Wednesday, 21 March 2012

A visit to Bloomsbury

The taught part of my MA is now more or less over, as I had my last lecture yesterday. I still have a lot of coursework to hand in over the next month, an exam and, oh yes, a 15,000 word dissertation to write, but it still feels like a bit of a milestone!

My last lecture was for one of my favourite modules, Publishing Today, and included a field trip to the offices of Bloomsbury in Bedford Square. This was the second publishing house I have visited, as I went to Cambridge University Press last year with the other graduate trainees in Cambridge. Bloomsbury was rather different to CUP, as its offices are in one of the big converted houses off the square, and rather than crowding into a meeting room or board room our group gathered in the very cosy conservatory for a chat with members of the publicity, production, and events teams.

Henry Jeffries, the Senior Publicity Manager at Bloomsbury talked to us about his job, which sounds rather fun! Way before publication, the publicity team will start generating excitement for a project, a process which starts within the company and then works outwards to retailers and then customers. What I found particularly interesting was what Henry said about social media. Bloomsbury have started running preview events for bloggers, and are using social media to publicise books and authors alongside 'traditional' media which include radio, TV and newspapers. However, Henry pointed out that you can't draw a line between online and offline media - reviews and articles in traditional media are also appearing, and more importantly being discussed, online.

A member of the production team, Polly Napper, gave us an insight into working in production at a publishers. Obviously there have been massive technology changes in the last few decades, and different publishing houses have done different things with their production teams. Some have split e-book production off to a seperate digital department, but Bloomsbury have kept electronic and print together, as the skills involved in typesetting etc. are the same for both.

This is the events programme director whose name I want to say was Sarah, or perhaps Emma (bad blogger, not paying attention!*), but who was very nice and showed us around the building.


I enjoyed my visit to CUP as a trainee, but after taking a module about publishing and learning a lot more about what it involves, I found this visit even more interesting. As we've learned more and more about publishers' roles and the challenges facing them, some of their decisions which have vexed me in the past seem a bit more understandable now! (For example I learnt today that publishers have to pay VAT for e-books but not for paperbacks, which helps explain why they are so expensive!) Bloomsbury looked like a nice place to work, and not just because of the bookcases full of Harry Potter books! All in all a very good way to end the term.

*Edit: her name was Claire Daly, what utter fail. Sorry Claire!

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