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    June Reflections

    By Samantha J Rayner, on 8 June 2015

    It’s that time of year again: this year’s group of MA Publishing students are now mostly off-campus, either doing work placements, researching dissertations, or in some cases starting new jobs.  Next year’s cohort are in the wings, but already real presences waiting for the new term to start in September.  So for the staff team, as we wait for news of job offers, or of confirmation that place offers on the course have been firmly accepted, it’s a time for celebration, and of anxiety, and of anticipation.

    We are lucky at UCL that we can genuinely recruit our students from all the applications we get in:  we interview ones whose application forms look promising, and then if the interview goes well, we offer a place.  We are, very simply, looking for the best potential out there – regardless of previous experience, degree subject, or place of origin.  It’s a bit like being a publisher:  we have to review all the ‘raw’ manuscripts (ie applicants), judge which look like they will be responsive to work with, and then commit to editing skills so that each individual is an enhanced and employable person at the end of the course.  It’s a responsibility we take very seriously:  increasingly, we need employers to realise the value a UCL graduate has, and that means trusting us, as a team, to pick strong students.  The strengths may be very varied, and come through in all sorts of industry-relevant ways, (our alums have jobs all over the world, and in every sector of publishing), but the core thread that connects us all is that commitment to keep learning, to keep trying to improve, to be open to new ideas, and be able to explore them with a realistic appreciation of commercial and cultural contexts.

    Each year group is unique, and as such it is like building a new company every time the course kicks off again:  will the students all ‘gel’?  Will we be able to help them fulfil their expectations?  What will we be able to achieve this year?  Every year our students help drive our course ambitions, and encourage more risk-taking activities.  2014/15 saw us team up with BiC to run a production module that was not only industry-led and relevant, but also saw the class produce an amazing book, London Life, in just 12 weeks.  Thanks to the energy and belief of Heather O’Connell and Karina Luke, this module enabled students to really appreciate the exciting range of job roles within production, and to consider careers linked to this vital part of the industry.londonlife

    The Publishing Project module, in its second year, saw students take and run with projects that were all challenging – some with external partners that meant steep learning curves all round!  We have been deeply impressed with the patience and professionalism showed, however:  the William Morris Society at Hammersmith will soon be taking delivery of a book created by one team, while this year’s UCL Publishers’ Prize Anthology is already selling well in Waterstones Gower Street.  Jeremy Bentham’s Cookbook, another project working with the UCL Transcribe Bentham team, will bePUBPRIZE coming out over the summer, and there is more to come from other groups, too!

    We’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to work with some amazing people from the industry this year, too – and we are deeply grateful for their input and support.  It is critical that we remain closely connected to publishing companies, and responsive to the need for new skills (consumer insight has been an area we’ve tried to focus more on this year, for instance – thanks largely to our alum, Kate Jervis, now Marketing Analytics Manager at Harper Collins): the MA is a professionally focussed course, with the ma9780905937113in aim of training people in skills and knowledge of how the book trade world operates so that they can gain employment in it as soon as possible once the course has finished.

    We are very proud of all our students, past and present: no matter where they are, or what they are doing, it is definitely our privilege to work with such talented people, and a joy to spend time with them.  It’s why every year flies by so quickly, and why it is always such a pleasure to share good news from them.  UCL Press, which launched last week, took Samuel Johnson’s definition of “To Publish” as the text on their tote bags:  ‘1.To discover to mankind; to make generally and openly known’.  I cannot think of a better aim for our MA than to try and help make each of ouFullSizeRender (2)r students happy, confident, productive and valued members of the publishing industry, and to continue to connect with and promote their successes beyond the life of the course.   So, good luck to the class of 2014/15, and welcome to the incoming class of 2015/16!  Keep in touch – we love hearing from you all!

    The Bookseller and UCL Careers Speed Dating Session

    By Yasmin Morrissey, on 18 March 2015

    The Bookseller and UCL Careers Speed Dating Session – Wednesday 25th March

    Where – 10am-noon

    What time – G31 Foster Court- UCL campus.

    Who’s coming and what are they going to tell me

    Emily Baynard works for FMCM as Senior Communications Manager and can give you the lowdown on book publicity

    Saskia Warwick is a recruitment consultant at Redwood Publishing Recruitment and can give advice on CV’s and cover letters 

    Sarah Nicholson is a Foreign Rights Assistant at Lonely Planet and will shed light on working in rights

    Ella Pocock is Marketing Executive at Quercus Books and can describe a career in book marketing

    Anna Cunnane is Export Sales Manager at Kyle Books and can tell you about working in International sales

    Peter Cary is an Assistant Editor in the Scholarly Humanities team for Macmillan Science & Scholarly and will be on hand for academic publishing insight

    Maria Vassilopoulos AKA Jobsinbooks – Maria will help with any job search questions and general publishing advice

    Lovely. What are we all going to do? 

    This is your chance to make new connections in publishing so make sure that you bring questions with you that you want answered. You will each have a turn to talk to us for 10-15 minute slots. Bring business cards and contact details too and an open mind about all the different areas of the book industry.

    Will there be Tea and Cake?

    Of course! And a copy of The Bookseller!

    Look forward to seeing you there!

    From Blog to Book Deal: An Interview with Sara Sutterlin

    By Yasmin Morrissey, on 10 March 2015


    Sara Sutterlin is a poet whose work I first encountered through social media website Tumblr. Her poems are short, sometimes screen-caped directly from the word-processing software she uses, and have a clear, evocative voice. To me, her poems feel directly rooted in her chosen medium of the Internet. Sutterlin has self-published a lot of her work, both through Tumblr and in numerous Zines, which she distributes through her payhip shop.


    Tumblr as a platform for sharing original creative content is fascinating. The barrier between ‘draft’ and ‘published’ on the site is very low— in fact, it is literally a button. For many, this changes the perceived value of the content itself: when there is no official editorial or curatorial process (aside from what the creator him/herself does pre-button pushing), is the content worth less?


    Sara Sutterlin announced recently that her first chapbook would be published by Metatron Press this spring. Metatron Press is a small indie publisher based in Montreal. As Sutterlin has been so prolific in her creative output through Tumblr, and has cultivated a following of readers through Tumblr, I was eager to get her specific perspective on the “traditional” publishing process. I sent her a few questions by email, and she was kind enough to respond to my clumsy mini-interview.


    What has the experience of working with a publisher been like for you? Were there any surprises in the process, compared to your experiences with zine-making and self-publishing?


    No big surprises. Metatron is a small press, and it’s run by people who I feel share my values in terms of artistic integrity. There’s more of a pacing to things, careful timing (when to release this or that) but nothing I didn’t expect.


    Does it seem like being published by a publisher in this way is going to open doors for you that your self-publishing hasn’t? (What I’m trying to get at is the “value” of being Published- does that feel more “meaningful” to you as a writer? Is it validating in a way that self-publishing isn’t?)


    It is validating, but I also don’t let it become more meaningful than anything else. It’s wonderful to know that someone read my work and thought; we want to put this out there, people will enjoy this, we enjoyed it. However, I don’t want that kind of thinking to impact my writing process.


    Do you think that the publishing experience has had an affect on your writing process, or on your creative processes, compared to the experience of writing for Tumblr or for a zine?


    I feel a bit more self aware and careful, but not in a oppressive or negative way at all, just more conscious of what I put out into the world. It’s not bad.


    Do you see yourself continuing to use Tumblr to put your work online? Or continuing to make zines?


    Yes and yes. Zines are so important to me. Tumblr is compulsive for me. It’s where I dump everything I write. It’s so easy, I get immediate feedback and it’s a good way to archive (sort of).


    What affect has the Tumblr community (your followers, your fans) had on your writing process? I read an interview you did in Seventh Grove in April, 2014, where you discussed the plagiaristic degree to which people have responded to your poetry, and how thats dampened your desire to put your work online. But has that also changed the way you approach writing?


    I was playing around with a lot of different stuff at the time, not in terms of writing but more so with the “look” of my poems (fonts, colors, etc). I did a whole Jenny Holzer CAPSLOCK thing for awhile. I also did a lot of screenshot poetry stuff. I guess, I don’t know, I kind of regret saying that because it made me sound like a jerk. My followers never affected the way I write. I’ve been writing the same way for years, way before tumblr. But did tumblr, in general, make me reconsider putting things online and the general feel/look of my writing? Definitely. Once something is everywhere, you don’t really want to keep going with that and risking to be pigeon-holed.


    In terms of generating buzz for the book, or even generating advance sales, do you think that your presence on Tumblr has had an impact?


    I think so, yeah. When I look at who’s pre-ordered the book, a lot of names jump out at me and not because I know them, but because they’ve ordered zines from me via tumblr before! It’s really touching. In a way, it’s exactly who I want to be reading my book because they’ve been following my work for so long. It feels very familiar.


    Sutterlin also sent me a digital copy of the chapbook, titled I Wanted To Be The Knife. I think the poems are gorgeous. The experience of reading them in this format is certainly different from encountering them on my Tumblr dashboard, but I wouldn’t call it more valuable. The poems do feel as though they’ve gone through a more structured editorial process, but they are true to Sutterlin’s voice, which I fell in love with specifically through Tumblr. As we continue to think about the “value” of publishers in a digital age, I think it’s interesting and important to engage with works and writers who are blending the lines of process and publishing in this way.


    Libby Wachtler tweets at @libbywachtler. She very highly encourages you preorder Sara Sutterlin’s I Wanted To Be The Knife (out on 22 March) at Metatron’s website: http://www.onmetatron.com/shop/i-wanted-to-be-the-knife-sara-sutterlin.

    Publishing and the ‘D’ Word

    By Caroline A Murphy, on 19 February 2015

    By Marianne Tatepo

    Of the thousands of online witticisms causing the SYP 2014 Conference hashtag (#sypconf14) to trend, one tweet stuck with me to this day: “It’s kind of hilarious how few people have chosen to attend the #sypconf14 session on diversity.” (Miriam H Craig, 12:15 PM – 8 Nov 2014, @miriamhcraig).

    You’ll have heard of the ‘d’ word. For some it may be equated to ‘race’. But diversity is not colour, gender, or ability specific. Was the ‘diversity’ session at SYP aimed at those few minority groups (ditto about such print issues by The Bookseller)? Many will be most aware of their own underrepresentation: diversity is being able to scan a room and see, or hear about both others like you and those unlike you. A room where each attendee can’t think to themselves “there are other people like me AND unlike me” is not diverse – the same goes for an industry. Still: it’s difficult to tackle the issue of diversity if none of those concerned are included in such discussions – so here’s my own input, following on Caroline Carpenter’s piece.

    My contention is: a diverse industry is one inclusive of those who have had to deal with marginalisation or disparities at a range of possible levels. Mental health issues; lack of social mobility; gender or racial imbalances or discrimination; physical impairment or disability; and other major factors that may lead them to feel there are no ‘people like them’ around.

    Identity is not one-dimensional. On the one hand, there were a plethora of others like me at SYP’s 2014 summit: literature or humanities degree bearers, and probable Student Finance benefactors, who are only mediocrely digitally skilled. On the other hand, it was honestly disappointing to have to acquiesce to some of the facts outlined in The Bookseller’s November issue regarding the status quo of variety in publishing – even ten years on, post-Web 2.0.

    As both a hyperbole and simile: a love for publishing can sometimes feel like having Stockholm Syndrome – we’re captives of something we’ve grown to feel an attachment to, in spite of the perils presented (e.g.: ‘death of the book’ and other doomsday fear-mongering), and this often causes onlookers to equate our loyalty to insanity. At ‘budding publisher’ level, this translates into the sacrifices some must make in order to intern for periods of up to a year (dixit many of SYP 2014’s despairing attendees). The labour is often unwaged, and worse yet: there is no guarantee that you’ll reach Promised Land.

    You’ll hear about books being rejected by publishers because the demographic depicted in said books is not that of ‘the reader’ or ‘the customer’ – that is to say, not white. To say that minorities aren’t ‘the reader’ doesn’t recognise the fact that they are often unrepresented in stories, despite the infinite amount of stories out in the world. Not reading every book that refuses to acknowledge you could be seen as a silent, peaceful protest of sorts – a sign of a malignant illness tainting the reading experience.  How can catering to a wider audience be achieved whilst simultaneously telling said audience – by way of ellipsis, by way of vacuum – that they don’t exist?

    What you won’t hear enough about is people like Nikesh Shukla or Malorie Blackman – both of them catering to different age groups, but certainly to wider groups than many past and present writers did altogether. A diversity workshop, I believe, would have been most beneficial to future agents, editors, marketers, publicists… That is to say: anyone likely to unearth the next Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Junot Diaz, or John Elder Robison and whose instincts may be muddled by a one-dimensional idea of ‘the reader’.

    What you won’t hear enough about is that the next generation of writers is tucked away in places like The Baytree Centre, in Brixton. In this all-women’s culture and literacy centre, young girls of BAME background aged 10-14 are attending Creative Writing and Reading classes voluntarily, and will soon submit their edited, original creative writing work to the Global Girls Project, with the hope to be published.

    However, you will certainly hear about the commercial benefits of diversity. What you won’t hear is about the value of culture – especially in a melting pot like the UK. What you don’t hear enough is how good, loyal employees are the ones attracted not to the commercial aspect of the industry, but the fact that their presence is reflected in the workplace; that they are part of a community – just like ‘the reader’. The fact that when, finally, they get that book proof on their desks, more than once in a blue moon, they can read about ‘others like them’.

    The momentum is now, and the opportunities are here: where there is a will, there is a market. If Nichelle Gainer could sell out for an illustrated coffee book like Vintage Black Glamour (£30 apiece) and even a major cultural institution like the V&A is doing a Black British Experience exhibition after recognising a “gap” in their knowledge… What’s stopping the publishing industry from recognizing the full scope of ‘the reader’?

    McSweeney’s Publishing goes Non-Profit

    By Yasmin Morrissey, on 2 February 2015

    By Libby Wachtler

    In October of last year, indie publisher McSweeney’s Publishing announced that they would be transitioning into a non-profit. While not unprecedented for small publishers (poetry publisher Copper Canyon Press became a non-profit in 1990; Graywolf Press was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1984), the move was much discussed in the media. In the Huffington Post, Claire Fallon called it a “great move for publishing”, indicating that perhaps McSweeney’s would be paving the way for other mid-size indies to follow in their footsteps.


    How this move will shape the publisher’s business model is intriguing, especially given the discussions about how publishers must strive to innovate in publishing’s current stormy waters. The nonprofit structure will cause McSweeney’s to be more reliant on the consumer for direct involvement: in addition to relying on book sales for revenue, McSweeney’s is now soliciting readers for financial donations separate from purchases. What seems most fascinating to me about this is the idea of asking a reader to buy in (literally!) not only to the content you’re producing, but also to the aesthetic and concept of the brand as a whole.


    McSweeney’s is asking readers to become “members” of their organization by making donations directly on their website. Membership is available at different levels, depending on the donation amount, and come with various “gifts” including subscriptions to McSweeney’s periodicals, and thank-you notes from the McSweeney’s staff.


    McSweeney’s has published periodicals (including Timothy McSweeneys Quarterly Concern and The Believer magazine) with a subscription model for a number of years. They’ve also offered subscriptions to their Poetry Series (which began in 2011) and to what they call the Book Release Club. A subscription to the Poetry Series gets you a copy of each of their next 4 poetry releases; the Book Release Club guarantees you’ll receive the next 8 books they publish, as they come out. With the move to nonprofit, it appears as though this subscription model may become ever more important for their business. As we’ve discussed in class, the benefit of a subscription is that the publisher receives revenue for a particular title upfront. In McSweeney’s case, they’ve explicitly stated to their supporters that, for example, money raised through subscription purchases for the Poetry Series will directly fund the production of poetry titles (manuscripts for which are basically ready to go to print when the funds materialize.)


    I was an intern at McSweeneys in 2011. What struck me about their process, and about their books, was their constant emphasis on the printed book as a beautiful, meaningful object. McSweeney’s titles are, for the most part, literary fiction, and have often had a very small market. Though they’ve been able to support their niche list with a few bestsellers (including David Byrne’s How Music Works, and Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun), the editorial staff at McSweeney’s has always been focused on finding and producing work that goes off the beaten track into new literary territory. As Fallon writes, “The finest or most adventurous works may not make much money, but of course this shouldn’t determine their value or preclude them from publication. It could be argued that literature offers a public good — the value in what publishers produce lies far beyond what can be determined through pure capitalism.” Moving into the nonprofit structure, with its opportunities for direct fundraising for certain projects, obtaining grants, and even crowd-funding, could remove the distraction of having to turn a profit with commercial success- leaving more room for McSweeney’s to produce the beautiful art they’re known for.


    The news excites me as someone who will be entering the publishing world at this moment of poignant change and constant searching for innovation. It’s hard to tell at this early stage whether the transition to nonprofit will be a successful one for McSweeneys, and it’s even harder to tell whether other publishers will follow suit. The world of small, indie publishers with a commitment to the art of the book, rather than the commercial value of the book, will be watching the McSweeney’s journey closely – and so will I.


    Further reading on McSweeney’s transition to nonprofit can be found at:

    Publishing Perspectives

    Huffington Post


    Melville House Blog


    Libby Wachtler tweets at @libbywachtler. Her LinkedIn profile is here. And she highly encourages all interested parties to Subscribe to the McSweeney’s Poetry Series!