'Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.'
Robert Louis Stevenson
Since its inception in 1949, the SYP has been an organisation centred around fellowship and support. I suggested to Jon Slack, the 2008 Chair, that as the society moves into its 60th year one of the best ways to formalise this would be through a society mentoring scheme. The necessary support was provided by the London committee and the scheme was officially underway in November 2008.
In doing so, the SYP wanted to acknowledge Gordon Graham’s outstanding contribution to publishing fellowship internationally, his involvement in encouraging publishers, and his support of the SYP. Graham has an international publishing career spanning over 60 years and is the founder of the publishing journal LOGOS, recently taken over by the Dutch publishers Brill, and is a former CEO of Butterworths.
Mentoring is an ideal activity for a vocational organisation like the SYP. Students have access to publishers with significant experience in their sector of the industry. Through building a confidential one to one relationship, participating SYP members can outline their mentoring goal; ask for advice; learn from their mentors own career path; and apply that knowledge to their own publishing sector. The SYP scheme ran for 6 months (ending in April 2009), with students paired with an appropriate mentor and working towards their own objective by face to face meetings, or via email.
I selected 10 SYP members to be mentored by experienced industry professionals, and then matched them with an appropriate mentor. The mentors included: Christoph Chesher (Global Sales Director, T&F); Genevieve Pegg (Editor, Orion); Geoff Duffield (Sales Director, Pan Macmillan); Beth Lewis (Website manager, T&F); Ruth Logan (Rights Director, Bloomsbury); Iain MacGregor (Associate Publisher, Mainstream); Zoe Kruze (Senior Developmental Editor, Elsevier); Ken Barlow (Editor, Ebury); and Claire Morrison (Marketing Executive, Random House).
As with every aspect of the SYP, the mentoring scheme is entirely voluntary. I would like to offer my sincere thanks to each mentor for their valued participation in the scheme. My hope is that students will gain from them not only encouragement and vocational knowledge, but a sense of fellowship within the industry which they will nurture throughout their publishing careers. Mentors also have much to gain, in terms of development skills and a sense of personal achievement, so I hope it will be mutually beneficial.
So far results have been encouraging. Bhavit Mehta is one such SYP student who took part in the scheme. Bhavit has written a series of children's picture books retelling old Indian folk tales, the first of which is being released this year. Bhavit wanted to learn about selling rights, and was introduced to Ruth Logan, Rights Director at Bloomsbury:
‘My mentor, Ruth Logan, has been providing useful information on publishing rights, which prepared me to benefit more from the London Book Fair in April. She's also been extremely encouraging of my ideas and future plans and offered her help in the coming weeks. Most communication with Ruth has been done through e-mail, however she kindly took me out for lunch towards the start of the mentorship where I had the opportunity to ask questions in more detail. I highly recommend the scheme to anyone new to publishing, or anyone looking to gain more knowledge in a particular aspect of publishing.’
Iain MacGregor of Mainstream was equally enthused:
‘I was matched with someone who had the same desire to get into publishing when I was of a similar age. She had tremendous enthusiasm and commitment to get her toe in the door of lots of publishing houses. One needs that commitment to get a foothold in this business right now… I think the scheme is helpful to both parties, as it puts a career-orientated/ upper-management level mentor in touch with how it feels to starting out in the industry again with a fresh-faced beginner.’
I will be selecting the next mentor/student participants in the coming weeks for the 2009/2010 Gordon Graham / SYP mentoring scheme intake.