In this panel, we examined what other options there are for publishing hopefuls within the industry. Six panellists joined the SYP Scotland Conference Lead, Alice Bilger, to share insights about their roles.
Sha Nazir, Publisher at BHP Comics, described how his career started in graphic design and illustration and he moved into the comic industry through simply wanting to publish his own work. The best part of his job is creating stories or discovering new talent with fantastic stories that he wants to tell. He mentioned that the Scottish comic industry is still in its infancy, and he hopes that more publishing companies will be established, so his advice to any hopeful that wants to pursue this field is to think about setting up a company of their own. Sha had to find his feet as he went along when it came to BHP Comics and has offered to answer any questions that hopefuls wanting to be a part of the comic industry may have.
Jo Biggers, Marketing Executive at Bright Red Publishing, started her career as a primary teacher before quickly transitioning into educational publishing. Jo was passionate in describing how educational publishing is a hugely rewarding field to work in, where you can create content that will directly help people learn and which boosts confidence and helps to change lives. She addressed the misconceptions of educational publishing – that it is dull and not creative – and assures us that this is not true. The content has to be accessible, engaging and created to suit a wide range of ages. Jo’s advice for hopefuls is that it is helpful to be interested in teaching in some form, whether that is through mentoring, camps or tutoring, and to make sure that any cover letter and CV shows passion, as that will especially help if you don’t have a lot of experience.
Davinder Bedi, Managing Director of BookSource, got a job in publishing and discovered that he didn’t want to be a publisher. Luckily, there are more ways for those that want to help spread the written word than only working in the publishing process, and distribution is one of those areas. Dav explained the range of tasks that happen within distribution all to do with the flow of goods; they get the books to the reader, but they also get the money back to the publisher, which makes the next book possible. Distribution is involved in many different areas of the publishing process, and Dav mentioned that the skills needed for distribution are the same that you would need for publishing, but the end product isn’t a book, it’s happy publishers. The best part of his job is looking after publishers, numbers and problem-solving, and making things happen.
Anna Glazier, Head of Marketing at Edinburgh University Press, discussed how the last year has been for EUP. She described the far-reaching challenges, including closures that disrupted supply chains as well as uncertainty within budgets and with their core market as the sector dealt with massive upheaval. She also told us of the positives that have come from this year in the form of increased traffic to their website and direct sales increasing dramatically. At EUP, building good relationships with other businesses is important. They have a global audience, so Brexit has had a large impact, but they are working to see how their distribution can change to overcome any issues. Many events were missed, especially the subject-based conferences that are hugely successful for raising their profile and meeting new authors. Whilst the digital versions of these have not been quite as fruitful, their existing authors have enjoyed some great digital events and launches.
Jenny Brown, Literary Agent & Founder of Jenny Brown Associates, became an agent after realising there was only one agent in Scotland and a huge demand for them. As an agent, Jenny represents writers based in Scotland and finds those writers through open submissions, pitches through Twitter or events, and making connections at book festivals. The best part of her job, she says, is working with immensely talented people, getting to choose who she works with, and finding the right publisher and audience for a book. The worst part of her job is the raised expectations and disappointments, failing to secure a publisher for an author despite complete belief in their work. There is no one way to become an agent; many people start as an assistant or start in other publishing roles, which will give them the skills they need to make the switch. Jenny also noted that bookselling is a great way to start for any role within the world of books.
Ross Stewart, Project Leader at Prepress Projects, started by introducing Prepress Projects, which is based in Perth and is a publishing services company. They don’t commission content; they instead publish works for other organisations that aren’t publishers. Prepress Projects specialise in science, technology, medicine and public-sector publishing and offer editorial services, publishing project management, design, and production. Ross told us his job involves project management, copyediting, proofreading and training and supporting colleagues. He explained that every day is different; sometimes he can concentrate and dedicate his time to copyediting one particular text, or he can spend a day juggling multiple tasks for different projects, which requires a keen sense of prioritisation.
The panel was packed full of amazing content, rounded off by the panellists providing their social media handles (which can be found on our Speakers page) and directing hopefuls to their company websites. They have said they will be happy to answer any questions about their areas of the publishing world.