SYP Scotland

6×6 With PublishED and SYP Scotland

November 10th, 2017 by Ana Tratnik | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on 6×6 With PublishED and SYP Scotland

October’s event organised by SYP Scotland introduced six speakers who work in publishing sphere. The six minute talks were on Editing, Right Sales, Production, Publicity and Marketing, Sales and Bookselling. Each speaker talked about their roles and responsibilities they are facing every day at work.

The first speaker was Rosie Howie, Publishing Manager at Bright Red, talking about her editorial role. It is very important to build a relationship with all colleagues if you want the work to go as smoothly as it can. An editor is involved in content creation from the moment a manuscript has been delivered to proofreading, and has to be able to produce quality material with limited sources.

Laura Jones is a freelancer and co-founder of 404 Ink, an independent publisher of books and literary magazines. Her talk was about her first success, magnus opus and the first mistake, she was talking about importance of style and design, and how easy is to make ebooks ugly.

Laura was followed by Jamie Norman, Campaigns assistant at Canongate and writer, who showed us the importance of marketing and publicity for publishers. His work is to promote books in magazines, newspapers and blogs, be sure to market them soon after they are published and to keep in contact with partners and try to meet them face to face. Canongate also keep talking about their books on social media and create big physical ads, which are expensive but make a huge difference. To make them effective it is important to engage people with design and think who is going to look at the advert.

Vikki Reilly energetically took us to the world of Sales. She happily works for Birlinn Ltd, daily talking to book buyers and booksellers, who are passionate about books as much as she is. She organises author events in bookshops, where she gets a feedback about a book from readers. Working in sales she gets to know everything, what formats work for specific books, design, she has to stay in contact with editors to really know the book etc. If deadlines change, she has to let bookstores know. When she gets a book report, numbers make sense to her, because she knows the story behind them. So, her answer to a published book is not I cannot sell it but how can I sell it, whilst being imaginative and honest with booksellers.

The talk I was looking the most forward to was by Rights Manager at Black & White Publishing, Janne Moller. Her role is to know the taste of as many commissioning editors around the world as possible. She sells translation rights at book fairs and via email by selling catalogues. Since book fairs are very expensive it is good to get funding or fellowships. She was also talking about how meetings at book fairs look like, what is the role of subagents and literary scouts and why are they important.

Mairi Oliver beautifully concluded the evening with sharing her passion for the Lighthouse, the Radical Bookshop in Edinburgh. There they organise events, festivals and book fairs. It is an independent bookshop which brings new voices to the market and aims to hold 15 % of female writers and 15 % of black or minority–it curates the world that is out there.

All the speakers interestingly described their daily publishing world and perhaps encouraged students to try themselves in a role they had not thought about before.










Photo credit: SYP

Publishing 101: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

March 20th, 2017 by ailsa_kirkwood | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing 101: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Tags: , ,

The Society of Young Publishers (SYP) Scotland held their second Scottish publishing conference in Central Hall, Edinburgh on Friday the 3rd of March. Its debut in 2016 was so popular that they decided to bring it back in 2017, bigger and better than before.

Keynote speaker Jenny Brown, of Jenny Brown Associates, took to the stage to give us young aspiring publishers a motivational, inspirational and very memorable speech. She started by describing the publishing industry at present as an “interesting and important field, at the best time in history.” I found the manner in which she discussed the differences between being labelled as a Scottish or UK Publisher of great interest. Branding a company as “Scottish” generally limits its reach of publication; Scottish publishers tend to only publish for a nation of 5 million, which is much smaller than that of the English book market, a nation of roughly 60 million people. Although, she mentions that regional books from publishers tend not to reach further than their region, Scotland and Scottish literature has international reach unlike other small nations. She claimed the reason behind Scotland’s wide reach is that “we can stand on the shoulders of those literary giants [like Stevenson, Scott and Burns] and share our voice to the world.”

In 2002 Jenny established her own literary agency, Jenny Brown Associates, which since then has become one of the UK’s leading literary agencies. She stressed the importance of passion and innovation to get ahead, “passion costs nothing, but counts for everything” and “making your voice heard, take risks and innovate.”

Jenny’s keynote speech was one of my personal highlights of the conference; she was truly inspiring to listen to, full of positive insight of the publishing industry. It is no wonder her writers think so highly of her, “you are really in a job of making dreams come true.”

The second event of the day was the The Brexit Questions Panel. Alby Grainger of comic store Little Shop of Heroes kicked off the Brexit debate, by describing the exit result for him as “catastrophic increase in costs.” Alby’s business mainly relies on imports from outside the UK, roughly 90% of his products are imported from US sources. Brexit was a nightmare for him, within 3 days of the result the cost to import products rose a staggering 26%, resulting in him having to let a member of staff go. Janet Archer, the chief executive of Creative Scotland, highlighted this growing anxiety on the topic of job security in light of this specific political decision. Derek Kenny, of UK printing company Bell & Bain, agreed that nationally there is currently a prominent theme of “uncertainty in an uncertain world”. He did however, mention that along with the negative implications there are also positive effects and opportunities being created within the UK, for instance larger UK publishers looking for a stable UK printer and distributor. Bell & Bain have witnessed a 9-11% growth in the last 3 years and are even considering crossing the Atlantic, to open an office in America. Timothy Wright of Edinburgh University Press, a wholly owned subsidiary of the University of Edinburgh, experienced a completely different impact from Ably at Little Shop of Heroes. EUP are mainly an export led business, with a significant amount of business in America, so since the Brexit result they witnessed a 20-25% increase in business, mostly due to the strength of the dollar and weakness of the pound. Gráinne Clear explained that post Brexit, disaster struck for Little Island Books, an Irish publishing company with a UK branch, which is apparently pretty common for Irish publishers, when they converted their pounds sterling into euros this resulted in a massive financial hit. Overall the general message of this panel was that quite honestly, no one has any idea on what to expect economically or socially, it’s just going to be a case of wait and see.

Another memorable feature was the Marketing 5 x 5 session which quite honestly was one of the most enjoyably parts of the SYP Scottish conference, apart from the free wine and pizza obviously. It wasn’t until I started the marketing module of my publishing postgrad that I started to find marketing of greater interest. Out of the panel of 5 marketing gurus, each demonstrated completely different and innovative whilst very successful campaigns. Unsurprisingly a prominent component in most was the importance of utilising social media, for not only the publisher but also the author’s online presence. Social media has become so important to marketing because it offers a free platform. It is quite common for most publishers to have little or no budget, so it is vital to achieve as far and wide a reach as possible. Flora Willis from Serpent’s Tail, an imprint of Profile Books, was in charge of marketing for the republication of Chris Klaus’s novel I Love Dick, which was originally published in American in 1997. Her campaign mainly consisted of grass roots marketing, with badges, stickers and of course #ilovedick on Twitter. Unsurprisingly Willis thinks the utmost and foremost important part of working in publishing, more specifically marketing, is to have and use a sense of humour when trying to engage with your audience, a sentiment that resonates throughout this particular campaign.

The Publishing 101 conference was packed full of industry insight and inspirational speakers. I would like to thank the SYP for organising and hosting this event. I walked away feeling happy, motivated and truly part of a community.

– by Ailsa Kirkwood

SYP Scotland: Agents Uncovered

February 6th, 2017 by jo_ripoll | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on SYP Scotland: Agents Uncovered
Tags: , ,


Photo credit: @SYPScotland Twitter

After missing my train (by one minute!), I arrived late to SYP Scotland’s event Agents Uncovered. Even with my public transportation debacle, this panel was definitely worth the trouble and the run from the train station. Agenting isn’t a topic heavily covered in the program, so it was beneficial to get a more in-depth overview about what being an agent truly entails.

The panel consisted of two agents: Judy Moir, who owns her own small literary agency, and Taran Baker, and was moderated by SYP’s Kirstin Lamb. The running advice of their panel, that we seem to constantly be hearing, is network and socialise. Taran, who started out in bookselling, got her first job as an agent by just being nice and talking to someone at an event. Judy emphasised as well to get to know people your own age in publishing because we are all the future of the publishing industry.

An agent is the mediator between the publisher and the author, but is always working towards the best interests of the author. Some general advice the two shared and important skills an agent needs are:

  • Know your way around a contract. Take a class about contract knowledge because this is absolutely essential to being a successful agent.
  • Know how the publishing process works. Have some general, all-around knowledge of each aspect (editorial, production, marketing, etc). Everything you pick up along the way is helpful.
  • Be able to sell. You have to be able to make a good pitch to a publisher, and an author at times, and sometimes hassle to get the best for your client. Get to know people in the industry, and learn how to work with and sell to them successfully.
  • Have a good nose for talent. Know where potential lies; sometimes it just needs a bit of editing. Along the same lines, have a good eye for visuals—being able to look at covers and marketing plans and recognizing their strengths and weaknesses will definitely come in handy.
  • Have patience. Agents deal with a lot of different types of people throughout the course of just one day (authors, publishers, etc). They do a lot of checking and chasing, and that takes an abundance of patience at times.
  • Honesty is the best policy. Relationships with authors and publishers is the core of being an agent. Managing their expectations with what kind of agent/agency you are takes trust and a healthy professional relationship.

Besides all of these skills, I, personally, learned a few things from this panel. Agents are not necessarily built-in editors. There are some agents who like to have a polished manuscript before taking it to an editor or a publishing house. But, that is not all agents, and acquisition editors should not expect a fully-formed book from an agency. Sometimes you have to go fishing for the talent; it won’t always find you. However, don’t completely under-estimate the slush pile.

And, the best advice, for everyone out there, not just for potential future agents: Don’t try and do it all; you’ll never sleep.

By Jo Ripoll

SYP Scotland: Editorial: First Draft to Finished Book #SYPedit

November 1st, 2016 by evangelia_kyriazi-perri | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on SYP Scotland: Editorial: First Draft to Finished Book #SYPedit
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


On Thursday 27th October, the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) Scotland organised the first editorial event of the year, which took place in Edinburgh at the David Hume Tower. If you are considering a career in the publishing industry, editorial is one of the top choices on the list, functioning as the fundamental department of a publishing company.

The panel of the event, chaired by Rosie Howie, Publishing Manager of Bright Red, consisted of three highly experienced people in editorial departments: Jo Dingley of Canongate Books, the freelancer editor Camilla Rockwood and Robbie Guillory of Freight Books. All speakers shared their experiences on publishing and the reasons why they chose editorial in particular.

Most of the speakers started as editorial assistants, making their way up as editors. All of them emphasized the fact that editorial is a matter of choice and discovery, with Jo and Camilla highlighting the special moment when they get the finished book on their hands, as a reward of working in editorial and one of the top reasons they chose it as a career path.

Communicating with the author and establishing a close relationship with him is an essential part of working in editorial. Apart from the strong engagement with the author, commissioning editors tend to work directly with the author’s agent as well. One of the key parts of editorial, after author care, is to read carefully the manuscripts and share your opinion with the editorials colleagues at weekly meetings, as Jo points out.

People who work in editorial spend a large amount of time considering submissions and familiarising with the house style. Editors and proofreaders should be careful “not to get involved with the content of the manuscript when editing one”, Camilla warns. A useful advice was the fact that editors should be careful with judgement and suggestions as some authors get quite sensitive and over-protective of their manuscripts. This is the reason why editors should approach authors carefully when answering to queries, encouraging face to face meetings with them.

Robbie emphasized that editorial is not “exam marking”, it is a service: “editing is not about eliminating errors; you’ve got to be really curious about things and ideas”. This is one of the hard parts of the job, along with the fact that editors have to manage authors’ expectations, as the target is to keep the cost as low as possible. Jo advised that it is important for editors to be friendly and give reasons to potential rejections of manuscripts: “You should give feedback to rejections and explain what you are looking for at the moment, by giving more information”.

For students who are particularly interested in editorial, all the speakers advised to “put yourself out there” and find internships and work placements for experience. Furthermore, as Camilla suggested, even working in retailing as a bookseller, offers you experience and shows that you are interested in the publishing industry. Familiarising yourself with software such as InDesign, Photoshop and Microsoft Excel, in addition of being aware of new technology and tools is essential. One of the most important advice was also being active on social media and knowing what’s current in the industry. Although it’s a highly competitive industry, all the panel encouraged people who pursue a career in editorial “not to give up”, as trying other areas of publishing is a great way to end up in the department they desire.

By Elina Kyriazi-Perri

Publishing Prizes 2014-15

November 13th, 2015 by | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing Prizes 2014-15
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication at the University of Stirling is delighted to make the following awards to students who are graduating from the MLitt in Publishing Studies 2014-15.

  • The Freight Books Prize for Publishing Design – Kerry McShane
  • The Faber & Faber Prize for Digital Innovation – Sarah Boyd
  • The Publishing Scotland Prize for the Best Dissertation – Sarah Webster
  • The Routledge Prize for the most Distinguished Student on the MLitt in Publishing Studies – Heather McDaid

All the prizes are sponsored by our Industry Advisory Board.


Kerry McShane is the recipient of the Freight Books Prize for Publishing Design. For this, she produced the design project The Outlander Kitchen, focusing on a set of recipes inspired by the books and TV series by Diana Gabaldon. For this, Kerry wins £100 of cash and £100 of books of her choice from Glasgow-based publisher Freight Books. Kerry is currently working as an associate editor at Gibbs Smith in Layton, Utah.

Sarah Webster’s prize-winning dissertation, for which she will receive £100 of books of her choice from Publishing Scotland, is titled ‘To what extent does book jacket and cover design influence sales?’. The dissertation, as its abstract explains, ‘concludes that cover design significantly influences book sales. It further supports the idea that the continued investment in quality, cutting-edge jacket design, coupled with a greater level of market research by publishers in what retailers and consumers want, will ensure that the print book continues to thrive, whilst forcing the design of the ebook as we currently know it to seek further improvement.’

VAMPSarah Boyd is the winner of the Faber & Faber Prize for Digital Innovation, for her work on an interactive poetry app, VAMP. Sarah’s award consists of a placement with Faber & Faber in London, during which she will have the opportunity to meet with staff from Faber Digital, Faber Factory, and the marketing team. A previous recipient of the award, Claire Jeffery, writes about her experience here.

Finally, the recipient of the Routledge Prize for the most Distinguished Student on the MLitt in Publishing Studies, thus winning £200 of books from Routledge, is Heather McDaid. Heather’s overall grade profile on the course was consistently high, as was her wider contribution to the life and environment of the MLitt in Publishing Studies. Heather is now publishing assistant at Bright Red, and social media officer for SYP Scotland, as well as freelancing.

Professor Claire Squires, Director of the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication, commented that ‘Every year, we’re impressed and delighted by the quality of work produced by our students on the MLitt in Publishing Studies, and the commitment they show to the development of their careers in the publishing industry. It’s wonderful to be able to award some of the very best of the work with prizes from our Industry Advisory Board partners. We congratulate the individual students on their creativity, knowledge, skills and understanding of the publishing industry, and are particularly delighted to be able to have prize-winning work which celebrates digital savvy and entrepreneurialism – key attributes for the publishers of the future.’


The Future of Indie Bookshops

November 30th, 2014 by Helen Griffin | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The Future of Indie Bookshops
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


On Wednesday 19th November, in the Central Library in Edinburgh, SYP Scotland held a seminar discussing the future of Indie Bookshops. The panelists included representatives from four Independent Bookshops in Edinburgh: Gillian Robertson from Looking Glass Books, Elaine Henry from Word Power Books, Ian Macbeth from Golden Hare Books and Marie Moser from The Edinburgh Bookshop. Each representative spoke about what was next for them, what had changed over the last few years and what changes were still to come as independent booksellers adapt their business models in a bid to hold on to their share of the book market. The event was chaired by Peggy Hughes, Programme Director of the Dundee Literary Festival, Co-ordinator of the Dundee International Book Prize, and sundry other projects and publications at Literary Dundee. Peggy was also one of the judges for the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards 2013 and a Trustee for Reel Arts. By night, Peggy is also the Programme Director of the West Port Book Festival and one third of Electric Bookshop.




The Independent Booksellers:

Looking Glass Books


Looking Glass Books is a bookshop and café that was set up in Edinburgh’s Quartermile in 2012. Gillian Robertson explained that the bookshop was opened when the industry was already where it is now, and so they haven’t had to do a lot of adapting. Their strategies have been more focused on who they are, where they might go and how they might place themselves within the industry.






Word Power Books

Word Power Books

It has been 20 years since Elaine Henry cut the red ribbon to Word Power Books in West Nicolson Street. Even after their 20 year success, Elaine said that there are still people who come into the store and ask how long they have been open for. Sometimes thinking, ‘what are we doing wrong that people still don’t know our existence’, Elaine believes this to be one of the major challenges of being an independent bookseller. Independent bookshops are not one homogenous group, and Word Power Books is what Elaine would call a radical bookshop dedicated to supporting small presses and independent presses (although they would get anything in for their customers). Word Power Books also publish, having done 22 titles. Their latest book, The Liberty Tree, about the Scottish radical Thomas Muir, was a leading review in the Sunday Times. Elaine commented that this feat meant they had finally been given some recognition for what they do after 20 years in the business.


Golden Hare Books


Golden Hare Books opened 3 years ago and is based in St. Stephen Street, Stockbridge. Ian Macbeth described the shop as having a curated feel, like many independent bookshops, distinguishing itself from larger chains.








The Edinburgh Bookshop


The Edinburgh Bookshop, nestled at Holy Corner in Bruntsfield, was opened 7 years ago and bought by Marie Moser just 2 years ago. Since then Marie has benefited from a double turnover and successes such as winning the UK Children’s Bookseller 2014 and being named Scottish Independent Bookshop 2014. Discussing the obvious successes of her predecessor, Marie nonetheless talked about the importance of accepting what you are and what works for your customers rather than what you want to be or feel you should be. When Fifty Shades of Grey came out it was 15% of the book market, and although, as Marie acknowledged, ‘ it might be considered by some people to be a rubbish piece of writing, it was the biggest thing since Harry Potter’. Marie’s predecessor would not stock the book, telling people they would need to go across the road to Tesco. Marie’s position on this kind of mentality was simple: ‘As a small independent retailer you have to get off your high horse’.

Existing Relationships with Digital

When discussing independent bookshops’ relationship with digital, Marie challenged that as yet the world might be 50% digital but not everything in the world is digital. In Britain we buy physically half a million books a day, not E-books, physical books! That might be massively down on 20 years ago, but according to Marie, if you found any businessman who was setting up a business and you said to him you could sell him half a million units a day, could he honestly think that wasn’t one cracking business? In relation to social media, however,  Marie questioned the practical uses of Twitter. Although a tweeter herself, since Marie has come into the industry, her opinion has become more inclined to regard it as a platform for the way the industry talks to itself.

Continuing with this discussion, Peggy Hughes humorously compared being good at Twitter as like ‘being good at the egg and spoon’. Ian Macbeth also likened twitter to playing ‘Guitar Hero’, with links to articles and people’s opinions coming at you all the time, just like the coloured blocks in the game. Ian also felt that it was a platform where it was difficult to make your voice heard. Although he does tweet about events and interesting books that have come into his store, Ian believes that interpersonal links are far more important, with tools such as a mailing list being a much better way to keep in touch with your customers. Although many people do love a mailing list, in today’s digital age it may be seen as archaic. Overall, Ian felt that Facebook had less impact than Twitter but that mailing lists and store websites were much more significant tools for promotional activity from the standpoint of an independent bookseller.

In a rather different digital era, Elaine Henry first used microfiche to look up books. From stock-card indexing to today’s methods, Elaine has definitely seen first hand the rising demand for instant response. In terms of twitter Elaine said, ‘I don’t tweet because I just don’t have the time. This thing that you should be sending out three tweets a day, I just find it a challenge’. However, when informed by Peggy that she had been tweeted by Russell Brand, an astonished Elaine relented to find a positive outcome to the social media platform, laughing, ‘I guess sometimes Twitter can work to your advantage’.

Gillian Robertson also commented that she tweeted regularly, but was quick to point out that you can’t have blanket rules for every bookstore. Gillian did agree with Marie’s opinion that Twitter was a way in which the industry spoke to itself, but pointed out that it depends on whom you follow. Gillian follows local independent businesses and Edinburgh locals, which she believes, has been crucial to her success. ‘I don’t know if we would have been able to get off the ground without social media’.

Indie Bookshop VS. Amazon

Marie Moser was of the opinion that businesses could not be future proofed, claiming that in today’s day and age, ‘there is no room to be mediocre, if you are not interested and engaged you are not going to make money’. Marie’s basic view of digital was that it was a society and that Amazon was at the pinnacle of it.

Ian was quick to point out that it’s not just Amazon, it’s supermarkets, Waterstones, etc. Independent booksellers cannot match the discounts of these large retailers, and even if  they could, they wouldn’t want to. Ian’s theory is that if you can’t offer the same discounts you have to offer people something else. Amazon can never provide the same experience as bricks and mortar bookshops as they are selling on experience and Amazon is selling on instant gratification.


Within Word Power Books they have leaflets exhibiting quotes such as ‘think before you click’ and ‘discounts don’t come for free’. Marie’s agreement with these slogans prompted her to challenge the role of the publisher, arguing that there is a danger the industry is losing sight of volume and bestsellers versus actually making profit, therefore illustrating the idea that any fool can sell something cheap. Marie commented  that when you let big chains heavily discount your lead title you devalue that brand and you devalue the years of work that the writer undertook to make the product. The fact that publishers should value what they sell was most evidently what offended Marie the most.

Marie also argued that publishers, as an industry, are letting retailers hammer down prices. If you were to ask the public if they wanted to buy products as cheap as they could, it is inevitable that they would say yes. The reality, according to Marie, is that this is not true or we wouldn’t have luxury brands; ‘We will buy what we think is a fair price for something nice’.

The seminar ended on the positive note that since 2009 there has been a resurgence of independent bookshops. According to all four of the independent booksellers, what we need to do is look at what is driving this; it may be a small movement, but it can have a big impact. Overall, for independent bookshops world domination is not on their agenda, however, they do not just want to survive, because that’s a low bar; they want to thrive, and as far as the seminar proved, Amazon is not going to stop them.