Guest post by independent publisher, Charco Press

As part of my feature on the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses I invited publishers and authors whose books were selected for the longlist to answer a few questions or write a guest post for my blog. Today I am delighted to welcome Carolina Orloff from Charco Press, which published Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz.

 

Charco Press was founded at the end of 2016 by myself, Carolina Orloff, and my partner Samuel McDowell. We were spurred into action by what we saw as a stagnated landscape with regards to Latin American literature available in English. ‘Oh I love Latin American writers’, was the usual refrain when we asked friends and colleagues, before the usual names would be rattled off: García Marquez, Isabel Allende, maybe Borges, and very seldom a more contemporary name such as Bolaño; and always ‘magic realism’. In other words, although all these writers are iconic and still very much referential, the general view we encountered of the literature from this part of the world tended to be dated by 30 or more years.

Meanwhile, across Latin America, scores of extremely talented writers have been emerging in the last decades, with stories and perspectives that have captured the attention of readers not just in Latin America and Spain, but across the world. These are voices that have been shaped by a very different experience of recent history, politically and socio-economically speaking. They have stories to tell that are fuelled by experiences that can be touching, funny and, at times, brutal. Why should English language readers be left out? Why should they be denied the discovery of these award-winning authors?

So, we started Charco Press. The name itself is a nod to our mission – charco is Spanish for ‘puddle’, and ‘crossing the puddle’ is a colloquial euphemism in some parts of Latin America for heading overseas, going to new territory. That is what we are doing with these titles – bringing them across the puddle into the territory of the English-speaking readership.

We are both new to publishing, although not new to literature, and it is fair to say we have been learning the ropes as we go. Our first three books were released in September 2017. Three very different titles, by three very different authors, each with a very distinct style, and none of them have been translated into English before. All three are from Argentina, a way of us demonstrating our point, of demonstrating the breadth of originality coming out of just that one country alone. In 2018, we are publishing authors from a broad array of countries: Colombia, Peru, Uruguay, Brazil.

Upon embarking on this venture, we were buoyed to quickly discover that we are not alone in our mission to put forward new voices in literature, to take some risks and put some faith in the reading public. There is a sturdy group of proud independent publishers that are forging their way in the literary world, and making a radically positive change. That is what makes prizes like the Republic of Consciousness invaluable, highlighting the amazing work being put in, and the incredible writing being unearthed by these publishers. We are thrilled that one of our first titles, Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz, has been selected as part of such a high-calibre longlist. It is a wild ride, bruising and inescapable, very much the epitome of Ariana’s style of writing, which is definitely impactful and quite unique.

Gradually, and in unison with this group of likeminded publishers, we hope to enrich the literary landscape for the English-speaking reader. To provide them with new and exciting options – whether they choose to take them or not!

 

My thanks to Carolina for participating in this feature. You may follow Charco Press on Twitter: @CharcoPress

Click on the book cover above to find out more about Die, My Love. 

Keep up with all the news on The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses by following on Twitter: @PrizeRofc

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Chatting to independent publisher, Dostoyevsky Wannabe

As part of my feature on the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses I invited publishers and authors whose books were selected for the longlist to answer a few questions or write a guest post for my blog. Today I am delighted to welcome Vikki and Richard from Dostoyevsky Wannabe, which published Gaudy Bauble by Isabel Waidner.

An introduction – who are you and what do you aim to achieve?

At its core, Dostoyevsky Wannabe is essentially two of us, Victoria Brown and Richard Brammer but beyond that we like to think of it as a collaborative affair that includes all of the writers who we work with and our readers. What do we aim to achieve? That’s a tricky one. We don’t really have any aims beyond doing what we’re already doing which is having nothing to do with the cookbooks and books about wizards of mainstream publishing (although we do have an idea for a range of cookbooks actually) and sitting to the side of the more normative versions of independent publishing and seeing what develops in that space.  We don’t seek to deliberately marginalize ourselves or our books with this approach, we’d like ALL of our books to gain plenty of readers but the reality is that some do and some don’t but from our point of view all of our books are equal. We tend to attract readers who having discovered their first Dostoyevsky Wannabe book come back to see what else we’ve got.

How have things changed in publishing since you started?

Publishing hasn’t changed all that much in the time that we’ve been around from what we can tell. Maybe it should change more. It’d be cool if independent publishing didn’t seem so institutionally dominated by middle-class, white, male affair though because that’s how it often looks to us, when we view it out of the corner of our eye.  Maybe it’s getting better, we haven’t done a sociological study, and, as we say, we only really see it in our peripheral vision because we don’t subscribe to ‘Publisher Monthly’ or any of that trade stuff. We do have a good record collection though.

Your experience of prize listings – costs and benefits, monetary or otherwise?

The prize we’re currently long-listed for is the first prize we’ve ever entered. It seems a worthwhile one. We’re not sure how we feel about prize-giving culture more generally. Ambivalent probably. On the one hand, prizes maybe do give publicity (and therefore readers) to books and authors who might not get their due otherwise and that is a good thing but quite often they tend to reward the already previously awarded. The other discomfort we have with the culture of prizes is that from a certain angle some prizes can have a slightly unpleasant whiff of Darwinian Capitalism about them that often skews who is and isn’t allowed to acquire readers and it all presents an idea that there is such a thing as good ‘literary’ quality between one book and another and we’re not sure that such canonisation has ever made any sense. Our general opinion is that the notion of a canon has long been a strategy of the powerful, one that wields false notions of ‘quality’ in order to maintain things in favour of certain groups and not others. We’re not down with all of that ‘the best things that have been thought and said’ Matthew Arnold nonsense.

That said, if any prize-givers are reading then please feel free to award us and long-list us and short-list us for your prizes. We won’t mind and we deserve them as much as anyone might deserve them.

The future – where would you like to see your small press going?

We’ll just be carrying on as we have been. We’ve received vast amounts of submissions over the last year, and they keep on coming, they’ve tended to grow exponentially over the lifetime of Dostoyevsky Wannabe. We can’t do them all and we apologize to anyone who has submitted to us where we didn’t choose to go ahead and work with them on the book and we hope that those people aren’t too disheartened and will realize that we’re not any authority on the quality of a book, we either like it or we don’t but it doesn’t mean that someone else won’t like it and want to publish it. Alternatively, why not publish it yourselves or put it out with a few friends. It’s about time the taboo of the vanity press got shown up for what it has always been. After all, the world would never have had certain songs by The Pastels, Tallulah Gosh, Bikini Kill, Team Dresch, The Buzzcocks or Joy Division without those bands setting up with their friends to do it themselves in the form of what, in literature, would be dismissed as vanity publishing.

Back in Dostoyevsky Wannabe world, we are looking forward to the following books due out with us in 2018 which are as follows (these are the ones that we know about, to date):

  • Yeezus in Furs by Shane Jesse Christmass
  • Dark Hour by Nadia de Vries
  • A Hypocritical Reader by Rosie Šnajdr
  • Lou Ham: Racing Anthropocene Statements by Paul Hawkins
  • The Peeler by Bertie Marshall, Honest Days by Matt Bookin
  • A Furious Oyster by Jessica Sequeira
  • Death to the Bullshit Artists of South Texas by Fernando A Flores.

They’re all on our Dostoyevsky Wannabe Originals imprint. On our Dostoyevsky Wannabe Experimental imprint we have a huge anthology edited by Isabel Waidner titled Liberating the Canon: An Anthology of Innovative Literature featuring a whole host of fantastic writers, Metempoïesis by Rose Knapp, Blooming Insanity by Chuck Harp and Sovereign Invalid by Alan Cunningham. Finally, we have Cassette 85 guest-edited by Troy James Weaver and there’ll be a few chapbooks on our Dostoyevsky Wannabe X imprint from time to time.

Please check our site: Dostoyevsky Wannabe  for more info.

 

Thank you Vikki and Richard for providing such interesting answers to my questions. You may follow Dostoyevsky Wannabe on Twitter: @dw_wannabe

Click on the book cover above to find out more about Gaudy Bauble. 

Keep up with all the news on The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses by following on Twitter: @PrizeRofc

Q&A with Obliterati Press

Today I am delighted to welcome to my blog Nathan O’Hagan and Wayne Leeming from new independent publisher, Obliterati Press. Obliterati state on their website that they are ‘a publisher for writers set up by writers keen to use the experience they have gained to unveil great new voices.’ Please read on to find out more.

   

1. Why did you decide to set up Obliterati?

Nathan: It all started almost as a joke. We were in Leeds doing a panel with Armley Press at the Big Bookend Literary Festival, and a few of us went for a curry the night before. Wayne and myself got chatting and it came up that starting a press was something we had both thought about. Wayne said we should think about it. I laughed it off initially, but Wayne kept the idea alive, and eventually, after we’d talked seriously about it for a while, I realised it was something I’d really regret not doing.

2. What sort of books do you want to publish?

Nathan: The kind of books we want to publish will have a certain edge to them. I know ‘edgy’ is a bit of a vague term, but it’s one we keep coming back to. We want distinctive voices, hopefully from as diverse a group of authors as possible.

Wayne: We tend to share a liking of material that is gritty. Material that explores the darker, rougher elements of human nature. Material that portrays life as lived by those who struggle in some way. If someone sent a manuscript chronicling the trials and tribulations of pre-war aristocracy, I’m not likely to be interested.

3. How do you go about finding and signing authors?

Nathan: When we were talking about setting up, an idea that was struck on very early was that, rather than opening for submissions, I would approach a couple of very talented but unpublished writers to see if they’d let us read their novels. The first two I thought of were Richard Rippon and Dave Olner, and both of them were up for the idea of being there at the start of a new press, and were willing to take a chance with us. Since then we’ve been approached by a few other writers in our extended network, and we’re hoping they’ll all have something for us to look at soon. Sometime late this year or early next, we’ll be opening for a short submissions window, and will do that at regular, short intervals thereafter.

4. Is your experience of marketing what you expected when you started out?

Nathan: I knew it would be challenging. It’s hard even for some big presses to get media coverage, so for a brand new indie press starting out, it’s always going to be an uphill struggle. I’ve had to be quite persistent, but I’ve found many book bloggers to be incredibly supportive and helpful, and they’re all very supportive of each other. Most of them don’t get paid for it and do it in their spare time, so it’s great that so many are willing to help out a new press like ours.

Wayne: This is one of the things I’d say Nathan excels at. Promoting work is hard, and I learned that from my efforts self-publishing. But we’ve had a few good ideas between us that we think are unique to us, and we’ll continue to expand on that so our writers know we really care about getting their work some attention.

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?

Nathan: I like to think we have our own identity, but we certainly have a lot in common with other small publishers, in that we want to find good writers who don’t yet have the audience they deserve.

Wayne: Ultimately, we have a goal that is shared with other independent publishers, so I don’t see it as some sort of competition. Independent publishers should support each other as we all have the intention of bringing good writers some attention; the kind of writers who’ve been ignored by bigger publishers despite being talented. However, as Nathan says, we do have our own identity and it’s only right that we do.

6. Latest trend or totally original – what sells?

Wayne: I believe there’s a place in the market for both. But for my own part, I won’t disregard a manuscript simply because it doesn’t fit into a current trend. Trends change, and part of our ethos is to consider work by writers potentially deemed risky by other publishers. Work that fits within a trend is fine, too, as long as we think it’s good.

Nathan: I think ‘originality’ is also an overrated virtue. Something can be wholly original but poorly written. There’s not much new under the sun, and the quality of writing is what counts.

7. Ebook or hard copy – what do your buyers want?

Nathan: That remains to be seen! Richard Rippon’s ‘Lord Of The Dead’ will be our first release in November, and I’m very interested to see what readers go for. I’ve got a feeling it’ll be more kindle, as a lot of crime fiction fans seem to like that format, whereas I think Dave Olner’s ‘The Baggage Carousel’ will be more hard copy, but that’s just an instinct, I’m really looking forward to see what people prefer.

Wayne: My own feelings on this are that readers will buy whatever makes them happy. It’s not easy to second-guess what they want so why try it? All the arguments about the experience of reading an eBook versus physical book seem pointless to me; when push comes to shove, it is the existence and availability of the book itself that matters more. How readers choose to consume those words is a matter for them.

8. Do you consider Obliterati to be niche or mainstream?

Nathan: I suppose more niche, but ‘Lord Of The Dead’ has huge commercial potential. We want the kind of books that most mainstream publishers wouldn’t publish, regardless of how good it is, but we’d love to cross over.

9. Collaborative or dictatorial?

Nathan: Definitely collaborative. We have pretty clear ideas what we’re after, and I think we’d always have the final say, but any decision we make, we want it to be in consultation with the authors. They’ve got to be happy with what you’re doing

Wayne: Collaborative, yes, but with some necessary dictatorial elements. We want our authors to enjoy the process and feel that they’re getting their ideas across, but we too have certain clear ideas that we’d like to adhere to, so someone has to take charge somewhere. And that’s us. We want authors to have some input, but it has to be controlled and contained.

10. Plans for the future?

Nathan: ‘Lord Of The Dead’ is out soon, and we can’t wait for it to be out there, then we’ve got ‘The Baggage Carousel’ out around February or March next year.

Wayne: Although we haven’t opened submissions yet, we’re liaising with some good writers who want us to look at their work. I’m excited about that, as I know from experience that they’re good writers. After that, I’m just keen to open the floodgates and see what we get in our inbox.

 

Thank you Nathan and Wayne for taking the time to answer my questions. To find out more about this small press, including details of their books, visit their website by clicking here: Obliterati Press

Keep up to date with all of their news via Twitter: Obliterati Press (@ObliteratiPress)

Over the next few weeks I will be reading their inaugural title, Lord of the Dead. Do look out for my review.

Lord of the Dead will be published on 3rd November 2017

Guest post by independent publisher, And Other Stories

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As part of my feature on the inaugural Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses I invited those publishers whose books made it through to the shortlist to answer a few questions or write a guest post for my blog. Today I am delighted to welcome Nicky from And Other Stories to tell us a little about this excellent publishing house. I review their contender for the prize, Martin John by Anakana Schofield, here.

And Other Stories was founded by our publisher Stefan Tobler in 2010, as a result of his frustration with the conservative tendencies in the publishing industry, and a desire to do publishing in a different way – a way that was committed to extraordinary writing, rather than guaranteed commercial success.

As a translator, he was tired of constantly hearing that publishers loved the books he was showing them, but wouldn’t be publishing them because they were too risky. Other writers and translators were also concerned, and they got together to brainstorm ideas. And Other Stories was born out of these discussions. Our business model is not-for- profit and based on subscriptions (And Other Stories was the first modern independent publisher to bring back this eighteenth-century idea). And Other Stories also opened up the commissioning process through a series of reading groups where translators and readers of a particular language would come together to discuss books that And Other Stories might like to publish.

And readers and critics were apparently ready for this new approach. Two of the books published by And Other Stories in 2011, our first year of operation, went on to be shortlisted for major prizes (the Man Booker Prize for Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home and the Guardian First Book Award for Juan Pablo Villalobos’s Down the Rabbit Hole). Many of our books have gone on to get widespread recognition and to find thousands of readers. In 2016, Lisa Dillman’s translation of Yuri Herrera’s brilliant novel Signs Preceding the End of the World, which weaves together Latin American mythology, US-Mexican border politics and linguistic innovation, won the Best Translated Book Award, and has to date sold over 20,000 copies.

Indeed, both independent publishing and literature in translation have continued to flourish, and we are honoured to be counted alongside so many innovators and risk-takers in having a book shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize. It has been a privilege to publish Anakana Schofield’s Martin John, a novel that is virtuosic in the way it makes form and content each work to enhance the other, and we were delighted when we heard it had been shortlisted for this prize.

 

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Click on the book cover above to check out what others are saying about Martin John. You may also wish to buy the book.

Chatting to independent publisher, Daunt Books

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As part of my feature on the inaugural Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses I invited those publishers whose books made it through to the shortlist to answer a few questions or write a guest post for my blog. Today I am delighted to welcome Karen from Daunt Books. I review their contender, Light Box by KJ Orr, here.

An introduction – who are you and what you aim to achieve?

Founded in 2010, the Daunt Books imprint is dedicated to publishing brilliant works by talented authors from around the world. Whether reissuing beautiful new editions of lost classics or publishing debut works by fresh voices, our titles are inspired by the Daunt Books shops themselves and the exciting atmosphere of discovery to be found in a good bookshop. With our roots as a travel bookshop, we aim to publish narratives with a strong sense of place.

How have things changed in publishing since you started?

When I started in publishing it was 2008 and everyone was terrified eBooks were going to destroy the publishing industry and bookshops. They’ve certainly had an effect, but it hasn’t been nearly as extreme as first thought. I also think the books being published today are more diverse than they were a decade ago. There’s still lots of room for improvement, but it’s good to see a broader range of books from authors with varied backgrounds and experiences. 

Your experience of prize listings – what are the costs and benefits, monetary or otherwise?

We don’t have a huge list to begin with and many of our titles aren’t eligible for prizes because they’re reissues, but for titles that are eligible, we submit them for all the prizes we possibly can. Our author KJ Orr won the BBC Short Story Award last year and it’s been great for her collection, Light Box. For us, the benefits certainly outweigh the costs.

The future – where would you like to see your small press going?

We’ve been steadily growing since we started in 2010, and we’ll continue to grow. We’d like to commission more translations in the future, and continue to publish both original titles and re-discovered classics.

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Click on the book cover above to check out what others are saying about Light Box. You may also wish to buy the book.

Chatting to independent publisher, Freight Books

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As part of my feature on the inaugural Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses I invited those publishers whose books made it through to the shortlist to answer a few questions or write a guest post for my blog. Today I am delighted to welcome Adrian from Freight Books. I review their contender for the prize, Treats by Lara Williams, here.

An introduction – who are you and what you aim to achieve?

Freight Books is a Glasgow based independent publisher, with a focus on fiction, poetry, illustrated and narrative non-fiction (and we publish humour books from time to time too). We have won or have been shortlisted for quite a few literary and design prizes for our books, and we were Scottish Publisher of the Year in 2015-16.

Our principal objective is to give a platform to talented writers, whether they be debuts, mid-career not receiving the attention they deserve. We publish writers from around the world but also enjoy celebrating work connected to this part of the world.

We sell books nationally and internationally and have sold rights to a significant number of our titles to international publishers in the US, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Australia and many other parts of the world. We’re particularly committed to the short story and try to publish at least one or two collections a year. I’m a huge fan of the short form.

How have things changed in publishing since you started?

Although we published our first book in 2001, Freight Books was formally established in 2011. In the five or so years we have been publishing ‘properly’, it’s been mostly about us learning how to create a sustainable business. In the wider industry the hysteria around ebooks has died down and there’s less doom and gloom, but it’s still tough to sell books in any kind of volume. Retailers are still very risk averse. It’s harder to sell ebooks via Amazon, as they’re far more guarded about handing out promotions. We try to be as professional as possible and honour the work as best we can. But in that time we’ve also invested heavily in our network and infrastructure, in international selling, so I think people know us better too.

Your experience of prize listings – what are the costs and benefits, monetary or otherwise?

Prizes are hugely important to the industry as it’s a great way for readers to discover books. Publishing is so competitive, anything that identifies a book as ‘special’ will help. It’s also great for the writers as its real affirmation. We’ve been lucky in that two of the first three books we published were shortlisted for national literary awards, including the Author’s Club Best First Novel for Elizabeth Reeder’s Ramshackle. Subsequently we won the Green Carnation Prize (for Anneliese Mackintosh’s brilliant Any Other Mouth) and the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize (for Kirstin Innes’s controversial Fishnet). We’ve also been shortlisted for prizes like the Jerwood Encore, the Edge Hill Story Prize, the much-lamented Frank O’Connor International Story Prize and, in poetry, the Seamus Heaney Best First Collection, the Forward Best First Collection and the Aldeburgh Best First Collection. We really chuffed that Lara Williams has been shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize which we think is a great idea and wholly ethical. The more focus on independent publishing the better.

The issue with prizes are some of the punitive costs if you are shortlisted or win. I think there’s an assumption that publishers are rolling in money and are a legitimate source of funding for a prize. Personally, I’d be embarrassed if I was running a prize and had to chin the winners for cash to pay for my prize. Seems like a scam to me. Admin entry fees are fair enough but some, like the recently deceased Guardian First Book, had entry fees way beyond what’s acceptable. Clearly these claw-backs are targeting the larger publishers, not recognising that a) some of the best work comes from indies and b) there’s no way indies can justify these costs.

The future – where would you like to see your small press going?

Our ambitions are modest but achievable – that is to still be publishing great work in ten years and to be able to make a living doing so. We clearly want to be as successful as possible and winning one of the major prizes might be a way of propelling us up to the next level – but a huge amount of luck is required to get that. In the meantime, is up to us to keep our heads up and focus on doing the very best job we can for our writers.

treats

Click on the book cover above to check out what others are saying about Treats. You may also wish to buy the book.

Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? – Guest Post by Matthew Smith

Today I am delighted to welcome Matthew Smith to my blog. Matthew is the founder and force behind the independent publisher, Urbane Publications. I interviewed him earlier this year as part of my Q&A with an Independent Publisher series. Today he is giving us an update on how far the company has come.

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It hardly seems possible, but it was Christmas 2013 when I walked away from a directorship with an established publisher and just two months later launched Urbane Publications. I’m often told by those I know – and people I meet on my publishing travels – that they can’t believe what Urbane has achieved in such a short space of time. But of course, and perhaps because I’m so close to everything, all I can see is what still needs developing, creating and improving.

Because publishing is a constantly evolving industry, particularly in how readers can discover and connect with books and authors, and it is this, more than anything else, which provides an independent publisher like Urbane with its greatest opportunities, and greatest challenges.

I suspect much of the ‘traditional’ publishing world longs for the ‘good old days’, the days before Amazon, the days before the self publishing phenomenon (when self publishing could be dismissed as vanity publishing), when publishers ruled the roost, and thousands of bookshops provided the only access to an audience. Those were the days when many authors were terribly grateful for a deal and 10% of bugger all. I know there are certainly times where I wish all I had to do was take the book to market knowing that getting it to stores was all the discoverability and profile I had to worry about.

Okay, of course I’m simplifying (perhaps only a little), but while many of the mechanics of the publishing world remain the same – get a great script, edit, design, print, publish (or upload!) – the route to reader, and ultimately selling copies, has changed out of all recognition. When an author can finish a script and have it uploaded and selling on the world’s largest retail platform within a day, then as publishers you know you’ve got to evolve, change your attitudes, your processes and your aims. And constantly be open to continuous change.

The premise behind starting Urbane was a simple recognition that authors were beginning to understand how vital they are to the future of publishing – not the publishers themselves – and that as a publisher if we were to have any chance of succeeding then authors had to be at the heart of what we did. This in turn – or so the theory goes! – would create a ‘community’ of engaged authors, all with their own networks and readerships, that would gradually combine to help Urbane both raise its own profile as an independent publisher in a very crowded and noisy market, and more importantly the profile of all its authors and books. And as profile goes up discoverability rises and more sales are made.

Of course, that alone isn’t enough, and as a traditional publisher Urbane is trying to continuously make inroads in bricks and mortar sales channels utterly dominated by the big five publishers, and for the most part very risk averse when it comes to non-established authors and publishers. Simultaneously I’m constantly looking at what is being achieved by the more entrepreneurial self-published authors and trying to learn from them as they have a huge number of new tricks to teach us old dogs.

It’s keeping up with opportunities – and finding those that might work – which is the biggest challenge. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last two and a half years it’s that there is NEVER one route to market, NEVER one way of doing things, and that EVERY book and author has to be treated as a bespoke project.

At the same time Urbane needed to make an impact and we have gone all out to build our ‘brand’ and our list quickly, but also to publish the books that don’t just ‘tick boxes’ but offer different, new, challenging, ‘genre busting’ themes and approaches; and to work with authors who want to grow with Urbane, who understand the sometimes harsh realities of the publishing world and the fickle nature of success in such a challenging, competitive and often ‘confusing’ marketplace.

So, two and a half years in, how are we doing? I’d probably give Urbane a B minus for achievement but an A for effort. We still have a huge way to go. I believe we’ve published some fantastic books and provided an opportunity for some very talented authors, an opportunity they perhaps wouldn’t get with other publishers, and I’m extremely proud of that. Are all our authors happy? Nope. Some inevitably will be looking for pastures new with their next project and that’s absolutely fine with me – they go with nothing but wishes of future success. But overall those authors who ‘get it’ and want to be part of that idea of community and a support network, and who understand they HAVE to be an integral part of the process not just during the book’s creation but post publication, are definitely starting to benefit. Of course, there will always be those books that don’t work no matter how hard we try and want them to succeed, and every new debut is a genuine challenge, but after two years of hard work Urbane is now in a place where much bigger success seems like a genuine opportunity rather than just a pipe dream.

Sales this year have already doubled with a month still to go. We have great partnerships with a distributor (CBS), a UK sales force (Compass) and have just signed agreements with The Rights People and also Durnell to represent our rights and our European sales respectively. The first range of Audible deals were also signed this year (with more to come) and there is a genuine sense of progress, that retailers and readers alike are starting to take notice of Urbane’s authors. And of course, our profile within the bricks and mortar channels is particularly gratifying with sales to Waterstones this year up 636%. This is off a tiny – and I mean tiny – base in 2015, but it’s still reassuring to know that the books we are publishing are deserving of their place in the leading bookshops. And the support of WHSmith has been particularly welcome and vital in growing our lists and long may it continue! We have also taken on continuous PR support to help to continue to raise the profile of all our books, particularly in the traditional media.

What needs to improve? EVERYTHING! On a personal level I want to spend far more time with individual authors to ensure they are fully supported in their writing and publishing ambitions, and that includes those who writers who send proposals to Urbane – I’m absolutely guilty of not getting back to people quickly enough because of other priorities. And of course that has to be set against the need to continually drive forward the business, and most importantly the profile and discoverability of our books and authors. One day Urbane will have the cash to splash on huge marketing campaigns. But until then we have to work – and I mean work – for every single book sale. Until we are in a position to guarantee visibility for every single book, we have to focus on driving profile through every channel and means possible. And this is where bloggers, reviewers and readers have been integral to our growth and will be vital to our future success. I spoke earlier about the community of authors, but that extends far beyond our writers to every single person who has ever seen and read an Urbane book. Every comment, every tweet, every facebook post, every review builds our company, supports our authors, and gives us new and exciting opportunities.

That’s the key. For all the shenanigans, politics and frustrations of the publishing industry and how we must work so hard to make an impact in such difficult times, I’m absolutely convinced Urbane will succeed. Because we are creating priceless word of mouth, we are building a community of readers and writers and supporters, and we believe there is a readership for every book we publish, regardless of whether it gets reviewed in the Guardian or not. Our challenge will always be finding that readership, but if you’re reading this right now, perhaps, just perhaps, we’ve added another fabulous Urbaneite to our ranks.

 

Website: Urbane Publications – Ordinary words made extraordinary

Twitter: Matthew at Urbane (@urbanepub) and UrbanePublications (@urbanebooks)

Facebook: Urbane Publications

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