An opportunity to help with a mailshot at Floris Books was offered to me and the invitation to get paper cuts whilst stuffing envelopes was surprisingly appealing. This could have had something to do with my passion for children’s books and my excitement to see the insides of a working children’s publishing house. Floris Books publish in two main areas; they are the largest children’s book publisher in Scotland and have an adult non- fiction list that harks back to the publisher’s origins. Their Kelpies imprint specialises in children’s books with Scottish themes, authors and illustrators. A few members of the Floris sales and marketing team came and spoke to us at Napier, so from the knowledge of the publishing house and having heard from the friendly team, I was delighted to spend an afternoon with them.
What stood out to me as I arrived at the cosy office was the friendly and welcoming environment. There was bunting strung up around the lively open-plan office and colleagues were in quiet discussion. The different teams, editorial, production, sales and marketing, were grouped around the office, able to focus on their own tasks but just as able to call over and discuss with each other. I was introduced to the small, efficient team and was made to feel very welcome for the afternoon ahead.
With a cup of tea to sip on, I helped one of the girls from sales and marketing with the mailshot. Armed with boxes of catalogues, an array of envelopes and an organised mailing system we set to filling the orders. I was delegated the overseas orders and was astounded by how far and wide the catalogues were going; from the USA to Singapore to Australia. Their mailing list consisted of faithful customers and suppliers, some of which I recognised from discussions in class, such as Gardeners Books wholesalers. Along with the Floris Books and Kelpies catalogues, we were sending out folders of AI sheets. Having worked on my own AI sheet as a class project, I felt proud that I could take a peek at these with an informed opinion and knowledge. The AI sheets were sent to suppliers and retailers who would be interested in knowing more about the books featured in the catalogues. What also stood out to me was that in November the publishers were sending out spring/summer catalogues. This demonstrated the organisation and constant forward thinking that publishers need, to stay relevant and responsive to their markets. This organisation was seen even down to sizing the envelopes so that postal expenses were kept to a minimum. Such management skills are necessary for this publishing house as they are producing around 60 books a year.
As we were filling and sealing envelopes I was able to pick their brains and ask any question that popped into mine. As we made our way through the orders, different questions arose that enabled me to understand the operations and processes within the house. I asked about whether their content was selected through commissions or submissions and I was told that actually most of Floris’ books are from translations that they buy the rights to at fairs. I also got an insight into the roles that the sales and marketing team perform. It became clear that ‘Marketeers’, as they like to call themselves at Floris Books, are required to turn their hands to many tasks and skills. As I have heard from many speakers there is no one route to a career in publishing, and the staff at Floris Books all have their own unique journeys to working there. It was apparent that all teams in the office come together on many tasks and projects and that there is also a lot of crossover between roles. I was also told, and was thankful to hear, that there is a lot of learning on the job. I truly believe that I will learn so much from experiencing and working in publishing houses through placements. I am determined to make the most of any opportunities, no matter how big or small, offered to me, where I can meet people in the industry and see for myself how it all works.
This experience with Floris Books enhanced a lot of the aspects of publishing I have learnt about through the Masters at Napier. It was an invaluable opportunity to speak to a member of a children’s publishing house and see how even a small part of the job, like mailshotting, can be revealing and educational in how a publisher operates. Through being able to ask questions, not only did I get valuable insights into this publisher’s processes and demands, but also realised how my own knowledge and understanding of the industry has grown significantly since undergoing my Masters; I was considering aspects of publishing that before studying at Napier, would not have occurred to me. My afternoon at Floris Books and first shot at a mailshot was highly enjoyable, in meeting the team and getting a glimpse at a working children’s publishing house.