Verlag Voland & Quist
My exchange with Voland & Quist in Berlin began on November 17th 2021, and ends on May 2nd 2022. The exchange is four months in total, but has been in two halves because we had an extended Christmas break due to Covid restrictions.
The main work has been learning how to run a small press or publishing house, whilst helping my HE with book sales in the UK market. Three key words would be literature, books, and publishing. I chose this exchange because I love Berlin, and the HE’s interests align well with my own. V&Q publish ‘remarkable writing from Germany’, not only from German writers, but authors who reside in Germany writing in other languages. The press is run by a translator, so her perspective and experience is completely different from mine as a writer and bookseller. I liked the idea of helping translations from the EU reach a larger audience in the UK.
The office is friendly and welcoming, everyone takes turns to cook and we all eat together, so it feel very wholesome. Though everyone in the office speaks excellent English, there is also conversation in German that I usually don’t understand. I put time into learning the language before I arrived, but I still only catch a few words and am nowhere near conversation level, this is at times frustrating, but mostly amusing and interesting. I’ve learnt a lot through listening and have noticed that I understand much more than I did back in November. Being surrounding by German speakers has made me think about the English language in a new way; how it’s constructed and where its etymology, it’s also enhanced my already great respect for translators and multi-linguists.
Before I came assumed the English language press was more independent than it is. It’s been useful to learn how the business is constructed, with the long-standing German publishing house supporting the smaller imprint with marketing, distribution, rights and sales. This is a smart arrangement, since small presses rarely turn a profit in the first few years. It’s led me to consider how much I want to do alone, and whether it’d be a wise idea to team up with an already established press, sponsor or a fellow publisher rather than launching solo.
During my stay I have helped my host with their website, social media, establishing contacts with bookshops, and copy-editing and Britishising one of their forthcoming titles. I’ve also recorded a podcast with one of their authors and designed adverts for UK print journals. It’s been great sharing an office with my host and throwing ideas around about how to promote new titles.
I’ve learnt about the technical aspects and preparation required to record a podcast, the time and attention needed for copy-editing, and how vital connections are when launching a new book into the world. Each title requires months of preparation before it’s announced. The time lag in publishing is extreme and it’s not something I’m used to. Publishing is about communication and finding new ways to share your excitement about new books and writers so that new titles will be seen by the press, booksellers, reviewers, and of course – readers.
I would recommend the experience to another new entrepreneur – I think working alongside an already established business is invaluable. You are able to learn what the day-to-day work is like, how the relationships function and develop between writers, translators, funding bodies and event venues. Living and working in Berlin is wonderful too, walking different streets and seeing new skylines has been refreshing.