SYP CONFERENCE 2005

Posted on June 11, 2006 in Uncategorized

Note from the Web-Editor (Tori Hunt):The SYP Conference 2005 was organised by the Oxford SYP, and boy what a great job they did. So for all those who will be trying to decide whether to sign up for Conference ’06, you might find it helpful to browse throught the reviews of last year’s workshops, below. These should give you a flavour of what delegates can expect this November (details for which are still being finalised, but keep an eye on the Events page for updates).

A CRACKING CONFERENCE!

 

The 2005 SYP Careers Conference, hosted by Oxford Brookes University, was a great success. Fantastic support from sponsors, donors, and Oxford Brookes helped to foster a warm and supportive atmosphere, facilitating discussion and networking among the 107 delegates and 18 speakers and workshop hosts.

The day began with an excellent introduction to the book production process by four engaging and entertaining speakers, followed by an excellent lunch spread. In the afternoon, advisors at the drop-in sessions helped a continual stream of delegates, while their colleagues running the other workshops were plied with questions between, as well as during, their presentations. Careers books and a career development consultation were won by 12 happy delegates in the prize draw, which brought proceedings to a close.

A big thank you goes out to all those involved in organising the Conference. The reports that follow give you a brief summary of the key points covered on the day. If you attended the Conference, we hope you found it useful and enjoyable.

Deb Sanders
2005 Conference Co-ordinator

 

SYP CAREERS CONFERENCE 2005: INTRODUCTION AND THE WORKSHOPS

BOOK PRODUCTION – THE PROCESS
Reviewed by Victoria McGeown

Following a warm welcome consisting of refreshments and sociable chatting, the 2005 SYP Careers Conference was kickstarted with a series of highly informative and entertaining presentations on the book production process.

First to take the stage was Barbara Trapido, author of tragicomic novels including Brother of the More Famous Jack and Frankie and Stankie. Littering her talk with hilarious personal memories, Barbara recounted her experience of the publishing process, giving an author’s insight into the publisher/author relationship.

Next, Nicholas Jones, the founder/director of Strathmore Publishing Ltd, took the opportunity to explain the complete publishing procedure: from the initial stage of production, through marketing and foreign rights, to the final step of sales. As he explained, an understanding of the whole system is crucial to any editor, whom he defined as ‘the ring master’ of the publishing process.

Martin Klopstock, the head of production for higher and professional education at Pearson Education, took the same view, emphasising the importance of understanding the whole process. His use of clever analogies and hilarious pictures (a publisher’s role was compared initially to the Titanic heading for an iceberg, and then to a high-wire balancing act) ensured a highly entertaining and original presentation.

Last to speak was Bryony Bishop, a children’s regional support manager for Ottakar’s bookstores. Drawing upon what had already been said, she summarised her role, highlighting the importance of booksellers within the publishing process, which is not completed until customers buy the books.

The session ended with some questions from the audience, which all the speakers answered most helpfully, drawing to a close a very interesting morning.

 

WORKSHOP ONE – ELECTRONIC PUBLISHING
Reviewed by Alexis Clements

Robert Faber, director of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) and Oxford English Dictionary (OED), brought a wealth of information and encouragement to participants in his workshop on electronic publishing. Throughout his presentation, he focused on the fact that electronic publishing is often done in tandem with other forms of publishing (i.e. print plus CD/DVD and online) and that these media each present their own particular challenges. In particular, fee-charging electronic publishing on the web faces some of the biggest challenges, in terms of formatting the information, gaining subscribers, and competing with free resources.

The largest challenge faced by Oxford University Press (OUP) in dealing with projects like the ODNB and the OED has been how to handle the user. With print media there is rarely a need for extensive customer support from the publisher. However, with online and other electronic resources, a whole series of other services are required to maintain both the information and the interest of subscribers or purchasers. While OUP is outsourcing many of these services, Robert explained that there is a constant demand for new information and new talent.

This brings us to the encouraging part of his talk: the electronic publishing sector is ‘upping its headcount.’ He emphasised that organisations working in this arena are struggling to employ enough people to get the work done, particularly in sales and subscriptions, editorial, and project management. This was exciting news for a room full of eager job candidates!

 

WORKSHOP TWO: PRINT ON DEMAND AND E-BOOKS
Reviewed by Rachel Muirhead

Suzanne Wilson-Higgins, commercial director of on-demand printer Lightning Source UK, explained the technology used in this sector, and what it means for the future of publishing.

The book market is dominated by a few books that sell in huge numbers (think Harry Potter), and the vast majority that sell moderately. At the same time, there is an increasing demand for the obscure that will continue over a long period of time – something referred to as ‘the long tail’. So how do you justify publishing lots of books that won’t be immediate sellers?

As Suzanne explained, this is where Print on Demand comes in. When a title is available on demand, it will never go out of print, there are no returns, and the publisher doesn’t have any capital tied up in stock in a warehouse. Lightning Source UK merely holds an electronic file that can be printed off and sent to the customer within two to three days.

Print on Demand is a growing technology: at the moment, Lightning Source UK is printing 5,000 units per day and the US arm is producing a million units per month. In the future, Suzanne expects to see more new titles from unconventional sources such as self-publishers, who can utilise the technology for inexpensive short print runs. Niche publishing will also expand – there are currently 10 new publishers being established per day, with lists that contain perhaps only one or two books.

 

WORKSHOP THREE – MAGAZINES
Reviewed by Anna Valentine

Providing a useful contrast to the morning’s look at book publishing, Caroline Issa’s presentation on magazine publishing was both interesting and thoroughly enjoyable.

As publisher and managing director of TANK Magazine – one of the first magazines to spawn ‘boutique publishing’, with its architecture, art, literature and fashion content sitting side by side – Caroline had a wealth of knowledge to share with the group.

After outlining the benefits and drawbacks of both niche and traditional publishing, Caroline emphasised the importance of striking a balance between advertising and editorial space to ensure that the magazine receives sufficient revenue without compromising its content.

She also stressed the importance of an effective distribution strategy and the need to educate wholesalers to ensure that the magazine is circulated to a wide audience with the right coverage.

It was fascinating to understand the processes involved in both publishing and managing a magazine. Even minor changes in its production and appearance can have an enormous impact on sales and profitability.

Using a good range of visual material and continually inviting discussion, Caroline’s presentation was very thorough, while being extremely interesting. It was indeed invaluable to anyone keen on starting their own magazine.

 

WORKSHOP FOUR – CHILDREN’S BOOKS AND ILLUSTRATION
Reviewed by Kate Cowcher

Paula Metcalf’s first two (unpublished) children’s books were A Dentist Dreams, in which cannibalistic children with giant teeth pursue a dentist, and Jessica Jane the Cyclops, in which a one-eyed girl eats a cow. It took a few rejection letters for Paula to realise that death, destruction and violence do not constitute prime material for children’s books.

From her first published work, Norma No Friends, to Mabel’s Magical Garden – the first fruits of her four-book deal with Macmillan – Paula’s books are beautifully illustrated, with bright primary colours that merge into one another, and characters often constructed in collage fashion using simple shapes. Rhyme, used in earlier unpublished work, has given way to text with corresponding illustrations elaborating on it, rather than representing it. Crucially, the pictorial style reflects the nature of the story – chunky black outlines are used to enhance comedy, and soft forms add all-important pathos.

Paula testifies to the disillusioning process of seeking a publisher. However, her work is now critically acclaimed. Although she has put the darker subject matter to one side, she has retained her artistic individuality. Look out for her next book: the wonderful We Love Bunk Beds is to be published in 2007.

 

WORKSHOP FIVE – PUBLISHING DEGREES
Reviewed by Priyanka Handa

There is much debate on whether doing a degree in publishing is required, or even worthwhile, when aiming for a job in publishing. Sue Pandit, director of the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies at Oxford Brookes University, explained that such a degree isn’t a necessity, but may help you to get a foot in the door – it could set you apart from other applicants and help you to get a first interview.

There are degrees offered at numerous institutions – see UCAS listings for undergraduate opportunities and Prospects for postgraduate ones, as well as individual universities and colleges for diplomas rather than degrees. These courses offer basic skills required in publishing, as well as the chance to specialise by selecting specific modules to suit your individual interests. For educational publishing, it may help to have a degree in the discipline you aim to be working in, particularly for specialities such as Modern Languages.

Undergraduate degrees in publishing are excellent for those who perhaps want to go into fictional, children’s or magazine publishing. Masters courses tend to be targeted more towards a specific strand of publishing. However, some universities do offer a broader MA in publishing as an introduction to the industry.

Publishing degrees provide a foundation and pave a smoother path than most for you to enter the world of publishing. However, they are not essential, and those without them have equal footing in the job market. The key when applying for jobs is to demonstrate that you have ‘transferable skills’ – abilities and qualities acquired across, and applicable in, all disciplines, which will aid you in being a successful publisher.

 

WORKSHOP SIX – WORKING WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE
Reviewed by Rachael Muirhead

We all know them – people who are perfectly nice when you agree with them, but who turn nasty as soon as you question their view; people who are friendly to your face, but talk behind your back. Michael Heath, director of Michael Heath Consulting, shared his tips on dealing with difficult people at work. Tips included:
• Let them know you are listening – ‘I appreciate your point that…’
• Don’t use the word ‘but’ as it has a certain negative resonance – try ‘however’
• Propose a way to move forward – ‘Can I suggest…’
• Don’t raise your voice – it will be difficult for them to maintain their anger if you are being unreasonable
• Get on their level – if they are standing, stand up yourself
• State your disagreement clearly and quickly
• Express doubts in a constructive way, agreeing with them – ‘I can see why you think that but…’
• Have confidence in your own opinions, maintain eye contact, and use ‘I’, not ‘we’ or ‘the company’
• Recognise other people’s points of view, and be prepared to admit that you may be wrong!

Michael concluded by asking us to consider our own working styles – emotive, directive, reflective or supportive – and to recognise that everyone has the potential to be difficult if we have a working style very different from someone else’s; we must be flexible and adaptable in the workplace.

 

WORKSHOP SEVEN – DROP-IN ADVICE SESSION
Reviewed by Alexis Clements

Delegates wasted no time in queuing up to speak to the array of different advisors at the drop-in advice sessions. Graham Hobbs’ table on journals publishing held a great deal of good information, including excellent handouts giving detailed job descriptions for positions within his company, Taylor & Francis. He emphasised that the big companies generally don’t recruit through the Guardian, because they simply don’t have time to look at the hundreds of applications they would receive if they did. So it’s important to register with a good recruitment agency if you’re aiming for the big organisations.

The advisors from JFL Search and Selection and from Inspired Selection, both specialist publishing recruitment agencies, gave useful advice about how to emphasise the publishing-related work in your employment history, and practical information including likely salary ranges. They also explained how to get in touch with them following the Conference.

The question of whether or not to pursue a publishing degree was a moot point. Some people advised yes, while others said it wasn’t necessary. What was clear was that a willingness to dive in, wherever you might find yourself, was the best way to get started and that, once you were inside the industry, there were a lot of places a person could go.