I think if you ask most students studying publishing at the moment why they are doing it, they will tell you that it is because they love books. Of course, I too love books, but my course is quickly making me realise that there is another reason why I want to work in this industry.
I am an unashamed, incorrigible ‘book pusher’ (just ask my family). I want people to love books just as much as I do. I adore bringing books and readers together. That is why I want to be a publisher; I want to be on the front line, bringing the books I love to readers who will adore them.
One of the things which has come to interest me greatly since beginning my MA in Publishing at Anglia Ruskin University, and one that I really didn’t think about before starting, is the combination of skills and knowledge publishers actually need to employ, precisely to get books to readers. Now, I’m not just talking British, middle-class Kindle readers; I’m talking readers everywhere.
This idea really hit home when I was in Budapest in January. On one particular stall in Budapest’s Great Central Market you could buy the same book in five different languages. Standing in front of this stall was my Eureka moment; this is what publishers can do. It’s so easy when you live in an English speaking country to forget about the rest of the world. But in this day and age, we have to think globally. Whilst many have some appreciation of what it takes to get a book to market, getting a book into markets with languages which you don’t speak, and in countries which you don’t know… now that takes some work.
There is so much that I have learnt about rights sales and international publishing in the last six months that I just hadn’t considered before starting this course. Publishing houses are continually growing and developing their skills in bringing books to the global market in a way that individuals just can’t replicate, from law departments working on contracts and worldwide copyright law, to editors developing texts which are sensitive to cultural differences, to the agents acting on the frontline, growing existing markets and discovering new ones.
This semester, my class and I have the opportunity to go to the London Book Fair. I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am to learn more about how we, as publishers, can work to get books to the whole world. Through this course, I’ve not only been educated in the vast wealth of skills that publishers have in this area, but I’ve been inspired to further my knowledge, including by learning a new language. I am so happy that, through my MA, I can now become a professional ‘book pusher’… on a global scale!
Melissa Bartlett is studying for an MA in publishing at Anglia Ruskin University, and blogs and tweets under the name Pub to Publishing.
This is the second in a series of monthly blogs written by students on publishing courses. To read the first, click here.