Book Review: Mrs Engels

Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea (Scribe) has been shortlisted for The Desmond Elliott Prize 2016. Also in the running to win £10,000 for best debut novel of the year are The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney (John Murray) and The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester (Penguin). The winner will be announced at a ceremony on 22nd June.

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Gavin McCrea’s debut is a long, sweeping novel narrated by Lizzie Burns, a.k.a. Mrs Engels. At the novel’s opening, Lizzie moves from Manchester to Primrose Hill with Frederick Engels. In their advancing years, they are to spend more time with Karl Marx, on the cusp of communist fame, Marx’s wife Jenny, and their daughters, Janey and Tussy. Lizzie and Frederick have no children of their own. It appears their relationship is one of convenience; Lizzie is happy in the knowledge she will be taken care of, and Frederick has a partner to attend to his needs and household.

Lizzie’s voice is strikingly singular. A Mancunian of Irish descent, and a factory girl for much of her life, colloquialisms come across in her strong words and matronly judgements. Lizzie feels the power of being a kept woman and has an eye for other people’s secrets, but takes no nonsense from anyone, especially the revolutionary Frenchmen who frequent Marx’s home.

It becomes apparent early on that Frederick’s previous lover hangs over their relationship. Just as we begin to hanker after the mystery woman’s identity, the novel jumps back to Lizzie’s youth in the Mancunian mill. We quickly learn that Frederick’s former flame was, in fact, Lizzie’s sister, Mary, who began a romance with Frederick when he took over the mill. The novel is fused together with class and familial tensions, against a backdrop of communes and revolutions in the early 1870s. Frederick’s interest in Mary stemmed from his fascination with the proletariat, and refusal of his bourgeoisie, capitalist family.

As the novel flows back and forth between the present and past in an impressively seamless manner, McCrea allows us to build a picture of Frederick and Mary’s troubled relationship, and the events that led to Lizzie accompanying him to their present London situation. I won’t go any further at risk of spoilers… but if you’re a fan of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, you should read this debut.

McCrea creates the sense of exact historical setting with ease, just as Burton does, albeit with an older narrator in a different country, two hundred years later. The tone in Mrs Engels is overall more light-hearted than Burton’s; the reader will feel safe in the hands of Lizzie Burns, who has learned her own mind over her many years in Frederick’s company. Lizzie does not forget her roots in Manchester’s Irish working class, nor her former lover, Moss. Love and sex are fleeting moments of necessity in this novel, often not for Lizzie’s pleasure but for the people surrounding her.

The novel’s fault is allowing Lizzie to grow old without a sense of happiness or satisfaction. Lizzie says on her deathbed, ‘the release is forgetting’, but it is clear she has not forgotten the burdens that weigh her down throughout. Mrs Engels captures a particular moment in history, and its politics are always present but take a back seat in the face of domestic life. I look forward to seeing McCrea’s sophomore novel, and whether he will again choose to inhabit people of the past or create his own. Either way, we are certainly promised strong voices which come to life on the page.

You can find out more about The Desmond Elliott Prize, here.

Follow The Desmond Elliott Prize on Twitter.

My Week at the London Book Fair 2016

A Memorable London Book Fair 2016

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This year, I attended my second London Book Fair. I had the most fun and the least sleep I’ve had over the course of any week this year. I am incredibly lucky to be interning with The Publishers Association throughout April, who very kindly invited me along with them.

My week kicked off on Saturday evening, where anticipation grew at an evening reception at Foyles.

I was up early on Sunday to help at the International Publishers Congress, which took place in the conference centre at Kensington Olympia. I joined the lovely Allison Zink and the London Book Fair team, to man the reception desk throughout the day. I was slightly stunned as I handed badges to Philip Pullman and Elif Shafak, as well as many other distinguished speakers.

My journey in on Monday was slightly less relaxing, as I joined the hundreds of commuters waiting patiently on the Clapham Junction platform, to board the Olympia train. I attended the Quantum 2016 conference, which had an amazing programme, ranging from panels on YA and app development to leadership and marketing. Props to Orna O’Brien for organising the conferences. Particular highlights included Jacks Thomas chairing a panel on leadership, featuring Tracey Armstrong, Harriet Minter and Shereen Kreideih and Baroness Gail Rebuck’s keynote about the book in the digital age.

Tuesday was the first day of the fair and it was great to see so many students getting involved through Publishers Weekly, internships, The Bookseller, London Book Fair, APE and bookcareers. I attended a discussion on the Mexican Publishing market, before visiting the APE stand to say hello to my lecturers Daniel Boswell and Melanie Ramdarshan Bold. I used up most of my free time in the afternoon getting lost in search of The Faculty; having finally found it, I listened in on Interscript UCL’s panel discussion, ‘Platform Wars’. It proved a well-attended, powerful discussion and it was great to celebrate the achievements of my UCL colleagues. Having popped in to the SYP’s seminar on How to Get into Publishing, which was awesome, I made it back to The Publishers Association stand. Stopping for a Wiley cake pop on the way, we moved back to the conference centre to prepare for the LBF International Excellence Awards. The atmosphere was made even more excitable by the carefully selected pop tunes, which were played as professionals were honoured for innovation, trailblazing, accessibility and lifetime achievement. On Tuesday evening, The Troubadour was full to the brim for a band made up of renowned literary agents; if anyone gets the chance to see Half on Signature play in future, you’re in for a treat.

On Wednesday, I was left on the UKTI stand to introduce a number of stunning speakers to a Chinese delegation. The Chinese Forum heard from a range of publishing greats including Jo Henry, Lisa Milton, Cortina Butler and Sarah Odedina. Following which, I attended a seminar on Diversifying the Industry with Joy Francis, Caitlin Doyle and Louisa Bull, which proved there is still much to do to make publishing truly diverse. In the afternoon, I left LBF aboard a bus with the Japanese delegation. We made it through the traffic nightmare of Piccadilly Circus to reach the London Review of Books, where a lovely man named John answered questions and welcomed the delegation. We then walked to Foyles, Waterstones Piccadilly and Hatchards, welcomed at each by enthusiastic booksellers. I was honoured to receive a bookmark as a gift and am now planning a trip to Japan. (As well as India, Mexico, Iceland, most of the US and all the other countries I have yet to visit). Wednesday evening was spent catching up with the ever wonderful and inspiring Emma Barnes and David Aldridge.

On Thursday morning, I made an early morning Waterstones run for books, before checking out The Shakesperience at LBF. The mini Globe Theatre was pretty great. I also saw my UCL colleagues’ ‘Colour the Bard’ wall, featuring some beautiful illustrations, but there was sadly no time for colouring. I headed to Licensing vs Legislation, chaired by Susie Winter of The Publishers Association. Sarah Faulder and others provided a really useful run down of the current state of copyright in the UK and abroad. I was sad to have missed the Charles Clark Memorial Lecture with Professor Michael Fraser, which was highly lauded, so I will be looking for it online. After a quick bite to eat, I went over to help at the bookcareers Clinic, where Suzanne Collier had gathered myriad HR Managers to speak to eager jobseekers. The room was buzzing all afternoon and I met some lovely fellow volunteers. Thursday ended with a cracking SYP and Bookseller meet-up at The Cumberland Arms organised by the wonderful Maria Vassilopoulos. It was nice to see so many friendly and familiar faces and meet some new ones, too. I should probably have remembered to eat dinner though. To anyone reading, please buy me chips next time.

This week has fully affirmed my choice to go into publishing, as a friendly and innovative industry. I have gained international market awareness, tote bags and karaoke credentials, and lost all apprehension about meeting my publishing idols. I have met a variety of people, all with an unfaltering enthusiasm for ensuring the future of publishing. I would like to thank Seonaid Macleod and Emma House at The Publishers Association for encouraging me to get involved. I look forward to next year, wherever I might be!

To end, I would like to quickly shout out Emma Stokes for starting up Publishing Interns @pubinterns, check it out! Also, SYP Literary Bingo is happening on Thursday 28th April at 6.30pm, do come along!

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The Future of Work for Women @ work.life

On Tuesday evening, I went along to a General Assembly event held at work.life, a workspace in Camden. You can join them for £3.50 an hour with free coffee and bagels and ‘crazy-fast ninja Wi-Fi’. This free event was The Future of Work for Women, aptly titled for International Women’s Day. I found the event through the Blooming Founders newsletter, which is an amazing resource you should definitely sign up to!

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There was a full house, mostly women with a few men dotted around, as we began with a presentation by Marcie MacLellan, founder of Incontext Productions. Marcie has twenty years’ experience in advertising and is now Head of Content & Productions at Incontext.

Marcie gave us a lightning talk through advertising ethics and the portrayal of women in the media. She used several ads to show how sexism has become normalised through imagery and said women are often underrepresented in media, both men and women are portrayed stereotypically and advertising can normalise violence. Marcie referenced the lack of female film producers when she argued that what happens behind the scenes shapes what happens on screen. Marcie said change needs to happen in advertising because women make or influence 85% of purchasing decisions. Wow. Marcie ended on a positive note, saying that ads are no longer relying as much on sexism. The Glass Lions celebrate ads that avoid gender stereotypes.

‘women make or influence 85% of purchasing decisions’

Marcie mentioned the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and Laura Jordan Bambach as founder of She Says, a global creative network for women in the creative sector.

A panel discussion followed, with panellists Marcie Maclellan (@marciemaclellan), Roberta Lucca (@olicca), Natasha Hussein (@NatashaJH100) and Megan Thomas (@TinieLizzie). Lora Schellenberg chaired the panel. Roberta Lucca has been a computer scientist, marketer and entrepreneur. She began Bossa Studios, a video game company, and Wonderluk, a 3D printing platform. Roberta is passionate about helping women ‘to get hired, empowered and to participate’. Roberta said becoming an entrepreneur means she works all the time, but has a sense of fulfilment in creating something she’s very attached to.

‘get hired, empowered and to participate’

Natasha Hussein wrote The Fulfilment Manifesto and took part in The Startup Institute programme, before co-founding The Startup Magazine where she is now Editor. Natasha said sales are important, no matter which direction you take in your career.

Megan Thomas worked for Sky and a cultural agency, before co-founding PR agency, Full Fat. Megan also founded Flock, with a mission to scale start-ups through collaboration, and Power Diva, dedicated to the mutual empowerment of women in business.

All four panellists offered some great insights based on their own experiences. Natasha said when starting a business, it’s important to be emotionally honest with people in your life, because it is difficult to foster empathy if you’re not. Megan said Flock has just begun to involve men in its events, because they realised they were shooting themselves in the foot by starting as women only. Marcie said you have to ask for what you want.

‘you have to ask for what you want’

Megan said that when she was younger, she felt trapped as she thought she had to choose between a career and a family but now she’s realised you don’t have to choose. Megan said ‘life is never going to look like what you think it will look like’ and ‘gender is a conversation we need to be having all the time’. Natasha said that from a young age, we acknowledge which behaviours are rewarded and we strive to behave in that way, even though these are gendered behaviours.

‘life is never going to look like what you think it will look like’

Megan said it’s important to listen to the people in your company and ask what they need, irrespective of their gender. Flexibility in the workplace leads to better working practices and happy people.

Lots of great questions followed from the audience, possibly fuelled by the free drinks but also enthusiasm. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and left feeling incredibly positive about the community of female entrepreneurs in London, having chatted to members of the crowd. I will definitely be attending more events like this.

The next General Assembly event at work.life will be on How to Kickstart your Freelance Career on 27 April. General Assembly are welcoming any ideas for events around the future of education, digital nomads and the future of work, so get in touch!

You can follow #tfww to see comments from The Future of Work for Women.

www.work.life @workdotlife

www.generalassembly.com  @GA_london

 

Submit your recipes!

Not From Here: The International Students’ Cookbook

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At UCL Publishing, we’ve been busy in recent weeks. Our group projects are well underway as we hurtle towards the new year. In total we have nine creative and exciting projects including The Arcanum Book, The UCL Publishers’ Prize 2016, The UCL Publishers’ Prize for Young Adult Fiction, Works in Progress, Interscript and Notes Underground.

My group are excited to be launching Not From Here: The International Students’ Cookbook, a cookbook with the aim of making international students feel at home in London. We’re currently asking for recipe submissions from international students living in London. We want to fill the cookbook with recipes that mean something to you and we ask that each recipe submission includes a special memory.

The deadline for submissions has just been extended to 5pm on 11th January 2016, so have a think over Christmas and email NFHcookbook@gmail.com for your chance to be published!

We ask that your recipe submission includes the following:

-Name of the recipe
-Ingredients
-Method
-Portion size
-Where it’s from
-Photograph for reference (optional)
-Memory – please share a memory with us in 100 words or less! (Why is this particular recipe important to you?)
-Your details – name, university email, age and which country you call home

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If you want to find out more, we’re all over social media!

You can find our submission guidelines on our Tumblr page.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for regular foodie inspiration and updates on the project.

You can see our lovely faces on our Instagram feed, as well as some fancy biscuits…

Have a lovely Christmas!

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FutureBook

Why You Should Have Been At Europe’s Largest Publishing Conference

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The FutureBook conference 2015 took place on Friday 4th December at The Mermaid Theatre, rounding off a week of FutureBook festivities including Author Day and The Bookseller Rising Stars Alumni Party. I’d like to say a huge thank you to the Bookseller team who let me volunteer for both Author Day and FutureBook! Also a shout out to the volunteers, many from the UCL, Kingston and Oxford Brookes publishing MA programmes; you’re a lovely bunch. Along with a few stints on the registration desk and helping delegates find coffee, I was able to catch much of the action on Friday. I attended The New Publishing: Content Unbound, On the Move: How Mobile Changes Everything and The BookTech Showcase.

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Fellow volunteers and UCL students Marina Hartung and Mirjam Coenraads

Stand out speakers from The New Publishing: Content Unbound  included Cameron Drew, Mark Searle and Crystal Mahey-Morgan with a focus on personalisation and engaging new audiences.

Cameron Drew from BookTrack asked us, can we read with a soundtrack? I don’t know about you, but in London there’s always a soundtrack to my reading, usually the rumble of the tube. BookTrack offers an alternative; it lets you create synchronised movie-style soundtracks for eBooks. Ooh. BookTrack’s aim is to meet people’s new entertainment expectations in a world where Netflix and Twitter get in the way of our reading. According to Drew, “sound can enhance the reading experience”. If you had a movie soundtrack to your life, what would it be?

“sound can enhance the reading experience”, Cameron Drew

Mark Searle has created This Is Your Cookbook to ride the current wave of personalisation, seen in the likes of Lost My Name Book and Together Tales. This Is Your Cookbook allows you to fill a cookbook with your own recipes and choose the cover design. Personalisation suggests selfishness in a world full of products just for you. This Is Your Cookbook is the opposite of that, aimed at people who love gift giving. The company is the opposite of selfish as a direct to consumer business which Searle said “means building a community”.

Crystal Mahey-Morgan left Penguin Random House to launch a “storytelling, lifestyle brand” called Own It! Mahey-Morgan was “frustrated at the industry’s inability to move faster” with diversity and innovation. Own It! is all about creative collaboration across books, music, fashion and film. The Own It! project Don’t Be Alien is “one story told in multiple different forms across multiple mediums”. Mahey-Morgan said “the future of books lies outside the book” and echoed Drew’s call to engage new audiences in reading.

“the future of books lies outside the book”, Crystal Mahey-Morgan

After refuelling with hot pot in a room overlooking the Tate Modern and The Shard, I went along to On the Move: How Mobile Changes Everything. Maureen Scott, George Burgess and Anna Jean Hughes all repeated the same message; mobile content is where it’s at.

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Early morning views

Maureen Scott started with the horrifying but believable statement that “users touch their smartphones 221 times a day” followed by “are they touching anything you’re doing?” which got some giggles.

George Burgess, founder and CEO of Gojimo, now the most popular revision tool in the UK gave us five pointers for launching a successful mobile app.

 

 

 

 

  • Create content, don’t convert
  • Iterate
  • Find a mobile marketing expert
  • Experiment with prices
  • Make data-driven decisions

With a 4.5 rating in the app store, it’s hard to ignore Burgess’s advice. Freemium content will always reach further than apps you have to purchase, especially with Gojimo’s market of fourteen to seventeen year olds. Gojimo’s next two challenges are how to market the app to parents and how to become an international success.

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Anna Jean Hughes of The Pigeonhole, a provider of serialised books for mobile devices, said “millennials want more”. With The Pigeonhole, Hughes wanted to create a risk free publishing model and give readers more control. The Pigeonhole’s website provides a fantastic user experience and the idea makes absolute sense. Hughes reminded us that “these readers are not you” and The Pigeonhole works for both book lovers and people who need that bit of encouragement.

“millennials want more”, Anna Jean Hughes

By the time I got to The BookTech Showcase, I was brimming with all this innovation and slightly over-excited at the possibilities for future publishing; especially when it comes to consistently trying to better the industry and exploring digital opportunities.

The BookTech showcase saw eight start-ups pitch to three judges: Hannah Telfer from Penguin Random House, Dan Kieran of Unbound and tech goddess Eileen Burbidge of Passion Capital. Each company had five minutes to pitch before being questioned by the judges. The start-ups were Shulph, The Owl Field, Together Tales, Gojimo, Write-Track, Oolipo, Ooovre and Reedsy. The pitches moved far too quickly for me to take any notes so I concentrated on trying to absorb as much as possible. These are growing companies, still in their fledgling stage and in need of further seed capital. I would urge anyone wanting to get into publishing to go to their websites and have a look at what they’re doing to try and solve problems within publishing and with the reading experience. Burbidge said the companies had been too apologetic in their pitches and that “start-ups need no justification” and in the end, Reedsy was crowned the winner.

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I had a great day at the conference and was overwhelmed by the ideas on offer. If you get the chance, go to FutureBook next year. It will make you a better publisher, reader and person.

You can find out more about Futurebook here.

http://www.thebookseller.com/

Follow #futurebook15 for more commentary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Das Mag Book Club

Meeting Zoe Pilger and a review of her first novel, Eat My Heart Out

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This week has gone so quickly! Last Sunday, I went along to the Das Mag book club at (aptly) The Book Club in Shoreditch. Thanks to Jena Fleiner my fellow UCL MA Publishing student for taking me with her! We arrived in the basement bar to find a ring of chairs surrounding a table with a bottle of vodka on top. We could tell this was going to be good.

Das Mag is a Dutch quarterly literary magazine, founded in 2011. The Das Mag ‘book-clubbing’ Festival in London saw ten venues in Shoreditch host ten authors on the afternoon of 22nd November. Authors included Laline Paull, Gerbrand Bakker and Evie Wyld. I had been sent Zoe Pilger’s Eat My Heart Out in the post a couple of weeks prior to the event and devoured it on the train home to see my parents.

“Ten book clubs, ten authors, you choose!”

Our book club was hosted by Hannah Westland from Serpent’s Tail, Pilger’s editor. Pilger herself was also present, so the book club became more of an author Q&A. We began with a quiz which ended in a shot of vodka if you got a question right. This was the perfect opener for the chilly basement setting and got quite competitive. Westland did a great job of steering the discussion and questions from the group, who were eager to ask Pilger about the decisions she’d made. Pilger is an art critic for The Independent and is currently researching for a PhD at Goldsmiths. Eat My Heart Out is her first novel and has won a Somerset Maugham Award and a Betty Trask Award. The novel took about two and a half years in total and is not biographical.

Eat My Heart Out follows Ann-Marie, a twenty-three year old Cambridge graduate as she embarks on a sado-masochistic adventure around London: meeting unsuitable men, trying to reconcile with friends and becoming the protégé of a leading feminist. This novel is an uncomfortable and challenging read, but everyone should read it, precisely because of this. At times, it will make you physically recoil at the characters and make you want to distance yourself as much as possible from them. At the same time, Ann-Marie will get inside your head and you wonder if you’re starting to identify with her.

Ann-Marie lives with her gay friend Freddie and begins a destructive relationship with the much older Vic. She is recovering from losing her boyfriend Sebastian to her friend Allegra whilst Allegra’s brother Samuel is desperately in love with Freddie. Ann-Marie is taken under the wing of Stephanie Haight, a famous feminist who believes she can save Ann-Marie from ironic detachment using master/slave teaching methods. It’s a novel about friendship, mental health, youth, money, feminism and sex that flows from one event to another in a chaotic rush.

“a novel about friendship, mental health, youth, money, feminism and sex”

It was fascinating to hear from Pilger herself about the construction of the novel. Pilger said the book is about the ‘gender, equality and violence around being a traditional female and how mutilating that can be’. She was greatly influenced by her PhD work on the ‘seismic change’ in female freedom in the 1960s, British black comedy and her love for Amy Winehouse. In early drafts, the novel centered on Ann-Marie and Sebastian’s romantic relationship, but eventually it became more about feminism. Pilger says she ‘has no agenda but wanted to explore feminist ideas’. Pilger found a ‘freedom in fiction’ she does not see in academic language, which she is often ‘frustrated’ with.

“the element of discomfort can be powerful”, Zoe Pilger

The novel is a series of extreme situations and events and Pilger herself said some scenes ‘viscerally disgust’ her but that ‘the element of discomfort can be powerful’. I absolutely agree and feel it is important to read this book and think about it afterwards; think about these characters, and what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, because it will make you a better individual. Despite at times pushing the limits, parts of Eat My Heart Out are bitingly funny. Pilger talked about ‘challenging the genre conventions of romantic comedy’; this novel is full of romanticism and comedy, but the darkest kind. It’s definitely a stretch to compare it, as the jacket does, to Bridget Jones’s Diary.

“suspended moments of horror”, Zoe Pilger

I asked about Pilger’s attitude towards the art world, which features in the novel when Allegra and Freddie put on a show. Pilger said ‘being an art critic was framing for writing [her] creative fiction’ and that ‘there is more creative freedom in the art world than there is in the book world’. The art world is ‘less dependent on public opinion and taste’ whereas ‘literature is dependent on sales’. Within the publishing industry, profitability does restrict creative expression as publishing companies increasingly homogenise their content to fit demand. Pilger said her novel at points reflected ‘the YBA tradition’ with its ‘suspended moments of horror’. I am very interested to read Pilger’s second novel to see if she maintains this style.

At the end of the book club, someone posed the question, what would Ann-Marie be doing now? To which Pilger replied, ‘I hope she goes off and has some vigorous psychotherapy’.

Find out more about the Das Mag event:

http://dasmag.nl/english/

Take a look at Eat My Heart Out on the Serpent’s Tail website here.

 

UKSG Forum 2015

A series of lightning talks on the theme of ‘design, simplicity and the user experience’ hosted by UKSG.

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Photo credit to Lara Taffer

I thoroughly enjoyed attending the UKSG Forum on Wednesday 18th November. The mixture of roman forum and lightning talks allowed attendees to follow their interests and meet new people. The day began with an introduction from Kate Price, the UKSG Chair, followed by ‘ten top tips on how to improve user experience’ from Kudos’ David Sommer. Sommer’s presentation was fast and engaging as he took us through A/B testing, analytics and heat maps with eye catching infographics. His main points were to maintain consistency, friendliness and ease of use across your website. Sommer provided ‘try this’ activities for the audience to take away. Sommer’s slides can be found here. Alison Sharman then discussed the University of Huddersfield’s ‘My Reading’ reading list software, which had been extensively researched in order to provide the most helpful tool for students.

Session two saw Brian McDermott from Emerald discussing migrating platforms. Interestingly, McDermott said this ‘is not a technology project’, but is more about thinking through what you want to achieve with your website. Brian Hole from Ubiquity Press described Open Access as ‘key’ and is also a proponent of open data. Hole said ‘paywalls stop people disseminating’ and both the ‘public and research communities’ can benefit from Open Access. Hole advocated presses working together and referenced the Open Library of the Humanities and LingOA.

‘librarians are the most passionate, inspirational, sexy people on the planet’, Andy Priestner

After a browse amongst the stalls in the roman forum with the other students in attendance from UCL (@lepublikateur and @PowsCorner), we had a buffet lunch and then settled in to our third session on improving the user experience. Andy Priestner began by saying that ‘librarians are the most passionate, inspirational, sexy people on the planet’ but ‘we can suffer from a case of tunnel vision’. Priestner’s attitude to user experience was refreshing; he used ethnography to situate the library ‘within the wider student experience’. From these student responses, which gave insight into aspects such as social, course, day to day and tech, Priestner created the Spacefinder project at Cambridge University. This online tool helps students locate spaces which fit their ‘diverse study preferences’. Priestner said we should ‘do better than just focus on the library’ to become ‘more relevant, more valuable’. Spacefinder will massively improve student experience by removing that wasted time spent hunting for the perfect study space. Spacefinder makes the user experience easy, by putting the learning landscape at students’ fingertips. Hilary Kenna, founder of SeeSearch also argued that we are not understanding the day to day life of users. SeeSearch uses a very visual interface to reduce the search and discovery problems of information overload and lack of ease.

Following session three, we dived back into the roman forum to chat to more industry attendees. I love a bit of competition so the ‘sticker passport’ you could fill in at the sponsors’ tables to enter a prize draw for a Kindle proved very amusing. It was also a great introduction to the sponsors including Oxford University Press, LM Information Delivery, Cambridge University Press and Digital Science, who were more than willing to answer questions. The atmosphere was filled with discussion, new introductions and caffeine and it was enjoyable to be a part of.

‘don’t get hung up on the format, what really matters is the content’, Jill Taylor-Roe

During the final sessions, we heard from Jon Bentley of Eduserv who spoke about the user expectation of speed. Tim Williams, Managing Director of Edward Elgar Publishing discussed their multi-content platform which helps ‘people to identify what they’re looking for at a glance’. This was definitely an idea that sprung from many of the talks; users should not have to think about their user experience because it should be seamless. The user is therefore able to concentrate on their task or the problem they are trying to solve. As Jill Taylor-Roe said in her closing speech, ‘don’t get hung up on the format, what really matters is the content’.

I would like to thanks Alison Whitehorn, Yann Amouroux and Anne Lawson for providing me with a bursary to attend the UKSG Forum 2015 and for being so welcoming on the day. I hope to meet you again in the future!

You can relive the UKSG Forum by searching #UKSGforum15 or following @UKSG on Twitter.

www.uksg.org

 

 

SYP Conference 2015

A round-up of my day at the annual conference of The Society of Young Publishers.

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On Saturday, I volunteered at the annual Society of Young Publishers’ Conference. This year it was held in Oxford at Brookes University (which has the coolest floating lecture theatre). The theme of the day was ‘Publishing: A Thoroughly Modern Business’. I’ve been a member of the SYP in London for just over a year and I 100% recommend joining them if you are looking to get into publishing. They hold fantastic book clubs, pub socials, publish Inprint, a magazine featuring interest pieces from members and host an incredibly useful jobs board on their website.

IMG_1yx489This year’s conference kicked off with a keynote address by Juliet Mabey, co-founder of OneWorld Publications, which recently saw huge success with Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings winning the Man Booker Prize. OneWorld was set up in Oxford in 1986, but five years ago moved to London as the Oxford market is based around academic and educational publishing. OneWorld publish primarily non-fiction but are now well-known for their fiction. The core of the business is publishing authoritative but accessible books for a broad audience. 80% of their list is bought through literary agents and next year more than half will be books in translation. In recent years, OneWorld have increased the number of marketing and publicity staff within the company and have recently set up a children’s list called Rock the Boat.

Juliet advised young publishers to ‘look for internships in a company that allows you to move between areas’. Mabey said ‘networking is the backbone of every area’ and ‘you have to have a bit of luck in publishing’. As an aspiring publisher, you can ‘learn a lot from bookshops’ just by looking around at what’s selling. As we’ve heard from lecturers on the UCL MA Publishing, ‘publishing is much closer to gambling than any other industry’.

‘you have to have a bit of luck in publishing’, Juliet Mabey

As the audience began to ask questions, an interesting discussion started around fiction in translation. Mabey said ‘now is the time for publishing translated fiction’ and her preference would be a ‘translated fiction section’ in bookshops. We should be ‘looking at who is publishing in other countries’.

Following Mabey’s keynote address we had a short break and discovered the goodies in our tote bags (this makes my total tote bag count twelve and I’m aiming to get to at least thirty by June). I received a lovely copy of the graphic novel Dan and Sam published by Picador.

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We then moved on to the first talks of the day. There were five streams of talks which happened in five different rooms and you were able to choose which to go to. In the breaks, it was great to catch up with people who’d been in other talks to find out what they had learned. The five streams were entitled ‘Best Career Foot Forward’, ‘Let’s Get Topical’, ‘The Innovative Publisher’, ‘New Frontiers’ and ‘What Next for Our Modern Business?’.

The SYP Oxford Committee were very flexible and the volunteers were able to sit in on the talks they were interested in. The first talk I attended was Emma Barnes of Bibliocloud and Snowbooks discussing coding. The way Barnes spoke of new business models and coding language was hugely inspiring. After a degree in Archaeology, Barnes started in trade publishing. After having a revelation and deciding she wanted to do something meaningful, Barnes started Snowbooks fifteen years ago and has published 354 books since.

Barnes’ business model rejects Adam Smith’s idea of specialisation in The Wealth of Nations, instead favouring publishers who ‘work across the entirety of the process’. Barnes treats the ‘customer as king’ and champions thinking about ‘different ways to approach the business’. It was refreshing to see an individual really pushing for change, evaluating her position in the industry and seeking ways to improve her business.

Barnes now has four years of coding experience and began with a ‘burning problem’ to solve for her own business. Barnes said ‘efficiency does not have to cost £80,000 or need a computer science degree’. She talked about ‘using code to help us become more creative’ and solve problems. Barnes built a publishing workflow app in 2011 which she sells to other companies to help them ease their process. This helps publishers to set out ‘unifying objectives for their organisation’. Barnes said coding provides a ‘sense of control’ and is ‘nothing to do with maths’. Barnes said ‘as editors, coding could not be a more perfect fit for your type of brain’ because it is about ‘patterns, narrative flow and eloquence’. According to Barnes, we have seven years before the seven year olds cause a ‘massive disruption’ with their programming skills. She actively encouraged us all to begin gaining skills in coding as ‘the opportunity here is extraordinary’.

‘as editors, coding could not be a more perfect fit for your type of brain’, Emma Barnes

Barnes suggested coding is simply ‘words, shapes, order’ but the ‘vocabulary around coding puts people off’. The main point I took away from the talk was the self-sufficiency coding can provide. I’m making an early New Year’s resolution to explore the world of code. It might take me a while, but there’s hope yet! According to Barnes, ‘understanding the industry is the killer bit’.

Barnes’ recommendations for getting into code:

Rails Girls London – a free day on 5th December 2015 where 200 women get together to write an entire web app. Applications are now closed but look out for more events in the future.

The Ruby on Rails Tutorial by Michael Hartl – a book to teach yourself code.

Rails for Zombies – an interactive app.

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After an enjoyable lunch chatting to some publishers, we headed to the second round of talks. I went to ‘Women in Publishing’, a panel discussion with Anne Kitson from Elsevier and Emma House from The Publishers Association.

Both speakers believe there is still a glass ceiling for women in publishing. Kitson said there are surveys ‘proving diversity on boards makes for better sales and return on investment’. House said the problem is that women who have been ‘running big multinationals’ are being ‘replaced by men’. House said diversity is particularly difficult in the ‘academic space’ as only ‘one CEO of academic and educational publishers is a woman’.

Kitson said that when boards are hiring, they don’t ‘reach down into the organisation’ and will not promote people if there is no danger of them leaving. However, Kitson said ‘people are recognising more and more that diversity is a good thing’ as it makes businesses more ‘global’ and ‘creative’.

‘people are recognising more and more that diversity is a good thing’, Anne Kitson

A large section of the discussion focused on mentorship. Kitson strongly argued ‘there should be more mentorship’ and said ‘women sometimes don’t recognise themselves as mentors, maybe due to confidence’. House said you ‘should not be afraid to ask for mentorship’ and Kitson added ‘in most cases people will give you that time’.

As closing thoughts, House and Kitson offered advice. Kitson said ‘look for the things you’re interested in, go out and talk to people’ and ‘think about what you want to develop in’. Kitson also advised entry level publishers to ‘push for development tasks not just admin’ and encouraged people to ‘go through the interview process’ to ‘get feedback’ even if not successful. House said ‘volunteer for things, to speak and to organise’ and ‘step outside of your comfort zone’. This was a great discussion from two inspiring, experienced professionals which really engaged the audience.

‘step outside of your comfort zone’, Emma House

Whilst the third set of talks was taking place, I took over manning the registration desk and had a much needed tea break!

The conference closed with a panel discussion on free speech, featuring Hannah Trevarthen from English PEN, Anne Beech from Pluto Press and Saphia Crowther from Amnesty International.

I had a fantastic day meeting people and listening to the insightful discussions on relevant topics. I will definitely be attending the SYP Conference in London next year!

You can find out more about The Society of Young Publishers here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AC Book Week Showcase

Last night I attended the Academic Book of the Future showcase at The British Library. I helped pack the tote bags prior to the event and tweeted during the talks for @uclpublishing. This evening was the culmination of Academic Book Week (9-16 November), during which discussions, debates and events have been taking place around the UK. We began with a drinks reception on the first floor, looking out over the six-storey King’s Library Tower which houses the George III collection.

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The British Library is a great space in which to research, work and learn. Visit http://www.bl.uk/ to find out more. The library’s current exhibition is West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song which is open until 16th February 2016. A free exhibition to celebrate 150 years of the publication of Alice in Wonderland will open on 20th November.

DSC_0058The Academic Book of the Future showcase itself was introduced by the project team: Sam Rayner, Nick Canty, Bex Lyons, Simon Tanner and Marilyn Deegan. It’s great to see scholars from both KCL and UCL working together on such an important project. The project began in 2013 and is funded by the AHRC in collaboration with The British Library. The project’s aim is to question the future of the academic book and the team hope these discussions will continue. Lyons stressed that the project mantra is ‘collaboration, conversation, dialogue’ and that this had been evidenced by the traffic on the Twitter feed.

“collaboration, conversation, dialogue”

There were six ten minute presentations about various aspects of the project. The evening provided a good overview of the innovative ideas different communities had produced when approaching the topic of the academic book.

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Kathryn Sutherland reported back on The Great Debate which has been happening across the country. The frame for the debate is whether the ‘book’ is the best way of showing ‘what we do as academics’. Sutherland mentioned publication as curation, discoverability and the problems of peer review. Sutherland said not all disciplines value the book equally.

“anything other than a book”

Sarah Barrow talked about scholarship in ‘anything other than a book’. She had added a symposium on the academic book to the city of Lincoln’s Frequency Festival of Digital Culture and said we need to ‘think differently’ about forms of scholarship.

Lara Speicher discussed the UCL Press which launched in June and is ‘the UK’s first fully open access uni press’. Look out for the University Presses Conference on 16-17th March 2016, which will be hosted by Liverpool University Press. DSC_0053

Neil Smyth asked us to ‘think about the authors of the future’. Smyth praised the #uonbooksprint undertaken by students at the University of Nottingham. The students had managed to produce an academic book in a week.

“think about the authors of the future”

Jen McCall and Bex Lyons talked about the Palgrave Pivot series, which capitalises on the ‘appetite for shorter monograph formats’ in the humanities sector of higher education. Palgrave Pivots are short works of original scholarship and are published within twelve weeks of acceptance. We were lucky enough to be given the Academic Book of the Future Palgrave Pivot which had just been published yesterday.

It was great to learn the outcomes of the discussions that had been happening during Academic Book Week. The publishing industry has made thinking about its future an urgent consideration and the generation of innovative ideas can only be beneficial.

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Check out the shortlisted 20 academic books that changed the world here. After the votes had been counted, On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin was announced the winner. Which do you think should have won? What do you think defines an ‘academic book’?

Here are some of my lovely UCL Publishing colleagues who helped pack the tote bags!

More information on the Academic Book of the Future project can be found at:

http://academicbookfuture.org/

@acbookfuture

#AcBookWeek

Review: Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht

Last week I took part in The Bookseller’s #jobsinbooksreads book club. It was incredibly exciting to receive Aliza Licht’s Leave Your Mark in the post; it felt like somebody was reading my mind, which currently revolves mainly around publishing, job hunting and how well stocked my fridge is. So it’s no surprise this book cover grabbed my attention: land your dream job, kill it in your career, rock social media.

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“Land your dream job. Kill it in your career. Rock social media.”

The Bookseller is THE weekly industry publication to subscribe to and the Jobs in Books section at the back is fantastic. I am very lucky to have Maria Vassilopoulos, who runs the Jobs section, as a lecturer on the MA in Publishing at UCL. bookseller_480x265_44950

Maria is helping us to slowly become publishing tech gurus with introductions to InDesign and Nielsen BookScan in our Publishing Skills module. The Jobs section is great for being nosy and finding out which people are moving where in the industry. There is also an extensive list of vacancies. The weekly #myjobin5 features a different person discussing their role in publishing which is incredibly useful for someone looking to learn as much as possible about the industry!

My task this week was to read Leave Your Mark and tweet my thoughts on the book, leading up to a Twitter Q&A with Aliza herself on Friday. It was great to be able to quiz Aliza and she was really responsive to our questions. You can follow the Q&A yourself at #jobsinbooksreads.

“the voice behind DKNY PR GIRL”

Aliza Licht became famous as the voice behind DKNY PR GIRL, the DKNY Twitter account through which she gave followers an insight into the world of fashion, Gossip Girl style. In Leave Your Mark, Aliza explores her own career progression and provides loads of helpful advice for people starting in any industry. The chapters cover writing CVs, internships, interviews, workplace politics, social media and personal branding. The writing is fun and engaging and it was easy to find advice relevant to me in each chapter. The frequent insider tips from this social media wonder woman provide a great summary on each page.

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I loved the sections on how to speak publicly and how to navigate ‘cocktail parties’, which I guess the English equivalent of is the free wine post publishing events…

Aliza discusses her own mentor, Donna Karan, and how she loves mentoring herself. This comes across constantly in Leave Your Mark as she guides you through. The ‘Take a Selfie’ inserts encourage you to self evaluate your own skills and improve them. The go get ’em attitude is inspiring; it’s not just a cover letter, it’s a killer cover letter. You’re not just an intern, you’re a rock star intern. There are also Mean Girls references, which are always good.

“You’re not just an intern, you’re a rock star intern.”

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This is definitely a book I can keep going back to during my job hunt and as I embark on a career. I’m thinking about sending it to my sister but I’m worried I wouldn’t get it back…

You can see Aliza in action at TEDxTimesSquare with her talk, The Power of Being Real, here.

For more information on Leave Your Mark:

www.alizalicht.com

@AlizaLicht

@LeaveYourMarkxo

For more information on The Bookseller:

www.thebookseller.com

jobsinbooks@thebookseller.com

@JobsinBooks

#jobsinbooksreads

Bookseller image sourced from kobowritinglife.com. All other images my own.