(Temporary) Blogs' Archive 2016


Holidaying in Sepia (part two)

December 16th, 2016 by Alec Spencer | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Holidaying in Sepia (part two)

books wine

Most will not know who I am. Having started my part-time MRes in September 2014, the 27 months runs out about now. So, hello to the (by now not so) new MLitt course and farewell – though if you are interested in Penguins our paths might still cross.

My first ‘Holidaying in Sepia’ blog was written decrying the constant use of technology to which we are all subjected, probably subservient to, and upon which we depend. Relaxation for me involves a good book, preferably in warmer climes, and occasionally accompanied by a drink. So it is that, after a period of intensive work and dissertation submitted by due date, I find myself again enjoying relaxation in the manner described.

Books can resonate with readers, be page-turners and can be all-absorbing. They have the power to transport us and energize our minds. They can allow us to wind down, and dare I admit to the groupies of ‘Bloody Scotland’, that Ian Rankin and Rebus are great escapism, situated in the familiar locations of Auld Reekie and Fife.

But where was I? Oh yes, being absorbed by a good book. I was given one, recently published and signed by the author. I found it interesting, stimulating, absorbing, emotional, educational and even disturbing. This was, in the main, a biography. Like any good historical novel, best guess at what might have happened or what the thought processes were are interspersed with fact, documentation and archive material. The people had migrated and travelled, created new lives, and in this book one of the characters came under the scrutiny of MI5.

Time for dinner; time to stop reading, take a shower and to get changed. So civilized on holidays. My thoughts were still with the book until I realized that even though my watch might survive, the leather watchstrap had absorbed too much of the shower to remain of use. I suppose part of the reason for my absent-mindedness was that, written by a relative, the book’s central characters just happened to be my grandmother and my aunt!

I think I am less likely to have a mishap while reading Rankin.

The course at ‘Stirpub’ is great. Enjoy it and reap the rewards. I’m off to get another sangria.


In praise of serendipity

December 16th, 2016 by morven_gow | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on In praise of serendipity

books10 In 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

FutureBook Conference 2016

December 16th, 2016 by Puyu Cheng | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on FutureBook Conference 2016

Futurebook FutureBook is The Bookseller’s digital publishing conference. This conference took place on 2nd December in London, and it also hosted the annual FutureBook Awards and the BookTech Showcase. FutureBook Conference is also Europe’s largest digital publishing conference. The key themes of this conference were:

  •  How publishers can define and better take advantage of current trends in digital
  • How innovation has become ingrained
  • The new business models coming out of the start-up sector
  • Change management within established businesses
  • Trends emerging over the horizon.

Although I didn’t go to the conference in person, I learned a lot by reading some articles from The Bookseller and the FutureBook’s tweets. I think this conference is very important for the future development of the publishing industry. There were four keynote speakers at the conference this year, including Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur; Ogilvy & Mather’s James Whatley; Anki Ahrnell, Bonnier AB’s chief digital and technology officer; and Eva Appelbaum, partner at Digital Talent @ Work. And after reading an article from The Bookseller, I was impressed by Eva Appelbaum’s speech.

Eva Applebaum Eva Appelbaum (find her twitter here) is a digital strategy specialist at Digital Talent @Work. And the topic of her speech was “How to create the publishing people of tomorrow”. She said: “We’re in an awkward position, we have one leg in industrial, and one reaching forward to digital but we don’t know what the ground we’re stepping into is going to look like.” That’s right. Since twenty-first Century, digital technology has been widely used, and now more and more industries need to rely on digital technology to survive. And with the rapid development of digital publishing, publishing industry had a revolution.

Now the publishing industry is at an important turning point. Just like Appelbaum said, the publishing industry has one leg in traditional publishing, and one reaching forward to digital publishing. Maybe the development of digital publishing is a great threat to the traditional publishing industry, but at the same time, it also offers a broader development space for the publishing industry. With the rapid development of digital publishing, there is a severe hit for the sales of print books. But e-books and audiobooks sales are increasing, which gives publishers some opportunities to gain profits. So for traditional publishing, digital publishing is not only a challenge, but also an opportunity.

Appelbaum also said: “Publishers need to move away from thinking about digital as a silo and instead focus on cultivating the mindset and behaviours needed to thrive in the digital age.” I think the idea is profound. There is no doubt that digital publishing has great potential, but the development process will be very tortuous. Therefore, publishers need to actively explore new digital technology, while improving the development of traditional publishing, so as to make the development of the publishing industry in a stable state.

The Bookseller believes that “FutureBook is the must-attend event for anyone who wants to face our digital future from a position of power.” I agree with it. In my opinion, with the development of digital publishing, the FutureBook Conference seems to be more and more important.

You can find more information about FutureBook Conference 2016 on their website and their twitter.

And you can read the article from The Bookseller about Eva Appelbaum’s speech.–‘Human revolution’ needs to be understood, urges Appelbaum

by Puyu Cheng

More and more Americans like to see the net fiction from China?

December 14th, 2016 by biyan_gu | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on More and more Americans like to see the net fiction from China?

Recently in China, the growth of a new net fiction website is catching people’s attention – Wuxiaworld, a overseas website which was founded in December 22, 2014, and the current average monthly page views is over 70 million within less two years. It is indeed a remarkable achievement as the monthly page views of the original website – Qidian is only 580,000.

wuxia world graph

numbers graph

From Alexa, we can see that the traffic ranks has dramatically increased. The majority of the audience are from the U.S.A. The audience totals 100 million. As a simple fiction site, this should be a very good achievement. For the growing trends, it can be seen as explosion.

But it is quite hard to compartmentalize this kind of fiction, writers write the novels down chapter by chapter and publish them through the fic-website. If their works are really popular, some publishers will also help them to publish the real books for both the writers and readers. It is a kind like light novels from Japan, but most of them are seen as Pulp fiction. A great numbers of Chinese are wondering why these fictions are becoming so popular in the western countries.

Or in the other word, why Europe and the America do not have this kind of net fictions? Or do they have this kind of commercialization of the system?

Before the development of the network, Europe and the United States have established a mature mechanism for best-selling book. Formed readers, a well-developed publishing mechanism, and stable author groups & agencies.

This is the most advanced printing system, from the 18th century it bumped all the way to come over. When the network comes, this system seems not work well with the network.

However, compared with the network publishing system, this traditional production system is obviously slow and not flexible enough. A best-selling book can raise the profile of authors for a few years, but it would be eliminated if the text need to update in more than a week. Moreover, the best-selling author is very difficult to face the competition as the author of the net fiction, facing the reader – this work is often done by the editor. This relationship is not enough “flat”, the innovation is not fast enough, the grasp of the market is not precise enough.

This system has been defeated, in fact, as Fifty Shades of Grey was the fanfiction of Twilight originally, written and published on the Internet. At first some publishers do not want to make it real and it also have some problems about the IP right. However, the final market proved that this is actually the reader wants to see.

It seems that the net fiction has strong life: the users product the content, the authors tried to form the perfect rules and settings again and again, and the following group of authors will share, inherit and develop these routines, styles and settings. And this process is very fast and flexible response.

Therefore, Chinese net fictions are becoming popular for foreign readers. This is the victory for the new media, new mode of production, against with the old media, the old mode of production. And for some national conditions and the accumulation of pressure and power, making this process particularly fierce.

Europe and the United States literature industry is well developed, but there is a gap between the authors and the readers. The author needs help from press to meet with the reader, the reader can only passively wait for works from the press. Harry Potter, Twilight, and so forth are liked by the masses, but because of their poor literary style they were rejected by many publishing houses.

The net fiction can avoid the disrupt from the publishers, authors can release their works on the internet, a simple truth, less risks for publishers but represent the masses needs.

Diverse Reads

December 14th, 2016 by marian_perez-santiago | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Diverse Reads

Diversity, or lack thereof, is an important topic within the publishing industry. Representation is extremely paramount in both real and fictional worlds and, within each, the publishing industry could do better. However, there are some incredible diverse reads who don’t get the same attention as their non-diverse counterparts. Here are a few of my favorite diverse reads, both fiction and non-fiction. They are in no way all-encompassing nor are they in any particular order. Enjoy!



Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This short collection of essays written as a letter to Coates’ son explores what it means to be African American in the US. Coates studies racism throughout history to present-day, even analyzing current tragedies like the racially charged deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. He discusses how racism is structurally ingrained and how the system wasn’t made with people of color in mind. A thought-provoking read, this book will stay with you long after you’ve finished it.


Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

This is Woodson’s account of growing up as an African American girl during the 1960s Civil Rights movement and its aftermath. Told in verse, it explores Woodson’s childhood and her struggle to find her identity in a world that told her she was somehow less because of her skin color. This is a truly provocative read for all ages.


We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This short essay doubles as a call to arms for both women and men. It explores the true definition of feminism through the lens of a Nigerian woman. Adichie uses personal experience to argue that feminism should be all-inclusive and rooted in cognizance. This read, although short, is so enlightening that it should be required reading in school. It’ll make you want to fist pump à la that one scene in The Breakfast Club.


Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

This is a fantasy fiction novel set in the Middle East which follows Amani, a girl who just wants to escape her hometown of Dustwalk in favor of somewhere she can be free. Destined to end up “wed or dead”, she, instead, uses her spectacular sharpshooting skills to get herself out of Dustwalk, only to discover a dangerous secret about her companion and herself. With fantastic world-building, a diverse cast of characters, and a grand adventure, this book is sure to keep you entertained!


The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

This is a novel set in post-war Barcelona that follows Daniel, a teenager who finds a book—The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax—and seeks out the authors other works only to find that someone has been methodically destroying all of them. Daniel goes on a journey to solve the mystery of the book burning only to discover dark secrets. Originally written in Spanish, this book has fantastic prose and an intriguing plot that will stick with you, even after you finish.


By Marian Pérez-Santiago

Faber Prize for BAME children’s authors 2017

December 13th, 2016 by yao_huang | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Faber Prize for BAME children’s authors 2017

FAB Prize 2017 Faber & Faber, working together with the Andlyn Literary Agency, have recently launched an award to find BAME children’s writers and illustrators. The purpose of the Faber Andlyn BAME Prize (FAB) is for any unpublished UK or Irish children’s authors who come from Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic backgrounds. And the text and illustrations from authors have begun to be judged since 9th December 2016 by Davinia Andrew-Lynch, founder of the Andlyn Literary Agency, and three Faber members of staff. Four prizes will be awarded and all four winners will receive a selection of Faber Books. It will close on 6th April 2017, the winner will be announced on the1st June.

Andrew-Lynch said: “We know that young readers greatly benefit from books which reflect the society in which they live, and that such books provide a clearer understanding of the world around them. To meaningfully change the output of our market we need to reach out beyond the usual publishing spheres and directly find those writers and illustrators who may, for whatever reason, have not been given a voice within our industry.”Judges

In my opinion this competition is quite meaningful, as more excellent BAME authors, stories, and illustrations will be found via this award. The number of new talents never decreases, they just didn’t have a chance to show their professional skills and passion. This competition can also be seen a platform to select talented BAME authors and illustrators for the publishing industry, that really makes sense.

What’s more, many publishers said that they were actively seeking authors from diverse backgrounds, so they may get some author’s information and acquire satisfying works by this time. It is a precious opportunity for children to look at books with different perspectives and cultures they have never read, which is good for them to understand the world from many kinds of views at an early age. In fact, the public want to hear diverse voices coming to express a variety of thoughts, and these voices are necessary for the developments of our society.

Images: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/faber-launches-competition-bame-children-s-authors-446071

by Yao Huang

Should US authors be eligible for the Man Booker Prize?

December 13th, 2016 by shaunna_whitters | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Should US authors be eligible for the Man Booker Prize?

Since the announcement in October that Paul Beatty had won the Man Booker prize 2016 there has been an influx of support from across the country. After all, he is the first American to win the award and the recognition ‘The Sellout’ has received is more than well deserved. However, in the last week several UK authors have voiced their concern over the eligibility of American authors to win the award.

The award was opened to authors across the world in September 2013 on the condition that their work is in English and is published in the UK. However, Man Booker prize winner 2011 Julian Barnes led the attack on the award claiming authors in the UK, Ireland and Commonwealth had lost a ‘valuable opportunity to make a name for themselves’ despite this being the first year someone out with the UK has won the award.

There has been a great deal of support for Barnes with fellow authors uniting in protest. There have been claims that there are enough literary awards across the pond and that there are by far more opportunities for creative writing in the US than in the UK. Also, the prestigious award, which was once exclusive to only the British, was one of few that remained without competition from American authors. Now there is a strong feeling amongst authors that it is now more difficult than ever to gain the recognition necessary to win any award.

So UK authors are feeling hard done by but is there enough reason to react this way?

In a way, yes. There are too few literary awards in the UK and now authors are dealing with more competition in winning one of the most prestigious awards by facing authors who have perhaps had more guidance or development in writing a novel. However, the award is specifically for English language works which has been published by a UK publisher – not a US extension or parent company – so as long as the book follows these specifications then why shouldn’t it be eligible?

One example is if an American born author spent half of their life in the UK and wrote a book which was published by Black and White Publishing –  should they be exempt from the award simply because they were born in America?

It may seem pedantic but if the book is published by a UK publisher and is in English then, in my opinion, there shouldn’t be any complaints. We’re at a point in publishing where at least once a day someone will say ‘print is dead’ so perhaps this is an opportunity to create more competition and demand UK authors to write more and better.

In the three years since the rule changed this is the first year someone outside the UK has won the award and the long list included six British authors so there is still recognition for UK authors. Regardless of the outcome of the outcry from authors perhaps this is also an opportunity to look at the number of literary awards available in the UK and build on that.

Buzzfeed’s fiction books of the year

December 12th, 2016 by mette_olesen | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Buzzfeed’s fiction books of the year

A couple of days ago Buzzfeed Books released their list of the 24 best fiction books of 2016. The titles were not, however, “ranked” in any particular order, the books simply made up a list of books, that the editors of the popular branch of the Buzzfeed family, loved. As with the other branches of Buzzfeed, the Books division reaches a wide, diverse, and global audience, which is without a doubt also reflected in their choice of “Best Fiction Books of 2016”.

The list is supposedly representative of the broad term fiction, and it includes a variety of fiction titles, from “Imagine Me Gone” by Adam Haslett, a story of a family and its legacy of mental illness, to the science-fiction-ish novel “Version Control” by Dexter Palmer that holds a distorted “mirror” to our world, and “reflects back something all the more truthful for its bizarreness”. Buzzfeed’s goal of achieving diversity in the titles posted is further confirmed by the various branches of fiction, that the list includes. For instance, the list includes the title “Some Possible Solutions”, which is a collection of short stories by Helen Phillips about the complexity of her characters struggling to connect to one another, while moving through life with problems such as knowing the exact date that they are going to die. There is also a broad range of authors, who originate from different countries, and who come from different backgrounds. There are 14 female authors on the list (and 10 male for those numerically challenged) which also creates diversity sex wise. However, 10 authors on the list are white, which is still a fairly large percentile.

Each novel presented on the list has its own little bio, and below has a link to where you could buy the book, which is, of course, a part of Buzzfeed’s business model.

Personally, I like the diversity of the list, and I have enjoyed reading several of the titles on the list, especially Zadie Smith’s novel “Swing Time”. When you have a company, like Buzzfeed, that prides itself on diversity it is important for them to have a list of the “Best Fiction”, which reflects this strive for diversity. Buzzfeed Books has 5 full-time employees and thus each person has contributed and voted on their favorite books of the year. Buzzfeed is, in my opinion, one of the major players in a novel becoming popular and the way in which the books that they choose to get marketed and talked about is amazing for future book sales and for name recognition for the author as well (they have links to the author’s twitter profile below the book bio).

Diversity in publishing is something we’re lacking, or at least that is what we hear in class and through the visiting speakers all the time, but looking at Buzzfeed’s list of Best Fiction, I think that the diversity is already out there. We just have to look for it. It gets buried in the branding and marketing by larger publishing houses who don’t for some reason choose to take on diverse authors and expand and diversify their lists. But luckily there are publishers and authors out there who help us see the world as it is. Diverse, different, and ROUND.

“Best Fiction Books of 2016” is only one of the lists the Buzzfeed Books staff has compiled. They also have a list of best YA books of 2016, and usually, they will compile a list of books being released in the new year.

Art fraud in publishing (?)

December 12th, 2016 by anna-corrine_egermo | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Art fraud in publishing (?)

Vincent_van_Gogh Self Portrait

Vincent van Gogh, self-portrait

All publicity is good publicity. What prompted me to reuse this fabulously cliché phrase is the controversy in France over a book with 65 sketches allegedly by Vincent van Gogh. Publisher Editions du Seuil claims that they are previously unknown drawings, while the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam claims they are fake. By the sound of it, it is all a lovely mess.

One can imagine that publishers are careful when taking on an art book, especially when it makes a claim of containing previously “lost” sketches and notes. Editions du Seuil is not revealing where this sketchbook came from, but they did get two art historians, and internationally recognised authorities on van Gogh, to write the foreword and text: Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov and Ronald Pickvance. Nevertheless, experts have been fooled before.

It’s hard not to think of the great Vermeer forger Han van Meegeren, who was only found out because he could not say where the Vermeer he had sold to Hermann Göring originally came from. Perhaps the best part of the story is when van Meegeren’s very first “Vermeer” got the most eminent authority on Dutch baroque art to write that it was a “masterpiece”, and a “wonderful moment in the life of a lover of art”. It is possible that Welsh-Ovcharov and Pickvance had similar revelations.


Hermann Göring’s “Vermeer”. Photo: Croes, Rob C., Fotocollectie Anefo, Nationaal Archief NL.

At the moment, according to The Bookseller, there is still uncertainty as to who is right, but customers has so far preferred to err on the side of caution. Making this the sort of publicity one should like to avoid, unless, it can be publicly proved that the sketches are authentic.

Until it all is resolved I would like to ponder the words of Theodore Rousseau: “We should all realise that we can only talk about the bad forgeries, the ones that have been detected; the good ones are still hanging on the walls.” And perhaps, standing on our bookshelves.


Vincent van Gogh: The Lost Arles Sketchbook can be bought here for $85. If you think that is too much the Book Depository has it for £35.75. Grab a bargain!

A Retrospective on NaNoWriMo

December 9th, 2016 by isabella_pioli | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on A Retrospective on NaNoWriMo

For those who don’t know what NaNoWriMo means, it is the National Novel Writing Month which takes place every November, in which people all over the world decide to write 50,000 words. During my undergrad, I would work on school-work during November trying to retain some semblance of motivation as the semester dragged slowly to a close. My roommate, on the other hand, would begin to write a novel. For four years, every November, she would write a novel; and I would sit on the other side of the room resisting the urge to slam my head into my desk and begging the Finals Gods to grant me one more moment of academic inspiration. My roommate, who for the purposes of this post shall be called Calliope, managed to balance four classes, hockey, her job, various extra-curricular activities, and a novel. She is what NaNoWriMo participators call a pantser, meaning she starts writing without thought or plan, she writes as inspiration comes and a novel is the end result. I hope you can feel my disdain for this woman, she’s my best friend and I love her, but in this month, I loathe her.

So, I talked to Calliope about her process and why she does it. It seems to be that writing and not looking back is the main task. Editing while writing is a no-no, so you should probably just turn off the function in Word that tells you that everything that you do is wrong. Two of my current grad school roommates decided to participate this year, one a native Scot (Caitlin) and the other an Italian (Marta).


Storyboarding. Started out as a post-it. It has grown.

Marta decided to write her NaNoWriMo project in English as she thought it would be a good way to practice her English. It was her first NaNoWriMo experience and she got to 3000 words while balancing a very full class schedule. She decided to write a dystopian fantasy and had drafted a plot-line as well as some character descriptions. She put some thought into the world she was building and set forth to write whenever there was time and whenever inspiration struck. Only, time is very limited during the month of November in a grad program, and inspiration is a cruel and flighty mistress. All in all, Marta said that she enjoyed the experience and would do it again, only next time there would be daily word count goal and hopefully less stress.

It was also Caitlin’s first time writing in NaNoWriMo. Caitlin started the process with an outline, characters, and had written 10,000 words prior to beginning NaNo, so she didn’t start from scratch. To clarify, those 10,000 were not included in her final word count which was 32,000; she also counted an additional 5,000 words for school assignments. Caitlin initially set aside an hour or two a day once she had finished with her classwork for that day. As the month continued, she discovered that it was hard to find motivation and began to use the weekends to catch up in her word count. However, by week three, she realized she wouldn’t hit 50,000, but had begun to average 1,000 words a day. Caitlin felt pleased with her progress as she had more at the end than when she had started. She may not have ‘won,’ but she was glad to have taken part in the experience anyway, regardless of the outcome. Similar to Marta, Caitlin said she would do it again, when she wasn’t in grad school and therefore, less likely to be so stressed.

I made the decision to attempt to do NaNoWriMo this year. Why? I have NO IDEA. Because grad school isn’t hard enough? Because I’m apparently both a sadist and a masochist? Because I love a challenge? Because I thought, “This is the perfect time to write the content of my Publishing Project?” All of the above, but mostly the last one. And what did I learn from this experience? It is really hard to write an essay, let alone a novel. I don’t think being an author is in my future. However, I also recognize that authors write over a period of time, not in a rush of 50,000 words in a month. Sure, there are times when your muse visits for longer than an hour and in those gracious periods of time words are written in incredible amounts. Chapters finished, characters killed, plot moved, but then the will to write ceases. My muse likes to visit when I’m busy with other things, and especially when I lack paper. My arms have witnessed a lot of ink this month. Still, I failed horribly at the target word count. Sure, if I counted all the words I wrote for my class essays and my text messages, I probably would be closer to 25,000 words, but still nowhere near 50,000. I honestly only made it to 8,000 in my novel.

I didn’t put aside a set hour every day. I didn’t really take the challenge all that seriously, because once I reached 6,000 words I realised that I had more than enough for my publishing project. The thing is – the story won’t leave my head. I have a wall in my room covered in paper that lays out the book’s timeline, I have character biographies, and a family tree. I have an idea of how this world I’ve built will end. I think the thing that NaNoWriMo helped me discover is that I cannot write a story without plotting ahead of time and that my imagination is nowhere near as dead as I thought.

Overall, I think the main thing that I realized is that books are written by many types of people. The author writes the words and maybe they are good, maybe they have the potential to be good, and maybe they will never see the light of day. We all have a story inside of us, but only some of us set aside the time to put pen to paper and let the words flow outside of our internal monologue. I hope that I continue to write my story in spite of the fact that November has come to an end. I hope that we get a November that proves friendly to writing a novel, a month not filled with due dates and stress, but let’s be honest, stress and due dates don’t stop with school ending. But hey, look at that I’ve written another 1000 words and somehow it came easily. If anything, this experience has taught me that looking at the word count is somehow easier than looking at a page count. Oh, and that it helps to have a good writing playlist (mine was a combination of Florence + the Machine, Sia, Electric Light Orchestra, and Cat Stevens). So, plan ahead, if that’s your thing. Write whatever comes to mind. Just have a bit of fun, and don’t judge the random meanderings your mind takes at 4 am when inspiration strikes and your computer is close enough that you can just roll out of bed, burrito yourself in your duvet, and squint at the blinding screen as the nagging voice in your mind finally makes itself known even though you only have five hours to sleep before class…no, I’m not speaking from personal experience at all.

by Isabella Pioli

Guest Speaker: Liam Murray Bell

December 9th, 2016 by nicole_sweeney | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Guest Speaker: Liam Murray Bell

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 inLiam 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.

Saltire Society Literary Awards 2016

December 9th, 2016 by ruoqi_sun | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Saltire Society Literary Awards 2016

saltire books

As one of the event of Book Week Scotland, this year’s Saltire Society Literary Awards was held on 24th of November in Edinburgh. As a publishing student, I went there to participate in this activity and that was the first time I had ever attended such an event. Fortunately, I met some classmates and it made me feel much better.

To be honest, all the information I know about this award before the event comes from Wikipedia and Facebook. Saltire Society is an organization which aims to promote the understanding of the culture and heritage of Scotland. This organization has a long history, and it has established numerous awards, involving a number of cultural fields. The literary prize is one of them.

Before the award, we got half an hour to drink something and chat with others. At that time, everybody can share their experience with others.  It is amazing that we did not know each other before but the topic was very natural to start. A bag was prepared for each guest in the seating area, including some brochures which introduce the awards of this year, the annual review of Scottish Book Trust and this year’s new book etc. This year’s awards include a total of more than ten items, the specific awards can be found from the following timetable, because I do not want this blog be simply reporting.saltireliterary awards

Next I want to talk about a few things that impressed me. The first one is about the “Publisher of the year”. The shortlisted publishers are Birlinn, Black and White Publishing, Floris Book, National Galleries of Scotland and Saraband. I remember the last month we just finished a presentation about Saraband. At that time, we searched and found almost nothing about this publisher on the internet, except their homepage. I even thought it was a tiny and financially struggling publisher in Scotland although they have published His Bloody Project which has been popular over the last year. But through this award I changed my mind, Saraband makes its own contribution to the publishing industry even though it is not a big publisher. Its efforts are equally worthy of respect, and its persistence is more worthy of recognition.  It is also because of these publishers who know hard but still insist on it, the literary industry can constantly develop.

The second one is about our professor Claire, I did not know that she was present as an honored guest until her name appeared in the timetable. This made me feel that as a publishing student, I am really involved in the field of publishing, and this kind of opportunity which provided to students are rarely happens in my country.

Finally, I would like to talk about the importance of this kind of awards shortly. As publishers, it can be said our work is less pretentious but very essential. Readers are always attracted to the design and the content of the book, but they do not know all the efforts made by publishers. The publishing industry is not as fashionable as the film industry, and our awards are not as high-profile as the Oscars, but we also need such awards to recognize our efforts during the last year.  Whether it is a publisher which has long history or just a novice, we all need to have such an opportunity to know each other, to see what’s happening in our industry. These good ideas can provide new ways of thinking for more publishers and this trend is also a kind of virtuous circle for publishing industry.

You can get more details of 2016 Saltire Society Literary Awards from here: http://www.saltiresociety.org.uk/awards/literature/literary-awards/

By the way, the performance by Niall Campbell during the activity was really nice, fond and full of emotion.  You guys can search the video if you are interested in it.


The terrifying experience of drawing in public

December 8th, 2016 by michail_tsipoulakos | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The terrifying experience of drawing in public

drawind The Edinburgh Comic Art Festival took place in Summerhall Venue on 26th and 27th of November, and of course I couldn’t miss it. The whole exhibition offered a variety of visiting speakers, free workshops to test your artistic capabilities, and panels with Scottish and British comic book artists displaying their work. And if you are a geek like me, all these things hold an extra value!

For this story, I will share with you the experience I had while participating in the quick-draw activity. As the name itself states, quick-draw was one of the many activities where you actually had to draw different images on a drawing surface, as fast as possible. Our instructors were Mr.…. and Mrs.…... Ok I admit it; I was late and missed the part where they introduced themselves. For our convenience, let’s call them Mr. Tall (for obvious reasons) and Mrs. Red (due to her bright red hair). stranger things drawing The whole activity was designed for people who are new to drawing, for others with some existing experience, and for those who are TERRIFIED by it, like me!

The participants had to experiment with a range of different materials like white or coloured paper, different sketching pencils, markers with several colour options, while using different techniques, to explore the way real life illustrators create their work. The motto of our two wonderful instructors (Yes I’m talking about Mr. Tall and Mrs. Red) was: “You don’t need any fancy equipment to draw your hearts out. Some white paper and a black pencil and your empty canvas will transform into a work of art”. The first thing we had to do was draw a funny face. “Draw a line here and here, and there and remember, don’t push your pencil too much” Mr. Tall said. He made it look so effortless which by the way, wasn’t! I had to try really hard. The end result after 15 minutes of drawing and connecting lines looked like an uglier version of Mr. Potato from Toy Story. And yes, Mr. potato is already ugly enough! The first session was officially over with not much success.

Next stop, Nature! How to draw trees and flowers with a few easy techniques. Instructions followed again, this time by Mrs. Red. Initially, it seemed easier than drawing a face. Well it wasn’t, especially for someone who can’t draw a straight line, not even with a ruler. My picture was a complete disaster. Probably something that a 3 year old would draw. When Mrs. Red saw my picture, she was literally speechless. I managed to give the world talentless a whole new meaning. I’m quite sure that if we lived in a fantasy world, where Mrs. Red was the queen, she would have ordered my immediate incarceration, to prevent me from creating new abominations! All jokes aside, she was super cool and funny, and despite her initial shock, she was all smiles and compliments.

pencil drawing Finally, for the third and final task, we had to draw anything we wanted. I decided to go with Doctor Strange. Since I had a cover of him in my bag, I didn’t have to search for my inspiration. The end result was quite tolerable. Finally, after all this time, I managed to draw something! Even Mrs. Red complimented me for my effort! And that was it, almost 45 minutes later, the quick-draw activity was over. The purpose of this workshop was to gain confidence in developing your own drawing skills. Did I become the new Dali? Hell no! But I had a great time, met interesting people who are equally bad at drawing, and finally had the chance to use a range of materials and techniques utilized by professional comic book artists. Now that I’m equipped with all this knowledge, I feel super ready for the Edinburgh Comic Con festival in February.

CAPITAL SCI-FI CON, here I come!!!

In Conversation with Isabel Greenberg

December 8th, 2016 by Lenka Murova | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on In Conversation with Isabel Greenberg

I was dazzled by Isabel Greenberg, a London-based graphic novel writer and illustrator on Saturday, 26th of November, when I dragged along my two long-suffering friends to the Comics Art Festival in Edinburgh.

I am just going to come out and say it straight off, I had no clue who she was before the talk. All I knew came from the bit of research I had done while looking at the various events that were on. Isabel sounded interesting and I liked what I saw from the Google image search results on her work. So even though I didn’t know of her existence before the talk, I was absolutely smitten with her, both professionally and as a person by the end of it.

Isabel talked to us about her debut graphic novel The Encyclopedia of the Early Earth and then her recent release, The One Hundred Nights of Hero that came out this September. She was charming and very down to earth, talking about her beginnings as a graphic designer and illustrator, the struggle of getting her work out there and noticed by someone. Isabel freely admitted that if she had not won the Graphic Short Story Prize she would not be here now, talking to us about her second novel.

encyclopedia cover isabel_greenberg_one_hundred_nights_hero_jonathan_cape_cover


The inspiration for her novels often comes from folk tales and ballads. Isabel said that she finds them so inspiring because the characters in them are often like blank slates, the themes are universal and this provides her with plenty of space to create her own stories. The One Hundred Nights of Hero is a collection of stories inspired by old folk ballads about women being wronged in some way. When asked about how she finds new inspiration, Isabel prompted us not to get stuck in what she calls the ‘second-hand viewing trap’. We all get caught up in looking at others’ works and comparing ourselves to them, losing our voice in the process of trying to measure up to others. This is why she said she goes out of her house to explore different places like museums, historical sites or just goes on a walk in a forest. ‘Go out and see stuff, not just on google images.’

She did not hold back, talking to us about her mishaps and missteps during her career. While admitting that she has learned a lot from the process of making her debut work, she advised us not to start off drawing/writing the parts that you are excited to do first, because you really should know what actually happens in the story first. Another advice was related to self-publishing — you should not get lured in by the fact that a print run of 1000 copies is only £50 more expensive than the one for 500 copies. Isabel had to throw out 500 copies of her work because she simply got bored of having to sell them.

This point connects to the one she kept coming back to the whole time: do this work because you love it. ‘Even if you can break even on your print run, but you can’t break even on your time.’ Isabel has proven that writing and illustrating a graphic novel is hard work, which is worth it only if you truly believe in your story and are passionate about it.

You can find more about Isabel on her twitter and her website.

by Lenka Murova

Edinburgh Comic Art Festival

December 8th, 2016 by Lenka Murova | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Edinburgh Comic Art Festival


The Edinburgh Comic Art Festival took place on 26thand 27th of November and I am going to tell you about how cool it was.

During the two-day festival, you could pick what events you wanted to attend. There were talks, workshops and presentations about different aspects of the Comic and Graphic Novel scene in the UK given by professionals and enthusiastic fans alike.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to attend any of the workshops, but I walked through the Comics Market floor and talked to various artists and writers showing off their work there. Everyone was friendly and had a strong passion and love for telling stories through the medium of comic books.

From my various interactions, I could tell that the attitude of the creators was ‘Love this so much, but there is literally no money in this’.

I chatted with illustrator Chris Baldie, who works on theSpace Captain series with writer and friend, Michael Park.  Chris got into working in comics when he got together with another friend Holley McKend to work on a web comic Never Ever After just for fun. During our chat, he admitted that there really is no money in this work and he just does it as a hobby on the side because he enjoys it. I asked him whether he feels like comics are just not taken seriously as a medium here. He replied by saying that it is getting much better now — a polite way of saying that it was horrible before but kind of bearable now. Chris said that he wouldn’t want to work full-time in comics anyway because he would probably come to resent the very thing that he now really enjoys. He was assured of this when he saw his friends who work as illustrators for the two giants (Marvel and DC) and even though they are paid a lot of money, he says that they spend their entire days stressed out of their minds. So Chris is just fine with working as a graphic designer and doing comics for the fun of it.

You can find more about Chris and his work here

I received similar responses from Paul Jon Milne, author and illustrator of the ‘Guts Power’ series (his Etsy store and Facebook page) and Kelly Kanayama (twitter) from whom I got a short custom comic for £2. There were many other creators on the floor, each stall selling interesting, unique art prints and comics (really dangerous for my wallet).

I feel that events like this give you the opportunity to experience something special. As they focus on individual authors, they give visitors personal one-on-one face time with indie creators, something that you just don’t get when a big publisher is organising an author signing.

I definitely would recommend going to next year’s festival, even if you have never read a graphic novel or a comic book, this might be your way to find the story that sucks you in. Even my two long-suffering friends that I dragged along took a liking to the world of comics. (Also, did I say the entrance to many events was free?)


by Lenka Murova

Guest Speaker: Angie Crawford, Waterstone’s

December 5th, 2016 by emma_morgan | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Guest Speaker: Angie Crawford, Waterstone’s

comic books There were pretty high expectations for the last guest speaker of the semester, given the brilliant, funny and interesting talks that we’ve been treated to over the weeks.  There was also a problem of attention, with the impending last presentation of the year looming.  Angie Crawford, Waterstone’s Scottish book buyer, had a great deal to contend with in keeping our attention and interest.  She managed it easily, bringing samples of AI sheets and review copies ranging from the elaborate and well-backed to the…simplistic.

As a group of students hoping to make careers in the industry in which Waterstone’s is a major player, her career history was both interesting and encouraging, to see the passion and enjoyment that can exist from a career in publishing.  It was particularly nice to hear that it was at the University of Stirling, at another guest lecture, that Angie Crawford, inspired by and drawn to the field of children’s publishing, decided on her future career.

Her career followed the progress of the publishing and bookselling industry on a grander scale, working in the now-defunct Dillons bookshops, as well as Ottakers.  She worked in the industry through the process of digitisation and improvements in organisation that this brought, and acquainted herself with the Scottish market, typified by smaller-scales and a more fragile market than the London-centric industry at large.  From this interesting and varied career, Angie seemed to draw certain messages and principles out that had helped her in each role, one of which was, crucially, the importance of knowing both the market and the people in it, the customers.

The priority that Waterstone’s place upon engaging with their customers, and ensuring a ‘culture of friendly and knowledgeable service’ is the heart of their success, and this has come with the reinvention that followed their near-collapse.  James Daunt’s independent-minded influence was, according to Crawford, both immediately felt and transformative, doing away with ‘identikit’ bookshops and encouraging – sometimes reluctant – bookshop managers to take the reins and individualise their shops to the local customer.  This shift in philosophy, which was accompanied by major process and organisational rethinking, changed Waterstone’s for the better.

Angie Crawford, comforting fearful of publishing students everywhere, admitted to feeling under-prepared and uncertain of her suitability for her role as ‘Scottish’ Commercial Manager.  She shared that her main qualification for the post seemed to be that she was Scottish, and thus, in the minds of the London-based bosses, knew Scottish publishing.  Her reaction to this?  Like any good publisher, she did her reading, familiarising herself with the titles that sold, the titles that were loved and the things that worked in Scotland which might not work elsewhere.  It seems that the Scottish love a good murder – perhaps because it’s fun to say with our accent! – and crime fiction is a reliable high performer across Scottish bookshops.  However, our love for crime fiction aside, Scottish is not a genre, and Crawford noted that while her colleagues were focused on fiction, non-fiction, sport, etc; her role requires her to look wider, and often work hard to create cohesion between titles that span genres and which can seem entirely distinct from one another.

Angie Crawford has the experience to make any lessons she has to impart worth listening to, and she was able to pull out some key pieces of advice that she learned in her time in the industry:

  • Good relationships are more important than great deals – Book buying is a negotiation, but it is a negotiation between partners, and it is essential that both parties walk away with a workable deal, and their trust in the other party intact.  A chain like Waterstone’s might have the leverage to push for a heavy discount, but if this price means the publisher can’t afford to print the books, no one wins.
  • Keep an eye on the future – All of publishing is a business of planning ahead, and Angie frequently mentioned that the process of buying involves forecasting – or fortune-telling – what books people are going to want months ahead of time.
  • Sometimes, you just know – Angie mentioned that occasionally, it was just the feel of a book that was important, whether it felt right in the hand, opened easily, etc;  it isn’t an exact science and intuition is essential.
  • Go with your gut, but prepare to be wrong – Book buying has an element of gambling about it, sometimes a bet placed on an unknown author pays off when the stock sells out quickly, and sometimes the books sit on the shelf (or in the stockroom) and  haunts you.  Ultimately, it seems that a certain amount of bad choices are inevitable, but a successful book buyer reacts quickly and doesn’t get discouraged.

by Emma Morgan

Children’s Christmas Books 2016

December 2nd, 2016 by Rachel | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Children’s Christmas Books 2016

The Christmas period provides publishers with the opportunity to capture huge Christmas market sales since so many people buy books as presents. Bookshops are quickly filled with snowflake covered book designs and the Christmas spirit is suddenly in full swing. It’s safe to say that the Christmas spirit is captured most successfully in children’s books, as they effortlessly transport us back to our own childhoods. Children’s books are selling better than ever and the publishing industry has produced quite a few charming titles this year.

The Girl Who Saved Christmas – Matt Haig 

The girl who savedc hristmas Published by Canongate, The Girl Who Saved Christmas was written by Matt Haig and is a follow up to his last Christmas book. It’s about a girl called Amelia who starts out wanting to ask Father Christmas for a specific wish but ends up with the mighty task of having to save the spirit of Christmas. Last year Haig published A Boy Called Christmas and his new title is part of a two book deal he now has going with the publisher. A Boy Called Christmas was nominated for Children’s Book of the Year at the British Book Industry Awards. The success of Haig’s first Christmas book will likely encourage people to buy The Girl Who Saved Christmas and signing on the author to write a follow up this year was a pretty clever move made by Canongate. The book will also be available as an audiobook and will be narrated by Carey Mulligan.

The Christmasaurus – Tom Fletcher

The christmasaurus The Christmasaurus was published by Penguin Random House and written by Tom Fletcher. Fletcher already had a huge online presence before turning his hand to writing children’s books. He was a former member of the band McFly and has a YouTube channel, which he used to promote the book to thousands of his fans. Fletcher was essentially a publisher’s dream, and was heavily involved in the book’s promotion and consequently, its success. The Christmasaurus is about a boy called William Trundle and his magical Christmas Eve adventure involving a dinosaur. It has been well received so far by critics and parents, and is likely to guarantee Fletcher’s place as a prominent figure in the future of children’s fiction.

Ollie’s Christmas Reindeer – Nicola Killen

Ollies christmas reindeer Published by Simon & Schuster Children’s, Ollie’s Christmas Reindeer is possibly one of the most endearing children’s books that’s been published for the Christmas market this year. It’s aimed at younger readers and was illustrated by the author herself. The narrative follows a young girl with a love for reindeer who just so happens to encounter one in the story. It is beautifully illustrated, mainly in black and white with specks of red throughout, giving the book a unique visual appeal. It also has cut-out sections to make it more of an interactive activity for the child reading it. The picture book market has seen a significant rise in sales this year and Ollie’s Christmas Reindeer will likely do well this season given how attractive and unique it is.

Secret Identity: Community Comics and Cultural Identity

November 29th, 2016 by katharina_dittmann | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Secret Identity: Community Comics and Cultural Identity

comic art As part of Book Week Scotland 2016, the Edinburgh Comic Art Festival took place on 26 and 27 November. Infected by several comic book enthusiasts in our class, I jumped at the opportunity and immersed myself in the glorious world that is comic art. The festival, which was situated in Summerhall, offered free talks and workshops as well as a comic book fair where local artists presented their works. In short, it had everything a comic book lover’s heart desires.

For this blog, I chose Paul Bristow’s talk on Secret Identity, which explored the link between community comics and cultural identity. Paul is part of Magic Torch Comics, an arts and heritage group from Inverclyde, who have made it their mission to work with communities and schools to reconnect people with their local heritage. According to Paul, restoring community heritage can reshape the view of a community and strengthen its identity by winning back its self-esteem. Involving the members of a community in the research means recognizing their authority and insider knowledge that “can be just as valid as academic research” (quote Bristow). As a result, Magic Torch approach their project with a “dig-where-you-stand” mentality, which means that they let students and/or other members of the community look for traces of history and folklore in their immediate surroundings.

comicbook As an example Paul chose his collaboration with the community of Greenock, a historic industrial town once well-known for its shipyards. Although the area can look back on a rich cultural history, the community’s heritage was overlooked in favour of progress and future development. Magic Torch brought their project to local schools and asked students to research historical events that had happened near them. The team then helped them to create the characters and develop their stories. The result was 4,000 copies of a 64 pages full-colour graphic novel that, thanks to funding, could be distributed for free to schools and other places in Greenock.

Apart from the focus on heritage, Magic Torch’s collaboration serves another purpose: improving students’ literacy and language skills. This has resulted in comic books about a Space Princess written in French (Le Mystère de la Princesse Sorcière) and the comic adaptation of a Gaelic song about a shinty match back in 1877 (Camanachd Ghrianaig). All of these works are available for download on Magic Torch’s website.

by Katharina Dittmann

Glasgow’s Historic Literary Societies- Book Week Scotland 2016

November 29th, 2016 by Kanika Praharaj | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Glasgow’s Historic Literary Societies- Book Week Scotland 2016

For Book Week Scotland, Katharina Dittmann and I decided to nerd our little hearts out. And where did we decide to go, you ask? To the library, of course! Specifically, the beautiful Mitchell Library in Glasgow, where we attended a talk given by Lauren Weiss, a PhD student at our very own University of Stirling.


The talk started off with a quiz. Needless to say, we now have ample proof that we would not fit into the nineteenth-century literary crowd.

According to Lauren, Glasgow has always been a city of readers and writers. In the 19th century men (and later women) got together to talk about books and reading. A ‘typical’ nineteenth-century literary group would meet up once a week. Reasons for joining a literary group usually had less to do with a love for literature and more to do with networking — networking isn’t just for us publishing students! Becoming a member of one of these groups would enable a young man to meet other people in a new place, people who could help him find a job and a place to live. This does not mean that there wasn’t an emphasis on the act of reading. Members were required to read for at least half an hour every day.

Many such societies had their own manuscript magazines. However, membership to a society wasn’t always needed to contribute to its magazine. These magazines weren’t quite as ‘literary’ as one might imagine. There were a variety of topics that people chose to write about. For example, a more traditional piece of literature like a sonnet could be followed by an essay entitled ‘Ants and Their Ways of Life’. Members weren’t always sticklers when it came to deadlines, making the editor’s job the hardest of all. In fact, the editor would quite often have to include last-minute contributions just as they were. Magazines wouldsecrets books  then be passed on from member to member, who would all critique their fellow members’ works.

Between 1800 and 1914 Glasgow had at least 140 literary societies — less than ten of those are still running. A dismal figure until one thinks of all the reading groups (read: with wine) that people are a part of in today’s Glasgow. Reading is still a big part of the culture there, just in slightly different forms.

At the end of the talk, Dr Irene O Brien, Senior Archivist, and Patricia Grant, Library Collections Manager, spoke to us about the Mitchell’s unique collections. Fascinated by the wonders that the Mitchell holds within itself, we completely forgot what time it was and almost missed our train!

by Kanika Praharaj


An Evening with James Robertson.

November 28th, 2016 by ailsa_kirkwood | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on An Evening with James Robertson.

books display

For the fifth year running, Scottish Book Trust have organised a week of nationwide events, ranging from author readings, spoken word, interactive workshops and theatre for Book Week Scotland 2016. With hundreds of events to choose from, Book Week Scotland aims to bring people of all ages together to join in a weeklong literary celebration.

My personal highlight from Book Week Scotland 2016 took place on a cold and frosty Wednesday evening in November. We piled into a small community library in Auchterarder, seeking refuge from the sudden chilling onset of winter, to enjoy ‘An evening with James Robertson’. Rather than hosting the event in one of the numerous bookshops, cafes or art spaces in his current home city of Edinburgh, the setting for Robertson’s only talk of this year’s Book Week Scotland may seem understated for an author of six popular novels and a Man Booker Prize longlisting, but in reality could not be more fitting. A prevalent feature of his novels is the depiction of life in rural Scottish villages, and having grown up in Bridge of Allan and attended a nearby school in Perth and Kinross, Robertson pays homage to his upbringing, heading back to where it all started.

Robertson begins by reading us a few extracts from 365: Short Stories, this collection, unsurprisingly, comprises of 365 short stories, each constructed of 365 words. He described the challenge of writing a new short story for every day of the year as “an anal way to write a book”. However challenging he found this task throughout the year, his research for the stories, interest in the storytelling tradition and regular evening encounters with a toad, gave way to the comic novel that would become To Be Continued.

In addition to his detailed accounts of everyday life in both urban and rural Scotland, many of Robertson’s books and short stories pay special attention to Scottish history and Mythology, imaginatively portraying relationship between the two. His latest novel is set just shortly after the result of the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014. Although the referendum is mentioned in the book, it does not play a big part, but instead is used more as a plot device. The humorous story of To be Continued is Robertson’s way of dealing with the political outcome of the 2014 referendum. The result for many was devastating news. Robertson however, in attempt to avoid getting bogged down in an overtly political novel, explains his decision to write an outrageous farcical story of Scottish adventure, harking back to an earlier era of Scottish writing.

In To Be Continued, Robertson alludes to depictions of Scotland, and Scottishness, from literary and cinematic works from the 1940s/50s. He draws inspiration from the novels of Compton Mackenzie: Whisky Galore, Monarch of the Glen; as well as films like Brigadoon and I Know Where I’m Going. Although some readers in the current post-referendum version Scotland may wish to take a step back from the stereotypical characters and tartantry promoted in these books and films, Robertson is promoting the search for new perceptions, an adventure of rediscovery of self. To me, this seems like an important representation of the journey many of us faced to understand again what it means to be Scottish. Reading from the first chapter of the novel, we listen as protagonist Douglas Elder sets off on his own adventure to the Highlands, accompanied by his newfound friend Mungo, a talking toad he befriends whilst drunk in the garden. They go in search of Rosalind Munlochy, a woman with a lifelong involvement in radical Scottish politics – 100 years to be exact, as she happens to be celebrating her 100th birthday. In 2014, this milestone is of great significance, as Robertson sees her as a symbolic figure that represents a mother figure of a nation – a nation in unprecedented need of maternal guidance. Buried beneath the surface of this comic novel lie notions of a fractured nation, in search of yet another reinvention of identity. This is a story for the disheartened, its humorous narrative and story offering the reader an adventure of rediscovery, which comes as a glimmer of hope.

As the evening wound down Robertson admitted that he used to think that his job as a writer as trivial. But to go back to his initial introduction to his talk, he reinforces the idea that storytelling is important, it has always been an important part of life, for culture, for people. “Writers write and readers read, we need these things to explain who we are and to get us through life.”

by Ailsa Kirkwood

Design by the Book: A Scottish Publishing Showcase

November 28th, 2016 by Stephan Pohlmann | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Design by the Book: A Scottish Publishing Showcase


Of the multitude of tasks and activities assigned to you when studying publishing at Stirling University, keeping up to date with bookish events is certainly one of the most pleasant ones (not the most pleasant one though, which would definitely be the fact that you are effectively “doing something for your studies” whenever you have your nose in a book).

The Mile It so happened that Book Week Scotland 2016, the annual “celebration of books and reading” (as described by the organiser, the Scottish Book Trust), had the students swarming out to several of these events and I, in this context, had the pleasure to venture through Edinburgh Castle for a first-hand look at the highlights of Scottish book design in 2016, presented at the Design by the Bookexhibition. Finally, there was full justification (unintentional publishing pun) to buy a ticket to Edinburgh Castle, and considering that any foreign-national visitors there are likely to get lost in thoughts, just as they can be quite certain to get lost literally, it was probably a good idea to keep clear the full Monday afternoon to go there.

GuLeor Having eventually arrived at the destination, the entrance being to your left just as you are about to enter the Crown Square, the first thing catching the eye of the bibliophile publishing student is a remarkably complete absence of books: The room is filled with information boards instead, displaying pictures of the most intriguing book designs Scotland produced over the past year (personal favourites being The Mile by Pilrig Press and Acair’s Gu Leòr). A second part of the exhibition is devoted to the formidable results of a book cover art competition which Publishing Scotland had launched in August of this year, encouraging children between the age of 5-8, 8-12 and 12-18 to draw covers for their favourite books, with at times remarkable results.

It might be worth mentioning that some information on the book designers and the design process could have significantly improved the exhibition, the empty envelopes on the information boards giving the exhibition a slightly unfinished look. However, the event is most certainly standing out in the medievalist scenery of Edinburgh Castle, and is definitely going to achieve its purpose in providing a bit of spotlight for all Scottish publishers represented in the exhibition.

by Stephan Pohlmann

Publishing Prizes 2015-16

November 25th, 2016 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing Prizes 2015-16

The Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication is delighted to announce this year’s MLitt in Publishing Studies prizes, shortly before the cohort of 2015-16 graduates. Our Prizes are sponsored by members of our Industry Advisory Board.

The Routledge Prize for Most Distinguished Student goes to Patrizia Striowsky. Zia is awarded £200 of books from Routledge. Zia is currently completing an internship with Sujet Verlag in Bremen, and starts working in January, as sales and e-commerce assistant (German: Volontärin in Vertrieb und E-Commerce) with Gräfe und Unzer in Munich. She can be found on Twitter at @ziabooks.


Eva Rojas’ prize-winning project A Miracle for a Moose

The Publishing Scotland Prize for the Best Dissertation goes to Emma Buckingham, for ‘Protection vs. Progress: An Examination of Government Involvement in the Gulf’s Publishing Industry’. Emma wins £100 of Scottish Books from Publishing Scotland. She can be found on Twitter at @emmakbuckingham, and is planning a career in rights in publishing.

Eva Rojas (aka @literarycoffee on Twitter) is the recipient of The Freight Books Prize for Publishing Design, for her Publishing Project A Miracle for a Moose. She receives £100 of books from the Freight Books list, and £100 of cash. She plans to work in children’s or illustrated books.

Finally, the Faber & Faber Prize for Digital Innovation goes to Emily Underdown, for her work on our PUBPP24 Digital: Process and Product module. Her award is a trip to meet the team at Faber Digital, plus £100 contribution to expenses. You can follow her on Twitter at @EmilyUnderdown.

Congratulations to everyone, and thank you very much to our sponsors!

On PhD Research and Longselling Books

November 24th, 2016 by Helena Markou | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on On PhD Research and Longselling Books

One year into my PhD exploring the sales life of contemporary trade non-fiction books and I still feel like I am just scratching the surface of my topic. So what is life as a researcher like? On a day-to-day basis I divide my time between:

  • immersion in my subject area – reading journals articles and scholarly publication to keep up with innovations in the fields of publishing studies, literary studies, and the broader fields of cultural studies and digital humanities.
  • writing – ranging from annotated bibliography entries, notes made at events, results and findings of my research and data analysis, or blog posts like this one. The important thing is to write often.
  • wrangling sales data – using a combination of familiar tools and techniques such as vlookup in Excel, box plots in SPSS, or tools that are new to me such as big data analytics using python and weka.
  • skills training – living half way between Glasgow and Edinburgh allows me to take advantage of many events organised within my own institution, University of Stirling, or the other institutions that make up the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities.

But why study the sales life of books at all? Well because the UK produces huge quantities of books. It has the highest per capita output in the world and the third highest number of new and revised titles published each year (behind China and the USA). This number of new and revised titles has risen steadily since the end of the Second World War from an almost standing start of 6,000 new titles in 1943 to over 200k in 2015.

Graph: Volume of New and Revised Titles Published in UK by Year


Graph: Volume of New and Revised Titles Published in UK by Year

[Various Sources: Bookfacts, Nielsen BookScan, Publishers Association (2016)]

These statistics alone invite many questions: who is writing all these books? How many more people are involved in the design and refining of these products? How and why does the machinery of publishing manufacture and distribute at such a vast scale? However, my research is more interested in the next stages of the supply chain. What happens when these new titles are added to those already in print; the millions of titles which make up UK publishers’ back catalogues known as the backlist? How are all these books, both new and established, squeezed into bookshops (physical or otherwise)? How are they merchandised and sold? How long is the window of opportunity for them to succeed or fail? What does success look like in modern bookselling terms – and which authors and titles have achieved this? In the so-called age of abundance, which books have persistent sales and why?


My research objectives are ambitious (or so I’ve been told); to quantify the average sales life of non-fiction titles by subject category, identify longselling titles that have remained relevant to the UK book buying population over long time period, then explore the qualities, and cultural significance of some of these books via case studies.

An example of a longseller from one of the slowest selling bookshop categories,   “Music and Dance”, is The Inner Game of Music by Timothy Gallwey and Barry Green. Originally published in 1986, this book is not the bestselling title in its class (that would be the BBC Proms Official Guide), but it is one of the few titles that appear in the top 5000 physical book sales charts for both 2001 and 2015.

Ranked 54th in the category of Music & Dance in 2001, it sold just under 2000 units and continued to rank in 312thposition in 2015 with a modest 500 units sold in that year. Clearly, the sales for this title are declining, however three decades of bookshop sales is a noteworthy achievement and warrants a closer look.

Scrutinising the quantitative data alone provides some clues that The Inner Game of Music might be atypical for a book about music. It is certainly not a beginner’s guide to guitar, or piano, as are most of the other longselling titles within Music and Dance. However, the next step in the research journey is to explore the historical and commercial context for this book’s success and the opinions of its readership.

Initial investigation uncovers that the “inner game”, as a concept, was not originally developed for musicians. It is a spin-off from Gallwey’s NYT bestseller The Inner Game of Tennis, a book which teaches tennis players to improve their practice through awareness of psychological barriers, removal of self-doubt, and correction of bad habits.   This philosophy is something Gallwey adapted and applied to other walks of life (golf, work, stress and music). He appears to have made a successful career out this brand through consultancy, public speaking and book sales. The Inner Game of Music also appears frequently on university reading lists, lending some academic weight to its commercial popularity.

This looks like a promising start for a case study, offering up a number of avenues for further research. How do readers discuss the book via online reviews? How is the book is positioned and sold within general and specialist bookshops; What is the impact of proactive and consistent marketing of the book by the author? Is self-improvement a common theme within longselling books?

All these questions demand answers, provoke my curiosity and spur me on to continue researching longselling books. And on that note, I guess I had better finish procrastinating via this blog article and get back to the PhD.


Helena Markou’s professional career spans publishing, bookselling and digital consultancy.  Within her academic career she has lectured in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University and Digital Book History at the School of Advanced Studies, University of London. She is in her 2nd year of an AHRC funded PhD at University of Stirling. You can follow her online @helena_markou

Publication Studio Book Binding Induction

November 23rd, 2016 by jo_ripoll | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publication Studio Book Binding Induction

book-binding-almost-finished_resizedAs part of Book Week Scotland, Publication Studio opened a new office in Glasgow at the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA). Just a little background on Publication Studio: Founded in 2009 in Portland, Oregon in the United States, it prints and binds books individually and on-demand. Publication’s Studio’s goal is to provide the means for writers to produce their creations. Since its inception, Publication Studio has expanded internationally. In conjunction with Good Press, a bookshop and art gallery in Glasgow, and the CCA, Publication Studio opened its newest addition in Glasgow this week. Now, this particular office is more like a room within the CCA’s office space and is run by four people, who own other book-related businesses in Glasgow; they are not at CCA on a day-to-day basis.

Everyone who uses Publication Studio’s facilities has to go through an induction, so they can safely use the machinery. Both Isabella Pioli and I decided to attend the book binding workshop to see what they could teach usthe-binder_resizedabout this aspect of the production process. As we walked into the small, back-room office that contains the binding machine—henceforth called the binder—and the guillotine (the paper cutter), you could smell the glue—a very similar smell to the one our class experienced on our trip to Bell & Bain.

As indicated by the glue, Publication Studio focuses on perfect binding. For those who don’t know what that means, perfect binding is usually used on paperback or soft cover books; it glues the separate sections of the book and the cover (usually a slightly thicker material) together at the spine. Much to our surprise, it was a very simplified printing and binding process. It’s literally the DIY level of production. Their printing is inexpensive and not as high-quality as a professional printer. As our inductors put it: “It’s a high-quality photocopier.” You would come for your scheduled time with a prepared PDF and your own paper to print what you plan to bind. They are able to print in black and white or colour at extremely discounthe-guillotine_resizedted prices and on all types of paper, within reason. (You can’t print on sand-paper or tin foil, for those artists out there.)

Interestingly, unlike a printing and binding company like Bell & Bain, you bind (glue together) the pieces of paper you’ve printed rather than the folded together sections of a traditional book printer. At least, the sample product we produced today was individual pieces. Depending on the creator, the size of the paper, and how he/she printed the product, that has the potential to change. The binder itself, though smells and looks intimidating, was actually pretty easy to use. Surprisingly, the guillotine turned out to be the most difficult, simply because you had to get your paper measurements exactly right so abook-binding-collage_resizeds not to cut off more than you mean to. (I learned this the hard way!)

Overall, our book binding induction was interesting and very hands-on. Although it’s not practical for printing and binding lots of books, Publication Studio is a good place to produce individual works. No one besides the author/creator has ownership over anything produced through Publication Studio. This company just provides the facilities and the means for people to produce their own content for a much lower rate than if it was self-produced elsewhere. For self-publishers who are looking to have a few hard copies of their books or for writers looking to send finished products to traditional publishers, Publication Studio offers them a space to let their creations come to life.

by Jo Ripoll

SYP Scotland: Freelancing 101

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

Visiting Speaker: Marion Sinclair, Publishing Scotland

November 21st, 2016 by chiara_bullen | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker: Marion Sinclair, Publishing Scotland

Last week’s guest speaker was the Chief Executive of Publishing Scotland, Marion Sinclair. Publishing Scotland is a collective organisation with the purpose to ‘help Scottish publishers do business’. The group of founders were sick of travelling down to London for publishing meetings so they decided to do something about this. Soon after, Publishing Scotland was born in 1973 and has being going strong ever since.

Publishing Scotland have approximately 70 members and unusually survives almost entirely through state funding as opposed to subscriptions. They aim to work with smaller and Scottish publishers to help them network, grow and thrive in an industry that requires more man-power than is often affordable.

Going through the list of services on offer to their members, Marion paints the vivid picture of Publishing Scotland being an incredibly valuable resource for Scottish publishers who are facing difficulties that come with operating out of the London-centric hub of the industry. Services include (but are certainly not limited to) training courses, funding to help publishers attend book fairs outside the UK, networking events and marketing.

Marion spoke enthusiastically about the new publishing start-ups across the country and even encouraged us to think about potentially starting our own, noting that many successful publishing start-ups have been established by people in their twenties (and beyond of course!).

She discussed the 4 main challenges facing Scottish publishers and these are challenges that Publishing Scotland will work hard to face during the upcoming years. These are:

  • Getting products out to an international market, which is something Marion assured us Publishing Scotland will be prioritising.
  • Competition- it’s a crowded market! Visibility is everything and smaller publishers don’t get the same marketing space or opportunities as bigger publishing houses.
  • Lack of digital expertise to navigate the ever-changing digital market.
  • The ‘Lure of London’. Smaller, Scottish publishers are excellent at spotting talent and producing best-sellers, yet this success also invites interest from bigger publishers with more resources. This is sometimes a tempting offer for authors looking to further their career.

She concluded by discussing, with an energetic buzz, the increasing activity within Scottish publishing. With new start-ups, existing publishing houses starting to grow and more attention coming our way, she announced that it was an exciting time to get into the Scottish publishing industry. It’s a good thing more than half of us admitted we wanted to work in it!

by Chiara Bullen

A Day in the Life of a Publishing Student – 17th November edition

November 18th, 2016 by barbora_kuntova | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on A Day in the Life of a Publishing Student – 17th November edition

Here at the University of Stirling, they like to keep us busy. And when it’s not our course keeping us busy, it’s all the exciting events that are going on around Scotland that we really want to attend. Here’s a look at what a random day looks like when you’re a publishing student.

6:30 am – first alarm clock goes off – slide to turn off

6:45 am – second alarm clock goes off – slide to turn off

7:00 am – third alarm clock goes off – slide to turn off, though now I can actually see something resembling light outside

7:30 am – the alarm clock goes off for the fourth time this morning, slide to turn off

8:00 am – oh well, okay then… time to get up and do this thing called adulting

8:30 am – a jumbo sized coffee and Nielsen – living the dream

french press next to a laptop on a bed

9:45 am – time for another coffee, this time Christmas edition (it’s never too early for Christmas drinks)

queue at a coffee shop

10:00 am – lecture time

coffee cup notepad and a pen in a lecture hall

11:10 am – group work – never does a day go by without at least one

group of people with their notepads out studying

12:30 pm – time to catch up on emails and assignments; but at least the view is good

computer screen

1:00 pm – lunch time – the Student Union is affordable, though not the healthiest – but we need all the unhealthy food we can get to keep us going

plate of food

2:00 pm – reading time in the library!

capter one of book open

3:00 pm – our favourite part of the week – visiting speaker (and coffee), this week we’re very lucky to have the author Liam Murray Bell

3:30 pm – we are adults but we also love being read to, so it is story time!

man standing in front of classroom with book

3:35 pm – tweeting is basically our full time job

someone holding a phone

5:15 pm – we the publishing peeps are on our way to the SYP Scotland Freelancing 101 event.. and what better way to spend the train ride than reading/tweeting?

someone reading and a group of friends in a train in the background

6:40 pm – the panel is on, so take notes!

two women and a mansitting

8:12 pm – night night, Edinburgh

a wide shot image of buildings at night

10:00 pm – 1:00 am – bed time varies, depending on who’s all caught up with their uni work and who’s not – also, Netflix is an important variable in this formula

Barb Kuntova

Designed by Apple in California

November 18th, 2016 by Sharna | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Designed by Apple in California

designed-by-apple-in-california-1Apple Inc. is pretty much known by everyone at this point in time, but if you don’t know, Apple is a technology company founded in Cupertino, California, in 1976 (that’s right, Apple is 40 years old!). They supply all sorts of tech products: iMac, iPhone, iPad, iPod, basically iEverything. But this post is not a tech post, it’s a publishing post, because Apple have released a coffee-table book entitled Designed by Apple in California. Perhaps not the catchiest title, but it does tell you mostly what you need to know; it’s a book featuring 450 images, depicting Apple products over the last 20 years.

Designed by Apple in California is available in two sizes: small and large. Both are pretty highly priced; the small one will cost you $199 (£160.04) and the large version will set you back $299 (£240.46). To me, that seems a little obnoxious on Apple’s part; they’re going to charge you $300 to show off how nice their stuff looks. But enough about my personal opinions of Apple’s pricing strategy, let’s have a look at what that money will get you.designed-by-apple-in-california-2

The book is published by Apple themselves. Apparently, it’s been in development for 8 years. It’s printed on specially milled, custom-dyed paper with gilded matte silver edges, using 8 CMYK colour separations, and low-ghost ink. This type of ink is less likely to transfer or show through on the other side (hence ghost) and it also yellows less than regular ink. Probably a good call, considering the whole book is colour photographs – you do not want that seeping through onto the other side. Both volumes of Designed by Apple in California are white, linen-bound hardcovers, which mimics the sleek effects of Apple’s tech products.

Credit where credit’s due, it does look like a beautiful design book. You can’t fault the quality of the product and the effort that has gone in to the design and production of Designed by Apple in California, but my issue with it in general is simply: why? You can quite easily imagine it gracing a fancy, modern house or perhaps the Apple offices, but I just don’t really see it appealing to anyone else. It has also been noted by some that the book is really just Jony Ive (Apple’s chief designer) giving himself a bit of a pat on the back for his lovely design work.

All in all, it is a beautiful looking piece of work, but in my opinion, it seems unjustified and somewhat self-indulgent. But, being that Apple products are adored by so many, I’m more than certain that the limited supply it will sell itself, and that Apple will probably think about making another one, some 20 years in the future.



Photos from Apple.

By Sharna Vincent

Publishing Ireland Trade Day 2016

November 17th, 2016 by claire_furey | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing Ireland Trade Day 2016

The fourth annual Publishing Ireland Trade Day took place on 11th November, the weekend of the Dublin Book Festival. The theme this year was #ReachingReaders. Irish publishers are small. Output varies from 1 or 2 titles per year to 20, and turnover is generally less than a quarter of a million per year. With this in mind, Publishing Ireland encourages the publishers to come together and support each other.

Bookshop at the Trade Day

Trade Day bookshop

First up was Kathy Foley, Content Marketing Manager at Twitter. Kathy highlighted the importance of Twitter for small companies:

  1. Your readers want to engage with you. 68% of people surveyed had already purchased a product due to seeing it on Twitter. Recommendations on Twitter come from people you admire and trust. It’s important to get experts/influencers to tweet about your books.
  2. The tools you need are already available to you: profile, cover photo, keywords in description, pinned tweet, and analytics. Have an overall strategy, and plan tweets.
  3. Hit the right balance. For every tweet pushing a sale, have 4 with general chat and interaction.

Next was a panel led by Peter O’Connell, a book publicist, on the ways of getting your books noticed by traditional media.

Barbara Feeney, a researcher for The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk FM, discussed how she chooses books to review for the show:

  • Catalogues (time-consuming)
  • Receiving pitches, books by post, press releases, reviews. Ensure email is targeted specifically to Barbara/the show.
  • The timeline is important. Authors are often booked for the show up to 3 months in advance.

They look for

  • an engaging author, who is a good communicator
  • a book that is relevant to their audience in some way
  • interesting, obscure, peculiar subjects.

They won’t interview someone that has just recently been on another show. If the author is considered an expert on a particular topic, they may be invited back to contribute to other discussions on said topic, which is further publicity for the book.

Read more »

Vintage Books Reveal Newly Designed Russian Classics

November 17th, 2016 by therese_campbell | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Vintage Books Reveal Newly Designed Russian Classics

With autumn slowly passing and the winter months soon upon us, curling up with an old classic, by the warmth of a roaring fire – or only-slightly-working radiator if you’re a student – is the perfect way to end a cold and dreary evening.

The Vintage Russian Collection
With these winter evenings in mind, Vintage Books have recently revealed on Facebook and Twitter, a series of newly designed Russian classics. To mark the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the series will be released in January, 2017, and will include six texts by authors such as Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Mikhail Bulgakov. Readers will be given the chance to delve into post and pre-revolutionary Russia once more with these exquisitely designed books.

In an interview with Waterstones, Suzanne Dean, Creative Director at Vintage, discussed her inspiration for the books unique covers. She explained that while republishing classical texts was tricky – there are so many editions already available – her aim was to create a series that readers would ‘cherish, collect and keep.’ She wanted to give each novel a contemporary twist whilst also conveying the era in which they were written. A mesh of different patterns can be found on each cover, with some being taken from and inspired by traditional Russian dress. The different tones of red used on each book give them all an individuality while simultaneously bringing a unity to the collection.

The intention to ‘evoke the essence of each novel’ in their design certainly comes through and each carefully considered colour and pattern breathes new life into these timeless classics. Any true book-lover would be proud to have this beautifully designed series as part of their collection.

Waterstones is currently the only bookshop to stock the series and all six books can be pre-ordered before their general release in January.

by Therese Campbell

Visit to Booksource

November 16th, 2016 by helene_fosse | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visit to Booksource

It was one of the first truly cold mornings of the year – the soul destroying, mind numbing kind of cold that makes you want to slip into a coma just to get away from it. The whole Publishing cohort was standing outside Pathfoot waiting for the bus to show up, all in a severe state of zombie due to lack of sleep. We all had three assignments to finish with two days left until the last deadline. The mood was a bit depressing. It was dark. It wasn’t great.

When the bus showed up, my rarely awakened competitive instinct roared into life as if this was the most important task I ever had to do – get on that bus FIRST. Why? Who can tell. I don’t mess around with warmth and comfort. They’re very precious to me.

Anyway, five minutes later I woke up and we were at Booksource, situated in a small retail park-looking area in Cambuslang, Glasgow. Stepping out of that bus was heartbreaking, but we did, and dragged our feet into the reception where we were warmly welcomed by Jim O’Donnell, operations director, and Louise Morris, customer service director.

As a booksource-2distribution hub for more than 85 publishers, Booksource operate out of their 42,000 sq ft warehouse, which holds around 4 million units across 10,000 titles. Breaking up into two groups, we set out on the Booksource Adventure. As part of group A, I entered the warehouse where we were told it could get OUTRAGEOUSLY cold in winter. -25 degrees Celsius or something ridiculous like that. My brain could not compute. It wasn’t too bad at the moment however (though I was glad I wore thermals that day), so I quite happily followed my group as we delved into the massive room.

It was literally stacked from floor to (dizzyingly high) ceiling with books. We beheld the wet dream of every book-lover with continuous squeals of excitement and did not hold back when Jim said we could even touch the books (and that if anything went wrong, hbooksource-1e would blame it on the employees. I liked Jim a lot). We walked between the high shelves much like the Israelites crossing the Red Sea guided by Moses (Jim).

The bottom two shelves (about hip and eye-hight) were stacked with a wide variety of books. From there on up, there were mostly cardboard boxes on pallets. This was to accommodate picking, and every night the bottom two shelves would be restocked from the boxes so that there were always loose books to hand. There was no easily discernible system (for an outsider to see at least) as to where books were placed. Different titles from the same publishing house were scattered all around; fiction, non-fiction and academic books were happily mixed together; there was no alphabetical (or other) system. Jim explained that one reason for this was that some books, such as Cicerone Press’ travel books, could not be placed together due to the similarity of their covers.

As we came to the end of the warehouse tour, we knew we had to go upstairs and go to a short lecture on Booksource. We were all a little bit disappointed as we really just wanted to stay in the warehouse forever, burrowing into the shelves, making book forts and never ever leave. Ever.

Oh, and apparently CDs are still a thing. Mostly folk music, according to Jim. There were numerous shelves filled with CDs, which we approached with caution, not sure what those pre-historic round discs with the holes in them were.

As we climbed the stairs and entered the conference room however, it was decked out with tea, coffee and biscuits. Our spirits were thoroughly lifted, and although we did not quite forget about the warehouse, we were (I was at least) certainly content being in the warmth with handfuls of biscuits (and perhaps a few in the pocket for the drive to Bell and Bain) and hot beverages.

After settling down, Louise told us about the history and services of Booksource. Not only do they hold and distribute books, they also re-price, re-barcode-sticker (I’m making it a word) and jacket. They also provide POD (Print on Demand) and financial services. They have a website, InfoSource, which works as a reporting tool for publishers can use to keep track of everything from sales to stock to order processing. It is also possible to buy books directly from Booksource at www.mybooksource.com. They stock books, ebooks, CDs and DVDs. What do they not do?

All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable trip and we exited the building in high spirits. And back on the bus we went…

Leonard Cohen-legendary poet-singer, dies age 82

November 15th, 2016 by siqi_cai | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Leonard Cohen-legendary poet-singer, dies age 82


Photo: https://www.leonardcohen.com/

“I am ready to die.” -A great poet said.

On 11 November 2016, we lost another almighty star of fiction, poetry, music, and acting. Leonard Cohen died at age 82. Compared with the other day the cheering news that Bob Dylan got the Nobel Prize in literature, it is, indeed, a depressing tale today. Some fans who were enchanted by Cohen’s husky voice and infectious lyrics even said: “Cohen should have been given the recent Nobel – not Dylan.” As an editor who may deal with text in the near future, I am here to say that Dylan’s musicianship is of the higher standard than Cohen, but in the aspect of the literature and art, Cohen is better than Dylan. It is the statement of only my opinion and I know some big fans of Dylan must be angered by this statement, the judges of the Nobel Prize in literature are no exception, but I will still say so. When I first listened to his songs, I was not only touched by his melodies but also shocked by his lyrics. It is no exaggeration to say that he is a troubadour who can sing to the depth of people’s souls. When he croons romantic songs and ballads while playing the guitar, there is just no way that we can deal with any more musical tenderness.

Leonard Cohen majored in English Literature and published eight poems and two novels. He won the highest honor in the Governor General’s Literary Awards for his poems, and the novel Beautiful Loser was known as the 60’s masterpiece.

“As far as I’m concerned, Leonard, you’re Number 1. I’m Number Zero.” Dylan once said to Cohen.

No matter who is better in literature and music between Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, they are great people in this day and age, they are worthy of respect.

In the last part of the article I want to attach a lyric from one of my favourite songs, please image the picture of a melancholy poem standing in front of the microphone, singing a love song Suzanne with his husky voice to people who are lost a loss:

“Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river,

You can hear the boats go by you can spend the night beside her,

And you know that she’s half crazy but that’s why you wanna be there,

And she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China,

And just when you mean to tell her that you have no love to give her,

Then she gets you on her wavelength and she lets the river answer,

That you’ve always been her lover.


And you want to travel with her,

And you want to travel blind,

And you know that she will trust you,

For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.


And Jesus was a sailor when He walked upon the water,

And He spent a long time watching from His lonely wooden tower,

And when He knew for certain only drowning men could see him,

He said “all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them,”

But He Himself was broken, long before the sky would open

Forsaken, almost human, He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone.”

A Book With Only One Sentence Won the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize

November 14th, 2016 by Yun HAO | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on A Book With Only One Sentence Won the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize

%e5%b1%8f%e5%b9%95%e5%bf%ab%e7%85%a7-2016-11-11-12-54-35Irish novelist Mike McCormack won the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize with£10,000 prize money for his book Solar Bones on 9th November 2016. The book’s narrative focuses a “man’s experience when his world threatens to fall apart” and how his memories came to live and flowed to him on Irish traditional festival, All Souls Day. The book’s writing style is its most distinct feature. There are no chapters, full stops, or speech marks, instead simply telling an ordinary story in one unbroken sentence “in the most extraordinary words.” The book has a quality of attention that caused Blake Morrison, the chair of the judges, to proclaim the novel “a masterpiece” and sta%e5%b1%8f%e5%b9%95%e5%bf%ab%e7%85%a7-2016-11-11-12-54-13nd out of the shortlist of six remarkable books for the prize this year.

The Goldsmiths Prize was launched in 2013, in association with the New Statesman, aiming “to reward fiction that breaks the mould or opens up new possibilities for the novel form.” The prize is significant because it greatly encouraged the development of creative literature. For readers, the award saves time and money for them to directly get access to the most outstanding works from abundant unknown experimental novels, as well as reduces risks of picking up a bad one. It also helps readers better understand and realize the value of the books. For experimental novels writer, their subjective initiatives are significantly activated by the prize, since they know the value of their works has increased chances to be spot and admired.

The prize also has important meanings and impacts on publishers. After all, the bridge between authors and readers can hardly be established without them. Large publishers, however, tend to be conservative and reluctant to publish creative literature, based on the considerations of unknown market, whereas small and independent publishers have long been the engines of creative literature. The confusing fact that none of the winners in the past four years come from England may indicate the point because small publishers in Scotland and Ireland are more willing to support the new form novels compared to those London-based large publishers. Solar Bones, for example, is published by Tramp, one of Ireland’s small independent publishing houses in Ireland. The author and winner, McCormack, called on more publishers to take the risk with experimental authors: “It’s about time the prize-giving community honored experimental works and time that mainstream publishers started honoring their readership by saying: ‘Here are experimental books’.” The words reflect experimental novel writers’ difficult situations when contacting large publishers. A more obvious example is the winner in 2013, Eimear McBride, the author of A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing. She also struggled to find a publisher. It had taken her nine years before the book appeared from the tiny, independent Galley Beggar Press.

The Goldsmiths Prize may reduce the anxieties and pressures of large publishers and new-form novel writers since the prize has proved that experimental writing can find a large and appreciative readership in its fourth year. Regarding customer comments on Amazon, you will find that most readers spoke highly of the new form novels. Experimental novels are of significant value because it extends literature to art, focusing the feelings and thoughts that words and formats convey in novel ways. With the prize’s recognition, an increasing number of readers will come to know and understand its value; large publishers will be more willing to publish experimental novels with a clearer market, and innovative culture industry will be further facilitated.


The Irish TimesNew StatesmanThe Guardian

 by Yun HAO

Visiting Speaker – Kathryn Ross

November 11th, 2016 by rachel_kay | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker – Kathryn Ross

Last Thursday, our publishing class had the privilege of spending a few hours with literary agent Kathryn Ross. Alongside Lindsey Fraser, Kathryn runs Fraser Ross Associates Literary Agency and Consultancy (www.fraserross.co.uk), which the pair established in 2002.

logoKathryn didn’t take the traditional route to becoming a literary agent. She began as a secondary school English teacher, overseeing the school library, and eventually collaborating with the department head to set up a mobile bookstore in a van. When this venture did well, she left teaching and got a position running the children’s tent at the Edinburgh Book Festival, afterwards moving on to work at the Scottish Book Trust. Kathryn spent ten years here, where she met Lindsey and built up a long list of author and publishing contacts. Finally, with the encouragement of author Vivian French, the pair took the leap of setting up their own literary agency with Vivian as their first client.

Fourteen years down the line, she says her job is hard work, hugely rewarding (emotionally, although not always financially), and that she gets a lot of joy from seeing authors set off, and in helping them grow their careers. Fraser Ross Associates now represents about sixty-five writers and illustrators, most of whom work in children’s fiction (although some write across all age ranges and genres).

booksWriting for children is challenging. There’s a lot to accomplish in a short format, including fleshing out the characterisation, problems, and emotions that form a complete story. Children’s books must be equally appealing to parents- these are the buyers, and the ones who will be reading the book over and over. Children’s authors need to be good at summing up and pitching their content, and are now expected to do more marketing and publicity than ever before. An author’s success has increasingly come to depend on things like doing events and getting positive online reviews.

Agents are integral within this process, acting as sounding boards, cheerleaders, and business advisers to an author. This includes ideas development, networking, brand-building, and actively pursuing sub-rights. When taking clients on board, Kathryn and Lindsay look for long-term partnerships, where the content and the personalities both fit. Good communication is essential, as are trust, openness, and honesty, as everyone needs to be able to talk through ideas and problems.

Authors / illustrators and literary agents are often recommended to each other, one of the reasons that networking is vital. Kathryn and Lindsey also seek out new talent, such as by attending end-of-year college art shows. On top of this, they receive unsolicited manuscripts, about 200 per month. Many of these come via email, and Kathryn says she misses the physicality of receiving packages in the post- although she doesn’t miss the occasional extras, like glitter stars, crushed biscuits, melted toffees, etc. Kathryn has gotten some extremely creative submissions over the years, and was able to give us extensive, and often hilarious advice on what not to do, including why penguins and polar bear must never meet.

Each ‘day in the life’ of a literary agent is different, but typical tasks include:

  • Reminding publishers to pay invoices
  • Checking/negotiating contracts
  • Polishing submissions before they’re sent to editors – lots of editing!
  • Meeting with publishers, especially in London
  • Pushing for better royalties for her clients
  • Reading Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and The Bookseller
  • Attending launch parties
  • Negotiating permissions fees
  • Talking authors through outlines, edits, and cover design
  • Giving advice to cold callers
  • Informing authors of success / rejection
  • Discussing deadlines, delays, relationship problems, moving house, etc. with clients
  • Paying authors
  • Submitting manuscripts
  • Sending congratulations cards of all types
  • Reading unsolicited submissions
  • Attending book fairs, especially Bologna
  • Reading, reading, reading, reading, reading, reading, … and emails.

Many thanks to Kathryn for sharing her time with us, and for bringing back the nostalgia of story time for us Masters students!

The President-Elect and the Publishing Industry

November 10th, 2016 by isabella_pioli | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The President-Elect and the Publishing Industry

When we started the semester discussing Publishing and threats to publishing, everyone was discussing Brexit. As an American, I recognized it as a threat, but I saw a threat on our horizon and so I too brought up a potential threat to Publishing… a Trump Presidency. crying-studentsEveryone chuckled, not really believing that it was a possibility. If we are being honest, if I’m being honest with myself, I saw the writing on the wall about five months ago when Trump became the Republican Presidential candidate. America is a pendulum when it comes to its’ presidents and these past four years have driven the Republican party farther to the right.

The day after the election, The Bookseller published as article titled “’Dismayed’ trade reacts to Donald Trump’s election” and I felt disgustingly vindicated. Trump’s presidency presents a threat to publishing just as it poses a problem to first amendment rights.People came up to me and gave me their condolences. We were all there at the funeral of America’s future, but this is not the first time we’ve felt that way about our country. Most felt the same fear upon George W. Bush’s election and re-election.This time the stakes are higher, this time people have more to lose. The LGBTQIA community has won so many victories in the past eight years and now we have elected a man whose vice president openly promotes conversion camps. Women have grown in their voices and intersectional feminism is steadily growing, but upon election night 53% of white women voted for Trump. Vice President Biden became a voice for a movement to bring an end to sexual assault and our President-elect has double digit accusations of sexual assault against him. This is truly a harrowing time in American history.

People are talking about a growth in anti-intellectualism with the election of Trump and all for which he stands. So, how can the publishing industry combat these new issues, well we can start by addressing the fact that these aren’t new issues at all, but a continuation of hate, ignorance, and fear. The lack of diversity is an issue that isn’t going away, because very few people are doing anything to stop it. By diversity, I don’t just mean the racial and economic disparities present in publishing, but the lack of diversity in topics. Heteronormativity in literature is an issue. Publishers are slowly coming out with more LGBTQ material, but most of it is produced by specialty publishers. Main publishers need to create more diverse content. We need main characters that are bisexual and state that they are bisexual. oscar-wilde-quoteWhat is bisexual? Authors need to write their characters with well-informed notions. The authors don’t need to be LGBTQ themselves but they need to know what they are talking about. People need to start understanding what feminism actually means, not just saying femi-nazi or assuming that its about women being better than men. We need to be explicit in our definitions and not leave anything up to interpretation. We need more characters that are people of color. We need POC’s to be described as human beings, not using food metaphors to describe the color of their skin. We need characters to understand and accept differences between cultures and have discussions about religion. We need literature (from YA to hyper-intellectualism) to be an inspiration and a source of accurate information. We need literature to build the bridges that real world conversations are failing at addressing. We need to be a strong global community that lifts each other up, that allows for a safe place fo minorities to escape into, and we need to never forget that fear and hate are founded in ignorance. Books disperse information and create worlds that give hope. We need hope in these next four years and the publishing industry needs to be at the heart of a movement to dispel misinformation, bigotry, and xenophobia. It has never been more important than it is now that we, as publishers, look at what we publish as a moral and ethical paragon of information. Let us quell the tide of fear and hate with more inclusivity and more diversification.

by Isabella Pioli

Non-Fiction November and a Few Recommendations

November 10th, 2016 by Alice Laing | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Non-Fiction November and a Few Recommendations


“National Non-Fiction November is the Federation of Children’s Book Groups’ annual celebration of all things factual.” – FCBG

I have always had a soft spot for non-fiction, which was definitely born out of my love of history, and I was excited to learn about a month dedicated to encouraging children and adults to read non-fiction books and celebrate with those who already love them.

With this celebration in mind I stood in front of my ‘non-fiction bookshelf’ (which in reality is half non-fiction and half graphic novels/comic books/miscellaneous) to choose five of my favourites. I want to share these reccomendations with you in the hopes of encouraging the flow of information and the love of non-fiction.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

Everyday Sexism is an exploration into the ever present sexism that women experience daily, from ‘small’ acts of verbal harassment to the horrifying experiences of sexual assault. Laura Bates combines statistics with real experiences shared on her Twitter feed and the Everyday Sexism website.

Its blurb describes it as “Bold, jaunty but always intelligent [… a] protest against inequality that provides a unique window into the vibrant movement sparked by this juggernaut of stories – often shocking, sometimes amusing and always poignant.” At times it is difficult to read, specifically regarding the stories of assult, but does offer a glaring insight into the often frightening experiences that women face when they walk outside their front door.

Girl Up by Laura Bates

Another one by Laura Bates (I think I’m in love with her). Girl Up is aimed at teenage girls and young women. Emma Watson praises the book by saying it “unapologetically addresses what teenage girls are really dealing with.” It covers everything from the hypocrisy of dress codes to consent. This book does not hold back – there are swear words and non-censored sex education – but it is also an engaging read that I wish existed when I was a teenager.

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Now onto my love of History (and my issues with it). Silencing the Past is a wonderful little book (191 pages) that tackles the idea that power dictates history and explores what history is deemed important (spoiler alert: white, western history). It explores (with its limited length) some histories that have been ‘silenced’, specifically it covers the Haitian slave revolt, the denials of the Holocaust, and the debate over the Alamo. This book is an interesting look at the role power plays in the recording of history.

The World of the Haitian Revolution edited by David Patrick Geggus & Norman Fiering

The World of the Haitian Revolution is a collection of essays that attempts (quite successfully) to explore the complex issues surrounding Haiti’s emancipation from the French Empire. This collection covers everything from Haiti (formally known as Saint-Domingue) before the French Revolution, to its own revolution and the creation of the first independent black nation.

A truly fascinating period of History that is often forgotten about and is dear to my heart as Haiti (along with Guadeloupe and Martinique) was the subject of my undergraduate dissertation. It is therefore a subject I will gladly talk (read: rant) about for hours.

Image Matters: Archive, Photography, and the African Diaspora in Europe by Tina M. Campt

Image Matters is a look into African diaspora in Europe through a collection of two photographic archives explored and analysed by Tina M. Campt. The first collection is of black German families taken between 1900 and 1945 and the second are studio portraits of West Indian migrants living in Birmingham, England taken between 1948 and 1960.

Elizabeth Edwards describes how this book explores “questions about the nature of historical evidence and the historical process.”  It is facinating look into race and class in 20th century Europe, filled with photographs that tell stories about people who history often ignores.

You can find out more about Non-Fiction November 2016 here. Happy reading.

by Alice Laing

Trip to Bell and Bain for Striling’s 2016-17 Publishing Students

November 9th, 2016 by caroline_obrien | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Trip to Bell and Bain for Striling’s 2016-17 Publishing Students

Bright and early on a cold autumnal morning we, the 2016-17 Publishing students of the University of Stirling, gathered for our trip to Bell & Bain, the UK’s largest and oldest independent book and journals printers and binders.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

Once we had arrived we were introduced to and given an talk by Derek Kenney, Bell & Bain’s Sales Director Designate, and Kenny Shepherdson, their Business Development Manager. During this part of the tour we were informed that Bell & Bain currently has 115 employees, with a projected turnover for 2016 of £13.2m. In Derek’s own words this makes Bell & Bain a ‘large small business.’ As much sense as that makes.

But, with just over a million sheets printed and bound per week  and approximately 2.45m journals and 6.5m books printed and bound in 2015 what exactly is meant by this statement becomes a little clearer.

After this introductory talk we were whisked away to Bell & Bain’s Burnfield Road production facility. There we were taken step by step through the printing and binding process of a paperback book.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

This process begins with the Production Department receiving orders from Bell & Bain’s customers through email. These orders are turned into work tickets which are checked before being sent down to the computer to plate room.

Here the lithographs are prepared for each order. These plates start out blue and are chemically burned until all that remains in blue is what is to be printed. A plate is made for each colour needed, four for CYMK printing. The machines which make these lithographic plates are capable of creating up to thirty in one hour.

After this, and a brief look in at the paper storage area, we were then taken into the most exciting, and second loudest part of the facility. The part containing the gigantic presses which print the images from the lithographs onto the specific paper needed by the publisher. These monstrous, roaring machines are capable of printing 10,000 sheets an hour. Although it was difficult to hear all the information over the sound of the presses and other machines, I was able to gather that, despite there being cameras in the machine physical checks are required every 500 sheets or so. This reminder that machines are fallible is easily memorable from the slogan provided by Kenny Shepherdson, ‘Rely on the eye.’

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

Once printed the sheets are then folded. This part of the factory was, rather unexpectedly after being faced with the presses, the noisiest.

Finally the signatures are sewn together, glue is added and then the cover. There is a long conveyor belt after this to allow the glue time to cool and after that it is sent to the trimmer.

The result is a finished book, in our case this was a new adult colouring book (because the world needs more of those). But in the end, as Derek Kenney reminded us at the end of our tour, it doesn’t really matter as long as people are still reading. So whether print really is dead (something that Derek strongly denied) or if it will continue to thrive indefinitely, as long as we read we’ll be alright. Because once we lose our interest in books we lose our interest in learning and growing.


Thanks to Barb Kuntova for letting me use her photos.

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


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

Insights from Freight Books Publisher, Adrian Searle

November 1st, 2016 by danny_frew | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Insights from Freight Books Publisher, Adrian Searle


Adrian Searle is Publisher at Glasgow-based Freight Books and Director of sister company Freight Design. He is also founding co-editor of Scotland’s leading literary magazine, Gutter and holds degrees in History and Creative Writing, obtained at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow respectively.

On the 26th of October 2016, students and members of the public had the chance to hear Searle discuss publishing matters at the University of Strathclyde as part of the ongoing Nuts and Bolts guest speaker series. In the space of an hour Searle offered up a great deal of insight in to both Freight Books and publishing in general.

Some highlights follow.

On the timely arrival of Gutter

 For those unfamiliar, Gutter is a boundary-pushing and award-winning literary magazine published by Freight Books which focuses on new Scottish writing. The 15th issue has just recently been released.

Why has Gutter been so successful? It partly boils down to timing. The magazine launched during an industry slump which prompted many publishers, particularly in England, to ruthlessly exorcise any immediately unprofitable talent from their lists.

Adopting a more venturous approach, Gutter thrived by drawing on the growing pool of artists seeking out viable and more welcoming channels for their work.

 On vision, insight and the challenges of standard practice

Searle puts forth the notion that publishing works best when the whole process takes lead from an individual’s clear and focused vision, although he also attests to the need for a solid sounding board – he and AyeWrite! programmer Bob McDevitt have indulged in plenty of shop talk over games of squash.

Technically an “outsider” to the industry, Searle has held multiple roles in marketing and business development out with the publishing sector – enabling him to astutely pinpoint that the publishing industry continues to be beset by not-quite-optimized standard practice models within distribution, selling, returns and printing.

On the risks of a literary focus

Searle affirms that the publishing of literature, particularly literary fiction and poetry, is a labour of love and at times very much a luxury.

For as much pleasure and pride as there is to be gained in publishing Searle stresses repeatedly that, above all else, publishing is a business and a tough one at that. In divulging a 1 in 7 strike rate for profitability in fiction publishing, Searle makes it clear that you simply cannot eradicate risk in this industry, but that you should still seek to defend against it.

The answer for Freight Books has been to develop a diverse list and an appreciation for the need to simultaneously embrace what we continue to refer to as high and low brow culture. In addition to publishing literary fiction, Freight Books have wisely entered the burgeoning humour market with titles such as 101 Uses for a Dead Kindle, which Searle himself authored. A point of pride I’m sure, for sub-rights were later sold to Verlagsgruppe Random House and the publication received favourable attention from the German weekly news magazine, Stern.

On the tricky business of marketing Scottish literature

Searle made it clear that marketing Scottish literature can be a complicated and often frustrating task. Freight Books have an impressively diverse list of authors and titles, but they are undeniably a Scottish publisher with a plethora of identifiably Scottish titles.

Problematically, many parties – at home and abroad – readily compartmentalize Scottish identities and knowingly cultivate and capitalize on the prevailing clichés of our times.

Generally speaking, we should pause to deliberate over the ways in which Scottish identities are broadcast across the world stage. Within the publishing industry itself, the whole messy business of harnessing stereotypical national identities can be a bit of a double-edged sword.

For example, a title with a strong local focus – say a crime novel set in Glasgow – can welcomingly drive sales in that respective locale.

In another instance, many readers and publishing houses will willingly accept titles that fit comfortably in to pre-existing schemas for Scottishness – the most prevalent two being the gritty tartan-noir novel or the drug and profanity fueled Welshian narrative.

As to any deviations? Well, sadly the fix for such titles is to avoid branding them as overtly Scottish in a bid to render them in a robustly marketable light – at least until any potential literary awards can be obtained, which may absurdly help to mitigate any undeserved backlash towards issues of national identity.


Strathclyde’s Nuts and Bolts lecture series continues in the Lord Hope Building, Room 228 on the 9th of November at 1pm. Visiting speaker is award-winning novelist Cathy Forde. All are welcome and the event is free, non-ticketed.

by Danny Frew

The Man Booker Prize 2016

October 28th, 2016 by Aleksander Pęciak | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The Man Booker Prize 2016

The Man Booker Prize logoWho would have ever thought that one of the most prestigious British book awards may be given according to one, simple criteria: “the best novel in the opinion of the judges”? The uniqueness of the Man Booker Prize lies also in the jury which is not (as someone would predict) contained only of literary critics or professors of literature – but also readers reflecting multiple backgrounds: politicians, actors or journalists. Honesty and simplicity that is expressed in this prize seem convincing even for me, a rebel always skeptical to the tastes of highly regarded authorities. And it must mean something.

The general idea behind the prize is to encourage readers to read the winning book – and a true success of it can be measured by the increase of its sales. Every year since 1969 winners are granted with £50,000 for their books published in The United Kingdom, which makes it one of the richest prizes in the world. In addition to the main prize since 2005 there has been the International Man Booker Prize awarded to those whose work’s translations appeared in English. The money are shared between the international author and the translator of the book. The winner of the International Man Booker Prize was announced earlier this year – “The Vegetarian” by Korean author Han Kang, a story about woman embracing her idea of living “plant-like” existence, translated by Deborah Smith, a founder of non-for-profit Tilted Axis Press.

In 2016 we can be sure that satire is still alive. On 25th of October Paul Beatty became the first American winner of The Man Booker Prize. Two years ago the prize changed its rules and opened to authors from outside the Commonwealth, what makes his winning even more significant. His winning book, “The Sellout”, “takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and snarl”, and is, as described by judges, “a novel for our times”. Parodying racial stereotypes, Beatty presents the story of Bonbon, African-American living in Dickens, Los Angeles, and his struggles with accusation of reintroducing slavery and segregation in a local high school. The author has received the trophy from the hands of the Duchess of Cornwall. A victory of Paul Beatty is also a victory of small and independent trade publisher – Oneworld. Based in London and active since 1986, Oneworld presents novels advertised as “intelligent, challenging and distinctive”. I could not imagine better gift for the year of their 30th anniversary.

The Man Booker Prize for Paul Beatty is also a great disappointment for the raised hopes for Graham Macrae Burnet’s “His Bloody Project” published by Contraband, the crime imprint of Saraband. It was the bestselling novel on the shortlist and had the best recognition amongst its rivals. A Man Booker Prize would be the true icing on the cake – “His Bloody Project” translation rights in six countries as well as film and TV adaptation permissions were sold. The publisher is struggling now to meet the demands for the books.

But in the terms of the mission of the prize, we can easily say that it is completed – sales for all the nominated books has risen, which proves its real impact on the readership and readers’ choices.

Visiting Speaker: Peter Dennis of Hodder Gibson

October 26th, 2016 by amandasarahbain | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker: Peter Dennis of Hodder Gibson

Mention the name Hodder Gibson to anyone who was educated in Scotland and there are immediate flashbacks to countless hours spent revising with their past papers. So when Peter Dennis, Managing Director at Hodder Gibson arrived on Thursday afternoon, it was like a blast from the past for many of us.

Hodder Gibson is a small educational publisher based in Paisley, Scotland. Their editorial office consists of a small team which strives to keep up-t0-date with the market, by forming close working relationships with students, teachers and the SQA (with whom it exclusively publishes the official past papers for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher). Peter Dennis described educational publishing as an easily defined market, which is less of a gamble than traditional trade publishing, thanks in part to the SQA who publish exact lists of student numbers, however as it is a small market, it is important to get in first if you want to turn a profit.

For Hodder Gibson, their relationship with the SQA is mutually beneficial. The endorsement by the SQA permits Hodder Gibson to use the official SQA badge on the cover of their educational texts, resulting in increased sales for them and revenue for the SQA. However, due the growth of digital platforms and the availability of past papers online for free, Hodder Gibson have had to change their strategy in order to protect their income. Dennis described revision textbooks as an “anxiety” purchase and therefore it is no surprise that Hodder Gibson have expanded their range of products into practice papers and revision textbooks, thus competing with publishers such as Leckie & Leckie and Bright Red.

Like most educational Publishers, Hodder Gibson’s target market are school pupils in S3-S6, who have the required fear of examinations and suffering from the subsequent panic, want to buy revision materials. According to Dennis, teenagers who are desperate to get into their chosen university make up the majority of Hodder Gibson’s customers. There are currently 364 secondary schools in Scotland and Dennis himself believes that good relationships with schools are always good for business. Although Hodder Gibson sell direct to their customers via their website, the majority of their sales come through high street retailers (discounted at 40%). Dennis describes this discount as “too much of a sacrifice” and therefore the publisher is now attempting to generate the majority of its sales directly via schools (discounted at 20%). For Dennis and his team, price is important and it has to be right for Hodder Gibson and its competition.

Although sales are vital for Hodder Gibson, much of the publisher’s work goes into the creation of their texts. Dennis described commissioning as “begging, pleading and bullying” both experienced teachers and those who are newly qualified (exploitable) and eager to prove themselves, to create content for revision textbooks. For educational publishers creating content can be difficult due to the tight timescale and limited budget to pay busy authors. Dennis himself recounted sending sarcastic emails to authors who have missed deadlines, only to discover one author was about to give birth and the other was in ICU (he was bored and finished writing from his hospital bed)! Following the creation of content the majority of the editing and design process is done by freelancers in order to save money and because as Dennis himself describes, the job of a copyright researching is a very boring, “Sisyphean” effort. Printing can often be done abroad for a fraction of the price if publishers factor in the additional time needed for shipping.

Hodder Gibson is incredibly aware of the evolution of the digital market. Today’s students want options and it’s important for publishers to move with their market. Dennis believes that students are “suffering” in schools without Wi-Fi, given the social media landscape in which students find themselves. Hodder Gibson don’t want to just reproduce their print content in a digital format because students may not pay for it and the demand changes from subject to subject. Dennis firmly believes that the future of educational publishing is digital, so it’s no surprise that Hodder Gibson are striving, as always, to stay ahead of the market.

by Amanda Sarah Bain

Of The Famished Road and Literary Dreams — Ben Okri at University of Stirling

October 25th, 2016 by Otieno Owino | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Of The Famished Road and Literary Dreams — Ben Okri at University of Stirling

Photography by Whyler Photos of Stirling - www.whylerphotos.com

Ben Okri in conversation with Liam Bell. Photo: University of Stirling/Jim Mailer

When Ben Okri walks into Logie lecture theatre, it’s the black beret I see first, ever present in photos of him. It makes me feel as if I have been in his company before; that same sensation you have when you meet someone popular, like a TV personality. A hush falls over the warmly lit, intimate space, as if Azaro, the narrator of The Famished Road, has cast a spell on the students and staff seated in a neat semi-circle.

It’s Tuesday 11th October 2016, the University of Stirling is hosting Nigerian novelist and Booker Prize winner Ben Okri on the 25th anniversary of the publication of his acclaimed novel, The Famished Road.  To mark this, the Booker Prize Foundation’s Universities Initiative has made available 1400 copies of the book to all first years; a number that I will later learn is symbolic.

Soon after, Prof Malcolm McLeod, Deputy Principal and Director of the Institute of Aquaculture gives the introductions, expressing gratitude to the Booker Prize Foundation and laying down Okri’s prolific writing career spanning over three decades with eight novels, collections of poetry and essays along the way.

Taking the stage, in conversation with Creative Writing Lecturer Liam Bell, it doesn’t take long for the audience to be transported by the magic of Okri’s insight.

“In Africa, everything is a story, everything is a repository of stories. Spiders, the wind, a leaf, a tree, the moon, silence, a glance, a mysterious old man, an owl at midnight, a sign …” he begins, reading an excerpt from A Way of Being Free. Then he jumps to another page.

I have always known this, have always experienced it back home in Kenya, in everyday life, in conversations on the daily commute, and in the stories of my grandmother. But this still strikes me as profound.

“Unhappy lands prefer utopian stories. Happy lands prefer unhappy stories,” he continues.

The conversation picks up from there, taking usual trajectory of literary conversations: Craft, process, editing oneself, writing and rewriting, the need to toil and discipline oneself in the act of creation.


Then it moves seamlessly to the magic of The Famished Road.

Published when Ben Okri was only 32, the book that would catapult him to worldwide fame is his third. He says it was several years of hard work, in which he had ‘dialogues of form’.

Pausing as if reaching for the right words, holding the tome in his hands, turning it from one palm to another he says, “I was in all kinds of states when I wrote this book. It was frightening writing it, working with logic that is not usual.”

And on the tone, which is at times playful, at times frightening and at times painful, he says, “I wanted a coalition of suffering and laughter and happiness, and to give a voice to the richness of African reality.”

But why can’t Azaro take off, go back to the land where he came from? The land in which he and other spirit children ‘floated on the aquamarine air of love’? Okri says: “That’s the miracle of the paradox of life.”

Perhaps that is why the Booker Prize committee of 1991 thought The Famished Road was the best novel of that year: the transcendental nature and fullness of its experience. Something that he’s felt more African writers need to embrace for their writing to achieve greatness

Okri says the book had sold about 2000 copies before the Booker came along, and looks over to his editor for confirmation. He’s told, no, not really. Only 1400 copies. The audience roars with laughter. And it strikes me that Ben and his editor have a rare relationship; one that has lasted for over 25 years and is still going. Editors and writers can, in fact, be lifelong friends.

Of the pressure that came with prize, the most difficult was shutting out the achievement and staring at a new blank page. Writing new stories, because that is the life of the writer. Okri winning the Booker opened up UK publishing for other black and ethnic minority writers, even though diversity is yet to be achieved according to a report by Spread the Word.

In the Q&A that followed, he amuses us by saying he writes while standing. And then it’s the end, the room empties, and Ben Okri signs books for audience members.

Like the last line in The Famished Road, ‘A dream can be the highest point in life.’ This feels like one.

Photography by Whyler Photos of Stirling - www.whylerphotos.com

Ben Okri chats with a student as he signs her book. Photo: University of Stirling/Jim Mailer


 By Otieno Owino

Bookshop Day 2016

October 18th, 2016 by rachel_mccann | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Bookshop Day 2016

bookshop-dayThe Bookseller’s Association announced back in August that it would be holding the inaugural Bookshop Day across the UK and Ireland on Saturday 8th October. The aim was to bring readers, who may have been swayed by online retailers such as Amazon, back into brick and mortar bookstores.

Over 2000 bookshops across the country took part, with events including book clubs and readings, such as Ann Cleeves appearing at Far From the Madding Crowd bookstore in Linlithgow. As an added incentive, there were limited edition Books Are My Bag tote bags designed by award-winning book cover designer, Coralie Bickford-Smith, which were exclusively available in bookshops on the day.

The event was heavily promoted on social media with publishers and bookshops sharing the hashtag #BookshopDay across Twitter, with the Penguin Twitter account (@PenguinUKBooks) writing: “Your mission, should you choose to accept it (& you should), is to head to your local bookshop and buy a book… or ten.”

In a clever move by the Bookseller’s Association, the event was planned to coincide with the start of the festive buying period with new titles by PD James, Graham Norton, Michael Palin and Margaret Atwood, amongst others being released on 6th October.

So now that a few days have passed and the dust has settled, how successful was Bookshop Day? The Booksellerreported initial findings that footfall in bookshops nationwide was much higher than an average Saturday, and sales also increased. The Bookseller also reported that Edward Scotland from Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath stated that “not all our customers were aware” of the event. However, with such good reports of a successful inaugural Bookshop Day, there can be no doubt that as awareness grows in following years, this could be an annual event of great importance for booksellers in the UK.

By Rachel McCann

Visiting Speaker 13/10/16: Jonny Gallant from Alban Books

October 17th, 2016 by Alice Laing | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker 13/10/16: Jonny Gallant from Alban Books

13872919_10153621715627121_7098822134678477676_nSometimes all you can do is laugh…if only to stop yourself from crying. At least that is Jonny Gallant’s approach to looking back on any and all of the mistakes that he has made in his career.

From working with Cannongate in 2004 (when publishing was made easy from the sales of Life of Pi) to Walker Books, Alma Books, and St. Andrews Press, Gallant has found himself in the role of Managing Director of Alban Books.

Alban Books is the UK distributor for eleven Christian publishers outwith the UK. Most of the publishers they work with are based in the US with others in Europe and Israel. For a relatively small company  they have 7000 active titles under their care, with an average RRP of £23.55. With a team of five people marketing and selling over 500 titles per year, working with 400 trade accounts, 400 libraries, 700 academics, and 600 reviewers Alban Books know how to keep themselves busy.

Gallant himself knows how to grab the attention of a room full of publishing students, managing to inspire laughter throughout his visit by being candid about the mistakes (or, as he colorfully referred to them, f**k-ups) he has made in his career thus far and offering us a few lessons along the way.

Lesson 1: Always double check the zeros on your shipping forms to avoid sending the entire print run to Australia.

Lesson 2: Learn how to spell ‘Stationery’ and always believe the person with two degrees in Literature from Oxford University on the spelling of ‘Stationery’.

Lesson 3: There’s an odd amusement to be found in witnessing 800 people enthusiastically agree to your redundancy.

Lesson 4: Brexit is a sh*tstorm that is causing Gallant’s publishing related misery as he tries to safely make it through, with Alban Books relying heavily on their backlist, which accounts for 88% of sales. However, there is always Pope Frances, who is likely responsible for 10% of their sales, to be thankful for.

Lesson 5: When one door closes, a better one will more often than not open – mainly if you accept invitations for coffee.

Lesson 6: Always question why people don’t blink at spending £3 for a greetings card, but expect a 250+ page book to be £6.99.

Gallant did an excellent job at showing a room full of post graduate students that you shouldn’t fear making mistakes, as there are always opportunities and a lesson to be learnt. Time spent worrying about what could go wrong, or even what has gone wrong, is time wasted and there’s not a lot of time to spare in the world of publishing and distribution. It’s not too clear how Brexit is going to continue to affect Alban Books and the rest of the industry, but one thing that is clear is that ‘Visiting Speaker Day’ is fast becoming a class favourite and we’ve been left with very high expectations – no pressure.

by Alice Laing

Bob Dylan wins the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature

October 14th, 2016 by Soraya Belkhiria | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Bob Dylan wins the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature


I never thought a day would come when a Nobel Prize announcement would feel Rock and Roll, but it is definitely the case today! Sure Bob Dylan is known primarily as a folk, blues, and country singer, but the mere fact that a musician’s work is acknowledged by the Academy is quite revolutionary in itself…because it is the very first time in the history of the Nobel Prize in Literature that this has happened. Dylan is also the first American to win the Nobel Prize since Toni Morrisson in 1993.

However, this is far from being the first award he has won for his work, as he already can count one Academy Award, one Golden Globe Award and no less than 11 Grammy Awards in his collection.

The Nobel Academy crowned his achievements by awarding him “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”, preferring him to the famous Japanese novelist Murakami or this year favourite, the Kenyan author Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.

Once the initial surprise has passed though, the decision of the Academy definitely doesn’t seem unjustified. Even if Bob Dylan’s voice defied conventions and rallied counterculture in the sixties, he is now 75 years old and the cultural moment he marked now belongs to the classical heritage of American Literature.

Bob Dylan had solid footing into the literary world already. He and the famous poet Allan Ginsberg were very close friends. Here is what Ginsberg had to say about his cultural impact and aura:

“His image was undercurrent, underground, unconscious in people…something a little more mysterious, poetic, a little more Dada, more where people’s hearts and heads actually were rather than where they ‘should be’ according to some ideological angry theory.” San Francisco, 1965 (Excerpt from Deliberate Prose: Selected Essays, 1952-1995, A. Ginsberg)

Several clips featuring Bob Dylan were indeed playing at the Beat Generation Exhibition in the Centre Pompidou this summer in Paris, presenting him as a major actor of the American avant-garde of the sixties. Here are some great lyrics that let you see his poetic talent even without the accompaniment of the music (even if you won’t get the whole experience without listening to the songs!):

From Subterraneans Homesick Blues (you can see Ginsberg in the background of the video; this video clip was playing at the Pompidou exhibition):

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” (1963)


From The times They Are A-changing:

“Come mothers and fathers throughout the land,

And don’t criticize what you can’t understand

Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command” (1964)


From Mr Tambourine Man

“Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,

Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,

With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,

Let me forget about today until tomorrow.” (1965)


From It’s alright, Ma (I’m only bleeding):

“Temptation’s page flies out the door

You follow, find yourself at war

Watch waterfalls of pity roar

You feel to moan but unlike before

You discover

That you’d just be

One more person crying.”


And a personal favourite from Maggie’s farm:

“Well, I try my best,

To be just like I am,

But everybody wants you,

To be just like them.” (1965)


It might be time for a Bob Dylan songbook leaving the lyrics in their bare beauty! And now, time to enjoy even more good music to celebrate!



Bob Dylan and Ginsberg in front of Kerouac’s grave

By Soraya Belkhiria

First Visitor Talk of 16-17: Nikki Simpson, PPA Scotland

October 13th, 2016 by morven_gow | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on First Visitor Talk of 16-17: Nikki Simpson, PPA Scotland

ppa-scotAt 2.45pm on 6th October, with a retinue of publishing students bearing boxes of precious periodicals, Nikki Simpson (Business Manager at the PPA – Professional Publishers Association) strode through the seemingly endless corridors of the University of Stirling. She was a woman with a mission. Her aim, to convert Unbelievers – those students convinced that their future lies 100% in the world of book publishing rather than that of the magazine.

A passionate presenter, Nikki soon had many of the most hardened book career diehards rethinking their options and goals. The PPA represents over 700 magazines in Scotland, an industry valued at £154m which supports 1,300 full-time, 560 part-time and 4,400 freelancers. DC Thomson is the largest employer with around 600 employees, but the smallest publisher could have a couple of people working on a “passion project”. Annual events, the international Magfest (make a note in your diary, 15th Sep 17) and the Scottish Magazine Awards (The Beano won in 2015), provide the perfect platforms for the industry to celebrate the drive and passion of those working to produce regular magazines of the highest quality. The PPA is also planning to open a centre for magazine publishing in Edinburgh which would act as a hub for the industry and raise the profile of the sector. Exciting times!

magsThere are three areas of periodical publishing – Consumer, B2B and Contract. The boxes were soon opened and magazines representing each of these areas passed around. To appreciate magazines, it’s vital to get hands on and we certainly did. Delighted sounds filled the room as we were given a design lesson in the art of the mag. Everyone is familiar with the glossy mag, but what caught the imagination in Nikki’s presentation was the sheer variety of paper stock used and glorious typography and images. Smooth, matt, cut outs, glow in the dark, QR codes, VR – seemingly unlimited creative options. Titles like Modern Farmer, Delayed Gratification, Boat, Little White Lies, Oh Comely, ‘Sup, the Gentlewoman and Hot Rum Cow had many fans and turned the head of many a committed book careerist on the day.

It’s worth remembering that the big players are those with circulations audited every six months by ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulations). The UK top five are: supermarket mags for Asda, then Tesco; TV Choice, What’s On TV, and Waitrose magazine. Their combined circulation figures, a mighty 6.8 million.

What makes a magazine successful? Nikki explained that in addition to the basic funding models of subscriptions, copy sales, advertising, and crowdfunding, brand extensions via websites, apps, award nights, supplements (even shops in the case of Tyler Brule’s Monocle) are all so important. The issue of ad blocking was discussed. Half of us in the room admitted to using these. After Nikki’s cri de coeur against their use for magazine sites, “Die! Die!” but “I love your content!” and the particularly vivid “ad blockers stab newspapers in the face”, those students using adblockers were swearing off using them again.

Nikki covered 16 possible career areas in magazine publishing from design to insight, through ad sales and procurement – and editorial, of course – as it’s always worth keeping an open mind regarding opportunity for experience.

She rounded off her rallying call for magazines with examples of cutting edge creativity – links below.
Marie Claire
Augmented Reality

Paper Tablets

Google Glass

Following questions from the audience, those magazines which had been objects of desire during the talk were handed over to some lucky recipients, and our first visitor talk in this semester came to an end. Nikki’s presentation had qualities essential for a career in magazine publishing – passion and creativity – and she succeeded in making many of us consider a career in magazines for the first time.

By Morven Gow

Elena Ferrante’s ‘Unmasking’: A Publicity Boost?

October 11th, 2016 by Otieno Owino | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Elena Ferrante’s ‘Unmasking’: A Publicity Boost?

ferranteWhen, on Sunday 2nd October, news started trickling in about the Italian author Elena Ferrante’s ‘outing’ it was on Facebook that I first learnt about it. Soon the news spread on Twitter and went viral.

Following a trail of financial transactions by Ferrante’s publisher Edizione e/o, Italian journalist Claudio Gatti presents a strong case that translator Anita Raja has been the beneficiary of the success of Elena’s books, and that she is indeed the author of the critically acclaimed Neapolitan novels among other books. The publisher and Raja have not confirmed or denied this claim.

In this digital age, where writers and readers have become a community, and engagements between the two groups continue to become intimate, I was surprised by the reactions that followed. Deborah Orr commenting on the Guardian said the revelations violated her right to not know, while Aaron Bady, an American critic, questioned the logic of this ‘outing’. Most people in my reader circles were outraged at the sheer intrusion of privacy and the fact that whatever persona Ferrante had chosen to identify herself with was not important but the quality of her work, which many agree is among the best.

Could Ferrante have been an exception? That even in this age, a writer could stay out of social media, blogs, and only offer a few interviews on select mainstream media and still move books? The number of her books sold tell their own story. The success of the Neapolitan novels My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child have shifted a combined 372,760 copies in the UK according to an article in The Bookseller, which cites Nielsen Bookscan Data.

What a massive boost from a publicity point of view. Online literary magazines such as The New Yorker and LitHub,have picked up the story as well as other major news sites and magazines including the Guardian, New York Times, Independent and the Daily Mail, to name a few. Many readers who would not have heard about Elena Ferrante will by now have heard something about her.

But there could be good news from this after all. According to the Bookseller, retailers say that Ferrante’s ‘unmasking’ may lead to increased sales in books. And perhaps Claudio Gatti will have to find ways of looking into Anita Raja’s financial records again to verify if the figures correspond with increased sales.

By Otieno Owino

Welcome to the MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17

September 29th, 2016 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Welcome to the MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17

mlitt1617_cohortThe new academic year has started up again, and we’re delighted to welcome the MLitt in Publishing Studies cohort of 2016-17.

This year’s students come from many different places in the world, representing the global diversity of the publishing industry. We have students from Scotland, Northern Ireland and England, Ireland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden, France, Germany and Greece, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, China, Kenya, India, and the USA.

We look forward to working with them over the coming year!

Publishing Studies Showcase 2016

April 26th, 2016 by Frances_Sessford | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing Studies Showcase 2016

Staff and students at Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication would be delighted to see you at our annual Publishing Showcase on Wednesday 11 May 2016. As ever, we will be joined by our Industry Advisory Board to celebrate this year’s publishing students’ achievements.

The venue is Pathfoot C1 and C2. The programme will begin at 3pm with a panel q&a session featuring members of our Industry Advisory Board (Marion Sinclair of Publishing Scotland; Katy Lockwood-Holmes of Floris Books; Adrian Searle of Freight Books; Simon Blacklock of Faber; Kelvin Smith, publisher and author; and Christoph Chesher of Taylor & Francis. At 4.15 we will move straight on to the Publishing Showcase, featuring work from our MLitt Publishing Studies students (below).


Whether you’re a graduate of the programme, a possible future student, or part of our publishing network, please do join us. Please do drop us a line so we have a sense of numbers via our Contact page.

Spring Semester Bookends: Saraband & Innerpeffray

April 20th, 2016 by Johan Sheridan | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Spring Semester Bookends: Saraband & Innerpeffray

2016-02-11 15.22.30

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: noisenarrative 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

2016-02-11 15.22.49

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

2016-02-11 15.24.30

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.

2016-03-22 14.37.452016-03-22 14.42.112016-03-22 14.43.492016-03-22 14.44.272016-03-22 14.55.232016-03-22 15.32.042016-03-22 15.33.402016-03-22 15.35.192016-03-22 15.44.242016-03-22 15.46.26

My journey to the London Book Fair 2016

April 20th, 2016 by Yuwen Tong | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on My journey to the London Book Fair 2016


This is a really exciting experience in my publishing studies journey. I went to London Book Fair which held at Olympia Exhibition Center in April 12, 2016. It is my first time to go to this grand annual exhibition. I heard about this event before I came to the United Kingdom. This is a book fair which is attended by many publishers. I saw various exhibitors in London Book Fair. There are not only paper book publishers but also digital books publishers. E-book or printed book is always a big issue. I saw the e-book market developed rapidly, but at the same time, the printed book market cannot be replaced.

I was very proud when I found there are lots of Chinese publishers taking part in this activity.  I was so exciting to see so many discussions and seminars performing everywhere in this book fair. This is a good experience to see publishers who come from different companies to communicate their ideas with each other.  I hope that I will be one of them in the future. It was my great pleasure to see Professor Yu Dan talking about Shakesperience at the exhibition. She is a very famous scholar in China. I am very proud to be able to see my own country’s scholars in such a grand exhibition. The London Book Fair let me learn a lot. As a future publisher,  I love this area more. In this activity, I feel the rapid142222945727227001 development of the publishing market and our Chinese position in the publishing industry is an increasing trend. More and more exports and imports illustrate everything. As we all know, the United Kingdom is a great publishing power. I hope that in the future, China will have more trade with Britain on publishing industry. Let the people of these two countries see more excellent products.

My Publishing Journey

April 8th, 2016 by Gloria Addo-Safo | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on My Publishing Journey

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 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.


Publishing Scotland Conference 2016: Adapting Books for TV & Radio

February 29th, 2016 by Isobel Anderson | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing Scotland Conference 2016: Adapting Books for TV & Radio

TV & Radio panelOn 25th February Publishing Scotland and the Booksellers Association held their annual Scottish Book Trade Conference in Edinburgh. While all of the presentations were extremely interesting and informative, with one involving a number of amusing Star Warsreferences, the session I was most looking forward to was Adapting books for TV & Radio. Chaired by journalist Sheena McDonald with panelists Gaynor Holmes (Head of TV Drama at BBC Scotland) and Bruce Young (Head of Radio Drama at BBC Scotland), the session provided an informative insight into the work it takes to successfully adapt a novel for television or radio.

In the past decade eleven of BBC Scotland’s fifty eight television productions have been adaptations, such as Case Histories and Hamish Macbeth. It can take anywhere from eighteen months to three or four years to adapt a novel for television so those in charge look for known titles, award-winning or best-selling novels, to adapt in order to increase their chances of attracting the five to eight million viewers who regularly watch BBC One dramas. Gaynor explained that while it is inevitable changes will have to be made to the original content, producers must adapt the novel with a great deal of integrity and remain respectful of the original intent. When trying to get around obstacles in the adaptations, writers sometimes change element after element of the plot in order to suit television, but Gaynor stated that it is at this point a step back must be taken and the following question asked: should we just write an original drama? Sometimes the plot of a novel is simply used as inspiration to create original content, such as Monarch of the Glen.

While many of us wince when we hear that our favourite novel is being developed into a television show or film and instantly worry about the content that will be changed or simply ignored, Gaynor explained some of the challenges of adapting a novel. The majority of productions are bound by their budget and so merge characters and locations together, especially as there isn’t enough time to develop each individual character if they are not integral to the plot. Some novels simply do not lend themselves to adaptation at all, such as stories that involve a lot of internal monologue. One of the main rules of television is “show, not tell”, and this simply cannot be done in some cases.  While BBC Scotland try to remain as faithful to the text as possible, it must be accepted that the content will be different for different mediums. Perhaps these are points we should consider the next time we are about to despair that one of our favourite scenes didn’t make the final cut.

Though some books may not be suitable for television, they may be easily adapted into radio productions, and Gaynor light-heartedly bemoaned the fact that a number of books she has failed to adapt have been made into radio programmes by Bruce. Sixty hours of drama and readings are commissioned for Radio 4, Radio Scotland, Radio 3 and Radio 4 Extra each year, and Bruce said that Radio Scotland try to strike an even balance between producing readings of international books, such as the recent East of Eden, and Scottish books, such as 44 Scotland Street; this is in spite of a recent complaint asking why so many Scottish voices were being heard on the radio. The question was raised whether authors have a hand in adapting their material for radio and Bruce answered that most leave him to do the work, with one author stating something along the lines of: “If we take the money, we must accept the changes”. However there are some authors, such as Alexander McCall Smith, who write both the book and the adaptations; quite an amazing feat. Once radio adaptations are made they are enduring and can be enjoyed by generations for years to come.

The forty five minute session passed by extremely quickly and the panelists were fantastic to listen to. It certainly gave me an appreciation for all the work that goes into creating BBC Scotland’s wonderful productions and I look forward to seeing what they will adapt next.

Visit from Barrington Stoke

February 8th, 2016 by Marian Robb | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visit from Barrington Stoke

Last semester Stirling University’s publishing students received a visit from Mairi Kidd and Kirstin Lamb of Barrington Stoke, a publishing house in Edinburgh that specialises in books for dyslexic children and reluctant readers. Mairi provided a very interesting talk, on how Barrington Stoke came into being, what its business model is and how it achieves this.

The company was set up in 1998 by a mother and daughter-in-law who recognised that children with dyslexia needed a more user friendly font for their needs than any that were available on the market and decided to commission their own. Their font is designed to reduce ambiguity between characters, making them more distinctive to the eye. Spacing between the characters is also increased, to provide further clarity and the publishers use tinted paper in their books which reduces glare and makes for more comfortable reading.

The books themselves are also shorter than many children’s books. Being faced with hundreds of pages can be daunting for any child and liable to turn reading into a chore rather than an enjoyable and engaging experience. As Mairi said, they produce “snacks not meals”. They also like to work closely with their readers, encouraging feedback on what they could improve to make the books even more readable. What is also very interesting is that Barrington Stoke only commission popular and well known authors to write their books. They have recognised that children who find reading challenging don’t want to be stigmatised by having books which are clearly different from their friends or siblings. Authors include Michael Morpurgo, Malorie Blackman, Jeremy Strong and Anne Fine. A full list of authors can be found on the Barrington Stoke website and it’s an impressive list.

It’s also not just printed books that Barrington Stoke publish. They have recently produced their own e-reading app called Tints which, as the name suggests provides a choice of tinted backgrounds to use with their reader friendly font. In addition, the app has a slide ruler to help with reading and parents can download free samples. Information can be found on their website along with a video of coverage by STV. The app is just one example of how progressive Barrington Stoke are. Mairi explained in her talk that they are now promoting their books as “super readable” other than “dyslexia friendly” which reaches out to a wider audience, particularly as children and adults can find reading challenging for a variety of reasons. As an example, the picture books they produce are just as important to adults. Most children under the age of 5 cannot read for themselves anyway which leaves a parent who finds reading a challenge left with the problem of how they read stories to their child. As Mairi explained to us, many picture books can cause difficulties, such as fonts against dark paper, or words floating across the pages against the normal order of left to right which we expect. Their picture books (Picture Squirrels), follow the normal sequence of left to right and top to bottom for text as well as the reader friendly font and tinted pages.

There is no doubt that the Barrington Stoke books help so many children to overcome the barriers to the enjoyment of reading. One look at their Facebook page confirms that from many happy parents. Mairi said that the founders of the company were given an award for the “stupidest idea in publishing: producing books for people who didn’t want to read!” As it turns out it wasn’t a stupid idea at all. In fact it has just highlighted the fact that they do want to read. They just find it that bit more challenging.

Barrington Stoke really are a team of enthusiastic and inspirational publishers. The talk Mairi gave was so interesting and at times poignant, such as the child who wrote to thank them as she/he could now read a whole book. It was just great to listen to and was really appreciated that they gave up the time to come and speak to the class. They left behind a group of very enthused students!