Books, Beer and Biscuits – Marion Sinclair Talks Books and Publishing

Another riveting guest speaker at the university of Stirling’s publishing course – Marion Sinclair the chief executive of Publishing Scotland, and herself a 1987 alumna of the Publishing course.DSCN4609

Marion informed the class of how the combined turn over in Scottish publishing is roughly 350 million, with around 17.000 professionals directly employed within publishing, with also much of publishing related work being outsourced out of house. This means the Scottish publishing industry s roughly the same size as the cashmere and salmon industries – the two biggest export goods from Scotland. Banks, biscuits, books and beers is what the Edinburgh city as founded upon, and this is why Publishing Scotland is actively encouraging growth within publishing business – and here Marion’s message to the publishing wannabe’s coincide; it is a great time to be entering the industry. The industry is in constant move, and even if a main street publisher disappears from Edinburgh, another will start in Glasgow and eventually vice versa.

How does Publishing Scotland fit into the Scottish publishing scene and why does the publishing business need a support organisation? As a small nation with so much to offer, it makes sense to have a collective voice, a collaborative organisation that can voice concerns and operate as a liaison between organisational bodies.  Publishing Scotland is “the network body for the book publishing industry in Scotland, working to promote and protect the interests of its members, both nationally and internationally”; with over 60 members (or over 95 per cent of Scottish publishing industry). These members consist of suppliers, universities, booksellers, literary agents, publishers, and other relates to the industry either directly or indirectly. Publishing Scotland, as an non-governmental, charitable organisation, can collectively on behalf of book industry professional negotiate and find the most beneficial deals, assist in setting goals and all in all find the best solutions to all questions and issues raised for all parties involved. As Marion explains, the Publishing Scotland as an organisation offers specific, targeted advice, planned activities and events for publishing industries – including magazines, libraries and schools who are out to find the best opportunities. These activities and advice include training opportunities, marketing advice, infrastructure projects and tailored advice related directly to your organisation and the goals you have set out to achieve. And what is more, Publishing Scotland helps you find the right kind of funding. In collaboration with Creative Scotland, Publishing Scotland offers the Go-See Grants Fund; purpose of the fund is to enable Scottish-based publishers to attend national and international book trade fairs for the first time. (Deadline for this is next week – there is still time!) The other notable fund Publishing Scotland and Creative Scotland have teamed to administer, is the Go-Digital Fund which is aimed to help publishers in three areas:

(a)   in accessing training or consultancy on digital matters;
(b)  attending digital events in the UK and overseas; and
(c)   marketing their digital books and content

This fund is especially interesting, considering how the evolution of book industry is moving; it is necessary to embrace all things digital; we might not wish to consume digital but it does consumer us.

All the support that Publishing Scotland aims for is to aid the publishing professional and those just entering the business to be responsive to the sector needs, operating as the network body, offering advice, digital support and helping to get the message out there, enabling contact and assistance from government bodies where necessary. Much of the work is relating to consumers and the nature of the market. Simply put – Publishing Scotland is there to strengthen the business capacity of the members of the industry and to support them to be the best they can be, to build their sustainability in a precarious book industry; for publishers by publishers.

DSCN4610Considering that Scotland already has strong government objective for supporting creative industries (a category under which publishing fits), and how there is a strong national sense in how the knowledge economy needs to be supported Marion maintains there would not be reason for anything to change drastically whether Scotland achieves independence. There would be no sense to start creating trade barriers, alienating Scotland as a separate, peripheral entity. Marion sees the future as re-birthing of a nation, re-creation and refreshing and rather than hinder will help the creative industries stance within Scotland as a vehicle of celebrating nationality and uniqueness.

After a thorough insight into the inner operation and mission statement of Publishing Scotland, Marion reminds the students of how it is a great time to be entering the industry; book industry is not dead or dying, but it is changing. And this is why the skills gathered through the publishing course will allow each of us to set ourselves apart; the degree can show we have abilities and keen insight into the industry already as we enter it, instead of entering blindly. It is a complex industry, requiring perseverance and hard work – with the constant changes and other industry advances, there is no other way than to keep up to date. Marion especially emphasises the importance of networking – become known and know the key players, as within creative industries it is often who you know rather than what you know to be able to get ahead and to get that chance. And another rather different advice Marion gave, one we have not heard in class before, is to become numerate; know the key facts, statistics and figures and make sure you understand what they mean to your sector as well as in grand scheme of things. There is power in numbers, and ultimately – publishing is a business.

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