2017: Most Popular Posts

How on earth is January almost over? I intended to write up a ‘2018 goals’ post but time has escaped me – maybe I still can. As always, a big goal for me is to keep up the momentum on The Fourth Month. I’ve been posting more regularly on The Fourth Month Instagram account so it’s now time to produce more content for the blog.

The Fourth Month journey began back in Summer 2016 when I broke my leg and was relegated to the sofa for about 5 weeks. Since then I’ve focused on books, interiors, wellbeing and general lifestyle posts. Like I did last year, I thought I’d share the top posts of the year to say farewell to 2017 and hullo to 2018.

5. A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES BY SARAH J MAAS

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This review of A Court of Thorns and Roses was my first blog post in 2017 and you guys seemed to enjoy reading my thoughts. It was a book that left me feeling torn. I loved some of the characters and the magical world they inhabit but a lot of this story is problematic. Its troublesome Beauty and the Beast tropes (Stockholm Syndrome and sexual violence) made me feel uneasy but Maas created such a rich and exciting world full of powerful and mysterious characters with this series. I’ve yet to read ACOMAF and, at this point, I doubt I will. Check out my review and let me know what you think.

4. A PUBLISHING POSTGRAD UPDATE

The fourth most popular post in 2017 was my publishing postgrad update. It’s one of the few, if not only, personal posts I’ve written for The Fourth Month. This makes me wonder if you would like to see more personal blogs (let me know in the comments or send me a message). Since writing this in April last year, things have changed even more. I left my job at the Publishing Bureau to pursue work as a Library Assistant. Working with books and children is really my dream job! And, of course, I graduated with a Distinction in MSc Publishing in October last year, which was a massive achievement.

3. 10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE GOING TO UNIVERSITY

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Guest blogger, Zina, makes two appearances in the Top 5 of 2017. This is a witty and in-depth look at the trials and tribulations of University life. It’s a great read for anyone considering going to University but it also resonates with anyone who is at or has been to Uni. This uplifting list hopefully put a few minds at ease last year and I’m sure it’ll stay relevant every year as new students move on to higher education.

2. INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: BOOKS BY FIERCE FEMALES

I am so happy that this list of fiercely feminist books made it to the top of my most-viewed posts in 2017. This post was requested by a friend but it has clearly been enjoyed by many readers. The list featured some of my favourite authors from Charlotte Brontë to Jessie Burton. Let me know if you’ve read any of these books or if you would like see more bookish lists on The Fourth Month.

1. VANITY FEMME GLOW DUST REVIEW

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Stealing the limelight yet again, Zina’s review of Vanity Femme Glow Dust has made the top spot for 2017 (it was also the most viewed blog in 2016). This sparkly review of a cult-classic highlighter gets hits almost every day so I’ve asked my gorgeous make-up artist sister to start writing some make-up reviews in 2018. Follow her on Instagram and subscribe the The Fourth Month to make sure you don’t miss a thing.


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A Publishing Postgrad Update

Happy Sunday to you all! It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and written a blog. I recently moved into a new flat with my boyfriend and it’s been hectic! However, I have cultivated the perfect writing spot in my new home: looking out of our big window and watching the world pass by with a big cup of coffee.

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A lot has happened in the past few weeks, asides from moving into our new place, and I thought I would do a little summary blog touching on a couple of the updates in my #publishingpostgrad life.


A New Chapter: The Publishing Bureau

On Friday, I went to an interview in Glasgow for an internship at The Publishing Bureau. As with all interviews, I was incredibly nervous but I felt particularly anxious because I really wanted this job. Being a home bird from the west coast of Scotland, I’ve had my sights set on securing work in Glasgow for a while but I know that opportunities are rare compared with the likes of London, or even Edinburgh. When the job was advertised, I jumped at the chance to do the work that I love in my favourite city! Better still, the role is a great combination of my publishing degree and my work at a medical education company because a lot of the projects are scientific and technical. I was, of course, delighted to be offered the position on Friday afternoon with a start at the beginning of May. I’m really looking forward to it, especially because I’ll be doing a variety of work from design and layout to editorial and writing. Wish me luck!


Video Marketing: Linen Press Books

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m currently doing a remote placement with Linen Press Books, the only indie women’s press in the UK. I have been loving every minute and the best thing about this job is working with such talented women across the world. Lately, we’ve been working on a campaign for Avril Joy’s book Sometimes A River Songwhich is a finalist for the People’s Book Prize. I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone and suggested we create ‘Author Confession’ videos similar to those that I edited for Scottish Book Trust (like this video with Sarah J Maas). With the help of my lovely filmmaker boyfriend, I edited together 9 videos for Avril and I’m over the moon with the end result. View them here.

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The Final Countdown

The next two weeks mark the end of my second trimester studying MSc Publishing at Edinburgh Napier University. They mark the end of classes, my job at Perceptive Med Ed and my time living in Edinburgh. I have loved living and studying in the capital city and have met some wonderful and talented individuals, who I hope I’ll be friends with for life. The next few weeks will be chaotic with deadlines – finishing my Burns poetry book and working on other bits of coursework – as well as starting my new internship. I am excited to move into the next phase of my career but I’ll be sad to see the end of this particular chapter. Plus, I still have that ominous dissertation to write!


Follow me on Twitter and Instagram for more updates on my #publishingpostgrad life.

Online Marketing with Google’s #DigitalGarage

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have seen that I recently attended a couple of #DigitalGarage sessions ran by Google in Glasgow. These workshops are free to attend and are part of a larger project that Google is working on to get people feeling more confident about online marketing.

While I’m aware this is not specific to publishing, I do think it is really important for us publishers to stay up-to-date with the latest in digital marketing. I plan to use what I learned from these sessions with my own blog and for my social media internship over at Linen Press Books. In the meantime, I’ve summarised some of the key points from the #DigitalGarage below but I highly recommend checking it out for yourself.

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What is #DigitalGarage?

“Free tutorials from Google on everything from your website to online marketing and beyond. Choose the topics you want to learn, or complete the whole online course for a certification from Google and IAB Europe.”

I attended live workshops but Google also offers free online training if there aren’t any workshops running near you. Sign up here and you can set goals, learn from experienced professionals, apply your knowledge, track your progress and stay motivated! If you are interested in a face-to-face lesson, then you can find out more about events (like the ones I attended) right  over here. They’re in Glasgow until the 31st March.

What did I learn?

  • You need to have a good website. Web platforms like Wix, Squarespace & WordPress make having a website easy and relatively inexpensive.
  • Don’t be obscure with your domain name. Indicate what you do and where you are. If you are a UK based publisher, make sure this is clear in your URL. 
  • Think about where you’re hosting your website. These things can cause delay in your ping rate and search engines will penalise slow hosting.

“Nearly half of all visitors will leave a mobile site if the pages don’t load within 3 seconds.”

  • Consider the speed and user-friendliness of your website. Search your website on testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com to discover how friendly your website really is. I won a Google notepad for The Fourth Month’s pingback speed and it was only 65/100. Not only does this link give you feedback on your website’s user-friendliness but it gives you advice on how to improve it. Tips include optimising your images with a free image compressor.

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What does a successful website look like?

  • Clear purpose and goals
  • Clear layout and navigation – no clutter, minimalist as possible.
  • Strong call to action – signpost, make it easy for the visitor.
  • Fast page loading time
  • Make mobile a priority – majority of users find you first on a mobile and remember most people won’t be seeing the desktop layout at all. Always consider mobile first.

Social Media

  • 38 million active social media users
  • 1 hour 29 minutes average daily use of social media via any device (but remember younger audience = higher usage).
  • People formulate an impression within 50 milliseconds of visiting your social media profile so think about your bio:
    • Keep it relevant & talk about your business
    • Keep it clear & consistent – say what you mean and stay relevant. Don’t promise them one thing and give them another.
    • Show you personality & have fun – people buy from people
  • Consider your audience! Remember who you’re selling to and research where they are. Fasted growing audience on Twitter is 65+! 

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Optimising your website

  • Think about keyword analysis & research – what are people searching for? Set up a GoogleAdWord account and use Keyword Planner.
  • Optimise your web pages – use the right terms in the right places. Put keywords at the top of the page, on your web address, in your title and as near to the top as possible but don’t repeat the same word over and over again.
  • Check out google.co.uk/trends to find out what your customers are looking for. Know what to focus your attention on promoting and when. Use google analytics to find out where people are arriving and, importantly, where they’re leaving your site.
  • How are people finding it? Adword? Organic searches? Social media? Email campaign? 
  • Achieving goals? What are your visitors worth to you? Maximise the value of your visitors to your site.

Collect data > create goals > measure insights > take action

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This post was in no way endorsed by Google. I recommend checking out the #DigitalGarage for a basic understanding of using analytics and trends to improve your online presence.

Remember to keep up-to-date with me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Changes

If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies – Unknown


Change is scary but it doesn’t always have to be. When I first started studying publishing, we were told that publishers have to be leaders of change so I’ve tried to embrace the changes I’ve faced in the past six months rather than be lead by them. A new home, new friends, new chapters in my relationship and my career.

The reason I’m wittering on about the joys of change is because The Fourth Month is evolving. When I started blogging in Summer 2016 my focus was on three main areas: book reviews, vegetarian recipes and ethical lifestyle tips: shopping and wellbeing. I mostly started blogging because I had broken my leg and couldn’t get off the couch. However, I have become increasingly frustrated with the broadness of the categories and I find it difficult to sit down and write without real focus. For this reason, I decided to give my blog a niche.

But what niche? I have decided that The Fourth Month will now focus solely on the publishing industry and all things literary.

I have loved writing reviews of cruelty-free beauty products, talking about homeware and giving wellbeing tips. If you like this kind of content, please follow Turadh Magazine, a wellbeing magazine with a focus on ethical living and mindfulness, that I am working on with my classmates. I am really excited about the blogs we are writing over there and I can’t wait to show you the finished product. We’ll be vocally supporting a cruelty-free life and independent shopping just as The Fourth Month has done until now.

I hope I don’t lose too much support with this change. I think it’ll be a much more enjoyable reading experience for you all. I plan to blog weekly about the things I’m learning in my degree, my work experience and about the publishing industry; this should be interesting for any writers or wannabe publishers like me! I’ll continue writing book reviews but am moving towards ’round-up’ and ‘to-be-read list’ blogs instead of individual reviews.

Please let me know what you think about these changes on Twitter and stay updated on Instagram.

Trials: On Death Row In Pakistan by Isabel Buchanan

So I’m posting this on a bit of a delay and, for once, it’s not because I forgot or ran out of time but because I wanted to wait until after the Saltire Literary Awards took place before I posted this review. Thanks to the Society of Young Publishers, I was lucky enough to join the Shadow Panel for the First Book Award at the annual Saltire Society Literary Awards. Trials: On Death Row In Pakistan by Isabel Buchanan was the first book I picked up on the list and while it was a slow starter, I enjoyed it in the end.  I wrote this before the awards took place so the winner (a joint victory for Trials and Chitra Ramaswamy’s Expecting) has no bearing on my thoughts.

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Trials: On Death Row In Pakistan is a non-fiction book written by Scottish lawyer, Isabel Buchanan. It chronicles her time working in a new legal chamber in Lahore, Pakistan under the watchful eye of a young and forceful Pakistani lawyer, Sarah Belal, who has made it her life’s mission to defend those condemned to death row in Pakistan. It follows the stories of several condemned inmates, short biographies of the other employees at Sarah’s chambers and tales of controversial blasphemy and unjust laws.

I studied Postcolonial Literature in my undergrad so this isn’t a text that I felt completely unfamiliar entering into. However, because of my studies, I’m hyper aware of the Western desire to portray Pakistan and the “mysterious East” as uncivilized, unfair and  inferior to Anglo-American society. So I approached Trials with enthusiasm to read something different after a summer of Young Adult fiction but also with caution after a year of studying Gayatri Spivak and Edward Said.

Buchanan treads a fine line between hard-hitting evidence and enchanting storytelling in this book. The opening page is a perfect example of this as she begins with the story of Mr Hussein who makes “the best chips and curry sauce in East Lothian.” For someone with an aversion to all things legal, except maybe binge-watching Suits on  Netflix, I was put at ease by the gentleness of this opening but make no mistakes: Trials is not a light or easy read and it quickly takes a turn towards a factual hurricane. Case after case, law after law, I was thrust into a world of blasphemy, bad handwriting, and badass women. All of which were, at times, intimidating.

The strong women are my favourite thing about Trials. Gayatri Spivak once said: ‘If, in the contest of colonial production, the subaltern has no history and cannot speak, the subaltern as female is, even more deeply in shadow.’ (Spivak, Cambridge: 1999) So it was refreshing to read a book set in Pakistan that features two women at the centre fighting for a cause they believe in as opposed to being portrayed as victims. Sarah Belal is one of the coolest women I’ve read in contemporary literature. I’ve since researched Belal a little and she is just as brilliant in real life as Buchanan portrays her in Trials. She’s the founder of Justice Project Pakistan which aims to serve the poorest prisoners facing the harshest punishments in the courts of law. She is incredibly intelligent and relentless in her pursuit of justice. If you don’t read this book then at least google her!

At times I struggled to understand what this book was supposed to be doing. Is it simply a chronicle of Buchanan’s time in Pakistan? Was it supposed to be provocative? Subjective or objective? I appreciated that Trials takes a step away from “court-drama Hollywood portrayal” of advocates and law firms but, at times, I felt like this book lost its path.

At times I got lost in the legal facts and for this reason, I wouldn’t recommend Trials to everyone. However, I do think the stories Buchanan is telling in this book are insurmountably important. Women like Sarah Belal are role models for the next generation of lawyers and activists so I’m glad that I had the opportunity to read it. Mostly I’d recommend this book to budding lawyers and maybe to anyone considering applying to study Law or Sociology at University but unless you have an avid interest in the world of law or postcolonial studies, I’m not too sure this is one for the Christmas list.


Spivak, Gayatri ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ from Toward a History of the Vanishing Present (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999) p32

Work In Publishing Week

You may, or may not, know that it is #workinpublishing week this week. It’s basically a week where everyone in the publishing industry exchanges wise words and pass on their knowledge to newbie publishers. If you don’t already, go follow Publishing ScotlandBook CareersPublishing Interns, SYP Scotland, Hachette Careers, Atwood Tate, The Bookseller and, of course, The Publishers Association. There are loads more brilliant Twitter feeds with inspiring career advice but these are some good places to start. I guarantee you there will be loads of brilliant tips for working in the publishing industry. One thing’s for sure, publishers love to tweet.

You may, or may not, also know that I am an MSc Publishing student at Napier University. Being a publishing student isn’t just about assessments and deadlines, it also marks the start of my publishing career. With only one month left of my first trimester and #workinpublishing week in full swing, I can’t think of a better time to reflect on my time as a wannabe publisher and share what little knowledge I’ve gained with you all. A few people have already asked me about applying for publishing courses so I hope this is helpful!

Here are the things I’ve learned so far:

Get Online

Like I said, publishers love to tweet and Twitter is just one of the many tools you can use to get your name out there. There are hundreds of publishers on Twitter just waiting to hire you so instead of tweeting about your hangover, use it as a versatile CV. Showcase your talents and skills in a fun and personable way and use your social networking sites as a portfolio for your work.

But remember that while Twitter can be your best friend in publishing, it can also be your worst enemy. Be careful what and when you tweet. The same goes for Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Don’t lose your personality but maybe filter through some of those embarrassing photos of you during freshers week.

Instead, connect with future colleagues and employers. Engage in conversations about books and magazines. Make new friends. Live tweet any events you attend. Update your feed with projects you’re involved in. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of room for the odd cat meme too.

Network, network, network!

The word that instils fear into every graduate in history: networking. This runs along the same vein as my first point but making connections with future coworkers and bosses seems to be the key to a healthy career in publishing. Even before you’re ready to get a real job, it is never too early to get yourself known in the right circles.

I’ve joined the Society of Young Publishers, which is an amazing organisation for anyone with fewer than ten years experience in publishing, to keep updated with publishing events in my area. As a class, we attended #MagFest16 and are going to London Book Fair in March: all fantastic opportunities to meet new people in the industry, ask questions and impress them with our dazzling personalities and experience.

Know Who You’re Working For

This has been a big thing whenever my classmates and I have asked about CVs and job applications. One size does not fit all when it comes to applying for jobs in publishing. You can’t write a cookie-cutter cover letter and expect your dream employer to come knocking at your door.

Read the job postings – carefully! Explore the company you’re considering working for. What are they good at? What kind of books do they publish? What can you bring to the table? Do you even want to work for them?

If you can answer all these questions then it’s time to tailor your CV to fit that individual role. Make every bit of experience you have sound like it was made for this specific job and company. Cut out the irrelevant crap and focus on what makes you an irresistible candidate.

There’s More to Life Than Editorial

I’ll admit it: when I first considered publishing as a career, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into or what it was that I wanted to do. A lot of people don’t actually understand what publishers do and most of us think of publishing books as glamorously editing at a candle-lit desk reading manuscripts through the night.

In reality, there are so many other exciting job opportunities beyond editorial. So far I’ve discovered that I really like marketing but there’s also sales, rights, design, production, distribution… The list is endless and it’s important to be honest with your own skills and nature before choosing your career path. Find out what each role in the publishing process requires and ask yourself if you’re cut out for it. Then curate your experience to suit that career path.

There’s Also More to Life Than The Big 4

Contrary to popular belief, the Big Four (Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and Hachette) do not publish all the books in the world. There are hundreds of independent, small and awesome publishers to consider working for.

Likewise, there’s more to publishing than fiction. As much as it is my dream to market pretty novels, I am becoming increasingly aware of the opportunities in academic publishing and am even writing a case study on scientific and medical publishing. Learning to be open-minded about my future in publishing is one of the most important things I’ve picked up since starting my course in September. There is no prescribed route to success!

Volunteering

Anyone in a creative industry will read this with a heavy-hearted sigh. We all know what it’s like to work for ‘exposure’ instead of dolla dolla bills. But volunteering and working as an intern is incredibly valuable. The people you will meet and the experience you will gain is too indispensable to pass up. After all, the more you do, the more you can do.

I’ve been so lucky to have briefly worked as a PR intern for the Scottish Writer’s Centre, volunteered as a panellist for the Saltire Society shadow panel and travelled across Edinburgh for the Creative City Challenge. I’m currently undertaking a PR internship at Scottish Book Trust. I’ve been scheduling tweets for the Book Week Scotland Twitter page and editing Author Confession videos for writers like Sarah J Maas and Simon Mayo. All of this has felt more like fun than work, to be honest. The people at SBT are so helpful and welcoming and it has really cemented my desire to work in marketing.

Having said all this, it is also important during #workinpublishing week to remember your value as an employee. Take every experience that you can get and be eternally grateful that busy and important people are willing to show you the ropes. However, set goals and know your worth. Don’t take on free labour if you don’t think you can add value to the project or extract experience and skills from it.


So these are just some of the tips I have picked up about working in publishing over the past two months at Napier. There’s probably loads more and if I remember them I will tweet them over at @aprilsmyth.

For more updates follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.