to the audience “but do not to give your heart because then it hurts more. However, if it is your passion, it will never stop. It never crossed my mind to stop”.

 

Sofía Fernández Becerra

Internship at Saraband

March 27th, 2017 by claire_furey | Posted in Blog, Internships | Comments Off on Internship at Saraband
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I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to land an internship with Saraband. Cream of the UK indie publishing world in 2016; perhaps due to a book called His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Man-Booker-shortlisted title?! (If you haven’t already, go read it; it’s wonderful.) This internship involved mostly working from home, which has benefits (working in pyjamas! No travel!) and drawbacks (not so easy to ask for guidance, written instructions are more open to interpretation than face-to-face). Plus, as it is my very first internship, it would have been nice to have an office presence. On the other hand, I ultimately want to be a freelancer, so having the experience of motivating myself from home is invaluable, as well as learning to communicate in that instance.

The task I learned the most from was one of the novels I proofread. It was a new, unpublished manuscript and I carefully read through it and marked off all the things I believed should be changed using MS Word Track Changes and sent it back quite satisfied with myself. After some time, I received an email: could I check all the proposed changes had been made to this manuscript when it was typeset? There it was. A shockingly long list of things I’d missed that another proofreader had picked up.

Some were genuine mistakes, like ‘proceed’ instead of ‘precede’. Others were changes I would not have made. For example, ‘carpark’ I had left as one word. It was now changed to two words. After looking it up, (I live to find out small details like that. No seriously. My mom says I’m cool…) I found out the two-word version is the more common one, particularly in the UK. Who knew? Not me, clearly.

Buildings in the UK have ‘two storeys’ not ‘two stories’. That was news to me. Some of the dialogue, written in a heavy Scottish accent, was altered, which at first I thought was outrageous but then I could understand why. To an extent. It was mostly a case of out-of-place apostrophes, but I do feel the accent of the character concerned changed in a way that I wouldn’t have wanted it to with certain changes.

There were one or two things that niggled at me slightly at the time of reading, but I didn’t flag them. The experienced proofreader caught them. For instance, the metaphor ‘… the anger coursed through his veins like cancer.’ That just doesn’t make sense. But grammatically – how I was looking at it – it’s fine.

I learned so much from this mystery proofreader, even if I was rather indignant with the changes at first! But internships are a learning curve and this was a fantastic chance for me to realise the sheer level of detail and thought I need to put into a proofreading task. Nothing can be left to chance. This was a fantastic experience and Sara herself has been incredibly patient and supportive throughout the internship. I really couldn’t have asked for a better first internship.

by Claire Furey

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.

Spring Semester Bookends: Saraband & Innerpeffray

April 20th, 2016 by Johan Sheridan | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Spring Semester Bookends: Saraband & Innerpeffray
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On February 11, 2016, we welcomed Sara Hunt from Saraband Books as the first visiting speaker for the MLitt in Publishing studies in the spring semester.

During its 22 years in operation, Saraband has created popular, illustrated reference, history, and arts titles with a certain amount of mindful dispirit. The Scottish publisher created a niche and built its reputation while the internet increased user access to information regardless of geographical boundaries.

For modern book publishers, gone is the cushioned marketplace of a local bookshop or library with built-in profits and tight control over the retailer’s inventory. Digital expectations have terraformed the world of publishing, so Hunt strove to articulate what she called the three N’s for navigating the shifting sands: noise, narrative and niche.

Beware Noise

Noise represents today’s consumer fatigue, resulting from such a great wealth of choice—encompassing global online ordering; immediately available downloads; unlimited range of selections; and wide array of competing forms of entertainment or use of leisure time, such as television, smart phone, game, movie, and social media. Noise makes it difficult to select works, let alone turn someone into a reader. “In the battle against noise, curation is the single biggest contribution publishers make.”

Deep discounting is a fact of life, with multinational corporations controlling conditions. Against self-publishing authors and free info, free books, global entertainment, increased costs, and lower returns, every book has to fight for itself. This can be good for readers, but can also promote complacency from publishers who can’t hear over the static, Hunt says. Fewer newer authors appear save those exciting few debuts, author maintenance drops off, fewer risks are taken, and popular success tends to be converted from or intended for another format.

Remember Narrative

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The narrative keyword rephrases the old adage “content is king.” Hunt stresses the importance of appealing stories that offer more than just information. Saraband adheres to the gospel of narrative, exalting stories that are compelling, fresh, worthwhile, well-crafted, useful unusual, inspiring, well-told by a strong voice, or any combination thereof. Hunt highlighted two books that are characteristic of Saraband, Uuganaa Ramsay’s Mongol and Chitra Ramaswamy’s Expecting: The Inner Life of Pregnancy. Both books that can, with the right marketing, make their way to audiences who will value those stories.

Embrace Niche

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To embrace a niche is to identify what is unique and to highlight it. Hunt points out that for many publishers, their niche—or in the case of Saraband, niches—can work like an anchor amidst all the noise. Some niches that Saraband have embraced include nature writing, memoir, wildlife, sustainable living, and Scottish literary fiction (though it’s hard to call literary fiction a niche, since Scotland is small there endures a local yearning). Publishers even have the option of utilizing an imprint to exploit or explore a niche list, as Saraband has done with their 2014-launched Contraband, which mines the crime, thriller and mystery niche. While good marketing to build readership is key, playing to one’s strengths by embracing the niche as Saraband and other successful publishers have done can provide solutions to challenges through collaboration or new publishing areas offering unique voices, easy conversion to popular digital format, or focus on high production and design values.

A room without books is a body without a soul-Cicero

According to Hunt, traditional publishers need to respond, experiment, innovate, and change. Competition with other entertainment is a challenge, but not a threat in a bad way. There is room for everybody so long as we continue to cherish high-quality writing, design, and production. Conventional book producers have already learned much from the digital side of the market, like the importance of identifying and reaching targets through influencers, hashtags, and rich metadata. Saraband continues to soldier on because Sara Hunt is always reevaluating what to publish and reconsidering how to add value, connect with target markets, and rise to the challenge presented by discounts.

Innerpeffray Library

To close out the semester, on March 22, our Publishing, Literature and Society module took a field trip to Creiff. There, we visited Scotland’s first lending library, Innerpeffray Library. Included are images of its historic facilities, idyllic grounds, and sagacious resources. Let’s consult a very old, dusty dictionary to see whether or not “sagacious” is appropriate to use here.

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My Internship with Saraband

March 12th, 2015 by Jennifer Katherine Hamrick | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on My Internship with Saraband
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Paris KissI am currently interning at Saraband and I could not have asked for a better experience. Saraband is an independent publisher located in Glasgow with a wide range of both fiction and non-fiction titles as well as some literary apps. The publisher is very small, with only three employees: Sara Hunt (managing director), Craig Hillsley (who works satellite from London) and Laura Jones (a former Stirling MLitt student and current Saraband assistant). But for such a small publisher, they manage to do an incredible amount of work. Sometimes I think Sara must have clones of herself in order to accomplish everything she does in a single day!

Working with a small publisher is ideal for students because it means you get to dabble in every aspect of publishing. My very first day I got to go to a trade fair, start copyediting a nonfiction title, practice filling in metadata spreadsheets and learn about promoting titles on Amazon. We all work in the same room so I get to overhear very interesting and educational conversations such as when to send out press releases or how to coordinate sales reps’ expectations versus authors’ expectations. So far, I’ve been able to see a title through from copy-editing to cover design and hopefully to final production in the future.

What I like best about interning with Saraband is that I am welcome to ask any questions I want. Sara and Laura are both fantastic teachers and go above and beyond to make sure I am getting good experience from my time here. Sara always makes it a point to explain why we do things a certain way in publishing so that I can understand where these processes come from. And Laura has taken time away from her work to personally teach me about typesetting, a skill I was very desperate to improve upon. Thanks to her, I was able to improve my publishing dummy project and I now feel much more confident about setting up Eagle's Wayboth Word and InDesign documents for typesetting in the future.

One of my favorite tasks thus far has been to create book trailers for a couple of Saraband’s titles. I created very simple iMovie videos, but am interested in expanding my video-editing knowledge and exploring other video software programs. I was very happy to learn that the authors of the books for these videos were pleased with what I had created; it gave me a lot of confidence to have made something that both Saraband and the authors could use on social media. Moreover, I now have another skill to add to my CV with links to videos that I created.

This experience has been completely invaluable to me. Through this internship I have been able to gain the practical knowledge I need to enter the publishing industry, and I feel much more confident about my skills. Plus, by completing a variety of tasks, I now know with which area of publishing my skill sets and interests line up. I look forward to learning more as my internship progresses.

Jenny Hamrick

London Book Fair and Digicon 2013

May 11th, 2013 by Blake Brooks | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on London Book Fair and Digicon 2013
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Blake Brooks, MLitt in Publishing Studies student, reports on London Book Fair and Digicon 2013:

It’s been an intense year of studying and interning, going from being a freshly graduated undergrad to hardcore postgrad, and all that energy and learning culminated in two events in April: The London Book Fair and the Interactive Scotland Digital Conference (Digicon).

Although as a Londoner the London Book Fair was a chance to go home, the trip was still predominantly about working, networking and seeing the publishing industry in practice. Still, even a lifelong Londoner like myself can underestimate journey time, and so at 9.30am on the Monday morning I went dashing into Earls Court trying to get to my first seminar. I only paused briefly to marvel at the stands that stretched out before me like a hundred tiny showrooms, a sea of metal squares with banners and photos all vying for attention.
Whilst I enjoyed the seminar, I felt somewhat disorientated and so decided to forgo my next intended one for a chance to walk around and familiarise myself. However that feeling of disorientation never went away. I found I largely spent my time trying not to crash into the marketing executive of HarperCollins, desperately attempting light hearted and jovial conversation with stern-faced and unamused stall-dwellers, and smiling with nervous hope at disinterested business people rushing from meeting to meeting with no interest in anyone with the word ‘student’ emblazoned across their badge.

A world away from the rush of the main fair, I did enjoy the seminars and I was even invited to partake in some meetings with my internship company Saraband, which were interesting, nerve-wracking, and brilliant. I felt like everyone was communicating in another language, but every now and then I caught familiar words or had a feeling I knew what they were really talking about, and I loved it when I had something I could contribute, though for the most part I preferred to listen.

I did however find it disheartening how little care was shown for students (theoretically the future of the publishing industry) and how hard it was to approach people, even at networking events. I’m not a wallflower but I really struggled, and some people were just downright rude when you did try. That’s also the feedback I’ve received relatively unanimously from the other Stirling students, too.

However the Fair itself is definitely worth going to; a great educational experience that is interesting and often enjoyable. I loved sitting with a glass of wine and chatting publishing with those I had connected with, I enjoyed live-tweeting in excess until my batteries died, I smiled as I played LBF bingo in my head and ticked ‘William Boyd’ off my list (but not a bin, which were few and far between).

The seminars were interesting, although I only made half of my intended ones as my feet hurt and my energy ran out as the days are long and tiring. The stalls were fascinating, especially seeing how some were so open and full of life like Penguin and Button Books, whilst others, like Canongate and Lonely Planet, built both literal and metaphorical walls around themselves. Many people at stalls encouraged conversation, others were all business and meetings. Overall I left with two business cards but fifty new twitter followers, a heavy heart but an enthused mind, and a sense that the publishing industry was not going to be quite as kind to me as I’d once thought – even though I also came out feeling like those that were kind were more than making it up for those who weren’t.

Digital Day was a totally different and utterly positive experience by comparison. I showed up expecting it to feel much like the London Book Fair, which, by this point, I’d reflected on as a worthwhile but disappointing experience. However, we were greeted in a small room by tea and breakfast rolls, surrounded by small stands that were open and welcoming, much more like a market than a fair.

This was a more casual, interesting and positive event and, as the main conference started, I was curious to see what the core of it was about. Digicon doesn’t quite specialise in publishing, although Pearson were there, telling us all about teaching our three-year-olds Mandarin using the iPad, and much of it does relate to the industry.
I tweeted everything and garnered numerous new followers, as I sat at the back of the conference room watching hundreds of faces lit up in the dark with the glow of tablets and phone. Everyone was excited, everything seemed fascinating, and best of all there were limitless supplies of tea. The afternoon seminars were even better, with one on ‘brand identity’ and one on ‘visibility and marketing’. The seminar leaders were funny, charismatic and confident, they led interesting discussions and imparted wisdom that felt worthy of writing down. When I came out my mind was abuzz with marketing ideas and I wandered around the stalls happily chatting with professionals who were open and friendly, undoing all the self-doubt I’d felt after LBF. The networking event was wonderful, I had a lovely time drinking free wine with Sara and Catriona (from Publishing Scotland and alumni of the course) whilst talking to numerous people. I didn’t feel awkward handing over my card, or taking anyone else’s, and my smile felt genuine this time. Although it’s perhaps not as necessary to go to Digicon I felt it was a great experience and perhaps more beneficial than LBF, especially if you’re interested in digital technologies.

I’ve come out of both events feeling that they were beneficial and I definitely got something out of both. I think the London Book Fair is an important event, it’s good if you are interested in publishing in general, but it is not a networking event as everyone is busy and students are largely superfluous. Still, the companies I did interact with; Cargo, Forlaget Hetland, Saraband, Freight, Button Books and Publishing Scotland; were all wonderful, open and kind.

Digicon is an optional addition to the publishing calendar, but a truly enjoyable experience and I think worth going to if you can afford it. You can reap the ticket cost back in food and drink easily (the entire day is catered) and the advice and guidance in the seminars was more useful and inspiring than anything I heard at London Book Fair.

However perhaps the best recommendation I could give is to say do it all. Both experiences were beneficial even if not totally positive, both were educational, both were enjoyable at times and all that I’ve learnt will help me in the future. so it’s worth it.