Articles, Publishing

A Society for Young Publishers: Introducing the SYP

By Grace Balfour-Harle, Hayley Cadel, Kathryn Haldane and Beth Ralston

  1. What is the purpose and background of the SYP?

Founded in 1949, the SYP is a voluntary, not-for-profit organisation run for and by people who have been working in publishing for fewer than ten years, with branches across the UK and Ireland. In Scotland we host monthly events or workshops, organise social media initiatives run an annual mentorship scheme, organise shadow judging panels for a national literary award, liaise with universities, create a monthly podcast and newsletter, and create an encouraging and enthusiastic base of support for aspiring publishing professionals and those in the early stages of their careers.

  1. Are there any challenges you feel need to be overcome by young publishers?

There needs to be a greater shift away from the London-centric model of publishing. Whilst there have been efforts made to expand outside London with regional offices, Scottish publishing and authors can still be considered a niche. The work we do at SYP Scotland shows that there is huge talent in Scottish publishing, and Scottish voices should be better represented in the publishing industry. This includes both in the people it employs, but also the authors it chooses to publish, with bestselling Scottish authors consistently proving their stories are viable commercially.

Publishing is a notoriously underpaid industry, and this is only emphasised by the current cost of living crisis, with many young publishers unable to afford to live in the cities that employ them, but are required to come into the office due to strict hybrid working. More flexible and remote options allow for better employees at all stages of their careers, but more so when still trying to start out in the industry.

  1. Have there been any notable achievements or successes in your history that you feel most proud of?

We continue to feel immensely proud of the events we host. The challenges of the pandemic were immediate at SYP Scotland, and we were forced to cancel our March 2020 conference. But we quickly adapted to online events and helped make our branch more accessible than ever. We are proud that we are continuing with hybrid and online events to maintain this level of accessibility which we believe to be hugely important to the industry as a whole. Additionally, we are also proud of the organisations we have collaborated with, including Edinburgh International Book Festival 2021 and Granite Noir 2023. These collaborations show that we are an organisation with a fantastic message and ethos behind it that the wider publishing community can get behind and engage with and has increased our geographical reach.

  1. If you could change one thing in the industry, what would it be?

Publishing can often be reluctant to innovate and quite risk-averse, but some of the side-effects of the pandemic have been a need to do things differently and take greater risks. While strides have been made in this direction, we would like to see the industry move more and show more willingness to innovate. And not simply return to what it was doing before simply because it worked before. The pandemic has shown that perhaps it wasn’t working and those learnings need to be taken forward and acted upon. Initiatives like the Inklusion Guide have shown that there is appetite for this type of change and that in making these innovative changes, it will not only benefit staff, but the business and industry as a whole.

  1. How can people get involved?

A great way to get involved is our upcoming hybrid conference – Skill Seekers: Navigating the Rollercoaster World of Publishing, which aims to equip young publishers with the skills they need to succeed in the publishing industry. The conference will be held on Saturday 1 April 2023 at Central Hall in Edinburgh and tickets are on-sale now.

Alternatively, we run events and offer various opportunities all year round. Our AGM to introduce the new committee will be on the 7th April, so keep an eye out for tickets soon. Follow us on social media @SYPScotland on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or sign up to our newsletter to be first to hear about what we’re up to! You can even check out our podcast!


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