Friday, 30 April 2010

What is mentoring?

It has occurred to me that some people might be interesting in becoming involved in the SYP Mentoring Scheme, as mentor or student, but perhaps don't fully understand what it would involve in terms of their time commitment or indeed the nature of mentoring itself.

In terms of time commitment we are recommending mentors 'meet' with their students (this could be face-to-face over a coffee, via email, over the phone or Skype, etc) for a minimum of [up to] 2 hours on 3 separate occasions over a 6 month timeframe. So, beginning in June, the arrangement would formally finish at the end of this year. These are not fixed rules, and some mentors and students from last year met up more frequently, and indeed are still in contact with each other.

What is Mentoring?
Like many business phrases, there is no one definition for mentoring that all academics and practitioners agree on. However, part of a definition from the book Everyone Needs a Mentor (D. Clutterbuck, 2004), provides a good pointer:

'Mentoring helps mentees and mentors progress their personal and professional growth. The aim is to build the capability of mentees to the point of self-reliance... Mentoring is a positive developmental activity. Mentors can discuss current issues relating to the mentee’s work, offering insights... into how the informal networks operate and how they think about the challenges and opportunities they encounter. Mentors can advise on development and how to manage a career plan; they can challenge assumptions; and where relevant, they can share their own experience.'

Through a series of regular, confidential one-to-one meetings, a mentor helps their student to work out their own answers to things that are important to them: from immediate job application plans, to the right area of publishing for them to be in, to long-term career goals. This might mean helping the student stand back and see the broader picture, or just providing a listening ear when they want to get something off their chest or just need someone to act as a sounding board. The long-term aim is for the student to become self-reliant in acquiring new knowledge, skills and abilities. Mentoring draws upon a range of development methods including coaching, counselling, facilitating and sharing expertise.

What to expect in mentoring meetings
There is no 'right' format for mentoring meetings; students and mentors will agree an approach that works best for them. I have created some groundrules that all students must adhere to, but the following guidelines are based on good practice:

First Meeting:
The first meeting has three main goals:
· to establish rapport
· to establish an understanding of what each should expect of the other
· to agree the student’s initial development objectives and immediate issue

This initial meeting is very useful in facilitating successful mentoring relationships by outlining and managing mutual expectations and clarifying roles.

A typical mentoring agreement might include:
· The mentee’s primary development objectives
· What the student is obliged to do in the mentoring relationship
· What the mentor is obliged to do in the mentoring relationship
· Decide on what project/issue/career aspect to work on together.
· How often you want to meet and by what channel.

Early on in the mentoring relationship, ideally at the first meeting, mentees and mentors should discuss boundaries for the relationship in terms of what each party can and will do within the relationship. There are a small number of general boundaries that I would suggest are useful in all mentoring relationships. These are:

· The relationship is student driven and it is the mentee’s responsibility to determine the agenda for mentoring meetings
· It is not the mentor’s role to sort out the student’s problems but to help the student solve their own problems
· Whilst mentors should be able to help students with a wide range of development opportunities or any problems, the mentor is not expected to be a trained counsellor.

Subsequent Meetings: Mentoring
The agendas for these meetings will be driven by the student’s mentoring goal and therefore may change and evolve over the course of the mentoring relationship. The meetings will typically last between one and two hours. During these meetings the mentor may provide coaching, counselling, advice, encouragement, challenge and feedback depending on the student’s needs.

Confidentiality is a fundamental principle of a mentoring relationship in order to build trust and encourage openness. This applies to both mentors and students. Both parties commit not to talk about what has been discussed at mentoring meetings unless they have the agreement of the other party to do so.

Finally, it is entirely voluntary! Either party can agree to end the mentoring arrangement (if both parties agree that the mentoring situation has developed as far as it can and has come to a natural conclusion). Similarly, if both parties wish to continue to be in touch after the formal ending of the SYP mentoring scheme, that is also perfectly acceptable.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Feedback from last year: the mentors

My sincere thanks to last year's mentors. I am very grateful for the time and thought that they put into their meetings with the students (mentees) whether this was face to face, via email, over a coffeee or -- in some cases -- in their offices. As I mentioned in my first post, the SYP is centred on fellowship and voluntary support: they clearly demonstrated these values with their involvement, whichever method they used to communicate.

The mentors included:

Genevieve Pegg (Editor, Orion);
Geoff Duffield (Sales Director, Pan Macmillan);
Christoph Chesher (Global Sales Director, T&F);
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, Zed Books);
and Claire Morrison (Marketing Executive, Random House).

Here are a selection of comments I received from the mentors' perspective:

'I realized that she just needed someone with more experience in publishing to listen to hear and give advice. We got on really well and will continue to be in contact.'

'We corresponded initially via email, and then had a face-to-face just before Xmas in London. We were in touch fairly regularly on email for a good 3-4 months, but then as my workload increased post-Xmas, I could manage to talk to her roughly once a month.'

'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 did feel I was more empathetic to the junior staff who work with me here at [publisher], as you realize just how hard it is at the beginning.'

'I think 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, so I am sure she will succeed eventually.'

'We did everything by email as she was in London and myself in Oxford. I did offer to phone her or her to phone me anytime but I think she felt more comfortable via email. It would have been nice to have a face to face meeting right at the beginning to try and forge the relationship, but again location was an issue.'

'It would be nice to mentor someone that was closer so a face to face meeting would have been more possible. But I completely understand it’s not always possible, and it would be a shame to miss a good match due to this.'

'Met with my mentee twice face to face having arranged to meet via email, which worked out fine. Would have been happy to have met a couple more times if necessary or answer questions by email.'

'Giving advice on [student's name] CV and then seeing that it had been useful and she had followed up on it. It was really nice to feel that what help I could give was actually useful (I hope anyway!).'

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Feedback from last year: the 'students'

I had some good feedback on the SYP Mentoring Scheme last year. More importantly for me, we had some valuable feedback on how to improve it for this year, and I will be using some of their ideas / recommendations.

Here are a selection of comments I received from those who were mentored:

'I received the encouragement that I was doing everything I possibly could: applying for any role to get a foot in the door; making contact and arranging personal meetings with those who already worked in the industry... '

'It was a major boost to my search to hear the first-hand account of someone who had experienced the same struggle and who also had a vested interest in my success.'

'My mentor was good at giving me feedback on decisions I made about whether to stay in my department, redundancies, and how long to stay in one job for, which proved very useful in mapping out some sort of career game plan, which was a quite important goal for me this year.'

'It was definitely great to talk to somebody doing a job I would like to aim for in a few years.'

'It has particularly helped me with the cover designs of my books.'

'Meeting some of the other staff at Bloomsbury helped me out of tricky situations! Their advice was great. I joined the scheme at a time when I knew relatively little about the Publishing Industry. It was nice to know I had a mentor I could ‘touch base’ with and bounce questions off whenever I needed.'

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The London Book Fair

I will be speaking about the SYP Mentoring Scheme at the London Book Fair on Tuesday 20 April, at 2.30pm and 4pm, Conference Rooms 1 and 2. (This will be during the 'How To Get Into Publishing' and 'How to Get Ahead in Publishing' sessions.)

I'll be available after the sessions to answer any questions you might have on the scheme, either as a Mentor or Student.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Apply now for the 2010 SYP Mentoring Scheme

SYP members can apply now to participate in the 2010 SYP Mentoring Scheme via the following website: Please complete all of the fields carefully and, in a 100 word statement, outline exactly what your mentoring objective would be: what you aim to achieve from this scheme, and your reasons for applying.

The closing date for applications is 24 May 2010.

With thanks to Nick Coveney for designing the poster.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Sixty years of dedication : a profile of Gordon Graham

In 2006 I was fortunate to meet Gordon Graham in his LOGOS office. The result of which was the following article, written for the SYP magazine InPrint (Issue 118) in 2006:

One could fill an edition of InPrint several time over with articles chronicling the transnational publishing career of one Scotsman. 2007 marks his 61st year of involvement in the publishing industry: a remarkable feat demonstrating his commitment to publishing, and making him one of the most enduring figures within the industry.

Thankfully, his work and influence continue and I had the privilege of an afternoon in the company of Gordon Graham in the office of the journal he founded on his 'retirement' in 1990: LOGOS, the quarterly journal of the international book world. Any article on Graham would, to some degree, have to reflect a man combining quiet dignity with a sharp intellect, earthy humour, and an overall calm, measured and unassuming character - qualities all the more remarkable given his outstanding contribution as soldier, publisher and founding editor.

This visit will remain for me one of the highlights of my time in this industry, and for the purposes of this article I can, of course, focus only on Graham's prolific publishing career. (This is at the expense, unfortunately, of such details as his upbringing in Glasgow and his graduation from that city's university into the turmoil of World War II, where he was to receive the Military Cross and Bar, for active service with the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders in Burma.)

Gordon Graham began his postwar career as a freelance newspaper correspondent in Bombay where he established a strong client network, supplying articles for such publications as the Christian Science Monitor, the Cotton Trade Journal in Memphis, the Melbourne Age and the Glasgow Herald, all of which provided a steady income: 'At that time I had no intention of entering publishing!' This was to change when, in 1950, he secured a part-time appointment as a College and Trade Traveller for the McGraw-Hill Book Company for whose magazines he was the correspondent. He was to spend the next ten years combining life as a newspaper correspondent with that of an academic rep covering all 48 universities in India (and ultimately taking in the territories of Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma and the rest of Southeast Asia.)

In 5 years, Graham increased McGraw-Hill's turnover in the Indian territory from $70,000 to $700,000. As aresult, in 1955 Graham received a telegram in Athens (he and his family were driving back to India from Britain) offering him the position of International Sales Manager, to be based in New York. His initial response was to decline it: his preference was for journalism and he was by then well established as a correspondent. However, as Graham also noted, 'Newspaper work was writing in the sand. Books were more secure,' so he decided to take up the offer.

In February 1956, Graham and his wife and daughter departed India and embarked upon a new stage in his life with McGraw-Hill in the US. I asked Graham what the most important stage in his career had been, and he cited this move from Bombay to New York: he was in charge of world sales and it was his first time as a publishing manager. He was to work in the US until 1963 when, promoted again to Managing Director, he finally returned to the UK. This, Graham told me, was also the most challenging stage of his career:
'Not least because a lot of people thought I was American! In the 1960s US publishers were seen as a threat to the UK publishing scene and there was a certain coolness towards me. It wasn't a welcoming atmosphere, and I had to charm everybody.'

Such was Graham's success during the next decade with McGraw-Hill, that 1974 was to see his career move on to an even higher plain when he became Chairman and Chief Executive of Butterworths, England's premier law publisher, a position he was to hold until his retirement from corporate life in 1990. What essential qualities had assisted his career path?
'The ability to motivate people. Essentially I see management as running in four directions: those who report to you, your peers, your boss and yourself. All vital. It's important, for the first three, to make all your colleagues relax around you.'

I asked Graham what he missed least about corporate life. He replied,
'The figures! I'd never seen a business plan until I moved to New York, and I'd never seen a profit and loss account, so I enrolled on an evening accountancy course and learned from scratch.'

Graham's retirement from Butterworth's was to be the catalyst for his next venture: the founding of LOGOS, the quarterly journal for the professional book community. This journal is unique in that it isn't essentially academic, although scholars do contribute, and from experience it is recommended reading on publishing courses; certainly it is held in high regard at Stirling University's Centre for Publishing Studies, which awarded Graham an honorary doctorate. Nor is it a news magazine: it carries no advertising, and has no national or regional bias. Instead, LOGOS is a forum where book professionals worldwide communicate with one another; indeed, the first fifteen volumes published articles from fifty-five countries.

Contributors are encouraged to express personal views, share experiences, and construct thoughtful analysis; in effect allowing readers to develop an informed opinion about likely future developments. For those interested in the history of publishing during the last 40 years, any of Graham's published titles* would be relevant references. For those interested in contemporary international publishing, from the perspective of leading professionals around the globe, LOGOS is the journal to consult.

As our meeting drew to a close, I wondered if Graham had any thoughts on being a young publisher today, and what advice he could offer to those starting out in the industry?
'There's certainly a lot to be said for starting out in sales and, as a rep, you get to know the product, the business and the market well. In terms of a publishing house, the ideal would be to find a niche publisher: it's a secure market and if it's just the right size it offers a perfect vantage point to see and learn all of the business.'

Can there ever be a strategy for a successful and fulfilling career in publishing?
'Be in the right place at the right time. Be receptive to ideas. Keep emotion out of business. Accept jobs because of where they might lead. Never discuss salary.'

Gordon Graham is often lauded as one of the most successful publishers of his generation, but I don't agree. Through his continual involvement, ready encouragement of - and interest in - the next generation of publishers, an ethical concern, and his value and belief in internationalism, Gordon Graham represents the true spirit of a successful [and ever-] Young Publisher.

Titles by Gordon Graham:
As I Was Saying, Essays on the International Book Business (1994), Hans Zell Publishers.
Butterworths: History of a Publishing House (1995), Butterworths.
The Trees are All Young on Garrison Hill (2005), The Kohima Educational Trust.
From Trust to Takeover (2006), Wildly, Simmons and Hill Publishing.
Immigrant Publishers: The Impact of Expatriate Publishers in Britain and America in the 20th Century (2009), Transaction Publishers.

[Update: Gordon Graham retired from his editorial duties on LOGOS at the end of 2008, and the journal continues under the ownership of the Dutch publisher Brill.]

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Thank you to all participants of the 2009 SYP Mentoring Scheme

'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.