Monday, 12 October 2015

UCLPub2015 - Term 1: Week 1 [5th-9th Oct]

So I suppose this is technically week two but induction week doesn't really count in my books. There's nothing interesting about me getting horrendously lost on more occasions than I would care to admit. This week we thundered through our intensive one week Publishing Contexts module (yes, that's right. A whole module in 5 days). The aim of this module was basically to get us all on the same level as far as our knowledge of the publishing process goes and also to open our eyes to the fact that editorial is most definitely not the only or even the most exciting part of that process.
The week was a tiring one and as it wore on, out came the backpacks as we all chose to forsake style for practicality; and out, in force, were the travel mugs - all of us so very unpracticed at enduring a full week. Looking good for the future, I'd say.

We'll take this day by day.

Monday. Being the first day, we covered the basics: the main areas of publishing, the main departments, the key players, and even touched on production - something that was new to the majority of us. We learnt about the new, more audience-focused publishing model than that of the pre-digital age. We were then asked to do a short presentation in groups of ten on a publishing house. We had thirty minutes to prepare a five minute presentation in which all ten of us had to speak. Suffice it to say, no group managed to stay within the tim constraints. I like to think Nosy Crow would have loved our enthusiasm. The day gave us a broad, and yet thorough overview of the industry; the basics that would allow us to delve more deeply into it in the course of the week.

On Tuesday we were lucky enough to be shown the ropes by none other than Sam Missingham, Head of Audience Development at HarperCollins. She informed us of the importance of hustling, and knowing how to market ourselves and encouraged us to get involved as much as possible both online and in person. She gave us an insight into some of the exciting projects she has been involved in during her time at HarperCollins and after her time was up, when the dreaded "how many of you want to go into editorial?" question came up, far fewer hands shot up than they did in induction week. In the second half of our morning session we heard from Mal who, I have to say, was far more doom-and-gloom than anyone else we heard from this week. I'm sure he burst a few editorial bubbles when he informed them of the average pay of an editorial assistant. Literary agent Rachel had a slightly more upbeat take on things and basically gave us a prep session to her Author Management module, one I'm definitely looking forward to. In the afternoon we heard from editors from publishing houses across the board; Two Roads (trade), Oxford University Press (academic), and ICE publishing (educational). They gave us an honest account of some of the challenges they faced and also what it was that made their jobs so enjoyable and many heads and hearts turned back to editorial.

Wednesday was production day with BIC; a hands-on day that literally broke down the production process of books for us. In the morning we learnt about operations and inventory management; the importance of keeping on top of your stock count. We also learnt about some of the procedures when publishing embargo titles - the super high-profile ones like Harry Potter have to have special measure to make sure no early copies find their way out of the warehouses. In the afternoon I was heartbroken to hear we were to take a scalpel to some Rick Riordan (The Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus, and Magnus Chase series') and Derek Landy (Skulduggery Pleasant) books seeing how they would definitely still make it into my top authors. I was less heartbroken that scalpels were taken to Jeremy Clarkson's "book" as well. We did this so we could go through the physical elements of the book and the production processes that go into making the things we hold so dear. We also got to have a look at some uncut prints of books which was actually pretty cool as you can see in the pictures.

Thursday was marketing and rights day with our very own Martin Nield and some of his friends from Hachette. We learnt about the different sales strategies required depending on the retailer, and how marketing has had to change with the new digital era. The rights section of the day put into perspective the global nature of the industry; it is not at all about keeping your head above the sea of contracts I had thought it to be - it's all about the global potential of the book and involves a hell of a lot of travel, an exciting prospect for many. At the end of this day, that question was asked again: "who wants to go into editorial?" and so very few put the hands up, though by this point, I really couldn't be sure if this was actually the case or whether people were no just too scared to be honest.

By Friday most of us were just happy to get out of the basements we'd been consigned to for the rest of the week. We spent the morning at Faber & Faber where we heard from Helen, a success story as a Faber employee and alum from last year's MA programme. She helped us to put into perspective what it was we were doing there and was living proof that we had made the right decision. We learnt all about the SYP and the president of the Publishers Association and MD of Penguin General Joanna Prior helped us to consolidate what we had learnt from the week with some examples of books that she had helped publish and the marketing strategies involved in publishing them. We also heard from Jacks Thomas, the enigmatic woman behind the London Book Fair and London Book and Screen Week for what was  a really interesting insight into what goes into organising such large scale events. In the afternoon we went to the Wellcome Collection with Anna Faherty where we got to see IRL Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management (as seen on GBBO 2015) and explore the wonder that is their reading room, a room I
think we will all be visiting with worrying frequency.

Overall, while an exhausting week, it was also one of the best weeks I've had for a long time and has really excited us all for the coming year. And while I think the speakers succeed in turning many of my classmates away from editorial, they didn't quite succeed in converting me.

Thanks for reading,
Naomi Joy x

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