We are thrilled to have Edinburgh University Press as one of our two brilliant conference partners this year. One of the UK’s leading university presses, they publish academic books and journals across a range of subject areas to a notoriously high standard. We got in touch to ask them how they have fared in recent times, what challenges they have faced, and how they will ‘Ctrl Alt Refresh’ for the future.
To find out more about EUP and see what advice the team has to give for anyone applying for their first job in publishing, head over to their informational blog post here.
‘Unprecedented’ seems to sum up the past year fairly well. How has the pandemic and other recent challenges affected your organisation?
It certainly was a twist wasn’t it! The pandemic has changed many aspects of the business and how we’re working. Everything moving online has meant changes across departments, from sales and editorial using digital software for contract signing, production working from digital proofs, and marketing moving to online events.
As publishing is such a people-focussed industry, we’re really missing meeting everyone in person, both day-to-day at the office and at large industry events like the London and Frankfurt book fairs. One of the ways our editorial team have found and connected with new authors was traditionally through visiting academic conferences around the world. With travel off the table for the past year (and for the next few months at least), we’ve had to rapidly adapt to online ways of promoting our brand and networking with potential authors, which has certainly been a fun challenge!
How have your team found the ‘working from home’ lifestyle?
Luckily this has been quite a smooth transition on the technical side, as we already had a set-up for staff to work from home, but for many of the team, especially those who have been home-schooling their children too, it’s been quite a big shift. We’ve had quite a big focus on staff wellbeing through this period, with the use of weekly whole company meetings to keep everyone up to date, a company-wide staff survey to get a sense of how everyone is doing, and a buddy system for our new starters who have joined us during the pandemic.
What achievements (big or small) have been high points for your organisation in the past year?
One significant achievement during lockdown was the successful transfer in June of our North American sales and distribution to Ingram Academic Services – a specialist US distributor. This will stand us in good stead over the next few years in what is our largest export market. This move had been planned for a while, but we didn’t expect to be coordinating it during a pandemic! This also allowed us to upgrade our website, so we can sell books directly to North America – with the past year’s focus on independent bookselling and movement away from buying books from a certain multinational technology company, this has been a very exciting and timely change.
Despite everything going on, we easily surpassed our gloomy pandemic sales reforecast and finished our financial year (August 2019 to July 2020) 2% ahead of the previous year (at £3.6m). Unsurprisingly, due to Covid-19 and the global closure of university libraries, bookshops and the demise of a major UK wholesaler (Bertrams), our books print revenue, which represents half of our total sales revenue, fell 7% on the prior year. However, as online learning became a necessity, we witnessed ebook sales growth of 17% on the previous financial year. Our journals income increased 9% year on year, partly buoyed by the launch of three new journals, and the journals website saw a massive 30% increase in traffic. Rights and Permissions did well too, thanks to the hard work of those teams securing some big deals.
What are some of the biggest lessons of 2020, and how are you planning to ‘Ctrl Alt Refresh’ to adapt and prepare for the future?
Like many businesses, 2020 has given us a great opportunity to refocus and reconsider; for example, a year without the expenses and hassle of international travel has really made us consider what we find necessary to the business. Going forward, this will help us prioritise which events we actually should be attending in person. While meeting our authors in person is important for building relationships, the realisation that these meetings are far easier to do over Zoom will probably have quite the impact going forward.
Although it’s still some months away, it looks like we’ll be transitioning back to the office on a hybrid basis, with staff coming into the office only a few days a week. While we did already have some flexibility for working from home, it’s great to see that be more widely accepted. It seems like that’s going to be quite typical across the industry.
What are some exciting events/projects that you are looking forward to in 2021?
We’ve recently launched our Early Career Researcher Hub and will be rolling out a series of guides looking at themes such as ‘Writing a journal article’ and ‘Writing your first book’. We’ve taken over the journal Burns Chronicle for publication from 2021 and we’ll be launching another journal, Legalities, later this spring. In the world of books we’re particularly excited about these new titles from the spring list: Living with Shakespeare, Walking North with Keats, How ISIS Fights and The Fundamental Field.