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Production: Where Books Come to Life

By Elisabeth N Wilkes, on 27 January 2016

After learning about literary agency in the last post, we are now going to jump to the middle with production. The bare bone definition of production is turning a manuscript into a physical book. While it may sound like working on an assembly line, the position offers much more creative opportunities than it sounds.

According to “Working in Penguin: Careers with Penguin Group,” production is, “the physical process of transforming a manuscript into a finished book. This includes everything from producing the initial costing, arranging the typesetting, and selecting and buying paper, to organizing the printing and binding of the book and its delivery into the warehouse.” (Link)

 

This segment of the industry is not as romanticised as positions such as editor, but it can offer people a place to express their love of books in a different way. See if any of these describe you:

 

  1.     If you are practical, but also somewhat crafty: While design does most of the work with the appearance of books, production isn’t completely void of chances for artistic expression. Production is the bridge from the abstract book to the incarnated version. Design team might have an idea that works in the head, but for some reason, be it budget or unexpected demands, it is impossible to follow the plan. Production has to then step in to give alternatives to allow the book to work.

 

  1.     If you like solving problems: Production team members often have to find solutions to any issue that comes up in printing. They also have to negotiate to get prices for the paper design would like, or suggest alternatives if a solution cannot be found. Their main task is to do everything to keep the book on schedule and overcome any unexpected delays. It requires a lot of thinking on your feet and flexibility.

 

  1.     If you are organised: In production, you are working on many projects at one time and often on a strict schedule. It therefore pays to be a little finicky to make sure none of the projects get mixed up and no dates are missed. So if you like fixing chaos and are a bit of perfectionist, you might consider this part of the industry.  

 

  1.     If you like people: Working in production requires interacting with companies who supply the puzzle pieces for the book, such as paper, foil, and printing. They are also in communication with the design team, as well as marketing. Production managers must build connections and relationships with both sides. So if you like talking to many different types of people and getting out of the office every once and while, this job might be a good outlet for you.

 

If you have any number of the attributes or skills above, you might think of exploring deeper to see if this part of the industry is a good fit for you. This job is especially desirable for people who love watching ideas become a physical book to hold (not to mention that production team members are the first to see the finished product!) It’s a job with a balanced mixture of creativity and resourcefulness.

Still not piquing your interest? Then come back next month, when I will be talking about Rights!

 

Commuter Insights: Books on the Underground

By Sarah L Osborne, on 13 January 2016

So, I’ve had a month off from commuting and what a pleasure it has been! As I haven’t got much to say about commuting this month, I thought I would discuss a “project” (if you will) called Books on the Underground.

The title, Books on the Underground speaks for itself. They place books in random trains on London’s underground. They are placed there with the intent that they be taken, read, and shared with others. Books on the Underground is a not-for-profit organisation that describes itself as “your local library”.

The project’s sole purpose is to brighten people’s days in the bustling capital, and they merely ask commuters to return the books after reading them.

Books can be found via images posted by Books on the Underground. These images often feature a book in front of a station’s sign. They are always looking for other generous volunteers who are willing to distribute books, as well as any book donations.

Their idea has been so influential that there is now an established Books on the Subway in New York, and Books on the Metro in Washington D.C. Books on the Underground has also created a book club where they give out 20 free books a month to those who attend.

It’s a great idea that aims to spread the enjoyment of literature among busy commuters, many of which may struggle to find time to read and relax. It’s a thoughtful and selfless act that aims to break the repetition of daily life as a commuter, and I wish I had thought of the idea myself! It makes me look forward to the dreaded commutes, and I anticipate discovering one of the books myself. I just hope that commuters can continue to respect and appreciate the project for what it is, and fingers crossed that Books on the Underground will continue to grow!

If you want to find out more about them then have a look at their Twitter, Facebook, or website.

Next time I will be discussing a similar scheme, called Books for London.

Commuter Insights: Thoughts on writing

By Sarah L Osborne, on 16 December 2015

I’m back with commuter diaries; this time providing you with some contemplative thoughts, inspired by a train journey.

So, I was sitting on the train home, reading Inside Book Publishing by Giles Clark and Angus Phillips, when my phone vibrated, interrupting my focus. As I turned, a lady who had previously been studying me from afar found an opportunity to ask me, “What do you do in publishing?”

“Oh, I’m a student at UCL” I replied, “not yet officially ‘in'”.

The lady then went on to describe how she was writing a book that she was interested in publishing, and listed all of the difficulties it entailed. I fully understood her troublesome feelings, but instantly it highlighted the kind of industry I was going into – a challenging and eternally changing industry: one which can change a writer’s life, but one that can also shatter a dream. I felt as if it wasn’t my place to advise her, as I need to get my foot in the door first! But all the same I encouraged her, promoted social media as a useful tool to gain recognition, and told her not to lose hope.

Photo by: Gerry Balding | Flickr

Photo by: Gerry Balding | Flickr

On reflection – with a greater understanding of publishing – it has made me realise the need for publishers to nurture hope in aspiring writers. We see time and time again writers rejected on the basis of their work not being good enough; not filling a market need; not having a well known name. Occasionally we see lives turned around; a single mother who wrote on a train… was rejected by many… but soon became one of the biggest selling authors in the world – J. K. Rowling.

J. K. Rowling for me, like for many others, has been an inspiration to continue writing, and has kindled my belief that, yes anything is possible. Although, over the course of this degree, I have become increasingly concerned about my chances of getting published, I won’t let this kind of thing ruin my ambitions, nor should it for anyone else. Like Rowling, I like to think that when I graduate I will spend hours on train journeys, up and down the country, writing books (although of course, not during rush hour). Despite being confined to a chair, I can spend hours absorbing inspiration from the life around me – the business, the diverse group of people I encounter, and the contradicting, yet pleasant blur of countryside and city through the window.

It’s easy to get lost in deep thought on a quiet journey.

There are so many alternative opportunities today if you struggle to get traditionally published. If you want to write then write, don’t let the rejection of others ruin your own ambitions. Learn about publishing. Put yourself in uncomfortable positions. Explore and get inspired. But, don’t quit. Keep fighting. Keep adapting until you get where you want to be. I do believe anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Oh, and publishers, be supportive of writers. Don’t write off their dreams, or tell them they’re not good enough – after all, one day in the future, saying no may be your biggest regret.

Find author’s writing tips here:

http://freelancewritingteam.com/2013/06/19/j-k-rowlings-top-10-good-tips-for-writing-a-book/

http://uk.businessinsider.com/stephen-king-on-how-to-write-2014-8?r=US&IR=T

http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/nov/03/how-to-write-a-book-nanowrimo-national-novel-writing-month-top-tips-mg-leonard

Welcome to the new MA in Publishing cohort!

By Sarah L Osborne, on 11 November 2015

It’s November 2015, it seems so early on in the course, yet our heads are buried deep in our degree.

First and foremost, let me introduce myself and my 4 fellow bloggers. It’s only been a month and a half since the UCL Centre for Publishing have again, started teaching a new group of MA students. 4 of which include me (Sarah Louise Osborne), Elisabeth Wilkes (otherwise known as Niki), Camilla Lunde, and last but not least, Stephanie King.

We were fortunate enough to bag ourselves the titles of “Blogging Manager” for the UCL Centre for Publishing blog, and we’re all really excited to get stuck in!

What to expect from the blog?

From now on, until the end of our degree, the 4 of us will blog once a month on our own chosen blog series. Guest bloggers, and interviews will be interspersed throughout. We aim to show aspiring publishers what our course involves, tips on how to handle university workload, and most of all – show everybody why the publishing industry is so great.

The 4 blogging series are as followed:

  1. Sarah: Struggles and tips from a Commuting Student
  2. Niki: The Publishing Industry today
  3. Camilla: International Perspectives
  4. Stephanie: The Publisher’s Atlas

Each series will be published on a monthly basis, every Wednesday at 5pm.

Not just a blog, but a whole Media Team!

So, as the title states – we’re not working alone. We are working with other students controlling other media platforms – and shall together, be bringing you lots of interesting material. The platforms involve:

Twitter: @uclpublishing – Managed by Zoe Sharples and Kirsty Mackay.

Youtube – Managed by Mirjam Coenraads.

Instagram: @publishingucl – Managed by Delia Caroline Bennett, Hannah Reed, and Charlotte Parker.

All of our team are committed to bringing a variety of material and information on publishing (at UCL and in general). Twitter will be posting 2-3 times a day, Instagram 1-2 times a day (including series: Saturday Shelfie, UCL Pub recommends, lecturer’s and guest speaker quotes, and Commuter Diaries). Finally, Youtube will be posting videos on: the MA in Publishing at UCL, student experiences, guest speaker interviews, event videos and the London Book fair.

We hope that our posts are enjoyable and informative, and stay tuned for our first official series post next Wednesday!

P.S. Stay up-to-date via our Twitter @UCLPublishing, or our own Twitter accounts: Sarah @SarahLouiseOS, Niki @enwilkes, Camilla @CGLunde, Stephanie @stelkisays, Zoe @zoesharples, Kirsty @la_squish,  Mirjam @freudhasdreams2, Delia @delia_bennett, Hannah @HaReIllustrate and Charlotte @fireflyreads

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’?