Hame Sweet Hame: Publishing Landscape in Scotland

In Hame Sweet Hame: Publishing Landscape in Scotland, the panel unpacked the global impact and publishing talent in Scotland. Chairing the event was Fine Mayer alongside panellists Eilidh MacLennan, Jamie Norman, Nicola Ramsey and John Anderson.

To begin, the panellists were asked about the developments in Scottish publishing and the impact this has had on their work. As Canongate have offices in both Edinburgh and London, Jamie comments that they were used to having flexible working hours before the start of the pandemic, however it was paper supplies and reaching new markets that needed to shift. Nicola reiterates this, that the pandemic has opened up the opportunity to work outside your home city without long commutes. John echoed how this shift to home working is here to stay.

Following on from this, as there has been an increased interest in Scottish narratives internationally, the panel was asked if this is something they’d noticed with their own publications. Eilidh mentions how managing web orders she has noticed how widely they are receiving orders from across the world, though notes that Brexit has challenged this. Nicola mentioned how academic journals are also facing a problem with Brexit as now it is harder to send review copies to the EU as costs for receiving this are also landing on reviewers. Fine asks the panel if they’re seeing a knock-on effect in popularity following Scottish prize wins. Jamie notes the boom Shuggie Bain created for Scotland but also due to the landscape of independent presses in Scotland, it has been able to adapt quickly to new ways of publishing.

The routes to market have also updated as a result of the pandemic, John comments that the Beano has been gradually moving towards a subscription-based model since 2014 with the magazine being delivered directly to the consumer. While this increase has been gradual, the pandemic rapidly increased this growth, noting how the pandemic normalised online shopping for older consumers. However, with the cost-of-living crisis looming, John predicts that non-essential subscriptions are likely to decrease. Booksellers and independent bookshops are also mentioned, with the pandemic giving them a key opportunity to utilise social media leading to certain bookshops flourishing, Jamie has also noted that publishers have started to make special editions of their books for independent bookshops.

With this increase interest in Scottish publishing, it is important to consider how they can be catered for in a sustainable way. John notes how the audience itself is engaged with environmentalism, with the increase in subscribers, single-use plastic was questioned, and a paper-wrap alternative was developed to distribute the magazine in. In terms of printing, Nicola mentions how they are looking into more local printing to reduce air miles when transporting books, however this does then need to tie in with ethical practises abroad.

For publishing hopefuls trying to get into the industry in Scotland, John’s advice is change is happening and it happens quickly, so your initial role will change rapidly. Nicola picks up on this also but also stresses the importance of being digitally literate. Jamie recommends keeping a wide scope when applying for your first role and to keep persevering. And finally, Eilidh recommends teaching yourself things and remaining curious.

Thank you to all our panellists and chair for appearing on our Hame Sweet Hame panel and Publishing Scotland for sponsoring this panel. The recording will be available to watch online until 31st May to all ticket holders.

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