Spring Conference Blog: Marion Sinclair – Opening Keynote

Posted on April 5, 2019 in News & Reviews, Scotland

Marion Sinclair, CEO, Publishing Scotland

This year, SYP Scotland were delighted to announce Marion Sinclair as the opening keynote speaker for the 2019 conference, ‘Building Bridges, Breaking Walls’. Marion Sinclair is the Chief Executive of Publishing Scotland and has been in post since 2008. A graduate of Stirling University’s Publishing programme, she started her career in editorial at Edinburgh University Press, working for, and then managing Polygon which won the UK Small Publisher of the Year award in the 1990s. She ran the MSc degree course at Napier University before joining Publishing Scotland, initially in business development and then as CEO.

Sinclair kicked off the morning by telling the audience about her own experiences in publishing. Having started her career at EUP, and eventually managing their award-winning Polygon imprint, Sinclair highlighted the importance of working systematically with a focus on numbers as the key to publishing success. Sinclair then said that the main barrier faced by the industry is growth and that walls need to be broken to allow Scottish publishers to gain coverage and sales in the UK and further abroad. Despite these barriers, Sinclair pointed out that the current publishing climate is much more favourable than in the past and with so many event launches, indie bookshops and funding available for startups, the support for publishers in Scotland in 2019 is unparalleled.

Sinclair highlighted Publishing Scotland as one such support system available and told the audience about some of the key strategies that have been set up in the last 5 years such as a translation fund and the creation of Scottish Books International. Sinclair pointed to the great work being done by smaller presses who are building bridges and breaking walls by working internationally and she underlined this international outlook as being key for success in the industry.

So how should Scottish publishers look to grow their businesses? Sinclair recommended that publishing professionals should sit on boards, look at working with charities and most importantly, learn to master their finances. She suggested taking a course in finance in order prevent falling behind in an industry that is increasingly controlled by numbers and she recommended that publishers should focus on results rather than recognition.

Sinclair also highlighted the barrier of gender, noting that there are now fewer women working in the industry. However she also pointed to the chinks of light by saying that 50% of publishers in Scotland are owned or managed by women. Sinclair finished her keynote address by underlining issues of underrepresentation in the industry. She highlighted the need to get rid of a publishing ‘type’ and the need to take more ownership of the talent coming through the pipeline. Sinclair closed by informing the audience about the fantastic Publishing Scotland Ambassador Scheme which aims to take a proactive approach by sending young professionals into schools in less advantaged areas to demystify what publishing is all about.

Blog by Kerri Logan, SYP Scotland Blogger