LSE Review Festival of Books: ‘The Future of Publishing in a Digital Age’

February 17th, 2013 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on LSE Review Festival of Books: ‘The Future of Publishing in a Digital Age’
Tags: , , , ,

Our Director, Prof Claire Squires, will be speaking on Saturday 2 March at the LSE Review of Books Space for Thought Literary Festival.

Her panel is entitled ‘The Future of Publishing in a Digital Age’. Other speakers on the panel are author and indie publisher Ben Galley and Oxford University Press’s Damon Zucca. The event will be chaired by Jonathan Derbyshire of the New Statesman.

The talk links to Claire Squires’s AHRC-funded research project, The Book Unbound, which has explored digital publishing.

Tickets for the event are available here.

Comics and the Publishing Industry

January 11th, 2013 by Claire Jeffery | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Comics and the Publishing Industry
Tags: , , , , , , ,


Artwork by Cheridan Smith


It’s a good question; and one that inverts the typical view of the artist dependant entirely on the promotion of the publisher. The panel on the night were well-equipped for this discussion.

From the right, John McShane was the host for the evening from Graphic Scotland, an organisation promoting comics locally. He was joined by Martin Conaghan, writer of the comic Burke and Hare, Gordon Roberts of and fame; Gary Erskine, creator of the Roller Grrrls series; and Ernesto Priego, who is involved both in academic study in the field and is a cofounder of A late but welcome addition to the panel was the appearance of Gill Hatcher, who was pulled from the audience and offered a great insight into the discussion with her self-published Team Girl Comic.

There were quite a few themes present in the discussion. The role of distribution and how methods of reaching an audience have dramatically changed in the past few years – to the advantage of the comic writer and the disadvantage of the publisher. The financial realities of going it alone. The difficulties in having a sustainable career in an area where the expectation is of a free product.  The pride and passion that every project big or small is published with.

The key has always been getting the right product to the right customer; something that the current system struggles to achieve. Bigger publishers appeal to broad markets, and therefore by selling in large bookshops and having promotions on a national scale they can get results. But this is impossible for comics targeted at smaller or even niche markets. For example, one based on a particular city would benefit from being sold mainly in that city, but not in every bookshop in the country.  Reaching the customer has taken on a completely different meaning with the advent of the internet. Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter allow companies to complete projects that would never have seen the light of day. Communities online allow people with similar interests to come together no matter what their geographical location. Social media allows small and self-publishers to market themselves and reach new customers. This targeted selling means that money previously wasted on generic advertising is instead used to reach those directly interested in the comic.

The difficulty lies in pricing products created and sold online. Consumers have a natural expectation of low prices for digital work because they don’t have a physical product to hold. Publishers have an opposing expectation for higher prices given the longevity of electronic products. But these can be debated. In the closing stages of the discussion, Gary Erksine brought up the loss of his artwork from his computer.  It wasn’t due to a file being misplaced, the computer being hacked or even the artwork being stolen: the technology and files from only seven years ago were obsolete. The digital revolution is gaining momentum by the day, and is dictated by trends and fashions as companies selling technology survive by continually moving to a new product.  But as this happens we move on from previous electronic forms and in many cases lose access to the files that came before them. A consumer-driven society means that, where an old book can be found years later on a shelf, digital technology and software is rapidly replaced. The illusion of digital products lasting eternally hides the reality that data can be lost in a simple click of a button.  The future of publishing depends on finding a balance between printed and electronic materials.

The overall answer to the question of do comics need publishers is yes – even coming from a panel largely working as independent or self-publishers on individual projects. The big publishers are needed by the industry for large scale ventures, for developing a brand and even giving  individuals enough notoriety through their work that personal projects can be pursued. But the smaller and self-publishers are also essential as a force for the life blood of the industry, driven by passion and enthusiasm. Comics are a medium which cannot be produced without this drive.  With the role of the publisher changing and communities with no boundaries, there are increasing gaps that can be filled by those who have a message to say and a desire to say it.


– Claire Jeffery

Pick up a Penguin! for Book Week Scotland

November 20th, 2012 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Pick up a Penguin! for Book Week Scotland
Tags: , , ,

Thursday 29 November 2012, 11am-1pm

During Book Week Scotland, we bring you a rare opportunity to pick up a Penguin from the University of Stirling’s impressive collection of the famous publishing house’s books.

Professor Claire Squires, Director of the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication and an expert on 20th and 21st century publishing history, will lead the hands-on session. From the very first set of 10 books from 1935, to some of the earliest Puffins, Penguin Classics, Penguin Specials and Pevsner’s Architectural Guides, and books on yoga, car maintenance and vegetarian cookery, the collection demonstrates just how diverse a publisher Penguin has been – and why its recent merger with Random House is causing such consternation to the publishing industry.

The collection was donated by Dr Angus Mitchell, formerly Chair of the University Court and an avid Penguin collector.

Places are free, but must be booked in advance via the macrobert box office. The event is organised in collaboration with macrobert, who are also hosting a number of other events during Book Week Scotland.

Visiting speaker: Peggy Hughes, City of Literature

November 17th, 2012 by Aija | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting speaker: Peggy Hughes, City of Literature
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The delightful Peggy Hughes amused the Publishing studies 2012/2013 class  with her lively presentation on the UNESCO badge of City of Literature  – a designation, which was bestowed upon Edinburgh back in 2004. The City of Literature Trust  is head by Peggy herself and her boss Alison Bowden.

Why Edinburgh should be designated as a City of Literature by UNESCO, you might ask. Well, when a group of prominent figures in the literary scene having a post-prandial discussion they came to the surprising conclusion that as Edinburgh was “brilliant at books,” something should be done to make sure this would become general knowledge. Simply because Edinburgh has a huge literary heritage, and has a vibrant contemporary scene – already hosting some of the world’s most well-known and largest poetry and literature festivals and events.

Organisations from grassroots up to government level Edinburgh worked together to create The Bid, an audit of all Scottish literary accomplishments in two volumes – talking about putting things in a nutshell – We Cultivate Literature on a Little Oatmeal. It took a bundle of Scottish treats (whiskey, haggis, bagpiper among others) to convince the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

Among her lively and very fast paced presentation, the class was entertained with best bits of past events that had aimed to hold Edinburgh to its badge of honour as well as a selected few spoilers over the upcoming events. Working together with other Edinburgh literary events and organisations, the City of Literature has proven to be worth every bit of the designation, more than holding its own among the others with its goals of establishing partnerships, promoting participation, learning as well as advocating awareness towards Edinburgh and keeping the focus on creativity, bringing people together in literature.

Thank you to Peggy for the grand insight into the Scottish literature scene and its uniqueness, and I’m sure the class cannot wait to see the ‘Stache-mob or join the Literary Salon.


What’s the Point of Literary Festivals?

October 21st, 2012 by Claire Squires | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on What’s the Point of Literary Festivals?
Tags: , ,

One of the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication’s research projects, the RSE-funded Book Cultures, Book Events, has its final event at 10am on Thursday 25 October, at Literary Dundee.

Our Director Claire Squires will be chairing an event titled ‘What’s the Point of Literary Prizes?’, and the speakers on the panel will include Anna Day (organiser of Literary Dundee), Kirsty Gunn (author and Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Dundee) and Adrian Searle (publisher at Freight Books).

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at a literary festival, the session will give you a privileged peek into the green room, the box office, and the organisers’ diaries.

Tickets are free and can be reserved via the Literary Dundee website.

Bloody Scotland Masterclasses

October 12th, 2012 by Claire Squires | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Bloody Scotland Masterclasses
Tags: , , ,

Heather Malcolm, delegate at the recent Bloody Scotland masterclasses, reports on her day at the University:

Ann Cleeves at the Bloody Scotland masterclasses

In June this year, I heard that a new crime writing festival called Bloody Scotland was offering a day of master classes. I was a bit hesitant to sign up an untried event, but since the University of Stirling were organising it and they had chosen Ann Cleeves as the keynote speaker, I decided to chance it and parted with £75.00 for my all-day ticket.

September came quickly and the master class day started well. Registration was easy, after which Ann Cleeves opened the event. She was a funny and passionate speaker, and she took us through the process of writing her award-winning novel Raven Black, all the way from its inspiration, through the enjoyment of writing, to the tedium of editing. Among her tips for aspiring writers were; read widely across the genre, get to the end of the book, be lucky, write what you love, and good editors are “worth their weight in diamonds.” She was especially emphatic in calling for us to support our local libraries.

After refreshments, it was time for the classroom sessions. The first was on character and setting, led by Laura Marney. She is a lecturer, short story writer, dramatist and author of four novels including Nobody Loves a Ginger Baby. Laura was funny and authoritative and her session was practical, challenging and very hard work. Her exercise on character was particularly useful – I discovered that one of my minor characters is a Goth.

After a lovely buffet lunch, the second session, on plotting, began. It was led by Allan Guthrie, whose Two Way Split was Theakston’s Crime Novel of the year. He is also an agent and co-founder of a digital publishing house, Blasted Heath. Alan covered the essential characteristics of protagonists and antagonists and discussed the various ways in which a crime novel can be structured. Alan’s experience and forensic understanding of good crime writing meant his class was, like Laura’s, practical and encouraging. I’m already applying his analysis of structure to my own writing.

After another refreshment break, the final event began. Chaired by Professor Claire Squires, Allan Guthrie (in agent mode) along with publishers Maxine Hitchcock from Simon and Schuster, and Rachel Rayner from Transworld discussed trends in publishing. It was fascinating and sobering to hear that good writing is only one factor in deciding whether to take a manuscript on. We also heard how we can help ourselves, e.g. by approaching agents as if we were applying for a job, by doing a creative writing course and having our manuscripts edited.

This was a great chance to get the latest information, the best advice and the most authentic inspiration from some of the most accomplished people in their fields. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, thanks to the great organisation, so it was easy to network and gab on endlessly about writing.

The day was inspiring, practical and hard work, and definitely worth the wait. I’m glad that I took that risk back in June and I’ll be back next year.

For more on Bloody Scotland, see Stefani Sloma’s report on volunteering at the festival.

These books fall like dominoes

April 20th, 2012 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on These books fall like dominoes
Tags: , , ,

World Book Night is coming, and so is a giant domino chain of books!

In honour of World Book Night, and to celebrate the 30th birthday of the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication, we will be setting up and knocking down the biggest book domino chain ever to grace the halls of the Pathfoot building at the University of Stirling. The event will be on Monday April 23rd 2012 (of course) between 4 and 4.30pm in the Pathfoot Crush Hall, and we invite you all to come and watch us knock a bunch of books over in a very organised, harmless (to the books) way.

We’d like to give a huge thank you to our contributors for the generous donations and support from publishers, libraries, book trade and reading development organisations, book binders and authors: Floris BooksStirling LibrariesAlban BooksCargo PublishingFreight BooksPublishing ScotlandLinda Cracknell of Best Book BooksBlasted Heath, Hazell Designs BooksCraig RobertsonAlloa Library, The Gaelic Books CouncilReadathon, Saraband Books and Canongate.

If you would like to participate, please email: You can also follow our exploits on Twitter via @stirpublishing and the hashtag #stirbkdominoes

– Alicia Rice

30th Birthday Celebrations: Publishing Showcase and Drinks Reception

April 3rd, 2012 by Claire_Squires | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on 30th Birthday Celebrations: Publishing Showcase and Drinks Reception
Tags: , , ,

It’s our 30th anniversary in 2012! We’d like to celebrate this with our current and past students, and our industry and academic networks.

We’re holding a showcase of our current student work, a debate, and a drinks reception on Thursday 3 May in Stirling as part of our celebrations. Please join us for all or part of the event:

3.15-4.45pm Discussion: The Past, Present and Future of Publishing (Katy Lockwood-Holmes, Floris Books; Bob McDevitt, Jenny Brown Associates; and Marion Sinclair, Publishing Scotland) Pathfoot B2

5-7pm Publishing Showcase of current student work, plus Drinks Reception Pathfoot Crush Hall

If you’d like to attend, please email to let us know.

If you’re attending the London Book Fair this year, please do join us and Publishing Scotland at our stand party on Tuesday 17 April (more details here).

Alternatively, if you can’t join us for any of those, please do join us on our social media (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). And if you’re one of our alumni, please do consider writing us an alumni profile for our website.

We love books. And domino chains.

March 13th, 2012 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on We love books. And domino chains.
Tags: , , , ,

To celebrate World Book Night, a group of us at the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication have decided to hold a book dominoes event* on April 23rd. The goal is to create the biggest book dominoes event possible, promoting a love of reading, Scottish literature, and Scottish Publishing. Of course, to achieve this lofty goal we need your book donations! We’re looking for any donations, great and small, and we are willing to pick them up by car if necessary. However, they do need to be able to stand up, fall over, and knock other books over. A strange way of judging literature, but there you go…

We’ve already had pledges of books from Alban Books, Cargo Publishing, Freight Books, the Gaelic Books CouncilPublishing ScotlandSaraband Books, and Stirling Libraries (thank you!). Blasted Heath are going to see if they can make their ebooks stand up for us! (Though we think p-books probably win here…)

If you would like to participate, please email: You can also follow our exploits on Twitter via @stirpublishing and the hashtag #stirbkdominoes

We will release details of the event itself closer to the time. If you’d like to come and watch, contact us via the email above.

*We love books, and we promise to love your books, too. No books will be harmed in the making of this event and loaned books will be returned to their respective owners.

– Alicia Rice

Margins Book and Music Festival 2012 – A Night in the Gutter

March 5th, 2012 by Sara_Gardiner | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Margins Book and Music Festival 2012 – A Night in the Gutter
Tags: ,

Opening night in an underground maze, trains running on time overhead. Underneath the mundane patterns of everyday life, literature and music come alive. The Margins Festival celebrates music, through the unique sound of Roddy Woomble (Idlewild), Withered Hand, Alasdair Roberts and literature through the readings of Christopher Brookmyre and Louise Welsh along with the launch of Gutter Magazine 06.

Gutter is now in its third year as Scotland’s leading literary magazine and publishes the work of new Scottish writers, and this year’s collection is no exception.  With performances by Keith Macpherson and Nalini Chetty of the literature and poetry, Gutter were able to dramatise stories such as ‘Windows’ by Alison Irvine and ‘The Judge’ by Roddy Dunlop and poetry, ‘Sometimes I Forget’ by Stav Poleg and ‘Goma, Goma, Goma’ by Alexander Hutchinson.

Amidst the appreciative chuckles in the audience during the reading of ‘The Judge’, audience members included a select few of the contributors to Gutter 06, who kindly gave a signing after the readings.  In this dungeon-type palace of culture, Gutter Magazine was brought to life by actors and audience alike and somewhere in the background, plotting their next launch in the autumn.

Gutter 06 is available to buy now and is published by Freight Books.

– Sara Gardiner