MA Creative Writing / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Publishing: History, Theory, Practice

Course unit fact file
Unit code SALC63312
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit provides practice-based, critical knowledge and understanding of Publishing as a creative industry. The unit will introduce students to a history of Publishing as a set of practices, an understanding of the contexts and pressures (digital innovation, Brexit, inequalities, sustainability) shaping contemporary publishing in the UK and elsewhere, and training students to undertake tasks required in the industry now. 

You will critically review publishing practices, including book and digital production, online events and exhibitions, creative evaluation of content across different kinds of publisher (trade, academic, subsidized) and publishers’ own approach to future-proofing strategies . You will be introduced to real world challenges and key professional practices, such as commissioning, marketing, editing and production. A group project in the 30 credit version applies theory in practice.


  • To develop students’ theoretical understanding of publishing as a creative industry which shapes and responds to social change  
  • To introduce techniques and approaches to publishing, enabling students to realise a participatory creative publishing project  
  • To build or consolidate knowledge of technical, practical and critical issues relating to project management in this industry 
  • To develop transferable skills in commissioning, designing, developing, facilitating and evaluating publishing projects 
  • To engage with a network of professional practitioners in the creative industries through mentoring, project-based interaction and feedback. 

Teaching and learning methods

  • Individual research 
  • Reading and discussion 
  • Student presentation 
  • Professional practice presentation and demonstration 
  • Mentoring 
  • Project design and facilitation 
  • Reflective practice 

Industrial professional and practitioners from creative and cultural sector will provide input into the course, through case studies and guest talks, including Carcanet Press, Comma Press, Harper North, Manchester University Press, Serpent’s Tail, UNESCO City of Literature.  

Assignments are designed to stimulate critical reflection as part of a reflexive design process, plus create opportunities for developing digital practice and creating individual digital profile for future employability 

Knowledge and understanding

  • knowledge and understanding of professional practice and research; including the social, ethical, political and institutional contexts in which publishers operate and commission a variety of work 
  • To develop understanding through experience of commissioning process, project design, facilitation and evaluation of a publishing projects. 
  • Identify and evaluate diverse approaches to publishing practices and tools and theoretical and critical analysis of their effectiveness.

Intellectual skills

  • Demonstrate the application of theoretical and critical concepts, methods and approaches to publishing and the contexts which shape publishing as an industry 
  • Critically evaluate the history of different kinds of publishing in achieving institutional missions and objectives and apply disciplinary knowledge and understanding of institutional policies and practices to creative production proposals. 
  • Respond effectively to objectives set within a professional context through a commissioning process, identifying specific challenges and possible solutions through a project design process 
  • Conduct independent research into a specific challenge in order to produce a creative, analytical solution-based intervention. 

Practical skills

  • Develop and apply skills in a broad range of publishing practices with demonstrable applications in the cultural sector. 
  • Prepare and present project proposals, and respond to audience questions and discussions.  
  • Conduct effective creative projects as part of an institutional intervention.  
  • Develop skills in team-based work and project management 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Apply practical skills and understanding of working practices, project management and production process to a range of professional settings. 
  • Communicate information and ideas effectively, using appropriate and nuanced language to discuss contemporary challenges in both professional and academic environments.  
  • Display decision-making skills in complex and unpredictable situations 
  • Critically evaluate personal and team performance through monitoring and analytical reflection. 

Employability skills

This course is designed to enhance employability by introducing students to professional practices used by different kinds of publishers; not only as editors but as commissioners and managers. Students taking this 30 credits version will create a publishing plan and schedule which includes a reflective blog and a project presentation.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 10%
Portfolio 60%
Project output (not diss/n) 30%

Feedback methods

  • Formative: Written feedback on digital proposal 
  • Formative: Tutorials/Consultation hours 
  • Formative: Verbal feedback via group project mentoring (20 or 30 credits) 
  • Formative: Seminar participation 
  • Summative: Written assessments 

Recommended reading

  • Clark, Giles and Angus Phillips, Inside Book Publishing (Routledge, 2019) 
  • Feather, John, A History of British Publishing (Routledge, 2006) 
  • O’Brien, Dave;  Daniel Laurison, Andrew Miles &Sam Friedman, “Are the creative industries meritocratic? An analysis of the 2014 British Labour Force Survey” Cultural Trends 25:2 (206), pp116-131. 
  • Bhaskar, Michael  and Angus Phillips, The Oxford Handbook to Publishing (Oxford UP, 2021)  
  • Thompson, John B. Book Wars: The Digital Revolution in Publishing (Polity, 2022) 
  • Thompson, John B.  Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty–First Century (polity, 2012) 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 12
Practical classes & workshops 24
Seminars 24
Independent study hours
Independent study 240

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Luke Brown Unit coordinator
Michael Schmidt Unit coordinator
John McAuliffe Unit coordinator

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