Author Archives: hannahoutside

Beyond the Book – SYP Conference 2012

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The 3rd November saw me boarding a train to London to attend the SYP’s annual conference – Beyond the Book. There was a choice of several seminars lined up all of which were so interesting it had been hard to decide which I wanted to attend when I registered.

The opening debate was led by Julia Kingsford, Sarah Taylor, Laura Austin and Trevor Klein and was titled ‘Game Changers’. What a start to the day! There was so much going on that I will touch on some of the most memorable parts of the day for me.

First to speak and one of the most memorable was Julia Kingsford, World Book Night’s Chief Executive. She started to speak about how it was part of her job to try to get more people to read stating that stories are universal and timeless; we’ve been telling them since we were sat around campfires, so why are so many people excluded in our modern world? One in three homes in the country do not own a book, which is a shocking statistic. Approximately one quarter of the population do not have adequate access to the internet or digital equipment and so to encourage more people to read they hand out books in their physical form. Having acknowledged that the physical book is still an essential part of our culture the debate moved on to the next three speakers Laura Austin, Sarah Taylor and Trevor Klein who discussed apps, interactive eBooks and self publishing.

My first seminar was ‘Interactive and Social Reading’ and was taken by Andrew Rhomberg , founder and managing director of Jellybooks, and Jon Ingold, who is the creative director of Inkle. First to take the stage was Andrew Rhomberg who started the presentation with an adapted quote of Churchill: ‘This is not the end, not even the beginning of the end but then end of the beginning of the digital revolution’. This, I thought, was a lovely and positive outlook on the digital changes and adaptations in publishing. Rhomberg continued to discuss how the one of the biggest problems that publishers face is discoverability and proceeded to state he thought that Amazon’s search was not up to scratch. Therefore, he created Jellybooks; a simple, easy, responsive design that gives the user an effortless browsing experience. It has infinite scrolling – the page will never end – that gives it the feel of browsing shelves in a bookstore. He feels that now more than ever the cover design is of utmost importance if a book is going to succeed. He warned of the old saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’ but still stressed that images stimulate the mind; one picture can say a thousand words.  The cover will draw the reader, enticing them to sample the book and perhaps buy later. There are only four buttons: sample: share: buy: deal. There’s no fuss. Rhomberg’s idea of deals and social reading was interesting. The idea of structuring them around the commute lets the user browse and sample the books that they want but if they want to participate in that day’s deal then they have to share it. If Jellybooks receives enough interest on a particular title then those who selected it will get the deal of a half price book for the commute home. If there is not enough interest shown then Jellybooks do not say sorry but that the consumer should share the book more next time. A clever concept – the consumer markets your book for you.

Co-founder of Inkle, Jon Ingold, is a games designer and mathematician. He sounds like an unlikely person to be interested in the world of book publishing but by the end of his talk he’d changed our minds, as Alastair Horne tweeted ‘very few developers, in my experience, really ‘get’ the actual nature of reading; Ingold clearly does’. Inkle specialises in building interactive and narrative driven apps for web and mobile platforms, such as the hugely successful Frankenstein app. One point that Ingold stressed was his belief that reading is not a passive activity, as is so widely believed, and it is through this belief that he has come to successfully understand the expectations of the next generation of digital reading. When you read it is your mind that creates the characters, the scene and the atmosphere but digital is now enabling that to be brought into a visual reality. Personally, I can’t help but wonder if this is a good thing. What about imagination? There’s nothing more disappointing than finding a different version to what you experienced. The way we read is certainly going to be changing. I’m yet to be completely persuaded from what I grew up with but if these books get more people away from the TV and into stories then I have no complaints!

I attended two other seminars, ‘Beautiful Books’ and ‘Beyond the Textbook’, which were both equally interesting but it was really the ‘Social and Interactive Reading seminar that stood out for me – leading the way forward. The day ended with drinks in a nearby bar, which would have been a perfect opportunity for networking but I unfortunately had to board my train home. There is so much to learn and so many lovely people to meet that it was sad to leave. If anybody were to ask me if I recommend it my answer would undoubtedly be yes! Thank-you so much to all those at SYP!

Are Magazines For Me?

This summer I was fortunate enough to be offered a placement with Archant Magazine group. I was there for a week, which was broken up by working on two different magazines: Discover Britain and Wild Travel. ‘Discover Britain’ covers events and locations on Britain, which usually has a historical twist. On the other hand, ‘Wild Travel’ covers wildlife for all of those who love the outdoors and nature.

Based in Cheltenham, the office stood three floors high and was packed to bursting with many of the company’s magazines. ‘Discover Britain’ and ‘Wild Travel’ are produced by the same team, with ‘Wild Travel’ only in its third issue.  Researching new ideas for the magazine took up a large amount of time in the week that I was there. Having recently changed its name from ‘Heritage’ to ‘Discover Britain’ all of their content has a historical element to it and so it was very easy to get side tracked reading all of the information!

Every month they have a section dedicated to events all over Britain and so it was my job to research the upcoming Christmas events. These events tended to range from exhibitions to carol concerts at Salisbury Cathedral. Once found, the magazine required me to contact the chosen organisations for a high resolution image. It was a good chance to practice interaction with others on behalf of an organisation.

Once completed, I moved over onto the ‘Wild Travel’ magazine where I researched top wildlife trips and luxury safari lodges, contacting the organisations for information. Once all the information had been found I had to condense everything into a short paragraph for the magazine. The team alternate each month between the two different magazines, which keeps the job interesting. I noticed how necessary it was to have almost constant interaction amongst the team to keep things flowing quickly and smoothly. Overall, it was a good insight on how a magazine is put together and run and I think it is an industry that I would really be interested in pursuing.

Making Hay

I am fortunate enough to live near Hay-on-Wye in Wales, home to the famous Hay Festival. During my search for publishing work experience earlier this year, I called by the Hay-On-Wye offices to see if they were able to offer me anything…and they said yes! For two weeks I was a resident in their offices and what a lovely place to be!

The offices themselves are located in an old hall with beautiful wooden floorboards and large windows. Book cases and posters lined the walls (plus a coffee machine right by my desk!); I can honestly say I was in heaven. Also, the people were nice – a big point I guess!

I was assigned the task of reading a book, the author of which would be appearing at the festival and providing interview questions. It was a good book and I, for one would not complain if this became my full time job. Aside from this, I spent my time organising press clippings, creating spreadsheets and trying my hand at proof reading.

Proofreading opened my eyes to the skills that I certainly need to work on; such detail went into the program, it quite astounded me. It also developed my grammatical skills – a target to work on in the future. It was great to experience ‘office life’ a bit more and to understand how the place is run. Everyone was lovely and always willing to answer any questions that I threw at them, which contributed to a pleasant two weeks there!

I thoroughly enjoyed working at the Hay Festival and am going to make every effort to return and try to learn more about their international festivals (they run internships). In the mean time, onwards towards some more exciting ventures…

Work Experience with Walker Books

It was around the 6th March 2012, I had just received my first work experience placement in a publishing house, Walker Books, in the Marketing and Publicity department. I can only describe myself as bouncing off the walls! Walker Books produced many of my own childhood reads; I was extremely happy to be visiting their headquarters to see what goes on behind the scenes.

As a country girl, the prospect of travelling to London on my own was quite daunting, never mind that I would be entering a new work place…shock horror! How was I going to cope with the tube? Well, off I went and I am coping wonderfully.

After arriving an hour and a half early on my first day (nothing like being on time), I was given a tour of the building, introduced to a number people and shown the ropes. As an intern, I was given jobs such as mailing out post and fetching certain books from the stock rooms – which sounds thrilling but it contributes to your basic understanding of what goes on. I was also allocated research tasks such as looking at blogs from book reviews to beauty campaigns; this proved incredibly fascinating. However, the highlight has to be writing press releases for J. Smith by Fougasse, the life-size version of the one in Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. It is an incredibly beautiful book and is due to be released at the beginning of May.

I also spent an afternoon in Foreign Rights which was overwhelming when I saw the numbers that they were dealing with! However, it was an extremely interesting experience. Those in Foreign Rights are able to attend the international book fairs such as Frankfurt and Bologna. There is so much still to learn about the UK market that getting my head around the foreign markets is quite a task!

Overall, it was a thoroughly good experience and I learnt a great deal. I owe a big thank you to Walker Books!

The London Book Fair 2012: A bright spot on a rainy day

The dull day outside was immediately forgotten once I stepped inside the halls of Earls Court Exhibition Centre. I had been let out of work for the morning to visit the London Book Fair (thank you, Walker!) because they felt that it was worth the visit, and it truly was. There was a buzz to the place; it was so bright and alive. It was certainly an experience walking through those doors for the first time! There were people browsing and people striding around like they ruled the world, and indeed, this is where it happens; British and international publishers come together to deal.

This year the book fair was focused on the Chinese market (heads-up: next year it’s Turkey!). I wish there had been the opportunity to ask about that market, but everybody was so busy with their sales. While that was unfortunate, there was so much else to focus on. The Book Fair has everything you could want, from children’s publishing houses like Little Tiger to small independents from the far corners of Wales. There’s something there for everyone.

Soon I had to head upstairs to my chosen seminar, which was the SYP’s ‘How to get into publishing’. The hall was really busy (lots of competition but nice to know there’s hope for publishing yet!) but having a prime seat I really felt a part of what was going on. The talk was brilliant with Neil Morrison, Alistair Horne, Mary Ann Kernan, and Suzanne Kavanagh contributing, all of them experts in the industry. Before I knew it they were asking for the last question and the talk drew to a close. How disappointing but really useful!

Next year I plan to visit many more seminars, as there was so much on offer and so much to learn. It’s an exciting time to be involved in publishing and so I look forwards to what the future brings!

Photo courtesy of Rebekah Ducat