Posts Tagged ‘Publishing’

I recently read a reader’s opinion in a newspaper, and the answer by the newspaper to it, on the subject of the increase in tuition fees and the amount of time spent in lectures at university.

They thought it was OK to pay so much money and only get 10 hours of contact time in lectures and seminars.

I was staggered that I only got about 7 hours of actual class time in my first year of university, and I was spending about £2600 per year to study at my university (not a top one, but still good quality). For the amount I was paying (and which was pushing me further into debt, even if it was lower than most of my peers’ debts), I would have expected to have spent far more time in actual lectures. And I was doing a joint degree!

I understand that, with being an English student, I was expected to spend most of my time doing independent studying, and that lectures and seminars were just opportunities to see what other students’ ideas and opinions were and to get help from tutors during tutorials. However, I still felt that I didn’t have enough to do. Through my first year, I was already on track for a First, so my boredom seemed genuine. As I moved into my second and third years, my grades started to decrease, despite my efforts to manage my independent studies more carefully, and my weekly hours spent in lectures didn’t really exceed 10.

However, despite only getting a 2:2 at the end of my degree, I still felt that the quality of my tutors and of my course modules were high enough to be worth the student debt I ended up with upon my graduation. I was pleased with how the course had challenged me and that I had learned a lot from it. My university was small enough that the tutors had good relationships with the students, and everyone got enough one-to-one attention.

Looking at just how much tuition fees have increased now (more than 3 times what I paid), I feel that my course would not have been value for money had I spent about £9000 a year for only about 7 hours teaching per week.

I suspect I might have dropped out after my first year doing English if I had discovered how little time I was spending in lectures compared to the amount I was paying BEFORE I started university. Or it would have caused me to choose a different degree, because I certainly wouldn’t have picked English if the fees had just gone up before I started university.

English is a good degree if you’re really good at it but it hasn’t helped me to get a graduate job so far, so I certainly wouldn’t pick it if I had the chance again.

I went on to further study by doing a Masters in Publishing, which cost me about £4500 for one year, and was better value for money because, despite not having many hours in lectures/seminars, I learnt a lot in a short space of time, I had the opportunity to do a work placement which they organised for me, there were opportunities to meet people in from all sectors of the publishing industry, and I got on with everyone on my course, which was a very small group. Also, when we were doing projects, we worked with other Masters courses, and spent more time on campus working on our projects as there was a lot more teamwork involved. My Masters was definitely worth the money I paid (and I didn’t even get into more debt paying for it because I had a part-time job and lived at home so I didn’t need to get any loans).

So, I feel that some courses are worth the money you pay for them, but you have to think carefully about how useful they will actually be in the real world. Make sure you’re getting value-for-money when it comes to how the course is run, how many hours contact time you get, and know how to manage your independent study. You don’t want to come out of a degree with more debt than you need to, especially if you pick a subject that doesn’t pay well.

This post is related to the London Book Fair 2014 (see my earlier post on my visit) when I attended a seminar called Beyond Nordic Noir: An Overview of the Nordic Literary Market, which was all about literature coming out of the Nordic countries and the fact that it isn’t just crime novels!

The Beyond Nordic Noir session

The Beyond Nordic Noir session

This was a fascinating and informative session because I didn’t know much about the structure of the book industry in the Nordic countries. The things they discussed included:

  • The Nordic market is trying to move away from the dark side of Nordic literature – the incoming trend seems to be comic books, the complete opposite! (according to a Finnish lit agency)
  • Writers need to be able to develop and grow.
  • Dedicated local readers are needed before a book is translated.
  • There’s a need for supportive government policies for books.
  • Small countries (like Iceland with its tiny population) need to decide on and maintain support for books.

Norway was discussed at length during the session and some intriguing facts came out about the Norwegian book industry:

  • Publishers can keep publishing translated fiction because they have less risk due to government funding for it.
  • Only 5% of 700 titles translated to other countries are actually crime!
  • No VAT on books in Norway keeps prices down.
  • Publishers can have a fixed price on books so booksellers can’t choose the price.
  • Physical bookshops are doing well due to the lack of price competition, so they work better than UK bookshops.
  • Publishers have more profit to subsidize translations.
  • Everyone in the population of Norway reads at least 1 book per year.
  • 40% of the population reads more than 10 books per year.
  • 5000 new titles are published each year – 60-65% are by Norwegians.
  • There’s 600 bookshops in Norway!
  • There’s 10 internet bookstores, but no big one.

There are worries about the industry in the future though:

  1. Who will be the publishers?
  2. Globalisation – every 4th book is in English.
  3. Centralisation – fewer players who are bigger (Amazon hasn’t launched in Norway…yet).

Then there was some discussion of certain authors and books which have come out of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland, and each country’s literary councils which help promote their books.

There are plenty of Nordic support schemes, with translation grants, sample translation grants, travel grants for writers, authors, publishers, etc, production grants, and promotion grants.

In addition, the Nordic countries tend to join together to do joint promotions because they are successful, but it must be stressed that just because they are grouped together they are NOT all the same!

I was impressed by the fact that the book industry in Scandinavia seems so much healthier than the UK with their price fixing (which we ditched), the lack of VAT on books, and the amount of funding available for translated fiction in the Nordic countries.

There was a section by the speaker Boyd Tonkin who named his favourite 5 Nordic authors: Linn Ullman (Norway), Sofi Oksanen (Finland), Carsten Jensen (Denmark), and Sjon (Iceland, but I’m afraid I have forgotten who he picked from Sweden! Oops!

I would love to read more Scandinavian books, so far I have only read a few Nordic crime novels and one Finnish novel, and that’s pretty pathetic! Crime isn’t even one of my usual genres! I’m definitely going to look into some new Nordic books!

This post is related to my trip to the London Book Fair 2014 (see my earlier blog post), and covers my notes and though from when I attended the seminar:

Where are the Women in Translation?

I thought this was a really interesting discussion between a 4 woman panel, watched by a mainly female audience! Important points were made:

  • Gatekeeping seems to be keeping female translators from getting into the market.
  • Only 2 women were on the longlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize last year and 1 got to the shortlist.
  • No female authors have won the IFFP but 9 female translators have shared the prize with their male authors.
  • Apparently some women are sexist against women in translation (?)
  • Women are not as assertive as men – female translators have more things to do (day jobs, raising a family, etc) and have less time to pitch books.
  • Some people think it’s OK to not publish women’s books, but if they were gay, black, etc, there would be a riot!
  • There’s a “chicken and egg” situation: women are not being published because they don’t pitch books, and there’s an anecdotal belief that women don’t sell, so they don’t do it.
  • Men only read men’s books, but women will read anything.
  • Women might be of high regard in their home country, but they’re struggling to get into foreign book markets, even though the men have no problem anywhere!
  • Men’s books are still being studied more in universities, and there’s few women’s books on academic booklists.
  • Good books may be coming out but they disappear immediately because there are no reviews of them, whether good or bad!

There was a discussion about the situation in Korea, and Krys Lee pointed out:

  • A few decades ago it was all male translators, and now there are lots of women.
  • More women are winning prizes.
  • The staff in the Korean publishers may be women, but the big decisions are still being made by men.
  • Korean literature is supported by the government, with translators being funded from a young age.

The panel suggested ways to solve the problem with the lack of women in translation:

  • Boycott the London Review of Books because they don’t feature enough books in translation by women.
  • Start a manifesto.
  • Demand diversity.
  • Vote with your feet: people need to read more books by women in translation.
  • Raise awareness.

There was also an interesting bit about covers on books by women, with them being given stereotypical covers with naked women on them and marketed as “chick lit” when they are not that genre. It was felt that people should “let books be books” (like in the recent campaign against gender-biased covers in Children’s books suggests -see the Guardian for more info), and get rid of the naked women on the covers because they are not like lad’s magazines, but maybe such covers should be covered up so people only judge them by their title not their cover! (After all, there have been campaigns to put blank covers over the fronts of lad’s magazines in shops to hide the photos of naked women on them because they are inappropriate.)

I really enjoyed the seminar, and learnt a lot from it! I’m determined to find some of these great female authors and translators and get their books the attention they deserve!