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Interview with Samantha Rayner

By uczcmsm, on 26 February 2018

Following on from our interview with Daniel last term, we’ve heard from Sam about how she fell into publishing, her favourite books and her advice for Publishing MA students!

Sam Rayner Head Shot

Favourite book:

What kind of fiendish question is that?! There are old-time children’s favourites (Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, anything by Alison Uttley, Susan Cooper, Joan Aiken…..); favourites for comfort reading (Georgette Heyer); favourites for historical fiction (Dorothy Dunnett), for fantasy/sci fi fiction (Robin Hobbs, Tolkien, Lois McMaster Bujold), for literary fiction (A. S. Byatt, Ishiguro, Sarah Perry)….and, of course, for my academic work, it has to be Le Morte d’Arthur, by Thomas Malory!

How did you get into publishing?

It’s a story of happenstance, perseverance, fate, and how sometimes being pushed to do something can result in amazing things! Books have been the one constant in all my jobs – except, like Daniel, for a miserable few weeks working for an insurance company, and doing lots of farm work while I was at school (I grew up on a fruit and hop farm). I started with a Saturday job in my local town library, Tonbridge, and then worked in a bookshop, Hammicks in Tunbridge Wells, during my gap year and then every vacation whilst I was at university in Bangor, doing a degree in English. I went on to do an MA in Literature (on the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins), and then got married, did more bookshop work, and then a PGCE in Secondary English and Drama. A few years of teaching in Kent schools followed, before I had my son: and then my tutors from Bangor suggested that it would be a good time to do a PhD! So I did – in medieval poetry, and during the course of this, fate took our family back to Bangor, so I was able to start teaching English at the university part-time, whilst I finished my thesis. When that was done I was asked to take on a Research and Development Manager role to help set up a new School of Creative Studies and Media. This gave me interesting experiences not just of putting together new courses (including publishing ones!), hiring staff, and helping to facilitate research bids, but also useful things like having to kit out a new building, from scratch (I am still very proud that ten years on the red sofas I chose are going strong in the lobby area!) This was a two year contract, so when that ended my boss pushed me to apply for a part-time, senior lecturer post at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, in Publishing. It seemed a crazy idea at the time, but I applied, setting out what I’d do if I had to build a new MA in Publishing, and got the job!

Moving to a new place was hard, but this job allowed me to spend time within a publishing company (Cambridge University Press mentored me for the first couple of months I was in post, so I got to see all the different depts there), and I loved seeing the course develop. After a year, I was also involved in setting up a new Research Institute about Digital Culture, so that also linked in my existing developmental facilitation experience and skills.

And then, in 2012, I was encouraged to apply for a job at UCL, and did, again not thinking I stood a chance of getting it – and the rest is history! I am living proof that at some point, all those random bits of work experience do come together (even the fruit and hop-picking have been useful training in perseverance, and attention to detail!).

How do you interact with your chosen field?

That’s a good question! Publishing is such a truly dynamic area, and is moving so fast, so you have to keep up with what’s happening. Twitter is a vital tool, as is The Bookseller, and all the different conferences and seminars that happen. The London Book Fair is a great annual hub of activity. On the academic side, I have two academic families – my publishing one, and my Arthurian/ medieval one, and I interact with them by attending conferences, meetings, and collaborating with people on research. You are always learning something new, and I love that!

Favourite piece of research you’ve been part of?  

I really enjoyed the Academic Book of the Future research, which was a huge project, with lots of different strands and activities. I worked with some amazing people, and got the chance to make real impact within the academic book world. At the moment, I am really loving the research I am doing with two friends and Arthurian/ publishing colleagues (yes, there are more of us!) Dr Leah Tether and Dr Bex Lyons, on the Penguin Archive at Bristol University. We’re looking at how Penguin worked to make classic texts available to a more general readership, and finding some fascinating stuff…it’s detective work, and finding material that sheds new light on how we perceive these canonical works. Publishers do more than you might think!

What advice would you give a Publishing MA student?

Make the most of your investment. Use all the opportunities the course and UCL offer you – not just the classes, but beyond that. Be prepared to push outside of your comfort zone, to take creative risks, and to use the space the MA gives you to explore what your strengths are, and what kind of job you really want to pursue….

A fun fact about yourself:

Um….I’ll confess to being a complete Alan Rickman fan!

A book that we might be surprised you have read? 

Well, when doing Admissions interviews, I always take note of any books people say they enjoy when they answer that first question! So, this past year, I have enjoyed reading Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, and Sigrid Unset’s Kristin Lavransdatter as a result of student recommendations: so I do listen! (and thanks, guys!)


Thank you Sam for your wonderful answers. I was pleased to note I’m not the only one who struggles to choose a favourite book (or ten)!


By uczcwtu, on 7 February 2018

Ah, bookstagram – one of the best places on the Internet where book lovers can congregate and show off their newest purchases. However, sometimes it can be a bit discouraging when you follow loads of beautiful accounts, and you just aren’t getting the same number of followers and comments as them!

So, here are some tips for making your bookstagram the best it can be!

1. Props – Whether that be flowers, candles, bookmarks, or Funko pops, people go nuts for photographs with props. There’s something about that cosy clutter that really works with books, especially if the props are somehow related to the book that is being photographed. Related to that, food and drink (often tea) can be used as a prop as well!

2. Lighting – the best time to take photographs of books is during the

day, particularly when it is sunny and bright. This makes it a bit difficult in the winter, but what I do is take all of my photographs on the weekend.

3. Pick a theme/filter and stick to it – this what the proper professional bookstagrammers do – so there’s no reason why you can’t do it too! Alternatively, pick a prop or a background that will feature in all of your photographs. That’ll give them that streamlined look too.

4. Background – you can take the best picture in the world, but if it has your bedroom clutter in the background, it’s going to be let down. Some easy backgrounds are bedspreads, other books, and white poster board.

5. Practice makes perfect – unless you’re a photography goddess, there’s no way you’re going to be able to nail it the first time around. So just play around with your photos!

6. Finally, don’t worry about it – ultimately this is a way to have fun with your books, and to show the world what you’re reading! So don’t worry about followers and comments, but rather just enjoy it.

Come follow me @whatthelog!

A Night of Reading Aloud with Francesco Dimitri: A Review

By uczcmsm, on 6 February 2018

This guest post was written by fellow student, Vicky Joss.

In an endeavour to rediscover the lost art of reading aloud, several UCL Publishing students attended ‘A Night of Reading Aloud’ at Waterstones Gower Street, led by Francesco Dimitri, the author of To Read Aloud. His new book is a curated collection of excerpts from well known (and some lesser known) books that are designed to be read aloud. They are categorised thematically through experiences such as change, pleasure, loss, love and wonder. In becoming the reader, or the listener, you are challenged to remain completely in the present, focusing solely on the words.

The evening started with a little history. Whilst we now consider reading aloud as an activity for a child’s bedtime, it only went out of fashion in the twentieth century. It was so popular with Cuban miners in the nineteenth century that they would pay to have a lector during their working hours! The room was set up in a speed-dating format, and we were told that if we didn’t sit with a stranger we would be moved (gulp). There were three rounds, each one consisting of a reader and a listener. The first was a warm-up round, with an extract under seven minutes. The second was slightly longer, and the listener got to choose their extract this time. The third round was much like the second, except the listener had to wear a blindfold.

The evening was not only interesting, but also surprisingly insightful. Reading is, of course, nothing new to us. Yet reading aloud introduced several new elements. Firstly, it forces a busy mind to stop and simply be present (simultaneously reading and thinking is just not possible. I tried!). As a reader, it was odd to hear my voice shape words in to existence for the sole purpose that this stranger would listen. As a listener, I focused less on their voice and more on shaping the words to form a picture in my head. I had one chance to fully grasp this; there were no pages to look back on to remind myself of crucial details.

Yet perhaps the most surprising part of the evening was that Francesco was right: reading aloud formed a connection with a stranger that completely bypassed any formalities. I talked to my partners about ambitions, politics and their grandchildren without hesitation.

I, for one, am behind this quiet revolution to re-introduce reading aloud to adults as normal once again.


The Jhalak Prize

By uczcwtu, on 31 January 2018

The second annual Jhalak Prize is upon us! The Jhalak Prize was founded in 2017, and celebrates the best books by British and British resident BAME writers, and awards one writer £1000. The first book to win the Jhalak Prize was Jacob Ross’ The Bone Readers.

Started by authors Sunny Singh and Nikesh Shukla and Media Diversified, with support from The Authors’ Club and a prize donated by an anonymous benefactor, the prize exists to celebrate the achievements of British writers of colour.

Excitingly, the 2018 longlist has recently been announced! It includes:

John Agard, Come All You Little Persons (Faber)

Nadeem Aslam, The Golden Legend (Faber)

Jeffrey Boakye, Hold Tight: Black Masculinity, Millennials and the Meaning of Grime (Influx Press)

Sita Brahmachari, Worry Angels (Barrington Stoke)

Kayo Chongonyi, Kumakanda (Chatto & Windus)

Yrsa Daley-Ward, Bone (Penguin)

Reni Eddo-Lodge, Why I ‘m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (Bloomsbury Circus)

Xialou Guo, Once Upon a Time in the East (Chatto & Windus)

Meena Kandasamy, When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife (Atlantic Books)

Kiran Millwood Hargrave, The Island at the End of Everything (Chicken House)

Leone Ross, Come Let Us Sing Anyway (Peepal Tree Press)

Preti Taneja, We That Are Young (Galley Beggar Press)

This longlist was chosen by the all-female judging panel, which includes writer Sunny Singh, YA author Catherine Johnson, novelist Tanya Byrne, writer and performer Vera Chok and travel writer and journalist Noo Saro-Wiwa.

Judge Vera Chok spoke about the prize: “An incredible thing about the Jhalak Prize is that it’s open across genres. I’ve been especially delighted to discover writers of colour beyond literary fiction and memoir, making their mark in the fields of non-fiction, children’s writing, and experimental forms.”

The shortlist will be announced on the 20th of February, and the winner will be announced on the 15th March 2018.

What’s Coming Up: February and Beyond!

By uczcwtu, on 25 January 2018

There are lots of events going on in the next few months – here’s just a couple of gems that we discovered!

29 JAN 2018: SYP AGM
The SYP meets every year in January in the beautiful Stationers’ Hall to say goodbye to old SYP UK and London committees and welcome in new. There will be a recap of the whole SYP year from different committee members, followed by our panel. To delve more into the creation and popularity of audiobooks, the impact of podcasts on our industry, and what might be next, we’ll be joined by Miles Stevens-Hoare of RB Media, the company behind audiobooks.com, and the team from the amazing Mostly Lit podcast.

8 FEB 2018: Bitch Lit
Bitch Lit is a monthly book club devoted to new feminist writing and cult classics by women. Join us for endless wine, cheese and irreverent, fun discussion led by literary critic Lucy Scholes and Gower Street’s Elizabeth Morris. On February 8th we will be discussing Diana Athill’s Stet: An Editors Life.

9 FEB 2018 – 11 FEB 2018: London Bookshop Crawl
Now in its’ third year it aims to bring booklovers together in a joyful celebration of all things bookish and give some much needed support to (mainly independent) bookshops in the otherwise fairly grim retail month of February. Over the course of the weekend we encourage you to visit as many bookshops as possible, post about how great they are on social media (using #LondonBookshopCrawl), buy some books and grab some of the amazing freebies and discounts on offer and meet some new bookish friends.

15 FEB 2018: The Hogwarts Curriculum Lectures: Divination with Marc Salem
A look at how we deduce, or divine, meaning from non-verbal signs with Marc Salem, performer, mind reader and expert in non-verbal communication. This event is aimed at an adult audience, although children are welcome to attend.

20 FEB 2018: Laura Bates – Misogynation: The True Scale of Sexism
Feminist, activist and bestselling author Laura Bates joins us to once again shine a light on the gender inequality lurking in the shadows of our society with her new collections of essays. At this exclusive London event Laura will be discussing her work with the freelance journalist and contributing editor at The Pool, Marisa Bate, followed by a signing of her books.

1 MARCH 2018: World Book Day
World Book Day is a celebration! It’s a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading. In fact, it’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world.

7 MARCH 2018 – 11 MARCH 2018: Women of the World 2018
WOW – Women of the World festival celebrates women and girls, and looks at the obstacles that stop them from achieving their potential. This will include talks by Sandi Toksvig, the women behind the Black Lives Matter movement and a drag king performance of the story of Joan of Arc.

Let us know if you end up going to any of these events!

Independent Bookshop Alliance

By uczcmsm, on 24 January 2018

You may have heard of Simon Key: the Big Green Bookshop Twitter star? He is famed for his phrases ‘I am in a train’ and ‘My kids are asleep’ and his incredible customer service over Twitter. His refreshing openness about the trials and tribulations of being a bookseller and even honest sales numbers posted on Twitter are appreciated by his many followers.

Following the deep discounting of Philip Pullman’s Book of Dust, Simon proposed an ‘Indie Alliance’. Philip Pullman is a huge supporter of bookshops and sees deep discounting as ‘the true book lovers enemy’. Book of Dust, however, was being hugely discounted at 50% by Waterstones, Foyles, WHSmith and Amazon. Pullman was criticised for signing 5,000 copies of the title exclusively for Waterstones and therefore excluding the independent bookshops for whom he so often campaigns. For an in-depth commentary on the controversy, take a look at The Secret Bookseller.

Anyway, back to the ‘Indie Alliance’ (which, by the way,  I think would be a good movie title). Simon, the Big Green Bookshop man I’ve mentioned already, posted a call out to bookshops to express interest in his idea. He believes that independent bookshops can work together to negotiate better discounts and indie offers. Within 6 days Simon had an overwhelming response from more than 90 independent bookshops across the UK. Now that should make publishers listen.

Simon told the bookseller that the next stage is to set up a forum so independent bookshops can communicate and discuss what they’d like from the alliance. He is also meeting various trade members this week who have expressed interest in ways they can help. The alliance has also ‘tentatively’ received an offer of funding – so watch this space!


By uczcmsm, on 17 January 2018

If there’s one thing publishing students are known for other than reading, it’s for drinking tea! Here’s a couple of my favourite places to buy and drink tea – but be warned. Your wallets will be burning by the end of this post!

  1. Bluebird Tea

Bluebird Tea is without a doubt one of my favourite places to get tea. Their flavours are so unique! One of the best things about Bluebird is that they do a monthly subscription service where you get 3 sachets of some of their best tea! Themes have included cocktail-based teas, Christmas teas, and ones that make great iced teas!

Check out their website here!


  1. Teapigs

Teapigs is my go-to tea – they too have amazing flavours. I mean, matcha mint? Jelly and ice cream? What more could I possibly need? Their bags are also really nice, which somehow makes a difference to my tea experience.

More information about teapigs’ great flavours can be found here!

  1. Birdhouse

    Birdhouse is an independent tea company found in Sheffield. They have a TEA STUDIO where they blend all of the tea, and where you can go for tea consultations and advice on how to blend your own. How awesome is that?! They also have the most beautiful Instagram, which I highly recommend you check out.

Their website can be found here.

  1. Last but certainly not least is the London Tea Company.

    Situated right here in London, this is a FairTrade company that focuses on their love for London and tea! (I’m already a fan!)  Their packing is also A+, which is always a bonus. Gotta have your tea in cute tins and things!

Check them out at London Tea Company.



Assignment Inspiration

By uczcmsm, on 10 January 2018

Light at the end of the tunnel image









So, UCL Publishing students are currently all hating on life with assignment overload. Whether you’re pretty much done (and about to start Author Management) or only just beginning your assignments, here’s a load of quotes that might (or might not) motivate you:

“If you try and lose then it isn’t your fault. But if you don’t try and we lose, then it’s all your fault.”
― Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game 


“I’m a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it”
― Thomas Jefferson

“I’m going to keep going until I succeed — or die. Don’t think I don’t know how this might end. I’ve known it for years.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

(We all know how this might end.)

“If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.”
― Michelangelo Buonarroti

(Just to remind everyone that we’re aiming for mastery *excited rustle through the lecture hall*)

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.”
― Jimmy Johnson

“Your friends will believe in your potential, your enemies will make you live up to it.”
― Tim Fargo

(That UCL publisher’s WhatsApp group is your friend but which lecturer is your enemy?)

“There’s a pile of exciting stories waiting to be read at the end of every assignment.”
— Hannah Smith

(Couldn’t resist. Mine has grown by 4 books since last week and I’m itching to start them)

“…[I]f you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”
—Roald Dahl, My Uncle Oswald

“I don’t like work— no man does— but I like what is in the work— the chance to find yourself. Your own reality— for yourself not for others— what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.”
—Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

“You’ll stay with me?’
Until the very end,’ said James.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

(Replace James with ‘any-UCL-publishing-student-that-wants-to-be-pro-at-networking’ and someone will always be with you)

May the odds be ever in your favour.


Our Highlights from the Autumn Term!

By uczcmsm, on 16 December 2017

As the last post for the Autumn Term we have gathered some of your highlights of the year so far:

Hannah Robinson – The Branding and IP class with Dan.

Evangeline – I’ve greatly enjoyed meeting people who love books (and cheese) as much as I do on the course! It’s been a wonderful experience getting to know new people and make new friends. Course wise, I loved the penultimate lecture we had in Author Management with the author, Frances Mensah Williams because she was so jolly and had a great backstory. I’ve had a lovely term and I’m sad it’s over, but I’m looking forward to the next one! And thanks to everyone who’s put up with my talking about figure skating all term!

Ines – My highlight was meeting great friends.

Silke – It’s been wonderful to hear from so many varied guest speakers from the heart of the industry. I particularly enjoyed Helen form Cornerstones because she gave such an interactive session. I also liked hearing from Frances Mensah Williams – her talk was very inspiring.

Lucy Beirne – I really enjoyed the PR lecture – my favourite by far! I’ve also loved the SYP events I’ve been to.

Hannah Smith – I loved the guest speakers – particularly Sam Missingham, Frances Mensah Williams and the panel at the last Entrepreneurship lecture. And, of course, lunches between lectures!

Jessie – I loved learning about the maintenance of well-known, well-loved literary brands from Laura di Giuseppe.

Annie – Going to see Hamilton!

Jess Miorini – Two things: first, I know it’s super cheesy, meeting new awesome people on the course that I’m now friends with (a huge step for an introvert); second, the panel on publishing and creativity at the Bloomsbury Institute that made me realise what I really want to do in publishing and the companies I would love to work for (mostly independent publishers).

Wendy – Probably the visit to Hachette – it was amazing to actually visit a publishing house in action!

Clara – A highlight of this term was listening to all of the panel guests we had in every module and learn from their (very different) work experiences.

The UCL Publishing Blog team are having a Christmas break – we hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Interview with Daniel Boswell

By uczcmsm, on 8 December 2017

The blog team thought it might be fun to use this opportunity to find out more about our lovely lecturers! So, first up: Daniel Boswell!

Favourite book.
Don Quixote de La Mancha – Of all the classics this is my favourite. Arguably the first ‘novel’, certainly one of the earliest examples of the form, I don’t really think it has ever been surpassed; themes of love, hope, ambition, ageing, class and comedy all seamlessly interlinked. It’s a book about a bibliophile who takes his passion a little too far. Publishing students take note. If you can read the original, not in translation.

How did you get into publishing?
Getting into publishing was as much about getting out of a series of successive industries I didn’t belong in after I finished my first degree. Life assurance was a low point. However, I’d always been around writers, my father was a journalist. The direct answer is that I attended a panel discussion at the Edinburgh Book Festival in the mid 2000s about changing trends in genre fiction and ended up having a very long and interesting conversation with, Marion Sinclair, the director of Publishing Scotland. She encouraged me towards some postgraduate study which led me to the Scottish Centre for the Book (SCOB) at Edinburgh Napier and the rest is (21st century) history.

How do you interact with your chosen field?
Publishing Studies is a small and developing field. This has pros and cons. The challenge is being able to draw diversely on a established body of contemporary academic sources. On the other hand, as a developing discipline, most academics working in this area know one another, at least in passing, and we have a wonderful, friendly network for collaboration. Over the past few years we have been gathering in Florence for a developing, publishing focused conference called ‘By the Book’, which is helping to ground this network. At the level of teaching, all of the UK Publishing courses are members of the Association for Publishing Education (APE) and we meet on a regular basis.

Favourite piece of research you’ve been part of?
Well, I should probably say my PhD thesis, a comparative analysis of industrial dynamics in Scottish and Catalan Publishing fields, but I also really enjoy the editorial and development side of journal and special issue publication, and have been involved with pieces for Book 2.0 and Scottish Comics that were fun. And a few MA dissertations that I’ve supervised stick in my mind as well.

What advice would you give a Publishing MA student?
Don’t Panic (That’s an SF joke)

A fun fact about yourself.
I collect pink elephant related paraphernalia.

A book that we might be surprised you have read?
Oh wow, that’s a doozy of a question. How am I to interpret this – would you be surprised because it’s not something you would expect me to like, or do we simply mean the sheer perseverance of a long, difficult text, or is this more about introducing the unfamiliar? Is the question designed to propel me towards confessing some inner shame or should I reinforce the idea that there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure? Hmm… I hope this will do…

As far as supervising dissertations go, when students want to consider particular genres or authors I do try to make sure (as far as possible) that I am familiar with the material as well (this does not stretch as far as Harry Potter, do not push me) I did read all of the Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and Divergent YA dystopian series in order to be more familiar with these for studies. I thought the Hunger Games series was quite good.

Shame confession – I managed 20 pages of fifty shades, what’s all the fuss about?


Thank you to Daniel for giving some time to these questions amongst a busy term and lots of marking! If any of his answers have interested you, I’m sure he’d be happy to talk about them further!

Finally, here are the answers to the literature quiz:

1) The Catcher in the Rye
2) 1984
3) Harper Lee
4) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
5) Stephen Hawking
6) Bridget Jones Diary
7) The Adventures of Pinocchio
8) Roald Dahl
9) A Hegdehog
10) Yann Martel