Guest Speaker

Guest Speaker: Liam Murray Bell

December 9th, 2016 by nicole_sweeney | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Guest Speaker: Liam Murray Bell
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Today’s guest speaker is Liam Murray Bell, published author and Creative Writing lecturer here at Stirling University. His first book, So It Is, was published inImage result for so it is liam murray bell 2012, followed by The Busker in 2014. Both books were published by Myriad Editions, a Brighton-based publisher who focus on debut authors. Myriad is partly funded through the government, and they aim is to take a new author and establish their career. Bell stated that he chose this publisher with great care, as his first book So It Is was also his PhD thesis, and so wanted to ensure that the critical aspects of the work remained. Bell also stated the importance of face-to-face meetings with his publisher. His editorial process took around six months, and involved many different meetings with his editors.

Bell also highlighted the importance of reviews in newspapers like The Guardian, as they led to a spike in book sales. When So It Is was shortlisted for Scottish Book of the Year, this too had a massive effect on the sales of the title, and was hugely rewarding for a debut author. Bell stresses the importance of reviews, and events at book festivals for a new author. He tells us it was extremely rewarding to have an interview in The Herald (particularly because his parents read it). Bell’s contract for So It Is also stated that Myriad would take a look at the manuscript for his second book. They agreed to publish it, and Bell states that the advance for the book was not particularly large, and he was only able to work on the manuscript full time due to funding from the English Arts Council.

Bell also related to us the benefits of working with a smaller publisher. Working with Myriad for The Busker meant he could be involved with other aspects of the book – including the cover design. The publisher commissioned an artist to do three different designs, and Bell’s opinions were taken on board when choosing which one they would use. While discussing the editorial process for The Busker, Bell highlights the difficulties that can arise. The editor and the author must have a good relationship in order for the process to go well.  The edits take several months and not everyone necessarily agrees. He stresses  that a good editor should point out or discuss what the problem is, and allow the author to find the solution by them self. If the editor was to fix it themselves, it would not be cohesive with the rest of the book. He tells us that one of the hardest parts of the editing process is that as an other, you have to try and open your mind to discussion, not just automatically tell the editor they’re wrong. Bell argues that a good editor should question every single aspect of the book. This forces the author to justify each character and aspect of the plot, ensuring the book is the best it can possibly be.


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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Liz Small of Waverley Books

December 5th, 2011 by Amy_Raybould | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Liz Small of Waverley Books
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Liz Small of Waverley Books joined the Publishing Studies courses at Stirling University on 10th November 2011 to give a talk about marketing and sales in publishing. Liz immediately grasped our attention when she announced that “everything on the front desk will be given away to you all for free”. Obviously the prospect of free books to a room of 32 publishing students went down a real treat, we all sat excitedly awaiting the moment when we could rush to the front of the room and grab everything and anything that we could.

Liz gave us a brief overview of Waverley Books, of which she is the sales and marketing manager. Waverley Books is a very small firm, with only seven employees. However, it is an imprint of a larger publisher, Geddes and Grosset, who have become successful over the years due to their grasp of the referencing genre. They sell dictionaries internationally and this provides excellent revenue for the company.  Waverley is also part of the large DC Thomson Group, a Scottish based company which owns newspapers, magazines, comics and, most famously The Beano and Dandy!  

Liz went on to discuss the books which she had brought in for us to take away and read. She firstly talked about Mad about Macarons!, this book has a charming back story about a women who moved to Paris with her husband and found her way in French society by learning to make wonderful macarons, or macaroons as they are know in Britain. Liz found that macarons are currently popular and considered to be very fashionable therefore she knew the book would have a market especially in upmarket independent book shops within the London area. She also discovered that macarons are extremely popular in America and Singapore, 20,000 copies of the book has been sold so far and the majority of sales have been within the international book market. Liz said that as the book has sold well in the American market Waverley Books could possibly consider printing a US copy of the book specifically for its marketplace.

Liz then covered Waverley’s first novel, Mavis’s Shoe. The book is set the Clydebank area of Glasgow during the Clydebank blitz in WW2. The author was inspired to write this book because of the impact the Iraq war had on the world. Liz used clever marketing techniques to promote this book, she sent out as many books as she could to as many important and influential people within the industry.  She also set up a performance in WHSmith in Glasgow in order to gain immediate pull factor between the consumer and the novel.

The final book Liz talked about was The Broon’s Day Oot.  Liz stressed that Waverley’s association with DC Thomson who own the famous Scottish comic, was not as much of an advantage as you would think as they still have to put in a full pitch to secure the right to use the characters. Waverley printed The Broons, Days Oot!, which sees The Broons speaking outside the comic strip format for the first time, is a guide to Scotland’s best days out. Liz worked with the Daily Mail newspaper and created a roadmap and quiz book to coincide with the release of the book; this was a successful and great marketing ploy to get this product to the masses. It is also invaluable marketing as it can create a word of mouth buzz about the book.

Liz closed her talk with allowing us students to rush to the front of the room and grab the book that we really wanted!

– Amy Raybould