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Stirling

What defines the best?

November 30th, 2017 by David Graham | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on What defines the best?
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The experience of being a shadow fiction judge for the Saltire Society.

By David MacDonald Graham.

I had the honour of being a shadow fiction judge for the Saltire society, six books to read, take notes and ultimately decide which one was the best. The books ran the gauntlet from the emotional, political, heartwarming, the despairing and the disturbing.

 Judging and reading is an interpretive game and sometimes you need to separate the enjoyment factor and concentrate on craft, tone, intent and relevance. Perhaps, when all of those factors fail, the enjoyment factor remains the only aspect left to work with. It’s a challenge, thinking in and outside of literary factors, determining merits or lack of them. As a writer myself, I had to distance myself from the knowledge, that crafting a book, whatever the reason we choose to create, is not an easy task. A lot of work goes into the craft, a lot of doubt and second-guessing.
I know the work ethic, the difficulties and the attacks of doubt, and I owed it to the writers on the basis of knowing how aggravating and rewarding the process can be, to be as robust as possible in my analysis.
I spent the evening of the panel talking about books with my fellow shadow judges, which is probably how most of us would like to spend our evenings. The discourse and debate was lively, certainly well moderated and when the time came for a consensus, there was one question that challenged my perceptions and ultimately changed my decision.

“What is the best book, what deserves the award?”

Well, to me, these are two questions.

The best book is not necessarily the one that deserves the award. An award is a powerful thing, it creates visibility, it calls attention to both the author and the themes explored in the text. The question then becomes, who needs the award? There are, after all, some books that will always sell based on genre, subject matter and the author’s reputation. There are others that make important points, comment on society and explore culturally relevant issues that may not always be comfortable to read about. It’s possible these books may not find an audience without an award to champion it.

Another question is then raised, which is the most important book?

Bearing in mind, I had only been asked one question and my interpretation threw up four more in the space of seconds, including, is the most important book also the best book?
In a matter of seconds, I found myself asking internally if I had the right to judge, and mentally imagining myself saying to my previous decision;

“It’s not you, its definitely me. You’ll find your way.”

We all have a relationship with the books we read, and I essentially broke up with mine. Luckily there are plenty of books in the metaphorical sea. The book I eventually choose, quite simply, had a role to play that was beyond entertainment, it was a book that needed to be read.
The shadow judging was an invaluable experience, one I would be keen to repeat, armed with the knowledge that my preconceptions could be challenged by a simple question. I extend my thanks to the Saltire society; it will be interesting to find out on the 30th of November if our overall consensus matches up with the judging panel.

If you would like to get in touch, you can;

Twitter me @davidjonwinter

facebook me under David MacDonald Graham.

or LinkedIn me here:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-macdonald-graham-557605b1/

Kathryn Haldane, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2017-18

November 29th, 2017 by Kathryn Haldane | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Kathryn Haldane, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2017-18
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The question I was asked most as a child was ‘so you’re going to be an author when you grow up?’. This seemed like a logical idea; I read and wrote voraciously, and I thought that if I could do this for the rest of my life, that would be pretty much perfect. As I got older, I discovered that it’s not so easy to just become an author, and I still can’t find many jobs that involve me sitting and reading all day long. It took me a surprisingly long time to discover that publishing was a possible career option for me. For the longest time, I was so absorbed by the contents of the books themselves that I never gave much thought to how they actually came into being.

My interest in stories made me choose an undergraduate degree in English and Film Studies at The University of St Andrews. Although I enjoyed many aspects of my undergraduate degree, I learned that I did not want to work as an academic studying books for the rest of my life, but would still love to work around them in some capacity. I did as much work experience as I could to try and figure out where my interests lay, and did several placements at TV and newspaper businesses. They were fascinating, but they affirmed to me that working with books was what I definitely wanted to do.

After graduating this June, I stayed in St Andrews to work through the summer while applying for jobs and internships in publishing, and was finally rewarded with an internship at Alban Books in Edinburgh. It was an interesting and informative experience, and thankfully made me completely certain that I wanted to work in the publishing industry. Only late in the summer did I come across the MLitt in Publishing Studies at Stirling – I never knew such a thing existed, and right away I knew it was what I wanted to do. I never thought I would be going back to university to do postgraduate study, but I liked how vocational the course at Stirling seemed to be, and was excited by the prospect of learning real skills I could use in the workplace. I’m particularly looking forward to doing work experience at local publishing houses to get a feel for which area of the industry I would like to work in, and of course living in another beautiful part of Scotland.

Twitter: @kathrynhaldane

Hollie Monaghan MLitt in Publishing Studies 2017-18

November 20th, 2017 by Hollie Monaghan | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Hollie Monaghan MLitt in Publishing Studies 2017-18
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For as long as I’ve known how to read and write I’ve loved books and have especially loved pointing out typos and spelling mistakes and loudly tutting. A children’s book I loved as a child had on the page the typo “the the” and it still haunts me to this day. I want to go into publishing so that another young child does not need to go through that trauma. Also, because I love books of course!

I’ve wanted to be a publisher for as long as I actually knew what being a publisher entailed and my career trajectory has not shifted at all since then ( apart from a brief digression when I was ten and I wanted to be a pirate). Books always fascinated me and I was often caught reading a book under the table in school instead of doing maths work. Helping books be created and introducing them into the world is what I want to do. One gap year, a terrible call centre job and a dreadful bar job later I know I really would much rather do a job in publishing.

I did my MA in English Literature at the University of Glasgow and as much as I enjoyed the course, I was one of the very few students that didn’t want to be a teacher and I knew a future in publishing was still what I wanted to do and that the MLitt in Publishing Studies at Stirling would be an integral part of achieving this goal. At graduation while everyone was talking about their summer plans and their gap years I was talking about this publishing course. Even the social media aspect won’t scare me off; I hope. Over the summer, I even helped edit my friend’s self-published novel Melancholy Mind. I will completely acknowledge it as my first editing job even if the pay was in McDonald’s fries.

A few weeks into this course and I now know it was the right choice. Editing was my original career goal but now sales and marketing sounds rather interesting as well. The social media aspect of the course is scary though but I will persevere and become a social butterfly! Therefore, you can find me on Twitter . Let’s talk about books and the eternal struggle of getting up those stairs at Pathfoot.

 

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

SYP Scotland: Freelancing 101

November 21st, 2016 by Amalie Andersen | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on SYP Scotland: Freelancing 101
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notebook-1757220_640Arriving at The Society of Young Publishers’ freelancing event with two minutes to spare, the Stirpub students were forced to take the seats that no one else had dared to: the seats in the front row. This along with an archaic lack of phone signal that hadn’t been experienced in years meant that there was no live tweeting and no one checked in on Facebook. Everyone listened intently. After a stressful week of being told countless times (two times) that their future profession is one of the lowest paid, everyone was hopeful to hear that freelancing is the way to go. This was until the most dreadful words of them all were said. Networking. Socialising. Creating and maintaining good work relations. A gust of wind blew through the room, everyone felt a chill work its way down their spine and the room fell silent.

No, it wasn’t actually that bad. The incredibly skilled panel consisted of SYP Scotland’s own Heather McDaid; freelancer and co-owner of publisher 404 Ink, freelance editor and proofreader Julie Fergusson, Fiona Brownlee; freelance publishing consultant in the fields of marketing and rights management, as well as Jamie Norman who does freelance marketing. Together the panel discussed the benefits and challenges of working freelance.

Julie and Jamie were both new to the industry and working freelance had been a way of getting their foot in the door. They both stressed how important internships and volunteer work are in networking when you’re new to the industry. Fiona had previously worked as a publicist but needed to come up with a solution when the publisher she worked for was forced to close. From previous jobs she had got to know people within the industry and, even though she found it incredibly scary to begin with, saw the possibility of working freelance. Once started, they were all surprised at how quickly their freelance career had taken off and that one job had always led to another. Julie even had to turn down jobs as they didn’t correspond with the direction she wanted her career to go in.

Some of the challenges of working freelance that the panel discussed were:

  • The uncertainty of not having a fixed income and the fact that there is no such thing as paid holidays.
  • Knowing how much money to ask for. If you undercharge you might get the job but the industry will accept the low wage and freelancers will be underpaid.
  • Taxes are difficult and so is registering as self-employed. Jamie has lost a lot of money because of this and stressed the importance of doing it right.
  • You will work harder and for longer. Julie said that you can quickly lose evenings and weekends if you don’t keep to your work schedule. It’s tempting to sleep in and take the Monday off when you’re your own boss but you will end up working nights and weekends to make up for it. Jamie stressed the importance of having friends, partners and hobbies outside the industry in order to switch off.

But that being said the benefits of working freelance are obvious. Being your own boss means having the freedom to be picky about which jobs you want and to work from anywhere in the world. Julie also said that it’s the best feeling when a publisher comes back with a second job as it means that you’ve done a great job on the first one.

The panel all agreed that the thing which makes a successful freelancer is the ability to find out what a publisher is doing wrong or isn’t doing at all and convince them that they can make money by paying you to do it. Heather McDaid had slagged off a publisher’s website (even though she doesn’t recommend doing this) and was asked to improve it. If a publisher is losing out on sales because they’re not using social media to promote their publications offer to do it for them.

On a final note, Julie mentioned the website reedsy.com which connects authors with freelancers. Here you can offer your services in copy editing, proof reading and marketing for authors to see.

by Amalie Anderson

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.

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!

My Publishing Journey

April 8th, 2016 by Gloria Addo-Safo | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on My Publishing Journey
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As publishers “in-training” we are taught to develop various publishing and workplace skills that will enhance our brand and careers. One such essential skill that we are encouraged to develop is our presentation skills. On May 23 2016, we delivered our first assignment for our workplace module. The task was to deliver a presentation on our work experience in our various publishing related organisations.

This assignment was peculiar in two ways. First, it was an individual presentation; unlike all our previous presentations where we had to work in groups.

Secondly, it was (kind of) the culmination of all the presentations we had had to deliver on the whole course. By now, I suppose, we were expected to deliver a nearly excellent presentation.

Reflecting on my past group presentations, like the very first one where we presented research on bookshop sales and marketing activities, I realise I have learnt a lot. My first ever presentation was a daunting task. When it was my turn to speak in the group, I was tensed and stuttered almost all through the exercise. Halfway through my speech though, I said something that got the class cracked up in laughter and this calmed me down a bit and helped me through my slide. Some groups delivered great presentations – or so I thought.

Between my first and last presentations, I have had to participate in three others, and each time, I went away thinking of a hundred things I could have done better. I recount one particular presentation where I totally lost track of what I was saying, went blank and simply had to apologise and excuse myself. I went away feeling terrible about how I had let my group down.

But today as I took to the lectern to deliver my presentation, I realized all these experiences had sharpened my presentation skills. I was poised to deliver the best presentation I would yet give on the MLitt course, and thank God I did my very best, I knew I did.

At the end of the class, our module coordinator extended congratulations to everyone for such quality presentations. I believe we were all well deserving of her praise, because we have improved over the months and become the best we can be – at least for now.

With this skill in hand, I keenly look forward to all the great presentations I hope to deliver in my publishing career, thanks to all my lecturers. This is one of the many reasons why I am glad I joined the MLitt Publishing Studies course in Stirling.

Pres

 

Leia Forster, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2014-2015

October 15th, 2014 by Leia Forster | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Leia Forster, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2014-2015
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 new display brannanHi there! I’m Leia. Upon reaching the final year of my English Studies undergraduate course here at Stirling, I was more than pleased to hear about the MLitt in Publishing Studies that was also offered by the university. I had began looking at my English Studies degree as a foundation on which I should build, and so I jumped at the opportunity to do just that and learn about the industry that had produced the books I had been reading all of my life.

With a particular interest in science fiction and craft publications, I hope to learn about the traditional side of publishing as well as the digital side which seems to be advancing at the same quick pace as the rest of the technological world.

I’m hopeful that this course will give me the skills and knowledge required to play a role in the publishing industry in the future. I enjoyed my first four years here greatly and from what I’ve experienced of the Publishing Studies course so far, I’m sure I’ll enjoy this year too.

 

Alec Spencer, MRes 2014-16 (part-time)

September 25th, 2014 by Alec Spencer | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Alec Spencer, MRes 2014-16 (part-time)
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Alec SpencerWhen I told my daughter I was about to embark on the MRes course, I commented that perhaps I was getting a bit too old to take on further study. She replied, as she always has done, in a supportive way reminding me of the quotation by Mahatma Gandhi “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever”.  So here I am – at the start of a 27 month programme.

For those who know me they might think it a little strange to choose Publishing Studies as an interest. A life-time’s involvement with Prisons, Criminal Justice and Criminology has set me on a different path and I continue to be involved in a number of criminal justice areas – The Scottish Consortium for Crime and Criminal Justice (SCCCJ) and its thriving new e-publication under the management of Mary Munro ‘Scottish Justice Matters’; my commitment as an Honorary Professor at the School of Applied Social Science here at Stirling, and my work as a trustee of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation. Incidentally, through my work as a Public Appointments Adviser for the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland, I have a fascinating insight into the demands and complexities of running Public Bodies in Scotland.

So where does my interest in publishing come from?  Apart from indexing a law book in my post-grad student days (first time round!), and authoring a book on sex offenders published by Jessica Kingsley, I have had little truck with the publishing industry … or so I supposed.

One hobby I did have, perhaps some would call it an obsession, was to collect Penguin books. I have done so since the late 1970’s and by the 1990’s had about 2,500 first editions (or Penguin first impressions) on shelves, but on moving house found their way into boxes. What to do with them? A conundrum. Keep or sell?  In the end, and somewhat reluctantly, I decided to sell. Selling on eBay involves photographing the books, and eventually I had swapped about half my books for a virtual collection – of images. It took a little imagination on my part, and some techy help from my son, to set up a web-site www.penguinfirsteditions.com which now boasts over 6,200 entries and over 5,600 images. This ‘story’ can be found at the tab ‘About us’. Penguins have used wonderful designers to enhance their book covers – and the covers themselves are a separate area of interest and research.

Of course, ‘Penguin Books’, and Allen Lane its founder, is a marvellous exemplar of innovation and a revolution in publishing, which also was reflected in the process of social and educational change. These little paperback books are iconic and collectable. My interest has become a little less physical – I don’t need to own the books – and more reflective about why it is that individuals collect Penguin books, and not just specific genre or series – but sometimes the whole publishing house!  I started with this exploration in May 2014, when I visited Angus Mitchell, (interview) who donated his collection to Stirling University Library and I am looking forward to continuing on the journey of discovery about publishing and Penguin book collecting.

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