Adrian Searle and Freight Books

October 23rd, 2011 by Paola_Gonella | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Adrian Searle and Freight Books
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Our visiting speaker on Thursday 13th October was Adrian Searle, director of Freight Design, an award-winning Scottish creative design and brand development agency based in Glasgow city centre. Founded ten years ago, the company quickly established itself as one of Scotland’s leading design and marketing consultancies.

Adrian gave a very interesting talk about the joys and difficulties of setting up his own publishing company. He explained how he got involved in the business through his design company. In 2001, they decided they would do a self-commissioned project every year and their first undertaking, The Hope that Kills Us, combined two of Adrian’s favourite things, Scottish literature and football. The book, sponsored by Arts&Business Scotland and picked by The Guardian as one of the top 10 best football fictions, brings together eight specially commissioned stories from some of Scotland’s best contemporary writers, with each story examining the participants, experience and emotion that feed the nation’s obsession with football.

Following the critical acclaim received for The Hope that Kills Us, the company decided to embark on another self-commissioned project entitled The Knuckle-End, which featured two pocket-sized hardbacks joined by a fabric hinge, the first one dedicated to a selection of short stories and poems by recent graduates from the Creative Writing Master at University of Glasgow as well as award-winning writers, and the second one dedicated to images and photographs on themes inspired by the title.

A couple of other projects of which Adrian seemed particularly proud are Dougie’s War, a graphic novel by acclaimed novelist and biographer Rodge Glass and artist Dave Turbitt about the legacy of the war in the Middle East and the effects of PTSD on returning veterans, and Gutter, an award-winning, high quality, printed journal for fiction and poetry from writers born or living in Scotland. As Adrian told us, the magazine also proved to be a good way for Freight to make friends with a lot of good writers, which then helped them setting up their own publishing company, Freight Books.

Adrian described the company as small, independent and with a specific interest in both middlebrow commercial and literary fiction. They usually publish 4 or 5 books a year, which range from stunning debuts of writers that may have been published already in Gutter to forgotten classics like All the Little Animals, Walker Hamilton’s un-classifiable first novel that will be republished in June 2012. Their first book, published last September, is Killing the Messenger, the second novel from Christopher Wallace, who won the 1988 Saltire First Book of the Year Award for The Pied Piper’s Poison.

Adrian also announced that The Hope that Kills Us, Dougie’s War and Gutter will be available soon in digital form, thanks to a collaboration with Faber Factory, an initiative that Adrian described as ‘absolutely brilliant’, especially for independent publishers that cannot invest in additional resources for text digitisation.

Stories for a Better Nation

October 13th, 2011 by Claire_Squires | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Stories for a Better Nation
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The Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP delivered the Williamson Memorial Lecture at the University of Stirling tonight, speaking to the title ‘A Better Nation? A Personal Reflection on Scotland’s Future’. A central element of his argument was the need for political discourse surrounding Scottish nationhood, and the forthcoming independence debate, to attain a ‘different quality of imagination’.

His words were reminiscent of those spoken by Andrew O’Hagan a couple of weeks earlier, and reported on by MLitt in Publishing Studies student Nuria Ruiz. Books, O’Hagan, argued, make the world more real for us. O’Hagan’s idea, paraphrases Nuria, was ‘that Scottish civic memory actually finds its most forceful expression in the arts – Scottish plays, music, art and books are becoming powerful, punching above their weight in the cultural stakes. In particular, books are playing a bigger role in making the world “more real” for us as Scots.’

Alexander’s speech provided an interesting counterpoint to the O’Hagan’s argument. In a talk peppered with references to Shakespeare, Plato, Burns, William McIlvanney and Alasdair Gray, he made an argument for a politics informed by a pluralistic imagination and underpinned by the principles of common humanity. Democratic politics, he says, have taught him many things, including:

‘that in policy, statistics matter, but in politics, stories matter too. Because stories help shape what is hidden in plain sight all around us – what we judge has meaning, and what we judge doesn’t. And it is through stories that we provoke the feelings of hope that are at the heart of participating in a progressive society – the care, concern, and compassion that has always underpinned the will to act.’

The place of writing – and publishing – in this vision is worth considering further. Nuria ended her blog on Andrew O’Hagan by arguing that Scottish publishing can and should be central, that ‘if Scottish book culture is on the ascendant, then Scottish publishing can become as commanding as the stories it makes and preserves.’ Alexander ended his speech with an appeal to the future: ‘the history of Scotland, written by this generation, can and will be remembered not by the “The End of an Auld Sang” but positively and vibrantly by “The beginning of a New Story”.

The role of writers, artists, musicians, poets – and indeed publishers – should take its place at the heart of this narrative: asking difficult questions, creating new stories, communicating them effectively to a variety of audiences.

The conversation continues…

The full text of Douglas Alexander’s speech is available here.

Publishing Scotland’s In-Company Development Project – First Seminar

October 5th, 2011 by Frances_Sessford | Posted in Blog | 1 Comment
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The In-Company Development Programme is the brainchild of Publishing Scotland CEO, Marion Sinclair. It is an ambitious scheme designed to enable publishers based in Scotland to develop and grow their businesses in order to respond to changing consumer trends in markets at home and overseas. Seven publishing companies have been chosen to participate: Acair, Sandstone Press, Freight Books, Saraband, Strident Publishing, Floris Books and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. The publishers will have three seminar days where they can view presentations from and meet with industry professionals; and they will also benefit from the services and experience of an industry expert who will work alongside each business, offering advice and input on issues such as publishing strategy, growth strategy, exploiting intellectual property, and financial matters.

On Thursday 29th September, the seven chosen publishers gathered for the first seminar in the company of their mentors, speakers and other guests from the publishing industry. David Pirnie, strategy consultant and programme manager, opened the session with a warm welcome and announced the focus of the first seminar: the business of publishing in the context of researching the market, managing change and seeking investment.

The first speaker was Reeta Davis of Nielsen Bookscan, who gave a master class in market research: what it is, where to get it from, why publishers need it and most importantly, how to make the most of the research you have at your disposal. The presentation included some valuable and detailed information about the current state of the UK market. Accurate, reliable, up-to-date research often has to be paid for; publishers have to ask whether it is worth their while. Spending £1000 on some detailed research which will enable you to better judge your print runs could save the business much more money in the long run.

Martin Redfern, one of the programme mentors, opened the next stage with a brief presentation on the challenges of managing change. In his opinion, small publishers are actually at an advantage when it comes to adapting to change: flatter management structures and simpler operations mean they can move more quickly in response to market needs than the clumsier corporates. This was illustrated in excellent detail by two fantastic case studies, presented by Vivian Marr of OUP and Jenny Todd of Canongate, respectively. The former showed a corporate giant’s struggle to move a large and successful list from print to digital, while the latter addressed the challenges which came to Canongate in the wake of one of their biggest successes: Life of Pi’s winning the Man Booker Prize in 2002. This was a particularly fascinating and illuminating part of the day: it is rare to be privy to the details of a publisher’s operations. Delegates were impressed. The conclusions: make your decisions, communicate them effectively and get people on board – a fractured operation responding to conflicting messages will not cope well with change.

Managing change effectively relies a lot on making a secure base, and finding investment is an important part of this. The only resource most publishers have in limitless quantities is enthusiasm. Donald Boyd, Head of Media at Campbell Dallas gave his advice on investment sources for publishers and, more importantly, assessing the potential risks and benefits involved. He urged delegates to reflect that while doing nothing with their business was an option to be considered, it is also the one to be left behind. However, if you are going to seek funding from an external source, you must be able to live with the consequences. While Donald Boyd pointed out that looking to conventional sources of funding for projects (such as banks) is virtually pointless in today’s climate, several of his existing clients have had some success in seeking funding by crowd-sourcing. This is one way in which publishers might be able to generate new resources in future.

Summary feedback from the attending publishers was extremely positive. While many of the delegates have no formal publishing training they have all learned the hard way about publishing through their trials, mistakes and successes. This session gave them time out to consider their businesses from fresh perspectives; to think about their options for growth and development; and to discuss plans and hopes with industry colleagues. Exactly how these businesses will change and develop is impossible to say, but this is an extremely exciting time not just for them but for Scottish publishing as a whole.

Books make the world more real for us: Andrew O’Hagan on civic memory in Scotland

October 2nd, 2011 by Nuria_Ruiz | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Books make the world more real for us: Andrew O’Hagan on civic memory in Scotland
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Photo of Andrew O'Hagan by Jerry BauerOn 28th September 2011, award-winning writer Andrew O’Hagan arrived in Stirling to deliver a lecture on civic memory, which he called “An Argument on the Character of Scottish Culture”.  In equal measures thoughtful and amusing, he explored how our understanding of Scotland, and our own place within our home country, is dependent on shared memories and a common culture.

 The lecture was held at the macrobert, as part of the House of Words series in collaboration with Creative Writing at Stirling.

“Scotland”, asserts Andrew O’Hagan, “is a living workshop of the imagination”.  And this was really the unifying theme of his guest lecture on the nature of Scottish civic memory.  We Scots are bound by our imaginations and our unending need to understand what has gone before.  Through the Bell’s Whisky tagline, “Afore ye go”, via an unexpected invasion by the English, to finally praising the Scottish “confederation of the imagination” between its authors and readers, Andrew led us through the creation of a Scottish identity that says as much about its citizens as it does about the continuing strength of its creative industries. 

As a writer, O’Hagan of course emphasised the role of writing in civic memory.  A lovely idea was his perception of the theatre as a vision for how to live, particularly when our lives are becoming politically and economically harder.  But it was the story, the power of fiction, which underpinned his argument.  Mentioning James Kelman, Andrew described his body of work as the most crafted and true representations of Scotland – and for me, it struck home.  Kelman, of course, won the 1994 Booker Prize with How Late It Was, How Late, stoking controversy with his use of Glaswegian language and culture among more traditional critics.  But in Scotland, his book was an invocation of who we are; it was our language, our experiences and anxieties, put into words where it could not slip out of view.

A noteworthy observation, purely from a publishing perspective, was O’Hagan’s idea that Scottish civic memory actually finds its most forceful expression in the arts – Scottish plays, music, art and books are becoming powerful, punching above their weight in the cultural stakes.  In particular, books are playing a bigger role in making the world “more real” for us as Scots.  This led me to question what that could mean for the publishing industry in Scotland.  It might be easy to assume that the home of literary and fiction publishing in Britain rightly lies in the South East.  But as Andrew noted, Scotland is a nation whose stories are largely unwritten, and where our personal fiction and characters are as respected as our national history.  We may for many years have lived a verbal life, but this creation of a civic memory could see our stories, and the stories of those who came before us, power the publishing industry.  If Scottish book culture is on the ascendant, then Scottish publishing can become as commanding as the stories it makes and preserves. 

And everyone in Scotland, after all, has a story.

Núria Ruiz, September 2011

Independent Publishing Events

May 30th, 2011 by Claire_Squires | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Independent Publishing Events
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The Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication, in association with the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, is running a series of seminars over the summer in Glasgow on the topic of Independent Publishing: Making and Preserving Culture in a Global Literary Marketplace. The seminars will feature a mix of publishers and others in the book trade, from Scotland and across Europe, and also of academics and other commentators on the industry. The three seminars will be:

 9-10 June Digital Technologies and Publishing (keynote speaker: Chris Meade, Director of the Institute for the Future of the Book on ‘The Amplified Author in the Unlibrary’)

23-24 June Globalisation and Independent Publishing (keynote speaker: Professor Simon Gikandi, Princeton University on ‘Scenes of Reading in the Global Literary Marketplace: Some Postcolonial Reflections)

 22-23 August Cultural Policy (keynote speaker: André Schiffrin, publisher and author of The Business of Books and Words and Money; in association with Publishing Scotland and the Edinburgh International Book Festival

All events are free, but registration is required. You can register direct for the keynote lectures by clicking on the following links: Chris Meade (9 June); Simon Gikandi (23 June). If you would like to attend the seminars in full, please send an email to publishing [@] and we will send you a registration link. More details are available from the Programme website.

Publishing Scotland conference

February 27th, 2010 by Claire_Squires | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing Scotland conference
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Publishing Scotland conference 2010Members of staff from the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication recently attended the Publishing Scotland conference in Edinburgh. The conference featured a Keynote Speech from Fiona Hyslop, Minister for Culture and External Affairs, and talks on successful strategies for digital publishing, getting the best out of book festivals, retail trends in 2009/10, and the Google Book settlement. The talk from Jon Reed of Reed Media on using social media to promote your business gave us lots of great ideas – thanks Jon! We’ll put some of these into action soon…

As a Network Member of Publishing Scotland, we exhibited the Centre in the Network Showcase. We took a sample of practical work undertaken by students on the MLitt in Publishing Studies, discussed opportunities for work experience and internships with publishing companies, and opportunities for consultancy and training.

Despite the recession and a recent, contentious report from the Literature Working Group to the Scottish Government which advocated that publishers in Scotland no longer be represented by Publishing Scotland but by the Independent Publishers Guild (IPG), the mood was upbeat at the conference. For us, this was helped by meeting some of our alumni, and also staff from Floris Books, who told us the good news that they’ve just employed one of last year’s graduates from the MLitt on a permanent basis following a temporary contract.

SYP Scotland Launched

November 1st, 2009 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on SYP Scotland Launched
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002A new branch of the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) Scotland was launched in Edinburgh last week, to add to the organisation’s London and Oxford branches. The SYP is a networking organisation for those working in publishing and the book trades, or hoping to join it soon.

Around 5o publishers, booksellers, and publishing students attended the launch event held in the offices of Publishing Scotland, and networked over wine and a very large chocolate cake.

As well as celebrating the launch, SYP members heard talks on The Future of Publishing in Scotland from Waterstone’s and from Claire Squires, the Director of the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication.

More details on the SYP are available from their website.