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Publishing News (23.11.2020)

Online SYP Conference a Huge Success

“Thriving, changing and widening.” These words are courtesy of Claire Malcolm, from New Writing North, in answer to the question “What three words would you use to describe British publishing in 2020?” asked by Sophia Blackwell.

These sentiments were echoed by fellow panelists Nancy Adimora and Ellie Drewry, who threw in “important” and “welcoming”.

This came from Tuesday’s evening panel on Authentic Voices, where a frank and positive conversation took place about how to open doors to those not aware of publishing. The panellists shared practical solutions to the issues of inclusivity, with Nancy scouting talent from non-traditional areas while Claire offered the exclusive snippet that we may see Hachette moving towards Newcastle!

The second of Monday’s panels saw a lightning round of useful tips for publishing hopefuls’ CVs and cover letters. One of the more interesting was that publishers are never trying to trick you. The “what’s your favourite book” part of a cover letter is not there to trip you up. Often they want to see your passion and according to Cassie Leung, recruiter at PRH, they may be looking at your writing style - how persuasive are you? A unanimous verdict was put forward that if you need the space, leave the address off.

The conference went by as a success, providing hopefuls and new starters with valuable information and insight, from indies and universities to the Big Five. All panels were recorded and are available for catch up, meaning that anyone working full-time hours, managing Zoom fatigue, or living outside of London could still fully appreciate the event. The seamless integration to the online platform is a true testament to the hard work and dedication of the SYP.

The conference ended with an online networking event that took the style of speed dating. Once the initial Zoom nervousness had subsided, this was an invaluable event and a fun way to end an online conference that may have felt a little lonely whilst locked away in an office or a bedroom.

The conference added a lot for me personally. Hitting a period of little to no motivation and deflation, this brought to the forefront everything I love about publishing and brought back my passion, particularly in contracts. Thank you, Diane Spivey.

The keynote speech from Francis Brickmore on day one lined the conference up to be a standout event with five tips I intend to manifest into my life: to under promise and over deliver, to resist formula, to honour the bad idea and to respect difference. As Matt Haig put it, “have confidence in your truth and beliefs.”

An Update on Bookshop.Org

In a previous issue, The Publishing Post covered the launch of the US indie online platform Bookshop.Org and its plans to launch in the UK. Now the site has officially arrived, we thought we’d take a look at how Bookshop.Org is already making waves in the UK book industry.

Styled as an Amazon alternative, Bookshop.Org works by giving indie bookshops 30% of the cover price from each sale generated on the platform. While buying books from your independent bookshop is always best, this is undeniably an amazing opportunity for indie bookshops and for those who support them.

Unlike Amazon and most high-street book chains, Bookshop.Org was established to boost sales for local, independent bookshops. In doing so, Bookshop.Org is helping those brick-and-mortar indie bookshops who have found it impossible to compete against the likes of the online giant Amazon, who currently has an enormous monopoly on online book sales.

And it’s clear that Bookshop.Org could not come at a better time for the UK book industry. As we enter a second lockdown, there are so many independent bookshops in the UK that have been unable to stay open and therefore unable to maintain sales.

According to The Bookseller, the UK version of Bookshop.Org, which launched on 2 November, made sales of £65,000 on its first day and has made nearly £80,000 in total for indie bookshops so far. What’s more, in its first week of operation in the UK, the website has sold £415,000 worth of books to more than 20,000 customers.

This is great news for indie bookshops and booksellers like Katie Clapham at Storytellers, Inc., who praised the model, tweeting that the service had provided:

“11 sales I didn’t have to facilitate and it even included books I feel passionate about selling so I’m pretty happy with this. Particularly as several people got in touch directly, as a result of the Bookshop fanfare and bought from me directly, which is the dream scenario.”

With over 250 bookshops currently signed up, Bookshop.Org has been hugely successful in its first few weeks, bringing hope to independent bookshops, publishers and authors in a very bleak time. The site serves as a reminder to us that indies need the love and support of readers now more than ever. If you’re thinking of purchasing a new book during lockdown and you’re not sure where to start, Bookshop.Org might be a good place for you, but buying directly from the bookshop would be best!

Publishing Hopefuls Welcome Spare Zoom Project

Publishing has always been a competitive industry to break into, but COVID-19 has made it more difficult than ever for publishing hopefuls to get their foot on the career ladder. With internships cancelled, it can sometimes feel impossible to acquire the experience publishers seek for their entry-level roles. The latest initiative by The Spare Room Project in collaboration with Penguin Random House is set to offer the kind of support many of us are currently seeking when application fatigue may be starting to kick in.

The aim of The Spare Zoom Project is to provide “a simple and easy way for people to give their time and experience to help open up and demystify our industry.” Publishing professionals will be matched with individuals hoping to learn more about the industry for a thirty-minute chat. If you’re interested in signing up, visit their website and complete their application form. You’ll be asked to submit your CV and provide a short personal statement outlining the areas you’re interested in.

Giulia Maggiori, the project’s intern, said they have received overwhelming interest from people in the industry, with over 500 of them signing on so far. She said she wasn’t expecting so many to take part, showing how keen everyone is to help publishing hopefuls during this difficult time in the job market. This positive response will ensure that the scheme is able to help a large range of hopefuls, as each professional has the option of conducting a number of these chats.

News of the scheme was greeted with excitement by publishing hopefuls. Mandy Gao said she applied to the project to learn more about trade publishing and help her decide which route she wants to pursue after completing her internship with an academic publisher.

Siena Parker, head of Creative Responsibility at Penguin Random House, said:

“I am a Spare Room Project host myself and have really missed the chance to connect with young people eager to learn about our industry. We hope that this will be a simple and easy way for people to squeeze just one extra Zoom meeting into their busy day. It’s so important for us all to continue to find ways to open up the world of publishing, which can still feel out of reach for many.”

Penguin and the Spare Room Project are to be commended for constantly finding new ways of making the industry more welcoming to hopefuls.

French Bookshops Request ‘Essential Services’ Status During Second Lockdown

Much like the UK, the French government has recently announced a four-week lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. French authors, booksellers and publishers have launched an appeal to the government to allow bookshops to stay open as an “essential service” during this latest period of confinement.

Under the new national lockdown announced in France, which started on 29 October, all non-essential businesses, including bars and restaurants, have been asked to close and citizens are under strict requirements to stay at home.

In response, France’s publishers’ association – the Syndicat National de l’Edition (SNE) – teamed up with its booksellers’ association – the Syndicat de la Librairie Française (SLF) – and authors’ group – the Conseil Permanent des Ecrivains (CPE) – to implore the French government to keep bookshops open and be treated the same as supermarkets and pharmacies.

France has more than 3,000 independent bookshops, leading the trade associations to point to an “extraordinary appetite for reading among the French,” particularly over recent months. The associations have implored the French government to:

“Leave bookstores open so that social confinement does not also become cultural isolation. Our readers, who love independent bookstores, would not understand it and would experience it as an injustice […] books satisfy our need for understanding, reflection, escape, distraction, but also sharing and communication.”

Their key slogan during this campaign is “Lire, c’est vivre”: “reading is living.”

As with both UK lockdowns, the first French lockdown led to the closure of bookshops and the majority of stores also suspending online orders to protect staff, customers and delivery services. One of Paris’s oldest and most famous bookshops, Shakespeare and Company, stated that it had seen an 80% decline in book sales since March, and appealed to customers for help during these hard times.

The association has stated that since the first lockdown, bookshops are now prepared “to welcome readers in a new lockdown, in safe and proven sanitary conditions.”

While the closures earlier in the year “wounded the book industry to the heart,” shops stated that they are now prepared and “perfectly able to welcome readers in a new lockdown, in safe and proven sanitary conditions […] We are ready to assume our cultural and health responsibilities.”

As we enter a second UK lockdown, and questions arise once again surrounding support for small businesses, bookshops up and down the nation might be asking themselves whether a similar approach could be taken in the UK. Though rules around non-essential shops do not look set to change for the second UK lockdown, the message of this French collective to support local bookshops, wherever possible, during these challenging times is as relevant as ever.


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