My exchange is with Verlag Voland & Quist in Berlin and it’s for four months in total. It began in mid-November and will end at the beginning of May. There was a six week break in the middle for Christmas, and a delay due to Covid restrictions at the time. I returned to Berlin on February 1st.
My German is still schlect (bad) but I understand a little more than I did in November. I’m living in Kreuzberg now, in a new flat share which is good because it’s closer to the office in Schöneberg and I’ve borrowed a bike from a friend so I can cycle to work.
During my time with the publisher Voland & Quist, I have been involved in the social media and marketing, in reviewing submissions, production decisions, creating AIs, meetings with authors and translators, and reading and copy-editing forthcoming titles. I’ve also been involved in planning book tours for V&Q’s authors while they’re in the UK.
The most important part of the exchange for me is to understand, first hand, how another small press operates, to see how much time is dedicated to which tasks, the tactics of advance planning, and all the work that goes on in the background before anything is made public. Understanding how much time, thought and effort is given to each title before it’s announced publicly is interesting. The swan’s feet peddling hard beneath the water to be able to share only the calm above.
It’s also useful to see how funding is applied for and how production and translation costs are met. The relationship between V&Q Books, the small English language imprint and their parent company Voland & Quist is also an interesting insight. As is the time commitment over the course of years to the authors and their work. I’ve learnt a bit about contracts and royalties which has shown me publishing a book is not something to be entered into lightly.
Part of my motivation for working here in Berlin was to learn about the production of podcasts and I will be recording an episode in the next few weeks with one of V&Q’s authors. There is an experienced producer on board so I will learn from her the techniques of smooth recording, and will get the chance to practice my interviewing skills with the writer. It’s experience I’ll be able to use directly when recording my own podcasts in the future.
Copy-editing is an important part of book production and the opportunity to learn through practice on one of V&Q’s titles is invaluable. It’s good to be able to take on a new task like this knowing I have the support of my colleagues here at V&Q. An important lesson has been that one person does not do everything. So before I begin my own project, I will make sure I have a team of collaborators. I often take on everything myself and it’s a relief in a way to learn that most publishers have some sort of support network. There is a Small Publishers group that I hope to become part of and will be able to go to for advice after I leave Berlin.
My plans for the next months are to complete the copy-edit. To record a podcast, and when a colleague returns from leave, to learn from her the details of book production.