Tag Archives: Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication

Working full – or part-time while studying – doable exhaustion?

Penguin

A discussion on Reddit sparked a wander down a memory lane. Contributor j_icicle enquired  How do people bring themselves to be in full-time work and part-time education at the same time? For this contributor the mere idea seemed inconceivable;

I just can’t see my self sticking with it, I can’t drop full-time work because of rent and life ect but I’ve been doing shit jobs for 8 years with very little increase in pay. My GF would never let me just up and take out huge loans to get my through university and it would be unfair to her if I did.
Taking 4 years out of my life, by the time I get anywhere I’ll be 28. I also get paid to play music a few times a week so I’d have to drop my social life as well as that extra income would be gone.

Child, please – I was lucky to go through big chunk of my studies without having to work but once that option was gone, I worked and I worked hard – there was no question. While studying full time, I had two part time jobs as well as being involved in student advisory body at my undergraduate institution

So many other contributors have lived through it, and they know the reality of it –

I work a full-time job and go to school full-time as well. Is it difficult? Yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You’re just going to have to make some sacrifices along the way. That might be not grabbing a beer with your buddies every weekend due to studying. As long as you remain focused, you’ll be fine. (OhPraiseHim)
In 4 years you are going to be 28. Do you want to be 28 with a degree or 28 without a degree?
Eye on the prize, mate. Little pain now for greater gain later. (Pun_In_Ten_Did)
I am currently working full time and attending school full time. I had the same issue you seem to be having, what’s the point of going back to school if I’m going to be 28 by the time I graduate? If you let that thinking take over, next year you’ll be 29 by the time you graduate instead of one year closer to your goal.
Can it be stressful? Totally. But I keep telling myself that I’m going to bust my butt now so I can have an easier life in the future.
My suggestion is to try going to school while maintaining your full time position. If it gets to be too much, there’s no shame in cutting work back to part time while taking out some loans. Loans can be a great resource if used properly. (DC_lurker)

 

Once I decided to do my postgraduate and move to a new country (best choice ever – by the way!) I knew I would have to work. I ended up being unemployed for several months but eventually through volunteering I met some good people, got my first job in a new city and never stopped working since. At the busiest time I had 3 part time jobs while studying part time in a university that was in a different city than where I lived. And I was making enough to make ends meet, not to save much or have that “out all night, sleep all day” student life. I had weeks when I would together with the commute work anything between 60-72 hours a week, plus studying time. My friends and family were asking me when do I find time to sleep? August 2014 was my reply – that would be when I have handed in my thesis and I wouldn’t commute, I wouldn’t write, I wouldn’t research, I would just work. Just one job. I would have a regular 9-5 life like so many people and I would love it.

As I put on my penguin gown and listened to the speeches, as I walked in a line, got “capped” and my hand shaken and patted on the back by friend and families, I swore never again – never again would I study as it had drained me dry and it was hard and I had achieved what I was out to get education wise. It was time for a change. I was exhausted.

And now I work. Yet I haven’t really found the haven I was looking for. It’s not the job; I enjoy my work (or aspects of it…).

My jobs have exhausted me more than my studies did; I commute, I work on shift-pattern, I come home, I eat sleep and repeat. I haven’t got much time or energy to socialise, and I seem to recluse myself without realising, making bad excuses for not going out or avoid making plans all together as I know I might have to work. And I have started to consider options. My work has made me see how much I enjoyed studying, how much I enjoyed the reading and researching, the constructive arguing and the writing, the testing my own abilities intellectually. I have realised I long to be back in an University setting; I am a fish out of water without it.  Although there are so many questions to answer before a decision can be made. Questions like; “will someone supervise my idea?”, “is my idea good enough?”, “am I good enough?”, “will I have the energy?”, “will I get bored?”, and so many more, but most importantly – “how will I afford it?”

Is going back to university, working throughout full or part-time really worth it? Would I do it again? The answer is simply yes. I’ve done it, and it burned me out very quickly. But damn did it not also kick my but in gear. I am older now, I’d like to believe I have more discipline and determination and I definitely have learned to skimp and not have the kind of social life most students dream of.

Now I just have to make words into actions. Easy, eh?

 

onlyWay

 

 

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Christmas in the Oksman House

DSCN4612It is Christmas. This is one of those gushing, love of the written word and love the print book writings that I could not help but to write, after having been stuffed with food and warm drinks, after having opened the sweet presents, and as the tradition follows, having come home to myDSCN4644 mother’s house, where books are everywhere – by the last count 1750 counted for books cover the walls of mother’s Belgian home’s and Finland‘s summerhouse walls, books that I have admired and some that I have read, books that have been read to me and books I hope to one day add to my own slowly growing collection. Books everywhere.

Christmas is all about books for us as well; traditionally Santa brings us both bundles of books – this year I got to add Charlotte Brontë’s Villette in my collection, together with Shakespeare Unbound and a book on coffee and pasta! My mother found from her stocking a Booker price shortlister, another one for her Anne Donovan collection, the first of Simon’s Cat series as well a trip to memory lane with the orginal of an old favourite, one she had only ever read in translation before.

On top of adding to my collection I have a new “hobby” – I’m lucky to get to read slush for a publishing house, which keeps me busy on quiet moments (I do not fare well with nothing to do – keeping busy keeps happy). Having just finished one manuscript that I DSCN4592was happily surprised with, I have moved on to read a proof of another publishing house‘s upcoming book, and find myself immersed to the rich language and story. Reading for work at a holiday – mad some say. But I don’t find my work that worky, to be honest. I enjoy every bit of the reading, planning, imagining and then the tasks that will follow afterwards. My internships are a treat for me, a proof for me that I am in the right field. I love to read, I love the feel of a book in my hand, I love having grown up with the smell of books and having been read to aloud since I was a few weeks old. A tradition that still follows in our family, with my brother reading to his gorgeous girls.

Although, each of Stirling University‘s guests this semester and previously, as well as the professors, have all emphasised how love of books is not enough but publishing is a business, and should be treated as such. Sure. After Christmas. Now where’s my book…

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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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Set yourself apart from the norm – visiting speaker Sara Hunt of Saraband

Sara Hunt of Saraband gave an invigorating guest appearance at the Stirling Publishing course, the day after their Edinburgh launch of Lesley McDowell‘s Unfashioned Creatures. saraSaraband is a renowed independent publisher, known for its engaging, well-written non-fiction and attractive illustrated books, and also becoming renowned as an innovator in digital publishing, as well as the winner of Saltire Society Scottish Publisher of the Year Award.

Sara started off with emphassing the hanges that are happening in publishing. With the introduction of all imaginative, exciting cross-platforms and available transmedia, it is all the plurality and diversity of opportunities they provide that makes this the most exciting times for publishing. Theoretically, Sara says, those (read: us) entering the publishing business now are better off as we are by nature and education more media, digital developments and social platforms savvy than the generation of publishers before us. Almost anyone can start a business now, and there is a sense of optimism in the air. Publishing business is healthy in the overall revenue, though under the bonnets of individual publishing houses there are unseen challenges yet to be conquered.

Sara notes, with a tinge of despondency, how the value of the book has drastically eroded in recent years, for reasons that are as varied as books published. The consumer confidence is lacking and with the plurality of choices available make planning within publishing very challenging – to make the choice of what project to take on and back all the way is not always as obvious as it had been before. Another challenge faced by publishers – the conglomerates as well as independent – is how is the consumer going to find the new title you put out in the huge sea of published titles? People do not use the bookshops to browse, they use the internet and the web is never-ending source of all the information anyone could ever want, and investing in any one project above others is always a gamble. Though, Sara states, publishing decisions are always an informed gamble. Especially in the expanding culture of self-publishing it is the publisher whom is needed for discoverability. They have the know-how, the venues and the connections to bring out a title in the best possible way.

Speaking of discoverability and the changing market – apps. Sara is keen on the opportunities for marketing and visibility that an app brings to any title (though not all titles are app-able; if is to be made into an app, it has to have an element of interactivity). An app has to be more than a book converted into a phone compatible format. If this is done right, an app becomes that monetising part of the titles success. Yet, why apps? They are time consuming and expensive to produce, and monetising an app is even harder; the digital age generations has come to expect for everything online to be available for free or (thanks, Amazon) very, very cheaply. Sara explains how the answer is simply that there are more smart phone users out there now than there are readers.

Sara explains how digital marketing is in its prime now – social media, video trailers, audio clips, D2D and the mere scale of ebooks are the thriving force in modern marketing. Although, it is fallacy to think any of this would be easy; it is time consuming and expensive, and as all of it changes nearly over night, any campaign taken on becomes obsolete faster than you can type obsolete. Also, if there is a successful campaign of any sort, it will soon be adopted by others, making it a norm rather than an unique strategy – the window of opportunity here is minimal and the margin for error is massive. One definitely good way to get notices is to make sure you are not just following another trend, but to attempt to top the hot topics with something matchless. Saraband, for example, has just published A Capital Union by Victoria Hendry – and the review in the National Collective agrees taps into that “political atmosphere in Scotland today raising the stakes for any political work of art“. Scotland voting for independence in 2014, what better time would there be to bring out those titles that will discuss the impending referendum whether, like A Capital Union, from the historical point of view or then taking part in the current discussions. Knowledge is power – that is the gist of things; to think outside the box, and to think globally.

Sara ends her visit with a handful of helpful tips for the publishing wanna-/gonnabe’s, with the most important tip being to extend your skills. Learn more, read more and become an expert in something. Have something to show for those abilities you have obtained, be it InDesign or copy-editing, a keen sense of marketing or editorial knowledge. Show commitment and set yourself apart. Scavenge the vast amount of available information and use it to your advantage, and most importantly – find an outlet for your skills and opinions.

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Best Books Are Not Necessarily the Ones That Sell – Lindsey Fraser as guest speaker

October 30th, 2013 | Posted in Blog | Aija

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

One of the most interesting parts of having guest speakers come to the Stirling Publishing class is the varied mix of individuals from all fields of publishing. This time the guest speaker was the key step between an author and publisher; a literary agent, who gave an astute talk from someone who has seen a varied side of the publishing trade.

Lindsey Fraser of Fraser Ross Associates spoke to the MLitt Publishing class of 2013/14 on the long path that led to the start of her own business together with colleague Kathryn Ross. For a time Lindsey was aiming to become a teacher, until the teacher training proved to Lindsey that it was a wonderful career to be admired – but it was not for her. What came out of her studies was the realisation of deep love for books. Therefore, Lindsey went to work at James Thin bookshop, and worked at the children’s books section until becoming part of the family run company of Heffers in Cambridge. Heffers was another children’s bookshop, an experience Lindsey emphasizes invaluable for those wanting to work within the publishing world – learning the tricks of the trade from the other side, from the booksellers’ perspective and creating those ever-vital connections for your future networking. During her time at Heffers, Lindsey learned the value that was placed on who reads, what and how it is accessed. Lindsey warmly reminisced about how Heffers were diversified in this respect compared to all other booksellers before and at the time, and Lindsey got to hone her skills at readership development.

A career move eventually was inevitable, and so Lindsey came to work with the Book Trust Scotland, where she waved her magic wand until founding Fraser and Ross Associates in 2002. Slowly expanding, at the moment Fraser and Ross represent some fifty authors and illustrators, with the benefit of having two – slightly – different personalities with different tastes working together. Whereas Lindsey would be more squeamish and un-impressed on some titles, Kathryn sees the potential and pushes for it – or vice versa, and there comes the beauty of Fraser and Ross Associates diversification.

Knowing the editors within the publishing companies, and knowing the publishing companies’ aims in and out, is the key. A literary agent should not submit the same title to more than a couple of imprints at the same time, as that would be fishing for someone to catch on a title you are not backing one hundred per cent, but not offering it to more than one would also limit the chances of the title being picked. Whereas one publisher might have something similar already in process or is not particularly keen on the content of the novel, another publisher might see it as the gem it is.

Lindsey also remarks on how the publishing industry initially got terrified by the emergence of digital publishing, and how she sees it a near god send for convenience and actually a sensible way forward. And some publishers have even improved the quality of their print books, for noticing that e-sales have increased their print sales as readers who liked the book in e-format more often than not want to buy a hard copy. And ultimately, the eventual experience is the same; you read a book and you either hate it or love it. Only thing Lindsey truly criticises e-publishing for is the low royalties that come toward the author, which should in all senses be higher as e-publishing has not nearly as high costs as printing.

As parting wisdom Lindsey remarks on publishers who hold on to the rights of a title even if the title is not in print; the rights ought to be relinquished so the author can go on to find another channel for their book to keep out there. Generating income for a literary agent or the author is not always a straightforward line; a lot is to do with selling and maximizing rights – having one publisher in the UK and another one in US, but always trying to make sure it is the authors’ rights that are respected, as much meeting profit margin demands. The literary agent is responsible of much of the negotiations between author and potential publisher, as well as being the gatekeeper for first drafts, offering initial feedback. What this boils down to is not the individual likes and dislikes and quirks of personalities, but also being aware of the target audience and the market demand, for what has been a phenomenal success in UK does not mean it will also fare well in other countries. And here it is, the sad truth; best books are not necessarily the ones that sell.

The tweets from Lindsey Fraser’s Visiting Speaker session are Storified here.

Aija Oksman

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Publishing in a small nation on the brink of independence – Adrian Searle of Freight Books

What happens when an award-winning design company expands to create a publishing imprint? Back by popular demand, Adrian Searle, of Freight Books and the editor of Scotland’s leading literary journal Gutter, gave an insightful guest appearance for the Stirling MLitt Publishing class of 2013/14.

Adrian kicked his talk off with a wee slide show on all the expectation many have concerning what career in publishing will be like – money, fancy travels and big parties, more money and private jets… Before a big red X took over the screen and Adrian launched into the thick of it; publishing career is a lot more sweat and tears than money and fancy parties. Much more spending money than gaining money, a constant struggle for making that profit margin.

Adrian explained how publishing actually chose him rather than him actively pursuing the career in publishing – and it did not harm to do Masters in creative writing, after being lured into the spell of creative writing after the anthologies he published. Though setting up the imprint was far from easy, and ultimately took years to have all aspects figured out, and Adrian says a lot of it was thanks to the recession, and the “spaghetti plan” of other publishers. Though it might seem ominous to thank recession for enabling the success of another imprint, but it is a cutthroat business out there.

Combining the best of two worlds, going beyond the minimum both in published titles as well as their design, is what Adrian thrives towards. A great example of this is the Look Up Glasgow, a collaboration of the writer side of Adrian and the specialist architectural photographer David Barbour. The design of the book is all sorts of amazing, from the clever jacket that opens into one large photo on the inside of the jacket, to the clever cover design. Adrian, though, does admit he is perhaps not as motivated by money as he should but he does explain how the long-term aim is to make decent enough profit that allows them to publish without compromise those that truly tickles their fancy. On the one hand this means publishing a lot more non-fiction than fiction, but then the fiction that is published is something truly remarkable – such as the new translation of The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu. The advice to be learned here is, as Adrian emphasizes, publishers need to diversify – not just publish fiction.

Freight Books aims to branch out from what has become expected publications from Scotland – more than golf or whiskey books as there is so much more to be discovered from Scottish literature scene, as well as from international scene. Some of the title Adrian explains were from the start known not to be big sellers, but were done with prestige and diversification in mind. Such as the Pedro Lenz book, Naw Much of a Talker, which was originally written in Swiss vernacular and translated into Glaswegian. Personal pet projects combines with the anticipated bestsellers.

Commercial decisions do rule much of the published titles, but as Freight Books is not limited to just publishing of new titles, but also branches into design and journal fields, Adrian and co. have created one of the most successful Scottish publishing labels that keeps on surprising.

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“If it comes down to it, then eat the baby food” – Society of Young Publisher’s Internship Panel

January 14th, 2013 | Posted in Blog | Aija
Tags: baby food, careers, Internships, postgraduate, publishing in Scotland, publishing studies, SYP

At the annual intern event of the Society of Young Publishers  junior staff members from various Scottish publishing houses gave, in a rare opportunity for us fledgling publishing students, insight and information on how to get one’s foot in in the publishing business. Sobering realities were spoken, albeit in warm tones.

The panel of eight, chaired by Dr. Padmini Ray Murray of Stirling University’s publishing studies, shared their labour intensive attempts of cracking into publishing – starting from advice on how to write a thorough research dissertation that can be used to one’s benefit when applying for a job, to some of the bittersweet intern experiences (such as having to promote a baby food cook book and actually having demonstrate the excellence of the cook book by eating some of the gourmet choices, and thus securing a rave recommendation) and with the comforting notion that a lot of luck is in question, and it might take months (or as in one case) about a year before a young publisher would land on their first job within an actual publishing house.

The key is to do as many internships as possible, to be social, hardworking and foremost, to be proactive. Nothing will be gained from sitting on one’s bum, waiting for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to just drop in your lap in the form of a job advert or offered internship through the (hopefully) varied connections. The general consensus between the panel was to be bold enough to contact publishers and publishing houses, big and small, and tell them you are available to work for a week or two weeks and to emphasize on top your already existing skills the fact that you are out to learn. Naturally this should go with a thorough knowledge of the publisher’s goals and previous titles, just so you can dazzle them with a proper explanation as to why you think they would be the best to provide you with invaluable experience.

Interestingly enough, many in the panel mentioned how applying for smaller companies is in many ways a better opportunity, as big publishing houses have enough to deal with as it is and often do not need interns in the way smaller companies are able and willing to take a youngling in with open arms — especially if they are willing to work, FOR FREE.

Armed with new motivation and more hands-on information (it is always good to know others have struggled as well) on how to secure an internship and further on, a career in publishing the students filed out to the Edinburgh dusk, ready to try out their own publishing wings as soon as possible – secured with the conviction of actually being ready to eat that baby food, if it comes down to it.

 

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Visiting speaker: Peggy Hughes, City of Literature

November 17th, 2012 | Posted in Blog | Aija
Tags: City of Literature, Edinburgh, events, literature, Peggy Hughes, publishing, UNESCO, visiting speaker

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

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

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

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

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

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Bloody Scotland Masterclass – Agents’ and Publishers’ Panel

October 7th, 2013 | In Stirling University Publishing Studies Blog |

One of the perks of this year’s Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival in Stirling was the opportunity to hear the best of the field offer advice to hopeful writers on the process of writing, publishing and whatever comes in between.

The Agents’ and Publishers’ panel was lead by Claire Squires, director of Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication on September 13th. The panel discussed what happens after the next hopeful front list bestseller has been written and when the author seeks to have the manuscript accepted either by an agent or a publisher.Image

Taking part in the panel were Jenny Brown, of Jenny Brown Associates, and David Shelley, of Little Brown. Jenny is equally inspiring and intimidating for an aspiring literary agent such as myself, having opened her agency in 2002 after years of formidable experience, not forgetting being the founder of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. If that’s not enough, she and her associates have become the biggest literary agent in Scotland and one of the leading agencies in UK, with international reputation.

David on the other hand represents the other hurdle in the writer’s way towards bestselling stardom – the publisher. David, who has worn many a different hat under the general title publisher has not settled for one particular job title – he also guests as an editor for a few selected authors within Little Brown, including Val McDermid and Mitch Albom (and yes, JK Rowling too, but let’s focus on other exciting aspects of David’s career, shall we?).

Jenny launched right into the session by emphasising how crime writing is still the fastest growing genre in the UK (and one of the leading internationally), with approximately 30% of the book market. David agreed – crime writing is definitely the most commercially growing genre that is remarkably consistent despite other market or trend fluctuations – fluctuations we know all too well that publishing is harshly dependent on. As the trend moves on, so will the publisher. Be confident, know your trade, know your next steps and especially – know whom you are talking to when making a pitch. You might think you have the voice that gives the very angels orgasms, but your agent might disagree. Let your story do the talking. All fine tips from the literary agents’ mouth.

Both Jenny and David agreed that trends are nearly impossible to keep up with; what is “hot” right now could very well be over by the time you have the manuscript of a bestseller that nicely fits into that pigeonhole all finished and ready to be pitched. Trends move on faster than anyone can write, and rather than focusing on fitting into that niche, both Jenny and David emphasised, an aspiring writer would do well to focus on being passionate and finding your own voice, your niche, rather than doing lavish imitations of others’ work. Jenny also – to my great pleasure – emphasised how translated crime writing is breaking the barriers and entering the UK market. David remarked upon the cold realism of marketing; it is nearly impossible to bring out a title that is based on the same basic idea as one published before. There is no space in the market for two great Fife based detectives, but there might be space for one great detective from Fife, and the other from – why not – Stirling. How you present your setting is what makes you, as a writer, unique.

Classic crime is being brought back as well as being retranslated. Foreign authors are intriguing, whereas deceased writers are proving to be some of the toughest competition to the wave of new writers. One particularly interesting piece of advice that David provided for budding writers was to imagine further than one novel. He has found himself attracted to authors who can envision at least a couple volumes of a series, can explain character traits and subplots beyond that one particular event in the novel they are currently pitching. A good series of novels with an ever-evolving character can very well be the key to cracking your way into the crime-writing scene.

Claire led the discussion to the actual publishing process; what channels are there for new writers? How can one get their manuscript read, represented and subsequently published? As expected, both David and Jenny agreed on this point strongly; get an agent. It is nearly impossible to break into publishing without being professionally represented. Most publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts so agents act as a quality control filter for publishers. Jenny emphasised having manuscripts edited by a professional freelancer – never submit anything you are not absolutely sure is the best it can be. And this is doubly important for self-publishing authors.

Be confident, know your trade, know your next few steps and especially – know whom you are talking to when making a pitch. Let your story do the talking. It is even more advisable to target your agent and publisher. Do your homework – know whom you are pitching to and make sure they know why you have chosen them. Or perhaps if you’re desperate and unsure of your manuscript, a box of chocolates never hurts – doesn’t necessarily help either, but definitely never hurts.

Claire opened a topic that is much debated in publishing circles – self-publishing. Jenny explained how self-publishing allows more control and can lead to enticing a wide readership, which in turn encourages word-of-mouth and reviews before landing under the ears or eyes of an publisher. Self-publishing allows the writer to test the waters and to cater for the readership before attempting to break into the market. Although, writers would do well to note, that if you have already published something on the internet, the good bet is that a hopeful publisher would prefer to publish something completely new from you – or perhaps offer you a series deal. David did mention how even editors browse through self-publishing platforms – such as Authonomy – as you never know what you might find.

The panel concluded with questions from the master class participants; one particularly memorable was one lady from the master class, who has a number of novels (18 to be exact) published online but no one had yet approached her nor returned her numerous attempts to contact agents and publishers. Jenny’s initial reaction was to enquire what does she believe an agent could do for her that she cannot do herself? What indeed. To leave on a hopeful note, Claire asked both David and Jenny to give the master class some final words of inspiration. David encouraged the budding writers never to give up, as the first book published is rarely the first book written, and to especially venture into other avenues than traditional forms of publishing – digital, self-publishing and the like can prove to be a writer’s saviour, enabling an initial point of contact, enticing on its own merit. Jenny emphasised the necessity of wide reading, because all that we read will feed into what we write, how we write and how we present ourselves. There is hope for everyone.

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