Publishing and Creative Writing Panel

Speakers:

Becci Stirrup- Creative Writing Tutor at The University of Leeds (Chair).
Tina Jackson- Deputy Editor of a Creative Writing Magazine, with a long career in Arts and as a literary journalist.
Jude Gates- Production Director for the publishing company Faber & Faber. 
Megan Beech- Publisher at Emerald Group Publishing and Society for Young Publishers
Elizabeth Hopkinson- Author of Fantasy Fiction and a short story writer for niche magazines.
Jane Steele- Professional writer.

Publishing:

Would you recommend a course as the best route of getting into Publishing?
Experience is the most valued attribute for employers and this is more important than a training course. Students should gain experience through voluntary work, such as the student newspaper, in order to stand out for an entry level graduate position. You need to show dedication to the position you are applying for.
If you do decide to take a training course, the best ones come with connections to publishers. This is important, because some positions have 900 applicants to one place. Work experience and internships are always highly valued, and Faber & Faber are just starting to take work experience placements. They also have a competitive programme of internships.


Jude (Production Director, Faber & Faber), what does production entail?

Jude works in the ‘organising department’, and is involved with many levels of publishing. She is responsible for working out the costing as a whole, producing an estimate, and then putting a schedule in place for the production of the publication. She is also involved with confirming the format, the type of paper, and liaising with the printers on these matters. She now also manages the e-book conversions.

Is it important to write yourself, if you want to a career in production of publishing?
Realistically, you don’t need to write, or even to read. Jude explains that she loves books, and everyone in her office is passionate about them, and of course this helps productivity. In modern publishing it is more important to be active on Twitter and Facebook in order to see job opportunities, and also to remain up to date with the world of publishing.
Conversely, editorial skills will make you a better writer, says Tina. All new writing is flawed, and it is very much a learning process. Editing helps you to understand the different styles needed for different formats, and you learn to strip all your writing down to the bare bones. You become more aware of the audience you are writing for.


What are publishing companies looking for in a CV?

Work experience is the most important thing, alongside a genuine level of interest in publishing. You can demonstrate your passion for the industry by joining societies, such as the Northern Society of Publishing.
Furthermore, you should emphasise your interest in the firm you are applying to, and should therefore tailor you cover letter and CV accordingly. There should never be any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors.

Are publishing companies more likely to favour English degrees over others?
This is not the case within production. Your degree demonstrates dedication and self-discipline. However, within the editorial department, perfect English and grammar is expected, so an English degree would be regarded more favourably. In academic editing however, you are more likely to use your degree to specialise in the writing that you edit, so any degree could be relevant. An English degree isn’t a necessity.

How has the rise of e-books affected the publishing industry?
There has been plummeting numbers in the amount of physical books being published. A seismic shift has taken place throughout the entire industry, with new things happening every day. There has been movement towards digital printing and print on demand copies instead. It is a fascinating time for publishing, but not catastrophic: it is just about finding new ways of doing things, and progressing alongside the technology. Writers are able to take advantage of this new era, as it has become it easier to self-publish, and gain notoriety through blogging. Writers who are not part of the mainstream can use the internet to find an audience who appreciates their writing.

 

Writing:

To the writers, do you have a routine when you write?
No, Elizabeth says. It is a very personal thing. Personally, she likes to write in different locations, which is different for every person. Sometimes she will set herself deadlines to keep a project moving however.

Once you have a piece of writing you are happy with, what options are available to you?
It very much depends on the type of writing. You can get an agent, and if possible aim for the top six publishers. However, if you are writing about a niche subject matter, a smaller agent who focuses on your type of writing will be better suited.
Alternatively, you can self publish, particularly in an e-book format. If you choose to do this, you need to think of yourself as a business, and be prepared to market yourself.

How do you get an agent?
Use the internet to find out about agents and publishers- always do your research. There are also writer’s handbooks and magazines that provide up to date information. Additionally, you can attend writer’s conventions, where you can meet agents and receive advice and feedback. You do not need an agent for sending short stories to magazines or online publications however.

Does gender influence your likelihood of getting published?
Not as far as the panellists are aware, and definitely not openly. It is more relevant on the marketing side of things, as you need to sell the author, and the author should match the text you are selling. A high percentage of crime fiction is written by women, but there is a higher male readership, so female crime writers often use a male penname for example.

Elizabeth, is there anything in particular that you did to make your career as writer successful?
Making connections is vital. Connections can help you find an audience, and publishers. They can also be a source of inspiration, or offer helpful feedback: this makes all the difference.

Camilla James, School of English
November 2012