Today I am delighted to welcome Karen from Orenda Books to my blog. I met Karen at a bookshop event when she accompanied one of her authors to a reading so was eager to follow her progress when she set up her own small press. I have since read every title Orenda has released and can confirm that they do indeed publish beautiful, readable, unforgettable books.
Without further ado, let us find out more…
1. Why did you decide to set up Orenda Books?
The company for whom I was working, Arcadia Books, was undertaking a restructure, meaning that a lot of the publishing programme was dumped or postponed. I felt dreadful for the authors, but also realized that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do what I love most – publish great books. I’d been doing a lot of the work myself anyhow, so decided to bite the bullet and go out on my own. It was a bit of a snap decision, fully supported by my husband, but I haven’t regretted it for even one second!
2. What sort of books do you want to publish?
I want to publish beautiful, readable, important books. Books that have messages, debut authors who have sometimes found the road to publication difficult, international authors in translation. I love literary fiction, and that’s what I’m aiming for here, with a heavy emphasis on crime thrillers. The very best of this genre highlights social issues as well as entertaining, and I think everyone loves a good whodunnit! Also on my list are books like Louise Beech’s How To Be Brave and David F. Ross’s The Last Days of Disco – exceptional books, both slightly genre-defying, but both worthy of publication.
3. How do you go about finding and signing authors?
There is no simple answer to that one! Sometimes I work with agents. Occasionally I get sent a manuscript by someone who I’ve met on Twitter or Facebook. Some are recommendations from respected colleagues or other authors. A couple came from my slush pile, and there are one or two who have been self-published! The road to publication has many potential avenues! I can usually tell straightaway whether a book is right for the list, and then I send it over to a second reader for a report. Then we make an offer, and we are away!
4. Is your experience of marketing what you expected when you started out?
I don’t have very much experience of marketing, but I realized then and now how critical it is to a book’s success. It’s the ‘discoverability’ factor. If people don’t know it’s there, they won’t buy it! So I use social media as extensively as possible to highlight the books, and all of them get a wonderful blog tour, which really works to ensure that people become aware of the book. Something like 75 percent of readers now purchase because of an online recommendation, so it’s really important to get people talking about and recommending books. As a very new company, we have tiny marketing budgets, so we have to be creative! We can’t compete with the big conglomerates, paying for retail promotions or billboards, but we can be ‘visible’ and enthusiastic! We’ve got some fun marketing ideas coming up for next year, thinking outside the box!
5. There are a good number of small, independent publishers out there publishing some great works. Do you consider yourself different and, if so, how?
I think all independent publishers cater for a specific niche market and build a community of readers who are keen to buy all or most of their books. That’s what I’m hoping to achieve. That people will look forward to the next Orenda book, rather than waiting for one that fits their prime reading genre. We are keen to build authors, and stick with them on the route to success, no matter how long that takes. We want to keep things small so that everyone gets individual attention and nurturing! Many independents are now very large, and operate more like the big houses these days, and we want to avoid that! We don’t set out to be different, as such, just good at what we do. That benefits authors, readers and the industry! We might be a bit more passionate and over-enthuasiastic than some publishers!
6. Latest trend or totally original – what sells?
It’s a bit of both, I think! One of the nice things about being an indy is that we can take risks. We have no one to whom we need to account, and although we always hope that our books hit the bestseller lists, we are aware that it can take time to ‘grow’ an author. So we often choose books that might not fit in neat genres, undoubtedly original … Some books on our list could be considered ‘trendy’, in that Scandi and Nordic noir is very popular, but I’m not interested so much in following that trend than I am in finding exceptional writers from that part of world, and giving them life in English. Trend-chasing is dangerous, particularly for a little publisher. You can end up investing a lot of time and money into something that could be gone tomorrow. I’d rather publish solid, excellent books that will stand the test of time, no matter what the trends are. Readers will always be attracted to well-written, entertaining books, no matter what is hitting the charts.
7. Ebook or hard copy – what do your buyers want?
Again, a bit of both! We sell a lot of ebooks, particularly in the crime/thriller area. That is a voracious market and I can understand that readers often go through several books a week, and can’t afford to pay full price for a printed book. However, there are also many readers who enjoy the ‘real thing’, so we make sure that the books are beautiful! Nice paper, great jackets, good finish, and at a decent price point! There is also a growing interest in audiobooks, with instant downloads onto phones or Ipods/tablets making it easy to keep up with books on the move or while doing chores, etc. I think the simple answer is that if you offer as many formats as possible, you will attract the widest possible readership!
8 Do you consider Orenda niche or mainstream?
I think we are pretty niche, really. Some unusual books on the list, and translated fiction is still only a small percentage of the overall books published each year.
9. Collaborative or dictatorial?
Definitely collaborative. Everything is a conversation from the contract onwards, and we also love to engage with the ‘community’. For example, we work with non-Orenda authors to highlight their new books on the Community Blog on our website, and we collaborate with other publishers for events, etc. A small company will always be reliant on good will – and that includes authors, reviewers and bloggers, everyone involved in the process – so we set out to be as accommodating as possible! To achieve the best possible result for everyone.
10. Plans for the future?
More of the same! We want to continue to publish fantastic books, but also stay small enough to offer authors a lot of personal attention in every part of the publishing process!
Thank you Karen for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about this small press, including details of their books, on their website by clicking here: Orenda Books
Keep up to date with all of their news via Twitter: Karen Sullivan (@OrendaBooks)
If you are an independent publisher and would like to be included in this series please check out my introductory post: Shout Out to Independent Publishers