Category: Views

Alchemy: Why poetry publishers need to get it together

In May this year, three wrestling matches were held in a library. Two small poetry publishers, Sidekick Books and The Emma Press, nominated their champions for the ‘Pamphleteers’ grand slam, roared about their scrapping prowess and set them against each other in a no-holds-bard smackdown. Pamphlet took on pamphlet, and the poetry pitted dinosaurs against dragons, witches against sinister government agencies and, most curiously of all, mackerel salad against Angela Lansbury.

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Why choose a specialist picture library?

Luci Gosling, Head of Sales and Research at historical image specialist Mary Evans Picture Library argues the case for the smaller, specialist agency in an industry that is becoming increasingly dominated by a handful of major players.

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Publisher-author clashes: How to deal with the most common areas of conflict

Working with authors has to be the best part of any commissioning editor’s job. At Open University Press, I have been lucky to work closely with leading executive coaches, psychologists, therapists and literacy experts. My authors are some of the most entrepreneurial and inspiring people I know, many have become friends. When the publisher-author relationship works well, it is a creative, collaborative partnership of equals. And yet every editor will tell you that some of their most trying times professionally have been with their authors. So what do authors and publishers fight about? In my experience the most commonly experienced conflict is around the following three issues:

1) No manuscript and no response

‘I know I haven’t been in touch in the last 6 months, but my marriage broke down, I had to move house and then it burnt down.’

As editors we understand that life can get in the way of writing but doing the ‘disappearance’ act and then coming up with improbable excuses is not the way to deal with it. It leaves the editor unable to plan a new publication date, so colleagues can easily lose confidence in the project and it can be difficult to secure an extension as doubts about the author’s reliability creep in. Make sure your authors understand right from the start how important it is to communicate even when things go awry. Be upfront not only about what the impact of missing their deadline is on publisher but also how much easier it is to mitigate it when having plenty of notice.

2) The endless rewrites

‘You might think you’ve handed over the final manuscript, but you haven’t!’

My author was very persuasive, my assistant understandably shaken up and I had to be very firm in saying ‘no’ despite the crying on the phone. We’ve all had authors who want to keep re-writing even when the manuscript is typeset. Often the ‘not being able to let go’ comes from a place of anxiety about their work finally ‘being out there’. When I was editing my PhD to get it published as an academic monograph, I remember feeling terrified about the thought of anyone actually reading it. I still can’t open the book without wanting to rewrite it. If you have an anxious, perfectionist author, reassure them they have done a good job and you are confident their work will be well-received, while standing your ground that the manuscript in production is the one you are publishing.

3) The cover crisis

‘My son dabbles in graphic design and I’d like him to design the cover.’

This is not what any editor wants to hear – we all know that such attempts can be disastrous. So while we are sympathetic to the fact that for many authors the book is their baby and they can be very sensitive about the way it looks, it is our professional responsibility to ensure the cover is right for the market and maximizes the commercial potential of the book. Be collaborative by asking your author their preferences for colour and images but explain that as their publisher, you understand the current graphic design trends and what style will work best for their audience. If your author is not willing to accept the suggested design, bring them on your side by stressing that your marketing and sales colleagues are sure the design will help sell the book. If you still cannot agree, give your author a choice between two visuals that are equally strong.

Monika Lee is a Senior Commissioning Editor at Open University Press, McGraw-Hill Education. Her book Djuna Barnes, T. S. Eliot and the Gender Dynamics of Modernism (2010) was published by Routledge. You can follow her on Twitter @Lee_Monika

Print’s not dead, so what’s next for it? [Winning blog idea March]

Each month BookMachine offers a community member, with great ideas, the chance to write on the site. March’s winner was Percie Edgeler who writes about the future of the print book. 

For the past few years, there has been a rallying cry around the advent of the ebook: print is dead. Since 2015 however there has been a decline in ebook sales, and whilst some are predicting a return to steady growth, one has to question if this is possible whilst they continue to maintain the same format. Currently the big five are taking relatively few risks, and independent publishers have been spearheading a print revival which with the increase in print book sales has paid off. For consumers that are continually choosing both, the roles of the digital and the physical have changed.

Whilst the book industry is focusing on the colouring in fad to boost their sales, the magazine industry is increasingly taking risks to innovate their approach to print. At the same time as The Bookseller showed a 3% decrease in e-book sales in 2016, the magazine industry saw a 12.5% digital drop, with well-known brands such as BBC Good Food, National Geographic and Cosmo taking the biggest hit. In comparison, independent print magazines are growing. At QVED 2014, Jeremy Leslie of MagCulture addressed the issue directly when being asked about the death of print, retorting to a questioner “How can print be dead with such an abundance of independent titles flourishing day to day?”

The industry does indeed seem to be flourishing: the founding of new titles such as the aptly named Print Isn’t Dead and growth of existing independents such as Little White Lies and Oh Comely all seem to be positive signs.

But why are these independent magazines seeing a boom, and can the print book industry follow suit?

Some publishers already are, with part of the attraction being premium content and production value. These two key components can be seen in the popular UK independent Nobrow Press, who expanded to open a New York office in 2013. Their highly illustrated books continue to gain popularity for having an emphasis on design and illustration whilst remaining affordable. These editions are a stand out in an age where the internet does throwaway information for free and at high speed.

This in itself may kill some kinds of print. Ruth Jamieson, author of Print is Dead, Long Live Print, stipulated last year that digital media has cleared the way for a new, much more interesting, much more exciting print to spring up. In 2014, this decision to carefully curate high-quality content also paid off for independent New York magazine PAPER, who had to print an extra 35,000 copies of their September 2014 issue to keep up with the demand for the latest issue featuring Kim Kardashian.

In the words of I-D editor Colin Crummy, “Kim Kardashian’s bum may have broken the internet in November 2014, but it was a magazine cover that helped her do it.”

Despite this, some still seem to think that despite current high sales, print is simply enjoying a brief rebirth and as such the future for it is not so bright. Print hasn’t changed enough to compete with the behemoth of the e-book. Gail Rebuck, chair of Penguin Random House, stated the same year in the Creative UK report that our creative industries are at the centre of a digital transformation of our economy; predicting that ebooks would become a total of 35% of the market share in two years. Whilst this has not happened, some remain hopeful that they will return to growth, but this is not happening as quickly as expected. It may be that what becomes interesting is behaviour towards the print and digital changing so that the two are sitting together; and how as an industry, publishing continues to allow new innovation for both.

It’s time to change the nature of the conversation around print. Ebooks are a new medium, not the death of the traditional. Instead of asking if print is dead, we should be questioning what we can do with it next.

Percie Edgeler is a MA Publishing student at Kingston University, and a graduate of the BA Illustration course at Camberwell College of Arts where she gained first hand experience in producing different types of print. She is particularly interested in independent publishing, and how this sector will influence the future of print books.

A budding author’s experience of The London Book Fair

It’s London Book Fair! A daunting prospect for rookies starting out… Bookollective co-founder Esther Harris remembers Day 1 of her first Fair as a new writer.

7:00 a.m.: Carefully lay out my LBF wardrobe: distressed jeans, heels and blazer. I’m-too-cool to-pitch-however-if-you-happen-to-be-the-editor-of my-dreams-vibe? Check. Hot stationery? Check. Copy of MS (just in case)? Check.

8:00 a.m.: Board the shuttle bus at West Ken with lots of bearded men and women in thin knit cardigans. No pushing in the queue and lots of smiles and air kissing. People in publishing very nice.

9:00 a.m.: Olympia at last. It’s HUGE. Panic. Get coffee and a cinnamon roll to calm nerves. Copy other people by standing and adopting a just-having-a-mid-book-deal-sugar-hit look.

9:30 a.m.: Feet killing me already. Flats next year.

10:00 a.m.: Pass Author HQ set up for new writers. Lots of similarly wide-eyed people pumped for a seminar on ‘Using disruption to increase discoverability’. Not exactly sure what it all meant but the speakers were very passionate and I got to doodle in my flash new notebook. All good.

11:00 a.m.: The ground floor of the main hall is where publishing goes Hollywood. It is where all the BIG houses have their stands. Larger than most London flats, raised several feet off the ground and lit up like a TV studio, they are Something Else. Lots of meetings. Lots of Mariella Frostrup types flicking through lists and talk in hushed, literary tones. I feel weak with longing.

12 noon: Go for lunch. Spend £15 on a halloumi salad and bottle of water.

2:00 p.m.: Finally screw up the courage to approach the Bonnier Zaffre desk. “Do you have an agent or is your manuscript unsolicited?” a kind receptionist asks. I whisper that it’s the latter and am steered to the submission details on their website.

2:30 p.m.: Get an Indian Head Massage from a guy giving them out in the main hall. He’s a graphic novelist. He has an agent. He said he felt tension in my neck.

3:00 p.m.: Finally… my raison d’être. An actual meeting with a nice editor I’ve been emailing. She gently explains they won’t be moving forward with my story. Crying inside but offer to do lattes my treat again next year. Tweet the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote about how he had 122 rejections before he sold a story and never give up.

4:00 p.m.: Life dreams in tatters. Weep in toilets. Momentarily give up.

6:00 p.m.: Get tipsy on warm white wine at a bloggers after-party. End up barefoot and disillusioned with publishing. Someone invites me to join a cult. Snap back: “We ARE in a cult…” Then have a light bulb moment. New story! Renewed faith in writing. Going back tomorrow. Next challenge – the Agents’ Floor #loveLBF

Esther Harris is co-founder of Bookollective. @bookollective @writer29


Rejection stinks: Tips for authors on handling rejections

Jonny Geller is the joint CEO of Curtis Brown. Jonny represents a wide range of bestselling and award winning writers. His clients include: William Boyd, Tracy Chevalier, John le Carré, Howard Jacobson, David Mitchell, David Nicholls, Ian Fleming Estate and Nelson Mandela foundation. Here are Jonny’s top tips for authors on handling rejections.

Rejection stinks. There is no getting around it. Recently, I tweeted “Rejection is wired into the creative process and longevity and success is mostly down to how you deal with this one issue”.

I wasn’t just talking about writers and how they handle it. Anyone who works in the creative industries is involved in rejection every working day of their lives. Every time an agent sends out a manuscript with a turbo injected pitch letter, he/she is inviting an editor to reject them. Agents tend to take rejection personally, too. The agent is putting his/her name on the line with every submission. After all, the most valuable asset an agent brings to the table is his/her reputation. Every time the agent sends out a book, he/she dares the publishers to expose him/her as a fraud, a fake magician, a rain maker. You are only as good as the last book you’ve sold.

An editor is haunted by rejection for different reasons. What if they miss The Next Big Thing? It will be on the record forever that THEY TURNED DOWN IT DOWN and they will see the reviews, the sales, the prizes sticking a big, fat literary tongue out at them for eternity.

But it is the writer who has to live with rejection the longest. An agent can move on to the next project, an editor can blame the sales force for excess caution,but the writer is left with their forsaken child, tattered dreams and a few, brief letters to decipher the opaque messages from publishers and agents. They are left to torture themselves with the question:  What if they were right?

So, how can a writer cope with rejection if, as I say above, it is hard wired into the creative process? here’s a little guide:

Rejection is not personal

A rejected manuscript is not a comment on your talent, your ambition or your future. it is a response to a specific proposal at a specific moment by a specific source.

Let me explain.

If you send a novel at the wrong time of year – around book fairs – it might just not get read very closely. We are looking for very particular projects that will sell in a certain way to maximise the hype fest that is the London or Frankfurt Book fair. If you send a novel to the wrong agent, his/her rejection is worthless. A romantic saga to an agent who specialises in military history is not a rejection. That is a mistake.

If you are unlucky enough to have written a Western about talking heifers as three others on the same subject have landed on agents’ desks that week, you have not been rejected. You have been sorted.

Rejection is personal

There are many ways to decipher the secret codes of publishing. A standard response with no hint of personal reaction is a clear rejection. This might be because the book is awful, and if you receive too many responses of this nature, you might take a pause. A response that hints at some level of engagement means that it managed to prick attention but not much more. A specific and detailed response to the failings of the novel is not a rejection – it is a signal that talent may be there, but the topic, writing or genre may just not have hit the spot. An invitation to send future work is also not a rejection. That is a commendation.

Rejection defines who you are

How you respond to repeated rejection can point to whether writing is a vocation or a hobby. Nobody who takes up writing as a pastime would want to endure the long periods of waiting, the helpless inability to change a publisher’s mind, the invitation to doubt oneself at the deepest level. You would have to be obsessed. Obsession means that small hurdles like rejection or delay are meaningless. These are the type of people agents look out for.

But when do you know when enough is enough? When do you stop reading articles about J K Rowling and every other major bestselling novel that was roundly rejected by publishers?

When you realise that there is life beyond being a writer.

Until that moment, keep writing and keep believing in yourself. There are too many books published. We all know that. If you are one of those people who believe this to be true but not true about their own work, then fight for your spot. But do remember: Nobody owes you a living.

For more from Jonny, you watch his Tedxtalk on ‘What Makes a Bestseller’. 

What can publishers learn from the Women’s March London?

On 21st January 2017, I made the journey to London, met with my youngest sister and some friends and we marched from Grosvenor Square to Trafalgar Square along with an estimated 100,000 others.

We were there because, the day before, a man who had boasted about sexually assaulting women, who is endorsed by the KKK and who believes climate change to be a hoax, was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.

In 70 cities around the world, on every single continent, similar gatherings were taking place with the largest being in Washington DC. At the time of writing an estimated 4.5 million people had come out to make their voices heard.

We all had our reasons for joining the march. For me, the most concerning fact is that the election of Donald Trump has emboldened and given a legitimacy to voices that spout racism, white supremacy, misogyny and homophobia. From the moment he began his campaign these voices became more prominent and today they can be heard loud and clear. On the march, our voices were calling for something different: equality for all.

Publishing as a platform

I knew from my social media feeds that the publishing industry had turned out in numbers. We are a female-heavy workforce. I knew that many of the people I marched alongside were working in books. And, as I marched, I started thinking about voices, legitimacy and platforms.

Publishing, as an industry, is about giving people platforms for their ideas, a conduit for reaching an audience. The rise of social media and independent publishing has meant that almost anyone can have access to a platform. People can tweet, they can blog, they can self-publish.

The simple fact is that, today, traditional publishers aren’t necessary for people to reach a big audience. What the industry does add, however, is a sense of legitimacy and significance. The presence of the logo on the spine is a silent signal but a powerful one. Our logos are the stamp of approval and they amplify the ideas within the pages they adorn. As an industry, we choose the voices that get heard the loudest. Now, more than ever, this is a huge responsibility.

Our responsibilities

As I write this, I can hear the familiar mantra of ‘Publishing is a business designed to make money.’ I hear that. I’ve been freelance for four years now and I know that we need to get paid. But we also need to respect the responsibility of our logos.

Freedom of speech is a right but we need to make sure that the loudest voices are not just from a small pool of people. As a predominantly white, middle-class industry we need to make sure that we don’t just look for ourselves in the books we publish and that we don’t take away other people’s stories, granting ourselves the right to tell them through our own, inexperienced words. We need to stretch out beyond the reaches of our familiar audience. Diversity shouldn’t be something that has to be crowdfunded.

Yes, we’re running a business. But our logos have power. Let’s never forget that.

Caroline Goldsmith has worked in publishing for sixteen years. She published fiction under the independent imprint Red Button Publishing from 2012-2016 and now works freelance, providing publishing and writing services. Check out her website

NaNoWriMo for publishing folk

Ditch your resolutions

January 17th is a day that divides the world into two groups: people who accomplish their New Year’s Resolutions and people who don’t. It’s National Ditch Your Resolutions Day, and as an avid goal-maker and to-do list lover, I whole heartedly support it.

Two weeks in to a new diet, exercise regime, or career plan is usually the point when we all realize gosh, this is difficult. In fact, there are entire industries peddling beautiful planners, offering goal-building courses and incentivizing memberships through the promise of ’New Year, New You’.

But old you is pretty great, and I bet present you is awesome, too. You may have lofty ideas about your career progression, freelancing gigs, and business building, but in honor of this special holiday let’s develop legitimate career goals by ditching our resolutions.

Drop your resolutions like a bad habit

You may have just decided on your career- or business-related goals a couple weeks ago, but don’t we often make emotional decisions during the holidays, under a deadline, and exhausted from the last 3 months? So quit them right now (in the name of this new holiday). Yes, even the good ones! Because if you love something, set it free, if it comes back it’s yours. If it doesn’t, then it’s not the right resolution for you.

Think about what gives you pain

We spend a lot of time as humans avoiding pain and even avoiding thinking about pain. This step, therefore, probably won’t be enjoyable. Reflect back on the year (and years before that) and think about those work projects that made you want to gauge your eyes out. Reminisce about that really, truly, awful client or that time you wasted a whole week trying out a productivity tool that was just not your jam.

Imagine future you in all your glory 

As a reward for going through all that pain, you can now think about all the good things that are just 6 months, 1 year, 5 years+ down the road. Get specific. What does a day in the life of future you look like? Start with your commute whether it’s 3 train connections or 3 steps from your bed. Imagine the work you’ll be doing, who you’ll be collaborating with, and how you will end each day.

Compare apples and oranges

Now, what are the painful parts of the past that do not exist in future you’s daily or weekly routine? I’m sure we all wish we could skip taxes, but be realistic about what’s possible to eliminate or change. Or add. Sometimes the lack of something is the silent killer of your joy and happiness. You probably already have a few new ideas about what to drop or bring into your work life.

Plan from a new perspective

Now take a look at those original goals we dropped and ask yourself is this resolution a solution to both last year’s pain and future me’s life? Is it specific, realistic and explicit enough to accomplish? Have you made strides in the last couple weeks? Do you feel confident about your progress? Statistics show that 59% of New Year’s Resolutions do not bring the resolvers any closer to accomplishing their career goals, but 100% of resolutions made on Ditch Your Resolutions Day are successful*.

So, take this opportunity to ditch your resolution and piece together a goal that solves your dilemma by bridging the gap between your past pain and your future happiness. What are your career goals for 2017?

*32% of statistics are made up on the spot, but I got one of mine from

This is a guest post by Bree Weber. Bree is a book designer and publishing consultant who loves Oxford commas. You can reach out to her on Twitter @thebookoctopus

Realities of publishing which I find hard to imagine

Lisa Davis is the Book Purchasing Manager at BookTrust, the UK’s largest reading charity that gifts books to over two million children, including books specially chosen for children with additional needs.

There was recently an article about things that used to be part of a publisher’s day which millennials may find hard to imagine. As a millennial, I don’t necessarily find it difficult to comprehend something I haven’t experienced, and think it’s great how technology has progressed.

However, there are a few things which I actually find hard to imagine about publishing, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Unpaid Internships

It’s difficult to imagine how there are still unpaid internships. It’s difficult to imagine how it’s acceptable that entry-level positions pay so poorly. And I struggle to imagine how in an industry considered to be so liberal and progressive, there’s still a pay gap between men and women. But most worryingly, I can’t imagine how we are still having the debate of diversity.


Diversity isn’t a new development, some new realisation. I might not have been born, but I know those of you who entered the industry in the 80s had some of the same conversations then that you’re having now. When I say diversity, I’m not just talking about the need for racially diverse authors. What about books that are more accessible to those with dyslexia or tactile books for children with vision impairment? There are so many people who think books aren’t for them because books aren’t made with them in mind. I find it hard to imagine that this need is still not being addressed by more than a handful of publishers.

Social Responsibility

Or maybe I don’t. Because I also find it hard to imagine how publishing has become so commercial that it has lost elements of its social responsibility. No, a book full of tactile and interactive elements won’t look good on a P&L – but think of what it will mean to a child who can’t access a board book. It speaks volumes when it’s industry news that a bestselling book like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will be made available to people with sight loss. This shouldn’t be news – it should be a standard.

While there has been much technological progression in publishing, I don’t think we can be sitting comfortably when some of the most important issues around the industry haven’t changed in decades. I can’t accept we were too busy coping with changes in technology to address these.

So I am a millennial, and I want to create a publishing industry that doesn’t leave future generations scratching their heads, finding it difficult to imagine how the industry is still excluding members of our society when we had the opportunity to fix this.

Self-employed in publishing

Publishers Assemble: Christmas 2016 is the time to connect

Let’s face it, 2016 has been one heck of a year. We’ve had Brexit; Trump; the Zika virus; nuclear and missile tests from North Korea; terrorist attacks in Brussels, Lahore and Istanbul, to name a few; plane crashes; global CO2 levels exceeding 400ppm; plus that creepily increasing list of celebrity deaths – and scarily enough, it’s not quite over yet!

But as we enter into the darkest phase of the year, when night encroaches and the cold sets in, it’s time to reconnect with each other and undo some of the divisive work of 2016, not just because it’s good for the world, but because it could benefit your business too.

Time to shine

Almost every world religion has a festival somewhere in the winter months: Bodhi Day for Buddhists; US Hindu’s Pancha Ganapati; Judaism’s Hanukkah; Yule and Saturnalia for Pagans; and, in 2016, Muslims celebrated Milad un Nabi in early December. Even secular movements get on board, with Human Rights Day and Newtonmas.

Many of these festivals involve creating light: the Buddha gains enlightenment, the lamp in the temple lasts miraculously long, a star in the sky guides kings to salvation, the earth is reborn. ‘Tis the season shine as bright as possible and reconnect with friends, colleagues and business contacts too – and this year, we need that light more than ever!

Rekindling connections

One of the best ways to reconnect with or show appreciation to someone is to send them a good traditional card. It doesn’t have to be a Christmas card; in fact many people now prefer to send a more universal Season’s Greetings card. For special clients and contacts, consider sending a small gift their way, like a mini mulling kit or a box of chocolates.

If the postage fees for physical post seem daunting, send an email instead, making it special with pictures or GIFs. You can even take to social media to share the Wintermas spirit!

On a practical level, cards and messages are also a great way to keep people up to date with your business. Include a short story about your business year, making it jovial and personal. Generally people are more open to collaboration and charity coming up to the festive period, so thank them for their contributions to your work and gently sow the seeds for future collaborations too.

If you want to end the year memorably, think about hosting a party. Everybody loves a wintertime shindig, with twinkly lights and sparkly decorations. Remember to supply lots of food, as people need to eat more when its colf outside. Indulge in some seasonal favourites like iced gingerbread, mince pies, and canapés of nut loafs alongside roasted meats with Brie and cranberry sauce. Get experimental with your beverages: mulled wine and cinnamon cider always go down well, but don’t forget to have alternative booze-free options using red grape and apple juices for the tee-totallers. If you really want to celebrate, invest in some sparklers or hold little raffle for your guests.

Get yourself out there and go to other people’s parties too. It’s just as important for reconnection to brave to cold and show a friendly face and, what’s more, you might make some exciting connections to build interesting new projects with in 2017.

Positivity is power

Finally, look ahead with positivity. Wish people a happy New Year and start the ball rolling for 2017 so that when you return to work fresh from your winter break, you have some great projects to look forward to. Better still, honest positivity is contagious: turn up to a winter party beaming out that light, and soon everyone else will be beaming too. It the best way to rekindle old friendships, create new ones, and let people know just how much you appreciate them.

Don’t forget, 2016 hasn’t all been bad. It’s also been a year of incredible space explorations and leaps in environmental care and concern. Over 132 million babies will have been born into the world by the time the year is out – don’t we owe it to them to spread a little love in the world?

Our friends at Getty Images have a selection of festive images from iStock to provide you with visual ideas. Take a look here.

Progress your publishing career [tips for newbies]

Louise Newton is an Audio Assistant at Little, Brown Book Group, working on fiction and non-fiction titles for imprints such as Virago and Sphere. This year Louise has been Head of Events/PR for the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) and worked closely with the events team on organising the SYP’s sold-out conference How to make a bestseller which trended on Twitter for ten hours straight. She also assists the Royal Society of Literature at their events.

Once you’ve achieved your first role, it’s easily to get a little lack-lustre about networking. Anyone in publishing knows it’s an uphill battle getting your foot in the door and we’ve all felt that certain relief on finally achieving well-deserved recognition. However if you’re keen to progress here are five ways in which you can continue that recognition and grow towards your next step:

1) Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

This is a question you may not have thought about since interview and is something worth considering before attending your next publishing event. While it’s great to make the most out of networking opportunities, ask yourself: why you are you there? What are you hoping to gain? Who do you wish to talk to? When we begin our publishing careers it makes sense to explore every aspect of the industry but you are now in a position to be a little more choosy. Be honest with yourself, research and attend the events that will be most beneficial to you.

2) Networking

Networking events are orchestrated for you to meet lots of people within the same industry or sector. In that sense, it can be hard to be totally natural. It may sound obvious but one of the best ways to get past small talk is to listen to the person you’re networking with and build a conversation. Connect on what you have in common: a good place to start is often with a query into ‘what are you reading?’ rather than ‘where do you work?’

3) Twitter

We’re in an incredibly social industry, possibly one that’s even a little too nice! ( It’s easy to see why Twitter is the main social hub for publishers; I’ve often made connections on Twitter before meeting someone in person. Ways to connect: tweeting about books that you’re working on; retweeting and commenting on users with interesting content; using hashtags. Don’t be afraid to reach people on a personal level too: cups of tea and red velvet cake are also important areas of discussion in the publishing world. Make sure your Twitter account isn’t set to private so you can build a following and don’t be too outlandish.

4) Maintaining publishing relationships

Outside of Twitter, make the most of your lunchtimes by having a coffee with any connections you’d like to build on. If you have their email address always drop them a line after your first meeting.

5) Follow what makes you happy

We’re lucky to be in an industry where networking doesn’t just mean a sit-down conference – themed drinks evenings, book launches and literary salons also apply. Remember why you first got into publishing (I bet a love of books had something to do with it) and take the opportunity to get involved in areas outside of publishing focused events. I can fully recommend SYP’s networking events, the Royal Society of Literature and Damien Barr’s Literary Salon for this.

The role of the print book in an increasingly online world

Back in 2010, working at a scholarly publisher, I had a bet with our Production Director that half our revenue would be digital by the end of 2013. I lost. (We weren’t too far off, in my defence – scholarly publishers generally migrated their library revenues to digital faster and more fully than trade publishers have managed, but still.)

What he realised six years ago and I didn’t was the way that print as a technology suits us as humans so beautifully. For most of us, reading a book is more than simply translating the author’s brain output into our brain input. And reading on a flat screen, with the whole distracting noisy internet just one click away, is a very different technological and sensual experience. Not worse, necessarily, but different.

This week in The Extraordinary Business Book Club I spoke to Dr Tom Chatfield, author of the gorgeously tactile Live This Book. It’s a highly designed series of provocations: invitations to explore our own minds rather than bringing our questions to the internet to find out what everybody else thinks.

We talked about the role of the print book in an increasingly online world, and how it can work for both writer and reader.

‘This is a book that you write in, that you carry around with you, and I guess the genesis of it was the fact that I’ve done five books exploring technology in society. I love this idea of trying to use technology well. More and more as I spoke and wrote and consulted in this that I found people saying that their time, their attention, their focus was this incredibly scarce resource that they were really having enormous trouble keeping under control, and I became very interested in the kind of art and science of concentration, attention, and focus, and how actually a physical book and the physical act of writing on paper is an astonishingly good tool for kind of carving out a small amount of time each day for introspection, for planning a different type and texture of quality of time that you might not otherwise get in terms of working out what really matters, what’s really on your mind, what you’re really planning and hoping and dreaming of, and so on…

‘I’m very interested in getting away from tech bashing and a vague nostalgia for “Weren’t things better in the old days?” Some things are much, much better now. We have astonishing resources at our fingertips, so I’m interested in trying to be precise about this, and what you find if you look at the cognitive science is that resisting temptation, resisting the temptation to click elsewhere, to look elsewhere, to check your email, that burns through a certain amount of mental resource. I think attention management is one of the great skills for the next generation of workers and thinkers, because human attention is spent on our behalf and maybe mispriced by all of the services we use, and the physical tactile object of the act of writing, it lights up your brain in a very different way to stuff on a screen.

‘I’m very conscious of the fact that when I take my wonderful phone or my wonderful Kindle out, everything is in competition with everything else, and I’m dealing with suffusion, and so I think in a way to try to build different kinds of time into your day, and people, I think, are doing this more and more anyway in that nobody wants all their time to be the same kind of time. As human beings, we need difference and variety if we’re going to make the most of our mental resources. We need to sort of put things in boxes, have differentiation. Otherwise, in a way, we risk doing everything as if we were machines, as if we had a limitless data capacity and a limitless memory, and we’re not… We need interpersonal contact. We need things to have friction and texture. Really, memory and understanding are information plus emotion, if you like, and I think to make things stick in our minds, to make things really belong to us, to work out what we mean rather than just what is out there in the Web of information, this is becoming more and more valuable as we’re lucky enough to have more and more information at our fingertips.’

That phrase, ‘friction and texture’ summed it up for me: this is what print provides and a white screen does not. There’s a permanence and a fitness to the words on a printed page that is simply not there with a screen that will show something entirely different the next second.

I’m no less in love with digital books and their possibilities. I love having instant access to my entire library, being able to access a new book immediately, searching for and rediscovering half-remembered phrases. But I better understand now why print is so resilient. I’ll continue to be ambidextrous, reading in print or online as the inclination takes me, knowing that both serve me in different ways. It’s all good.

future of the bookAlison Jones (@bookstothesky) is a publishing partner for businesses and organizations writing world-changing books. She also provides executive coaching, consultancy and training services to publishers.

10 reasons why being an editor sucks

I have some time on my hands because a couple of projects have gone sideways: they’re almost finished but for one reason or another the schedule has gone for a burton. So what’s a girl to do but put things into perspective?

Here’s why being an editor sucks:

1) You get to work on some amazing projects (and usually can’t tell anyone about them until it’s over).business-19156_1920

2) When a project is over everyone says how great the writing is (and the editor sits in the shadows, invisible, smiling at a great job well done).

3) Some authors get to attend glitzy parties (and their copy-editor sits at home with a glass of wine in one hand and a box of tissues, to dry their tears, in the other).

4) No-one knows what an editor actually does (unless it’s another editor).

5) If a project slides you usually have to cram time in to make up for the sliding schedule (and the originator of the slide is usually blissfully ignorant of the fact).

6) You have to make more room for books in your already crammed home (and partners will never understand why).

7) You have to defend your own writing (and avoid typos at all costs).

8) You have to defend your day rate (and make people realise they are paying for your expertise, not just your time).

9) Caffeine poisoning is a real work hazard (and no, I’m not kidding).

10) At the end of the day, if you have done your job right, you are invisible.

But, most importantly, here is why being an editor is great:

1) You get to work on some amazing projects (and who cares if you can’t tell anyone about them until it’s over – you’re the midwife not the mother).

2) When a project is over everyone says how great the writing is (and the editor sits in the shadows, invisible, smiling at a great job well done).

3) Some authors get to attend glitzy parties (and their copy-editor sits at home with a glass of wine in one hand and a box of tissues, to dry their tears, in the other, thanking their God they don’t have to attend).

4) No-one knows what an editor actually does (unless it’s another editor).

5) If a project slides you usually have to cram time in to make up for the sliding schedule (and it can result in a few days off to do whatever the hell you like).

6) You have to make more room for books in your already crammed home (and partners will never understand why, but you absolutely love it ).

7) You have to defend your own writing (and avoid typos at all costs, but it keeps you on your toes and makes you a better writer).

8) You have to defend your day rate (and by doing so you will make people realise they are paying for your expertise, not just your time).

9) Caffeine poisoning is a real work hazard (and you learn to manage your intake by understanding that cake helps soak up the caffeine).

10) At the end of the day, if you have done your job right, you are invisible.

This post was originally published on Sara Donaldson’s s blog. Sara is a freelance editor with an eye for a mystery. When not editing a range of projects (mostly non-fiction) she can be found with her Sherlock hat on as a professional genealogist. You can find her on Twitter.

Seth Godin’s three charges against publishers

“As repressed sadists are supposed to become policemen or butchers, so those with an irrational fear of life become publishers.” – Cyril Connolly

Publisher-bashing is a popular sport, particularly for authors. Always has been. We shouldn’t feel too special: we’re in good company along with lawyers, journalists, traffic wardens, estate agents and used-car salesmen as the punch-bag of the dispossessed and disenchanted.

Much of the bile against publishers comes from authors who feel themselves poorly served – either because they didn’t get a deal in the first place or because they found the terms or the treatment less than they’d hoped for.

But just occasionally you get a really interesting, constructive anti-publisher rant that serves the book industry and society well by asking good questions and offering good ideas.

George Monbiot attacked big scholarly publishers – aka ‘parasitic overlords’ – in an influential Guardian article in 2011.

Hugh Howey put the boot into big trade publishers with his Don’t Anyone Put Me In Charge post in 2014.

And Seth Godin did it this week on The Extraordinary Business Book Club podcast. He’s an author, of course, but he spent his early career as a book packager, so he has more industry insight than most.

Here are three of the charges he levels at publishers:

1) They don’t have the imagination to take risks

‘In [Unleashing the Ideavirus], I gave the advice that ideas that spread, win, and that an idea that’s not bounded by paper, is going to spread faster. How could I publish this as a traditional book?

I went to my book publisher, I said, “Here’s the deal. I’d like to publish this book, but a) I need you to bring it out in 90 days, and b) I want to give it away for free, online.”

They said, “We’d love to publish your next book, but we’re not going to do it in 90 days, and you can’t give it away for free, online.”

I made the bold decision to take my own advice, and I refused to take this book and do anything commercial with it. Instead, I just put the entire book for free, online. 3,000 people downloaded it the first day, 4,000 people the second day. By the end of a couple months, it was in the millions.

Then I started getting email from people that said, “We hate reading this in a PDF. Where’s the book?”

Because I had a background as a book packager, I know how to make a book. In three weeks, we turned it into a hard-cover, sold it only on Amazon, and it went to number 5 on the Amazon bestseller list, a book that we gave away, and that cost $40 in the year 2000.’

2) They’re locked in an outdated model

‘You would think that [publishers] are in the tree business or the paper business, the way they behave. They value paper books more than they value the spread of ideas… they think of the world in the scarcity model of paper. Once you get rid of that model, the opportunity for a book publisher is huge, because now, it’s true, anyone can publish their ideas, but very few people can curate them, and very few people have the wherewithal to promote them. The idea that an institution of people with good taste and resources, could find ideas on Monday, edit them on Wednesday, and promote them on Friday, is astonishing, but they’re just walking away from that and leaving it on the table.’

3) They serve the bookseller, not the reader

‘The giant cultural problem of western book publishers is, they think their customer is the bookstore… Since that’s your customer, that’s who you wake up in the morning, seeking to serve… I have discovered over time that the single best way for a book to spread, is for one reader to hand it to another reader.’

You might feel some of this is unfair, but you have to admit much of it hits home.

Publishers themselves would probably be the first to admit that as an industry, we’re not known for our responsive, risk-taking, entrepreneurial hustle. And to be fair, I see more and more publishers engaging directly with their readers – I’d like to think we’re making progress in this area at least.

But there’s much thoughtful criticism here that should challenge us. Do a quick audit: what risk-taking are you currently engaged in, and how are you learning from it? What opportunities are others seizing in your field from under your nose? What are you doing to connect directly with your readers and inspire them to share their love of your authors’ books?

And if you’re lucky enough to have one of those imaginative, challenging, high-maintenance authors on your list, make the most of them. Listen to what they’ve got to say and think about how you can support their ideas.

You might hit a home run, it might not work. But if you never try you’ll never know, until your author gets tired of not being heard and goes and gets the home run off their own bat, proving one again that if you want to innovate, you have to part company with your publisher.

future of the bookAlison Jones (@bookstothesky) is a publishing partner for businesses and organizations writing world-changing books. She also provides executive coaching, consultancy and training services to publishers.

Editorial Director vs Publisher: The differences

Venetia Gosling is Publisher of the 6+ division at Macmillan Children’s Books, overseeing a list which combines YA, fiction, non fiction and poetry, for readers of six and up. She joined Pan Macmillan in 2013, moving from Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, where she was Fiction Editorial Director.

1) Why would an editorial director want to transition into a role as a publisher?

Not every editorial director will want to transition to the role of publisher, because it does generally take you further away from the day to day job of editing and commissioning – but for those who do, these are some of the reasons why you would:

  • More autonomy to create and implement your own vision and strategy for the entire list
  • Increased financial input and responsibility
  • Management, and potentially board, responsibility
  • Longer term view
  • Broader relationships within the company and industry

An editorial director will manage the career or strategy for an author, series, age range or genre. They plan the publishing of that area, whereas a publisher manages the overall shape of the publishing, and strategy for the whole list – of course with input from the rest of the team, but you are able to have a vision for the wider list and run with it, which is exciting and rewarding.

There is also much increased financial responsibility and transparency – I look after the P&L for my division, and need to ensure we are growing through acquiring and selling fantastic books which are appropriate for each section of the market.

Acquisition is always a key focus, and coming up with ideas and commissioning writers is a highlight, as is working with authors and illustrators to develop their careers. It’s the most important part of the job, and the bit I love most.

2) How did being an editor prepare you for your work as publisher?

These are the main transferable skills, I think…

  • An eye for detail – this is always going to be important, whether you are checking page proofs or poring over a P&L
  • Understanding the process – understanding the production stages of making a book is really important and something you’ll know inside out by the time you finish working as an editor
  • Communication skills – you need to convince people to support your vision, whether that’s for an individual book or a whole list, and being able to make your pitch clearly and succinctly is something you definitely learn as an editor
  • Collaboration – being able to work as part of a team to make things happen is essential
  • Market knowledge – you learn this as you go along, but building a deep understanding of the environment you are working in, analysing sales figures, checking out the competition and understanding your consumer is key. And though the market changes quickly, it also runs in cycles, so you are likely to see trends and themes come back again and again…
  • Contacts – the relationships you build with authors, agents, retailers and other industry partners as an editor will stand you in good stead later on

Everything you do ends up being useful later, however insignificant it may seem at the time!

3) What tools do you use to help you manage the changing responsibilities that promotion entails?

I think it’s important to come at your new responsibilities with sensitivity and an open mind. You may have been in the company prior to being promoted, or come in from elsewhere, but either way, you need to be sensitive to your new colleagues – with the first situation, it’s about talking through any issues and keeping the communication lines open; with the latter, it’s about just listening and observing to start with, rather than diving in straightaway with your own view of how things should be done.

4) How do you make decisions in your job, and how have you learned to trust your judgement?

It depends what kind of decision I’m making – with a story or a piece of artwork, I react instinctively, but within the framework of my publishing experience. If it’s a financial issue, I want to have as much detail to hand as possible to be sure I am making an informed decision. I’ve been in children’s books for over twenty years now, so I have a pretty keen sense of what’s commercial and what isn’t, but I am still learning all the time in terms of the business side – and I love that.

5) What career advice would you give your younger self?

Pretty obvious stuff, but:

  • Participate – don’t hang back, even if something’s outside of your comfort zone. I’ve sometimes stopped myself doing something because I’m terrified of embarrassing myself, and I have kicked myself afterwards. Be brave – everyone else is as anxious as you are, and if they’re not, they’ve had a lot of practice!
  • Grab opportunities when you’re offered them. I was offered the opportunity to do two maternity covers in a row quite early on – and it leap-frogged me up the editorial ladder.
  • Don’t be shy – talk to people, make connections, everyone has something of value to share. But also listen. You might learn something.
  • Be nice. It sounds sappy, but friendships you make now will see you through your career and can be useful in ways you never imagined. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t be snooty – the most junior people will probably end up senior to you at some point. Don’t bear grudges, it’s a waste of time. It’s a small industry and we all need to work together, one way or another.
  • If you don’t know how to do something or what something means – ask. People will be happy to explain.
  • Check everything. Be thorough. Follow-up in good time. Do your research.
  • Keep learning. Offer to help, practice your skills, read everything. Don’t be a clock-watcher. Get noticed for the right things. Your hard work will pay off!

Thanks to Norah Myers for sourcing this guest post.

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