PUBLISHING Working with UCLan

Author Susan Brownrigg talks about her working relationship with a small northern publisher, and
what’s so special about it.

Susan Browrigg with four of her novels

I am always very proud of the fact my children’s books are published by a small independent publishing house based in the north.


But what I think is particularly special about UCLan Publishing — who also publish children’s and YA novels by a host of top authors including Liz Flanagan, Eve Ainsworth, Joanna Nadin, Philip Caveney, Jasmine Richards and Berlie Doherty — is how they team up with students on the MA Publishing course which is based on the same University of Central Lancashire campus in Preston.


I was one of the first authors to work with the students back in 2019. Back then, UCLan Publishing was still quite new. They had recently published A J Hartley’s Cold Bath Street set in Preston, and I was hopeful that they would like my middle grade mystery set in 1930s Blackpool.


I was chuffed to bits when they replied the next day to say they would like to put my book forward to acquisitions in December.


At a follow up meeting in January, I was asked if I would be willing to let students work on my book for their final project with a view to the commercial arm publishing the book once the students had graduated – in line with university rules at the time.


The students would commission an illustrator for the cover, give me editorial notes and typeset the book and work on a marketing plan. After some thought, and advice, I agreed.

Susan with students from the MA in Publishing, University of Central Lancs.


And I am so glad I did. It was great fun working with the students, making sure my book was as good as it could be through a number of edits. I especially enjoyed meeting with two potential illustrators who provided drawing samples. I liked Jenny Czerwonka as soon as I met her, and I was thrilled when she was selected to create the cover for my book — now retitled Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest.

Jenny Czerwonka was selected to create the cover for Susan's first book. 
(Pictured top) sample cover art; (Below) Jenny with Susan at opening of 
UCLan Publishing campus bookshop

 The weeks rushed by; the students graduated, and then, in October 2019, I received the fantastic news that my book had been selected for publication.


I was offered a contract (which I had checked by the Society of Authors) and an advance – and my debut novel was published in July 2020!


Since then, I have worked with three more teams of students on my books Kintana and the Captain’s Curse (2020), Gracie Fairshaw and the Missing Reel (2024) and the forthcoming Wrong Tracks. Authors now receive a contract and advance up front, rather than waiting for a decision post-graduation. Throughout, my publisher Hazel Holmes and course leader Alexa Gregson-Kenmuir are always a quick email away if I have any questions. Likewise, the students are closely supervised at all stages, working closely with professional editors and other publishing experts.


I have been super impressed by the students’ passion, ambition, and dedication. They always have great ideas and have great attention to detail and are fantastic cheerleaders for my books.


In 2022/23 a team of four MA Publishing students worked on my new children’s book Gracie Fairshaw and the Missing Reel (published on World Book Day, 7th March 2024).

Gracie Fairshaw and the Missing Reel, by Susan Brownrigg, 
published by UCLan 

One of them, Patricia Snake, has since graduated and is now secretary for Children's Books North, and a researcher for Inclusive Books for Children.  
She told me she was initially attracted to the course as it was like ‘publishing tapas’, allowing students to try a little in design, marketing, editorial etc to find out which role was the most rewarding.


'I loved the level of trust given to us as students. I learned on my feet and was encouraged to get stuck in, building a rapport with Susan and sharing my enthusiasm for the story on even the fifth or sixth readthrough!' Patricia said. 'There was a lot to learn quickly: I helped with the editing, and I needed a keen eye for detail to pick up on any finnicky commas or spelling mistakes that needed tweaking. As this was only one aspect of the course, I soon learned how to manage my time to meet deadlines and not keep Susan waiting too long for feedback.' 
Patricia was also responsible for creating a range of educational resources to be used as marketing materials for the book’s release, which I am thrilled to be able to offer on my website.


Patricia explained:  'I developed a set of worksheets and comprehension questions for school reading groups, to highlight the rich exploration of serious issues in the book, while using the fun nature of the adventure story to create puzzle-like games to boost reader interest. 
'Working on this project has reaffirmed my desire to work in publishing – it was so rewarding helping to shape this book into the best version of itself, supporting the author’s vision from rough concept to its delivery. It was a joy being part of Team Gracie and I'm very grateful for the experience!' 


This year I am working with two students on my next book about the Rainhill Trials.


Cathy Adele Browne is one of two students who pitched to work on the book at acquisitions. She said: 'For the Live Project, we were given three manuscripts to read. I was determined to secure my place on Susan’s team from about three chapters in of reading her manuscript.


'Being a part of the Live Project means that you have a hands-on role in the publication of the book. It essentially functions as an internship, but at the same time all the work you produce is also contributing to your Masters. You gain a taste of all the different aspects of publishing to see which area best suits your skills and interests, and you start to make connections with other professionals. I feel like on the completion of the live project I will be in a strong position to start applying for jobs in publishing — a thing that I thought would be impossible for me before I started studying at UCLan.'


The covers for all my books have now been illustrated by the fabulous Jenny Czerwonka – who has become a friend. Jenny first became involved after spotting a poster on campus calling for illustrators who would like to create a cover design for the first Gracie book. Since then, Jenny has taken that design, and come up with variations for two sequels as well as the cover, maps and animal character drawings for Kintana and the Captain’s Curse.


Jenny said: 'I am sent a brief for each book.  The Gracie books feature the characters in silhouette and different Blackpool buildings.  Of course, Blackpool Tower lends itself to being down the spine!  There is a different colour theme for each book chosen in collaboration with the students and myself. Watching the students and Susan getting a new book on the shelves is a wonderful thing to be part of and personally satisfying to watch and play my part in their success.' 


The MA course was awarded a Times Higher Award (2018) for Innovation in the Arts, and the business, UCLan Publishing, was awarded Best Newcomer at the Independent Publishing Guild (2019) for the ethos of teaching publishing using a commercial publishing house. 


Course Leader, Alexa Gregson-Kenmuir, added: 'At UCLan we believe that you learn by doing. Being given the opportunity, responsibility and trust to work professionally with an author leads to increased confidence and a sense of accomplishment. Undoubtedly, it supports students' career aspirations and employability skills too.


'Our authors also love the process of giving back and seeing the transformation in the students. We have many success stories of graduates now in industry and books that UCLan Publishing has been able to publish.' 

*Header image by Tita Berredo;

all other images courtesy of Susan Brownrigg


 Susan Brownrigg is a Lancashire lass. She is the author of Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest, Gracie Fairshaw and the Trouble at the Tower, Gracie Fairshaw and the Missing Reel and Kintana and the Captain’s Curse. A former SCBWI network organiser for the north, she was awarded the Margaret Carey Scholarship in 2015. An Undiscovered Voices winner in 2016, Susan is now responsible for UV social media content and website editor.

(Twitter) @suebmuseum 

Françoise Price is the Deputy Editor of Words & Pictures magazine. Contact her at


Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures magazine. Contact her at



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