Publishers Unite!

The theme of our conference this year was forward thinking, encompassing the idea of building for a better future. Our panel, Publishers Unite, focused on how we can encourage coalition and support within the book industry and work towards better working conditions for all.

Sam Missingham – founder of Services for Authors, and The Empowered Author – chaired the panel and was joined by:

  • John Toner, the National Union of Journalists’ (NUJ) Organiser for Scotland;

  • Samuel McDowell, Co-Founder of Charco Press, and Publishing Scotland Board Member;

  • Jeda Pearl Lewis, writer, poet, and Co-Director of the Scottish Black and People of Colour (BPOC) Writers Network;

  • And Heather Parry, writer, Editorial Director of Extra Teeth Magazine and the

  • Scottish Senior Policy & Liaison Manager for the Society of Authors.

In publishing, it is not uncommon for companies to exploit the passion workers have for their jobs. Unions are essential for ensuring good work practices are upheld. The NUJ, which represents both employees and freelancers, protects and defends the working conditions of its members. Whilst the NUJ is not a recognisable book publishing union, John spoke about the book branch within the NUJ, which recruits, organises, and represents those in the book industry.

In addition to the NUJ, the Society of Authors offers support to those with a career in writing. Heather noted some of the services the Society of Authors offer, such as free contract vetting, grants to support writers, and professional development. Heather also went into detail about audio, marketing campaign and other contractual rights that publishers need to comply with and how the Society of Authors can educate writers to avoid pitfalls.

A major discussion point of the panel surrounded the working conditions of freelancers in the publishing industry. Independent publishers often rely on freelancers for jobs such as cover design, translations and typesetting. John clarified that employees have far greater statutory rights than freelancers and that freelancers often rely on contractual rights. As the Co-Founder of Charco Press and a fellow freelancer, Samuel ensures that their freelancers’ contracts comply with the Translators Association guidelines to ensure that translators receive the recommended pay. During the panel, Samuel discussed the importance of guaranteeing that translators receive royalties when adaptions are produced using their work.

During the panel, Jeda discussed the value of membership bodies and how they can provide community in publishing. The Scottish BPOC Writers’ Network has a relaxed membership and is a great way for Scottish people of colour to network and interact with one another. They partner with literary and arts organisations to facilitate and promote opportunities for their members. In addition to community, Jeda wants to raise awareness of the writers of colour based in Scotland. To quote Jeda, “We want to remind Scotland that we are here and there are many of us here.”

Finally, Sam Missingham asked John Toner the ambitious question, “Can you solve book publishing in one sentence?” To which he replied, “I can’t solve publishing, but the solution lies within the hands of every individual who will join with every other individual collectively. The answer is always in working collectively.”

Thank you to our chair and all our panellists for appearing on Publishers Unite. The recording will be available to view online until 31st May to all ticketh olders.

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