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Bestselling author’s novel published by University in first of its kind deal

Bestselling author’s novel published by University in first of its kind deal Banner Image

MA Publishing students and Debbie Williams, Head of UCLan Publishing, with their published book

Jane Johnson’s Pillars of Light published by UCLan’s publishing house

Students in Preston have published a bestselling author’s book in a first of its kind deal for a University.

The MA Publishing students from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) have worked with historical fiction Jane Johnson to publish Pillars of Light, an epic tale of love across the divides, war and survival set in 12th Century.

The postgraduates edited and typeset the copy, worked with artist Noel Betowski to design the front cover and liaised with a printing company to arrange for 800 hardback copies to be printed on textured paper.

Debbie Williams, Head of UCLan Publishing, said: “We are the only student-led, student-run publishing house in the world and this is the first time that such a high profile author has ever been published by a University. To get someone like Jane, whose is usually published by industry leader Penguin Random House, to come to UCLan Publishing and for her to trust us to deliver a wonderful novel is amazing.”

Jane has worked in the book industry for over 20 years, as a bookseller, publisher and writer. She is the author of The Tenth Gift, The Salt Road, The Sultan’s Wife, and Court of Lions. She was responsible for publishing the works of J. R. R. Tolkien during the 1980s and 1990s and worked on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, spending many months in New Zealand with cast and crew. She is also the editor for Game of Thrones and editorial director for Harper Collins.

I think my favourite part about working with an author, aside from the general learning experience, was helping to give life to a project that they put so much passion into.

The Cornwall based author knows Debbie, who also leads on the BA (Hons) Publishing course, through professional connections and decided to lend her support to the University’s publishing house.

Jane said: “It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with the MA Publishing students and team to get Pillars of Light out into the UK market. The response to the book itself, and the level of care and attention to every aspect of the publishing, has warmed my heart and restored something of my faith in the power of the written word. I feel that there's a new generation of young publishers coming into the system from UCLan with a greater understanding of how things really work, and what actually matters, and with real hands-on experience to make a difference to what is otherwise becoming a bland and risk-averse industry.”

Among the students involved in Pillars of Light was Josh Moorby, who is now a sales assistant at Bloomsbury adult fiction. He said: “Working with a bestselling author was a fantastic opportunity. Experience of this kind isn't usually available to those without a full-time publishing career, and projects like this are always a point of interest at interviews.

“Working on the book gave me confidence in the skills I'd learned during my MA degree and also applied the industry pressure of publication deadlines and printing costs. I feel that this project was as close to the 'real thing' as possible, which is always one of the most important factors in vocational degrees like publishing.”

Holly Price, who is now working as a designer at Priddy Children’s Books, added: “I think my favourite part about working with an author, aside from the general learning experience, was helping to give life to a project that they put so much passion into.”

The book is now on sale and has been the featured book in a high street retailer’s window. The students have also organised launch events in Jane’s home town of Penzance and at Foyles in Charing Cross Road, London, on 9 November.

Rachel Atkinson | 31 October 2017