Books Are My Bag – Part 4

By Britt S Van Klaveren, on 10 March 2014

Another piece from the Books Are My Bag adventure! This blog is written by Naomi Barton

To read a book is to partake of a universe unknown.
Of course, you might have heard of said universe. You might have a picture of it, based on a fancy blurb. An excited tweet. Your favourite critic’s latest jibe.

But to actually sit down with the printed word flowing in front of your eye, is to live somebody else’s mind. It is not mere verbiage on a hunk of paper, not the three hours your eyes might take to scan it. It is most certainly not the ten or so pounds (Ten whole pounds! Gasp!) that you have exchanged for it.

To read is a ritual. An act of change, no matter how inconsequential. And all rituals must have a before, an after, and an in-between.

This in-between-ness is where your local bookshop plods in happily and sets up shop.

Stop staring and just walk in already. We promise not to bite. Unless we’re on Hagrid’s curriculum.

Stop staring and just walk in already. We promise not to bite. Unless we’re on Hagrid’s curriculum.

A tiny buzzer sounds as you cross the threshold of Victoria Park Books, subtly alerting its owner to your presence. It is muted, unintrusive. The door shuts behind you, and you take in the spill of light from the backyard, battered little child-sized beanbags on the warm wood floor, and the books.

Jo Guia, owner, will peer over her computer and gently ask you if you need any help. She knows children better than most, their desire for an original familiarity. Your child might be reading Maisie, but Jo will deftly take out a volume by someone you haven’t heard of yet. You should know without a doubt that your child will love it.

“Good on you for bringing them up right,” she says, modestly. “Not enough children read anymore.” To be on the safe side, she organizes book readings for infants and toddlers too.

Mommy, you need to accept my subversive understanding of the cultural ramifications inherent in gastronomy. Of course I like Green Eggs and Ham.

The store is designed for children more than their parents, despite who’s holding the purse strings. The books are shelved in a chronological flow, with picture books low on the ground and teen fiction high above, out of the grasp of curious fingers with too-tender minds. One solitary wall in a corner houses Adult Fiction, keeping parents occupied. Harvey the dog whimpers plaintively at you if denied a pat on the head.

I cat, therefore I am.

Every single element of this place says it is about you and what you are going to read, paying silent tribute to the ritual path you have just begun to tread.

This, is the core difference between Amazon and your local bookshop.

Amazon pays homage to the clean, jingling Cash Machine In The Sky, and good devout priests they are too. Books are their currency—as against Victoria Park Bookstore, saying loud and proud, that Books are My Bag. Books are you and me and the entire world bound by the genius of one mind reaching out to the fertile grounds of another, and books can be our everything.
But sometimes, everything isn’t enough.

The Wardrobe only took us to Narnia.

It’s not enough to close your eyes and clap your hands anymore.

Join the Books Are My Bag Campaign, and go buy something from your local bookstore. It’s worth the price.

Placements, Book Fair and World Book Night

By Laura A Lacey, on 27 April 2013

It’s been a busy few weeks for us UCL publishers. We’ve been on work placements, essay-writing, job hunting, dissertation planning, World Book Night celebrating and London Book Fair-ing.

 

Most of us are in the middle of our 5 week industry placements. So we are in publishing houses across the capital, with a couple further afield: everywhere from Penguin to Bloomsbury, and literary agencies to digital publishers. A lot of us have also been given the chance to work in different departments, including editorial, marketing, publicity, sales and production. We’ve been getting a taste of what it’s like to work in a real life publishing house and putting into practise all the skills we’ve been learning in the past months, as well as learning some new ones.

 

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15th-17th April was The London Book Fair, which many of us were attending for the first time. It was certainly a unique experience! Some students were there as representatives of their work placement companies but we all got time to wander around in awe and soak up the atmosphere. Some of the seminars were particularly interesting, including SYPs ‘How to Get Into Publishing’ where our very own Samantha Rayner was a speaker and some of our class were involved in the organisation. I’d like to say a big thank you to all the publishers, agents, printers, authors, speakers and organisers who made us feel so welcome and put up with our questioning when they almost certainly had better things to do.

And lastly, a belated Happy World Book Night for Tuesday. A couple of our students were givers for the event this year, handing out 20 copies of one of their favourite books. Congratulations to Julia Kingsford for making the event run so smoothly and thanks again for the inspiring lecture she gave us a couple of months ago. Long may WBN continue!

Read all the books you wish you’d read…

By Laura A Lacey, on 29 March 2013

Oyster last year announced they had raised $3million to create a service for eBooks that works along similar lines to Spotify. They seek to oystercollectively license eBooks from publishers: including fiction and non-fiction, and everything from bestsellers to classics.

Oyster have partnered with media and technology companies, as well as publishers. This mirrors the growing trend across the creative industries as owners of intellectual property seek to exploit their copyright in all possible formats, and sellers try to provide services above and beyond simple content delivery.

The trendy-looking New York-based team (pictured) are focusing on Access, Discovery and Mobile:

ACCESS: By adopting a subscription model they believe readers will be able to enjoy books more freely, dipping in and out of new authors without investing money: ‘This leads to a more fulfilling experience built exclusively on taste and relaxed reading’.

DISCOVERY: They realise that discoverability comes down to many factors and a lot of chance. They believe by combining ‘discovery with consumption’ they are removing frustration that comes from receiving recommendations in many locations.Readers will enjoy the process of discovery by sharing the same library with their friends, with no need to hunt for links.

MOBILE: Their claims as far as mobile goes are perhaps less easy to agree with: they claim their market research has shown that all readers (from avid to casual) ‘love reading on smartphones’. This has certainly has not been my experience. Perhaps it will be in future – as mobile devices become larger and more comfortable to read on it is thought ‘phablets’ will be one of the most prolific devices for sale.

Only time will tell if their venture will be successful and how many publishers will be willing to give up their content for a limited fee. Currently it is in testing mode with just a few. Their aspirational aims certainly sound idyllic:

“We are building Oyster for an audience that aspires to read more. Read all the books you wish you’d read. We hope to bring books to the center of people’s lives through a beautiful product and the feeling that the world is your oyster.”

Happy World Book Day!

By Laura A Lacey, on 7 March 2013

Happy World Book Day from everyone at UCL Publishing!

All across the UK today, children will leave school clutching their £1 book token that we all remember so fondly. As ever, pupils will be able to get £1 off the price of a book or exchange their token for one of the specially produced WBD short stories.

Since WBD began in 1995, these titles have always represented the greatest in children’s literature, with something to appeal to everyone. This year sees a Horrid Henry title, Tony Robinson’s Weird World of Wonders: Funny Invention, and new books by beloved children’s authors Cathy Cassidy and Anthony Horowitz.

They also now run a Young Adult campaign, including a free downloadable app, a forum for book discussion, and a chance for budding authors to have their own novellas showcased.

It’s wonderful to see that so many publishers are supporting this worthy charity and continuing to inspire children to read. I’m sure that many of us on the course will be lucky enough to get involved when we graduate.

But for now, I urge everyone to celebrate by cracking the spine of a book that’s been calling to you from the shelf, or indulge in a beloved tale from your childhood, and remind yourself of why we’re all so committed to working with books!

 

SEX! KINK! EROTICA!

By Laura A Lacey, on 6 March 2013

50 shades of greyNow that I’ve got your attention you might be interested in this…

Thankfully, E.L. James and Random House did not favour this in-your-face approach to marketing Fifty Shades. This week, as part of a triple whammy of brilliant guests from marketing professionals, we were treated to a case study of the rise and rise of this unavoidable phenomenon. Sarah Page of Random House gave us an inside look at their massively ambitious marketing campaign and explained why they didn’t need to big up the content.

Traditional techniques were used in a big way: with posters on the underground, at railway stations, airports, and in the print media. The recurring message was ‘Discover the book everybody’s talking about’, giving no clues as to the erotic nature of the book. Nor did the cover give anything away, instead appearing more innocently like a crime thriller. The press coverage, twitter storm, and word of mouth among women up and down the UK did all this for them. Random House just wanted to encourage readers to get involved in the conversation by reading the book, the media frenzy increasingly did the work for them.

Amazingly Random House acquired the UK rights to the self-published eBook and six weeks later had it printed and on shelves. Sarah stressed that speed was essential if they were to trade off the buzz already created amongst Australian and American women. The sales team worked hard to get the retailers on board quickly, using statistics of how well it was selling across the pond. Spaces in shops were already booked up so the publishers provided good, old-fashioned dumpbins, especially in supermarkets where prices were rock bottom but volume was high. The publishers decided to release all three at once; it was feared that if readers had to wait they would lose their enthusiasm and, from a commercial perspective, sales would be driven to internet sources. This certainly paid off and the books famously became the fastest selling book in UK history.

Perhaps the most surprising part of Sarah’s presentation came next, as she revealed how they started to broaden the appeal of the books from the ‘mummy porn’ audience it had already satisfied. They ran advertising aimed at men who wanted to find out what their partners were reading, opening up the gift market with the cheeky line ‘Give her what she really wants this Christmas’, and women over 40… Yep, that’s right, they targeted the granny market with a full page ad in Saga magazine – who knew?

So what next for a woman who has saved hundreds of marriages, inspired the conception of a generation of babies, single-handedly kept Ann Summers in business, and generally upped the country’s libidos? Well, she’s keeping that a secret, but you can be sure it will be another publishing phenomenon.

By Laura Lacey, working towards a career in trade fiction.

Foyles Visit: “The joy of a good bookshop is discovery” (Bill Samuel)

By Samantha J Rayner, on 9 January 2013

Last night saw us crossing town to visit Foyles, and hear Bill Samuel speak about the bookshop’s past, present and future. An entertaining speaker, Bill gave us a verbal tour of some of the bookshop’s historical highlights:  for instance, that Christina Foyle used copies of Mein Kampfinstead of sandbags to help bomb-proof the flat roof of the shop during the Second World War, and that she wrote to Hitler to suggest that if he was burning books, he might like to send them to Foyles instead!  He was candid about life in a family business, and emphasised that trial and error was an integral part of learning what makes for success.  Foyles is not just a bookshop – they have tried all sorts of enterprises to generate more revenue:  sheet music, musical instruments, literary lunches, book clubs, film production and even aeroplanes!  “The book trade has always been in turmoil,” Bill said.  There is nothing new about the current arguments for the future of the book – these have been going on for centuries.  What the book trade seems to be extremely good at, and what Foyles exemplifies, is responding to the need to constantly innovate to refresh offerings and exploit readers’ appetite for all things book-(and culture) related.  In the 1990s Foyles seemed to be dying on its feet, but now it is a successful iconic destination for book-lovers, and looks set to take on the future with an assured optimism.

Outside the shop at the moment are giant hoardings, with a cartoon representation of the history of the shop. These images are amazing, and worth a trip to view (see http://www.johnmiers.com/Foylescomic/).

Foyles are about to relocate to the Central St Martin’s School of Art site, which will enable them to almost double square footage, and they are using this opportunity to completely redesign the layout and presentation of their stock.  In conjunction with The Bookseller, they will be holding workshops in February, allowing readers and book trade people to discuss their ideas for how the bookshop of the future should look.  The response to this idea has been overwhelming, (for details see: http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/future-bookshop.html) and it will be one to keep track of in coming weeks…