Category Archives: Industry News & Events

Write-ups of conferences and events that have been happening around the Industry.

Commissioning in Book Publishing – How to build a successful list outside the 6-figure zone?

It was a lovely evening in the beautiful Century Club at the Bookmachine Talking Editorial! Truly enlightening to hear from 3 publishing professionals about how they build their very different lists. Valerie Brandes from Jacaranda Books, Keshini Naidoo from recently founded Hera books and Zara Anvari from White Lion (Quarto Group) were on the panel which was chaired by the brilliant Abbie Headon.

Valerie explained how Jacaranda books was founded in 2012 as a direct result of the lack of diversity discussion in the industry. There was a need for what they were doing and submissions came flowing. At the beginning no budget and no connection, however opportunity was always there because nobody was doing what they were doing. She says that you constantly have to reimagine your list and identify gaps in books published. For instance, they did notice that very few black British authors were published and in 2018 they decided that in 2020 they will publish 20 books written by black British authors.

Keshini is the co-founder of hera, a female-led, independent commercial fiction digital-first publisher (and now also publishing paperbacks). Their audience is the reader who cannot put a book down for 3 days. They publish books across genres such as romantic comedy or psychological thrillers. The story comes first and the commercial aspect is priority, although quality is necessary. The books they publish she admits might not make the Booker Prize list but will make many people happy! For Keshini, to commission you have to love what you commission and be able to push the title/the list.

Zara recently joined White Lion, an imprint of the Quarto Group publishing non-fiction books across pop culture and lifestyle. Business strategy is key for them: you have to have a direction and be profitable. Zara’s job differs from Valerie’s and Keshini’s as she comes up with concepts for books which she then has to sell to her colleagues and managers before finding the right authors for them. It a very collaborative environment and people have to buy into your idea. If you do not believe in it, nobody will. So you need to know what you want and go for it. As the imprint is quite new, they still consider what are their successes, what they do well, and this is a guiding principle across the whole.

How do they find their authors?

Valerie from Jacaranda looks at things she liked. She attends events, talks to agents and publishers, reads articles and blogs. Her advice: you just have to ask! Sometimes just asking if the rights of a book are available will work! For things that were not being published, she really focuses on what she likes, and obviously reads a lot and exposes herself to a lot of different influences.

Keshini from hera finds her authors through lots of different ways. It could be through submissions through their website or from authors and agents (ratio is 50/50 between the two). She was pleasantly surprised by the support she and her business partner received from agents from the start. She also mentioned something interesting about social media and Twitter in particular. Twitter is a way to commission, who would have thought?! There is a big community out there: authors put their pitch down with the hashtag #PitMad. This is very big in the USA, not as much in the UK but is this the way forward?

Zara from White Lion relies a lot on recommendations. Her concepts are born in-house and commissioning for her is more trying to find the right author for it (could be an influencer or an academic). In light of this, budget can be an element too. Zara’s advice is to stay open, and try to sell yourself to the author too as you will be working as a team, in a partnership.

What does success look like?

For Keshini, success is not focussing on prize but high chart positions. Online buzz and good exposure on social media is also very important. For Zara, as their books are very international, success is often measured by the attention they attract at book fairs. They need to make sure it gets international exposure and good conversion in terms of interest and sales. For Valerie, the notion of success has been evolving. At the very beginning, launching their publishing house was a success in itself. It has been an incredible learning curve for the founders of Jacaranda books as there is a massive difference between understanding what being a business is, compared to just being part of a business. It has been really hard and success was surviving as a business. This year what looks like success is very much visible for them as they won prizes and were long-listed for awards.

Commissioning and what makes a list successful are very different things depending on what books you publish and what business you are part of. But what the 3 speakers all agreed on is that to commission, you have to trust your gut and be passionate enough about the book to fight for it. To the question “what makes a book stand out from the lot” Keshini’s conclusion was hilarious but nonetheless very true as she quoted Marie Kondo: “If it doesn’t spark joy, get rid of it!”

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Inclusivity and Diversity in Publishing

Building inclusivity is a top priority in the UK, and we in the publishing industry must also work to establish best practice in the recruitment process in order to bring in diverse voices and varied experience.  Coming from a different cultural background myself and having worked in publishing and recruitment, I have built up a passion for this topic, and I am very keen on making an impact within the publishing industry.

As a team at Atwood Tate, we have had Equality and Inclusion training and I recently attended the Building Inclusivity in Publishing conference put on by The Publishers Association and The London Book Fair.  The conference gathered different panels of representatives from the publishing industry, who spoke about what they have done/are doing to encourage and educate publishing companies to build a more inclusive work environment. 

On International Women’s Day, I spent an afternoon attending a forum on Inclusivity and Diversity, hosted by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation. This forum gathered recruitment professionals from different industries and explored how a better understanding of intersectionality can support a more inclusive recruitment process and deliver a truly diverse candidate sheet.

During the conference, Mark Gales from Young Women’s Trust explained how recruiters and HR professionals can support young women, as studies show that 53% of young women feel worried and uncertain about the future.  By signing up as a volunteer with the YWT, recruiters and HR professionals can offer coaching and tailored job application feedback for young women to build up employability and their confidence.  After using the coaching service, 92% of attendees felt more confident in presenting their CV and felt they had a better understanding of what employers are looking for.  Even more encouraging was that 55% of young women got a new job/work experience.

On offering support to disadvantaged people who are trying to get into employment, Gemma Hope from Shaw Trust explained that we can help candidates by organising a non-panel-setting interview, or even offering candidates a work trial to assess ability, as some candidates might find a traditional interview process distressing.  In the financial sector in particular, some recruitment processes require no CV submissions and a solely question-based application form, from which gender, education background and age are excluded, has replaced the traditional CV and cover letter format: a solely skills-based assessment.

In the publishing industry, we are trying different recruitment approaches and we are still searching for a way to establish best practice across the whole industry.  In academic publishing, we have started to see publishers encourage salary transparency during the recruitment process.  In trade book publishing, we have seen experimentation with AI recruitment.  We, as a recruitment agency have also started to offer transparency to our clients by outlining the diversity of our search. We ensure publishers are aware that we open up their vacancies to a wider pool of candidates than they may reach through traditional advertising or networking routes.  We hope to see publishing continue to blossom and grow through achieving meaningful diversity. 

Written by Clare Chan, Senior Publishing Recruitment Consultant.

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How to Get into Publishing

Last week The London Book Fair hosted the event `How to get into Publishing?’. The Olympia Room was full of eager graduates, awaiting advice and tips of how to kick start their career in publishing. Here we have created a summary of what was said.

The panel:

Carl Smith https://uk.linkedin.com/in/carl-smith-8a2a3411b

Shalini Bhatt https://www.linkedin.com/in/shalini-bhatt

Katherine Reeve https://uk.linkedin.com/in/katharinereeve

Maria Vassilopoulos https://www.linkedin.com/in/maria-vassilopoulos-51572320

The panel began by offering a background of themselves, what was their first role and how did the skills in this role set them apart during interviews?

  1. One of the roles was working in a bookshop as a Christmas temp. The skills developed within this role; customer service, bookselling, industry knowledge contributed to success in an interview, especially when asked `what is your favourite book?’.
  2. A hospitality background and the transferable skills developed here; customer service, working on multiple projects, confidence and working with lots of different people are skills relatable to roles within publishing.
  3. If you have not studied an English or History degree, don’t worry, for one of the panel a visual arts degree stood them out from the crowd.

Interview tip: Build a rapport with your interviewer, something you have in common can help you shine in an interview.

What are the geographical challenges and how can they be overcome?

We have to admit that most publishing roles are based in either London or Oxford. However, the big publishers are not the only ones out there. You can gain experience through working in bookshops or working for charities or library suppliers for example.

Editorial roles are not the only choice. Take a look at HR, finance, marketing and production roles also.

The Spare Room Project offers free accommodation in London whilst taking up work placements. Read our blog on the Spare Room Project here: http://ow.ly/86Ck30o88C0 More good news; internships are more often than not paid.

Interview tip: Make sure you are prepared. Research your interviewer and the company on social media, look for a talking point. What are they currently advertising/working on?

In job specs how much of the criteria do I need to meet before I apply?

You don’t have to meet all of the essential and desirable skills, but you need to meet the main essentials and demonstrate them in your CV and cover letter. 

If you feel excited by an advertisement, if you know you can do that job then go for it! There is no harm in applying.

However, be realistic and ask yourself will you feel comfortable answering questions relating to the criteria in an interview situation?

Interview tip: Go in with questions, be curious and passionate.

What are the dos and don’t’ s of CVs and cover letters?

Do’s

Introduce yourself in a personal statement at the top of your CV, your skills and what you are looking for.

Always read the job spec, pick out the key skills and buzz words and demonstrate you have them in your CV and cover letter.

Be meticulous in your spelling and grammar

Prioritise information and layout, show them you can do this in your cover letter and CV. Keep your CV at max 2 pages.

Don’ts

Overdesign your CV. Instead keep it simple, not too hard on the eyes or text heavy.

Send your CV in the correct format if requested.

Make your personal statement too generic, focus on particular skills.

Don’t list all of your previous jobs, but the most important and relatable ones which demonstrate the skills they are looking for.

Interview tip: Represent yourself in the best possible way, but be yourself! Always ask when you will hear from them of the outcome of your interview.

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Brexit for employers and job seekers

Our industry body, the REC (Recruitment and Employment Confederation) is working hard to help us prepare for Brexit, whatever the outcome.

We are keeping abreast of the latest developments so that we can update you on how an outcome will affect us and employment in the UK generally.

There is a lot of advice for employers from the Government, but I think this link is probably the clearest and most useful as a starting point: https://euexitbusiness.campaign.gov.uk/

There are links on this page to a number of useful publications and resources suitable for Candidates who are wondering what the situation will be for them.

  1. If you are an EU national and you want to continue living in the UK: https://www.gov.uk/staying-uk-eu-citizen
  2. If you are an UK Citizen in the EU: https://www.gov.uk/uk-nationals-living-eu
  3. New EU citizens arriving in UK will be able to stay 3 months before applying for a visa. Following this you will get remain for 36 months.

The key message is: Don’t worry if you’re already working here in the UK, you will be able to stay!

But you will need to make an application – the EU Settlement Scheme will open by 30 March 2019 and you will be able to apply until 30 June 2021, provided you were resident in the UK by 31 December 2020.

5 years’ residence will lead to settled status with a bridging pre-settled status for new arrival.

If you do have questions, please do get in touch with us and we can clarify on some of this advice and hopefully point you in the right direction!

Other HMRC links:

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The Book Trade Charity

What do they do?

The Book Trade Charity is a fantastic organisation, offering support, guidance and financial assistance to all those in the book trade industry presently, in the past or striving to be in the future.

Founded on the principles that age, health and finance should not be a barrier to this creative and inspiring industry, the charity aims to overcome these barriers.

How can they help you?

If you have been struck by an unexpected illness, financial problems, medical situations or redundancy for example you may be eligible for assistance.

By offering grants, housing, and confidential and friendly support to tackle these problems.

The Retreat and Bookbinders Cottages – both in London, are residential facilities for those working or have previously worked in the book trade. Offering a fantastic, comfortable and community centred atmosphere, with individuals who share common experiences.

Travelling costs for interviews, extra financial assistance to move to London for jobs are also ways the charity can help if you meet their requirements.

What about if I haven’t worked in trade books before?

Extra assistance during internships, supporting in education or training courses, financial costs in attending interviews are some of the ways the charity can help you.

www.booktradeentrysupport.org – this website is aimed to provide information to those who are new to the trade. Take a look, it may just help you in reaching your dream job!

Are you looking to get back into work?

Going back to work can be scary and a challenge.

The charity can assist you with this transfer. Re-training after being made redundant, assistance with training courses, financial grants are some of the ways the charity can help you.

Become Involved

Donations are massively appreciated, both one-off, or regular monthly or annual. Currently the charity’s annual grants budget (across all the areas in which it helps) is some £250,000, and donations are relied upon to replenish the budget every year.

If you are up for some fun, you can run an event (possibly a bake sale?) a tasty treat! Or if you are up for something more challenging you can also take part in a run or swim!

The charity also has 5 places in the London Marathon each year – you can achieve a huge personal success and contribute to a great cause at the same time!

If you would like to fill out a grant form or discuss your options, visit the website here:

You can also call: 01923 263128

To donate visit: See the Donation pop up on the website or visit their virgin giving page

You can also read some inspiring stories on their website of the excellent work the charity has carried out.

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Girls can do Anything

The panel:  Abiola Bello (Author and co-founder of Hashtag Press), Hannah Sheppard (Literary Agent, DHH Literary Agency), Charlie Morris (Senior Publicity and Marketing Executive, Stripes Books), Gillian McAllister (Sunday Times Bestselling Author)

On Wednesday, our administrators Kathryn and Anna went to the evening event Girls can do Anything, Write? The first panel discussion in a new series hosted at The Library in Covent Garden as part of the London’s Big Read 2019, inspiring an eagerly listening audience with suggestions for success in a publishing career.

Are women’s voices heard enough in the publishing industry?

The industry is predominantly populated by women so why are women rarely the ones in charge of those important decisions? After acknowledging that there are exceptions to this within the big six trade publishers, the big takeaways were:

  1. Male voices are often given more weight – women are making the hiring and firing decisions but men are rising through the ranks at faster speed.
  2. Men and women brand themselves differently – men are often more confident and actively seek a response, whilst women couch themselves with a much more passive approach. This confidence, particularly in authors trickles all the way down to the retail selling of a book.
  3. The glass ceiling has not yet been smashed – more conversations need to be had in the sharing of maternity leave for example.

On a positive note, women reign supreme in crime fiction at the moment and their voices are being heard in publicity roles across publishing.

Lesson: Be confident and share support, whatever stage you have reached in your career

(Don’t be afraid to ask AND offer!)

How can more BAME women be heard in publishing?

Publishing houses are making more of a conscious effort in their recruitment processes however, diversity reports show that there is more work to be done.

  1. There are not many BAME submissions and more books need to be published with BAME characters
  2. There is a twitter “mob mentality” around individual voices, however the existing writing community is under pressure to avoid writing diverse characters. So how do we get diverse books to young readers, with characters reflecting themselves, to encourage them become authors?
  3. It is possible that we need to start from the bottom, and address potential unconscious bias within schools and promote books outside of the educational canon.

Some Advice…

Are you an aspiring writer? Here are some useful tips:

  • FINISH THE BOOK! You can edit later, it is much easier to work on a finished manuscript.
  • Find something that triggers inspiration for you. A particular genre of films?
  • When reading, read analytically. (This is relevant to a career in publishing on the other side of the desk too!)
  • When writing, your characters should drive the plot – what do they really want? It is their goal that should lead the story.
  • It is important to network; attend events, blog, join in conversations, subscribe to industry news outlets like The Bookseller and BookBrunch. (This is relevant to a career in publishing on the other side of the desk too!)
  • TIP: Try to write 20 minutes a day and take a day off.

Do you want to get into publishing? Here are some useful tips:

  • Read a lot, especially what is being promoted, bestsellers and what is being reviewed. It is important to have knowledge of what works and the industry itself.
  • HAVE OPINIONS! When applying for a job, look for a connection between yourself and the role you are applying for.
  • Read the job advert closely, understand exactly what they are looking for and demonstrate that you have those skills.
  • Look at the companies’ social media and website and see what they value.
  • TIP: Recognise the business person within yourself and be a boss in your field!

With contributions from Anna Slevin.

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Brexit – what does it mean for publishing and recruitment?

There’s a huge amount of information about Brexit on the news, internet and you’re probably all discussing with friends and colleagues at the water cooler. There’s also a lot of uncertainty about how things will change in the coming months and how this will affect the country and us personally. I thought I’d highlight some of the resources I’ve been keeping track of to help have an overview:

 

Publishing resources

Our recruitment industry body, the REC has a number of reports and blogs that look at issues such as immigration, shifting working patterns and labour market trends in the UK. https://www.rec.uk.com/help-and-advice/policy-and-campaigns/brexit

 

Research Information is an excellent resource for all news around non-trade publishing so worth keeping an eye on.

 

The publishing industry weekly magazine and website, The Bookseller, keeps us up-to-date with news as it happens eg https://www.thebookseller.com/news/political-chaos-wake-withdrawal-deal-concerning-and-unacceptable-say-trade-bodies-894296

 

The Publisher’s Association has a blueprint for UK publishing and regular news and policy updates.

 

If you’re a member of ALPSP they have regular updates in their monthly bulletin.

 

The IPG also has some interesting blogs and podcasts some of which is available to non-members and worth checking out eg Podcast on Academic publishing, Open Access and Brexit (and Plan S – worth finding out about if you’ve not come across it!).

 

I hope that gives you some ideas as we’re all lacking firm answers at this point!

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2018 PPA Independent Publisher Conference & Awards

Kellie and I attended the PPA Independent Publisher Conference & Awards and, as in previous years, it was an informative morning conference to catch up with lots of independent publishers and hear the latest in ideas across the industry.

The morning opened with an introduction from Barry McIlheney, CEO of the PPA before Juan Senor of Innovation Media Consulting/Author of the ‘FIPP Innovation Report’ gave a fascinating talk on the latest in media technology, monetisation ideas and introduced a major theme of the day of moving away from advertising revenue to reader / subscription revenue.

Publishers have discovered giving content away for free is very expensive and doesn’t work in the long term – we must start charging for digital content, creating pay walls and data walls with reader revenue generating c. 40% of digital revenue. It’s predicted that by the end of 2020 people will have 4 subscriptions so this should be viable. Editors will need to come up with great content that will trigger a subscription that’s worth paying for.

Some ideas:

  1. If you give people a binary choice they reject both – give them a choice of 3 and the human mind will pick 1!
  2. Use the rule of 3 for subscription options – people will pick the one in the middle.
  3. Rise of the idea of the publisher as a club eg the Guardian
  4. Events – margins can be low for an event so the trend is making it a festival of 2-3 days

He has a list of 11 business models that he recommends developing at least 3 of – do ask for his slides!

Ian McAuliffe of Think Publishing moderated a discussion on positioning your business for the future which gave insights from some very different types of publishers – presentations available:
Nick Flood, Dennis Publishing [Download Nick’s presentation]
Patrick Napier, Rock Sound [Download Patrick’s presentation]
Rebecca Allen, The Drum [Download Rebecca’s presentation]

Richard Spilsbury not only gave us a quiz which was a great way of bonding with other delegates but insight for publishers thinking of selling their business at some point – what to consider and some pitfalls to avoid.

The keynote speaker Catrin Griffiths, Editor, The Lawyer spoke honestly and inspiringly about her experience leading a prestigious brand through change. She explained the highs and lows of the journey of introducing paywalls, integrating content and data, and creating a market-leading brand.

Roundtable sessions were a good opportunity to share industry knowledge with peers and Kellie and I focussed on the people based ones: Talent Retention and Organisational Culture.

 

David Gilbey finished up with some more tips and highlights in his masterclass in digital publishing – again I’d highly recommend reviewing the presentation slides for ideas…

Then we had the awards, where Kellie was delighted to present the Editor of the year award to Sophie Griffiths from TTG Media! See the list of winners here 

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ALPSP Conference 2018

Atwood Tate is a long-term member of the Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) and were delighted to attend their conference 12 – 14 September 2018.  This conference plays a key role in scholarly publishing, and it attracted a high-level audience from all sectors including publishing people from academic, professional and STM publishing.  This conference provides an opportunity to share information and knowledge, learn about new initiatives, as well as engage in open discussion on the challenges and opportunities facing publishing.

 

I spent a day at the ALPSP conference and attended a number of fruitful talks, including Evolution of Peer Review, Industry Updates, Openness & Transparency in Scholarly Publishing and What’s New in the Digital Humanities.  The talks were very informative, and it also strengthens my knowledge in the field.  In particular, I enjoyed the talk by The Charlesworth Group where the speaker Jean Dawson talked about how scholarly publishers can use their service and promotes their works via WeChat to the Chinese audience.  Ann Michael from Delta Think made an interesting point on how data is never perfect so we need to build skills and team to fill the gaps.

Other than talks and seminars, there was also charity run in aids of FODAD, a small UK registered charity providing support to those in Sri Lanka, conference dinner and after-dinner quiz. Featuring a wide-ranging programme, this is a must-attend event for everyone involved in the scholarly publishing community.

If you weren’t able to attend, there are a number of resources and presentations available to view and listen to here: https://www.alpsp.org/2018-Programme

Video footage of all plenary sessions is also available on the ALPSP YouTube page.

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BookMachine: Talking Tech

Anna Slevin our Temps Administrator attended the BookMachine “Talking Tech” event a few weeks ago and after Ada Lovelace Day recently celebrating the first computer programmer* we thought we’d let you know about the “manifesto” they discussed. We need Tech skills in publishing today!

As discussed by an all-female panel: led by the chair Emma Barnes (Founder & CEO, Bibliocloud and MD, Snowbooks), Sara O’Connor (Full Stack Developer, Bibliocloud), Lola Odelola (Software Engineer and Founder of blackgirl.tech) and Janneke Niessen (Entrepreneur, Investor, Boardmember, Inspiring Fifty, Project Prep). Anna, our Administrator tells us more.

Anna

All of the speakers were genuinely passionate and clearly knew what they were talking about but none of them were afraid to admit that when they don’t know the answer they turn to Google or the community. (It turns out that the tech community are often very helpful and generally prioritise make something work and finding the answer, most things are open source.)

A lot of the information is free and readily available on websites like Learn Enough it’s just a case of working through it and understanding what you’ve read. Which is the part most of us struggle with! You may have heard of things like C++ or Python and thought it sounds like a foreign language and it turns out it is!

Ruby

Which brings me to Ruby. Like Dorothy’s ruby shoes** prove there’s no place like home and Ruby is fun mainly because it is an object based language you can use to code. It feels more familiar (and homely) like a typical word-based language and once you start to see the output you’re already a programmer!

If you are a woman interested in trying for yourself with a bit of help, they publicised the next free Rails Girls London event: https://railsgirls.london/#events – you might even see some of us from Atwood Tate there! (Applications close in one month.)

Sara, Lola, Janneke and Emma

The panel (and chair) all talked about their own experiences in tech and why it’s important to publishing and society in general.

The key concerns raised time and again were:

Empathy. Accessibility. Diversity.

A lack of women in tech roles was partially why they were speaking at all but Lola raised issues around a lack of diversity across tech teams. Much like architects sometimes forget to consider spaces for wheelchairs or prams, the tech industry similarly sometimes can’t anticipate an issue until a product is rolled out to the public such as Lola’s observation about the photo tagging incident with an app a few years ago.

Resources/Opportunities mentioned:

Anyone can code.

Even a man with little or no sight hired by Janneke.

Even Sara who as originally in Editorial and is now a Full Stack Developer (which I asked her about and means she does the part people see and the back end stuff that makes it function).

Even that SUM formula on Excel pretty much counts as programming. Programming in publishing could save you a lot of time on those repetitive tasks… Give it a try!

 

*incidentally the daughter of Lord Byron (it’s all connected to publishing!)

**disclaimer: working in publishing, we know the shoes are silver in the books!

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