The SYP Conference 2014: Second Instalment of the Conference Summary Series

So we split ourselves up to attend the different streams across the day, with this year’s theme being based all around ‘The Perfect Publisher’.  

Each Inspired member got to attend a few of the talks being offered, and Najmun chose to attend ‘Dusting off the jacket’, ‘Diversity in Publishing’ and ‘The next generation of Publishers.’ See her report here:

Dusting off the jacket was all about branding, campaigns and design. One of the key messages out of this talk was the importance of a book cover.

Matthew Young, cover designer for Penguin said that “A cover has to encapsulate the words of the book, be it a snapshot of the whole thing or a moment in time that has a visual impact. As a Designer myself, the key thing I remember is the connection the reader will have with the cover.”  Another member of the panel was Meryl Hall who was part of the team that created the ‘Books Are My Bag Campaign’, which was a campaign supporting high-street and independent bookshops around Britain. She highlighted the importance that a campaign can have for a brand and that sometimes it’s not always about the jacket alone, but more about the content that surrounds it. One of the key messages from this talk was of social media and the driving force it can have behind a brand. It is one of the most lucrative branding tools in publishing and it’s still growing!

My next talk and probably my favourite of the whole day was ‘Diversity in Publishing’. One of the key themes being talked about this year within the publishing industry, it was fantastic to see other peoples thoughts and feelings on the subject. Chairing this talk was Antonia Honeywell from WoMentoring and Seoniad MacLeod from the Publisher’s Association.

I was so happy that WoMentoring chose to be a part of this seminar as it’s a fantastic non-profit organisation which provides free peer mentoring, advice and professional help for aspiring female writers. As a working class ethnic female writer myself, and having been previously involved with WoMentoring, I can’t praise this organisation enough. It’s a brilliant platform for writers to have their voices heard and their talent seen by amazing publishing professionals, who volunteer their time and knowledge.  Antonia Honeywell, one of the founding members of WoMentoring stated the driving force of the organisation was to “balance the playing field in an industry where male writers dominate”. She also talked about changing the way the publishing industry provides internships. She identified the need for all internships to be paid or provide the London living wage at least. This is an extremely important point as internships are one of the most prominent platforms for gaining experience and getting your foot in the door, but many tend to turn them down as they provide no financial support.

This point was supported by Seoniad MacLeod from the Publisher’s Association (the gold sponsors of the conference), who also put forth the idea of changing the ‘I got into publishing because I had lots of contacts’ way of getting into the industry. She also spoke about ‘Equality in Publishing (EQUIP)’, an organisation funded by the P.A. which hopes to promote equality across UK publishing, bookselling and agenting and its important in increasing the skills of all ethnicities wanting to pursue a career.

One of the best parts of the talk was the Q and A; one question posed the issue of a non-existent presence of literacy in poor or low working class families, and the need for more publishers to get involved with schools and libraries to offer children a chance to fall in love with reading. Another attendee spoke about the need for more organisations to be focused on helping BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) have a fairer chance of getting into the industry. As a part of the BAME group myself, I couldn’t agree more. There are so many people from ethnic backgrounds, from poor and working classes who are often overlooked and forgotten. The publishing industry needs to progress forward and start changing. It’s one of the most innovative and creative industries around, just think how much more it can evolve with a little bit more diversity!

My concluding talk focused on ‘The Next Generation of Publishers’, this seminar concentrated on being an Entrepreneur in publishing and advice for those wishing to start their own business. Tom Chalmers, the MD of Legend Press gave some great advice saying “Keep going even if you fail. Ask for help when you need it, the publishing industry is always looking for new things so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!”

All in all it was a fantastic day; it was great to be a part of the conference with the Inspired Selection team (who were platinum sponsors!)  I learnt so much and got to meet a plethora of wonderful people. And I have to add, if you are a female aspiring writer; do check out WoMentoring, they are wonderful.