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.

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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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Q&A with Tangerine Press

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Today I am delighted to welcome Michael from Tangerine Press to my blog. Tangerine is a London based independent publisher and bookbinder. They publish innovative, often maverick, titles in both trade paperback and hand bound limited edition formats. Please read on to find out more about a press that produces books as objects of beauty, as well as being excellent reads.

1. Why did you decide to set up Tangerine?

For the full story, we could go way back to 1996 when I ran a book mail order company called Tangerine Books, out of a little office in Battersea, south London. It was on an industrial estate, very cheap and I ended up living there too. I had a second job all that time in Elephant & Castle, spinning financial plates in other words. TB didn’t work out so in the summer of ’98 I threw the pc and hundreds of unread catalogues into a skip and entered the construction industry. But the literary itch was still there. Tangerine Press was founded in 2006. The initial impetus was a desire to publish new, neglected and innovative writing by authors I was interested in and felt weren’t getting the exposure they deserved. But I didn’t want Tangerine to be just another independent press, in the sense that it would churn out paperbacks or ebooks. I was a self-employed carpenter for 16 years immediately prior to going full-time with the press in 2013, so I was used to making things from scratch. Likewise, I was an avid reader, a consumer of books. One day I thought: why not combine these two passions, actually bind the books myself and present the work in the best way possible?

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

I want to publish books that have a boldness and originality of style. By that I mean the quite often heavily autobiographical, maverick element to much of the writing. That ranges from Tangerine’s most recent release The Glue Ponys by author/painter Chris Wilson, a short story collection about homelessness, addiction and prison, through to reissues of modern ‘lost classics’ like A Cage of Shadows by Archie Hill, to be published next year. I have been very fortunate in that sense. Just look at the press’s list: William Wantling, James Kelman, Billy Childish, Akiko Yosano, Iain Sinclair, many others and more to come.

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

It’s all down to constant research. Hardly any signings come from unsolicited manuscripts or through agents. In other words, it entails reading, reading, reading. Listening, too: specifically to people who’s opinions I value. See what stirs them up. They are not necessarily other publishers or writers; a lot of the time they are friends from my days in the building game. On occasion, a regular collector of Tangerine publications will suggest something and I will investigate. Then it’s a case of approaching the author (or the estate if they are no longer with us), explaining how Tangerine works and, if they are happy with that, we formalise everything.

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

Marketing is a lumbering, cruel giant which all publishers are trying to tame. Some days you can throw down a rotting carcass and it will embarrass you by gobbling it up. Other times you saunter along with a silver salver, present a prime cut with all the trimmings and it will turn up its nose.

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 agree: the indie publishing scene is extremely vibrant at the present time and doing wonderful things with gifted writers, catering to most tastes as far as I can see. Tangerine is a little different to the others in that I am a bookbinder too and therefore put out hardcover, signed limited editions in tandem with more readily available trade paperbacks. Along with all the other unusual chapbooks, prints, artwork, broadsides, random gifts that the press produces, Tangerine has found a corner it can fight for.

6. Latest trend or totally original – what sells?

This is a hard one to answer. The bottom line is a book has got to be something people want, something they feel they will be missing out on if they don’t buy it. That is especially true for an indie press, who has to determine its target audience – its identity in other words. With Tangerine I focus on what could be described as maverick or counterculture writing. No major poetry publisher would even consider putting out a collection by William Wantling, for example, despite his work being on a par and often superior to that of Charles Bukowski, the most widely read poet in the world (so we’re told). My initial thought, therefore, is to say ‘totally original’ but there can be a slight blurring of the lines. Latest trends can become original with time, is what I mean. As long as the work has integrity and written with passion and conviction, and backed up by a publisher who believes in what they are presenting to the reading public, you can sell a book to your target audience no question.

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

It’s always hard copies with Tangerine. But I do want to say something else here. There is an assumption that because I am a bookbinder as well as a publisher that I am anti ebooks. Absolutely not true. It’s all about co-existence. What is best for the individual. You can read a great poem on a piece of toilet paper or from a handbound book and the words will have the same impact. But I believe a physical book makes for a much more rewarding experience. The idea that not just the writer but also the binder/publisher has put thought and care into the production of the book is a powerful feeling and deep rooted in our psyche. The truth is, I find ebooks incredibly dull and uninteresting as a format. They are paper oriented, you still have to ‘turn’ the page. The device itself is book shaped, weighs the same as most books and you still have to carry it about in a bag. And the battery will run out and need to be charged, you cannot share it with your friends when you have finished and, the final insult, it’s not even yours to own in the first place. An inferior book in other words. When an innovative platform comes along and takes things to a new level, then I will become interested. But only as a supplement to physical books.

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

I would prefer to say Tangerine is underground but occasionally goes overground.

9. Collaborative or dictatorial?

Collaborative every time, but with firm opinions given. There’s a flexing of muscles at the start of a project, when writer and publisher jostle for position, stake out their territory, their limits, their character. Once that is over, we get to the part I particularly enjoy, when you begin to shape the book into a publishable form. Incredibly rewarding. Editing and going through the manuscript for James Kelman’s A Lean Third story collection was especially satisfying. He is my favourite living writer and a man I have admired greatly for many years. His passion and commitment to his art. He doesn’t take any crap either, you know exactly where you stand with him. I guess I could be seen to be dictatorial when it comes to design and materials for the book itself, but I always check with writers with this side of things, and am always listening. A good example of this is a recent discussion about artwork for Iain Sinclair’s new book My Favourite London Devils. Dave McKean has been commissioned to produce original illustrations for this, which is all very exciting. But ultimately Tangerine has a certain aesthetic, a continuity of style so anyone who gets involved with the press should be well aware of that. I occasionally collaborate with other like-minded folks, for example with the remarkable ‘Poems-for-All’ series and L-13 Light Industrial Workshop.

10. Plans for the future?

To keep putting out great writing in the best way I can. I would like to be in a position where I can publish at least six main titles a year. By that I mean, books I can bind limited edition of and release them in tandem with readily available paperbacks. At the moment I put out many unusual chapbooks, prints, new year greetings, etc. I really want to be able to continue that too, it helps make Tangerine even more unique.

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Thank you Michael 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: Tangerine Press: bookbinding, limited edition

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

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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

Q&A with Myriad Editions

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Today I am delighted to welcome Candida from Myriad Editions to my blog. Myriad Editions is an independent publisher of original literary fiction, graphic novels, and ‘state of the world’ infographic atlases. Their stated mission is to publish excellent books that will change the way you see the world, to seek out homegrown talent and launch the careers of new writers from Brighton and beyond. Please read on to find out more. Their answers to my questions offer a fascinating insight into small press publishing today.

1. Why did you decide to set up Myriad Editions?

Myriad was set up in 1993 to produce the State of the World series of infographic atlases which meant that we had a solid business footing from which to expand into publishing twelve years later. When the company moved its offices from London to Brighton, we saw an opportunity to collaborate with the Brighton Festival and published The Brighton Book (2005), a mixed-media anthology of fiction, reportage, photography and graphics. The anthology was designed to celebrate the city and showcase new writers alongside well-known names, and it formed the basis and rationale for our publishing strategy: to seek out homegrown talent and launch the careers of new writers from Brighton and beyond.

Publishers are eager for debut authors now but ten years ago, just as creative writing courses were becoming increasingly popular, aspiring writers were finding it difficult to get their work published. Larger publishers then as now generally only accept manuscripts submitted by literary agents, and agents were finding it hard to place debut writers. With the international reach as well as the editorial, design and production expertise of a packager, Myriad was able to hit the ground running as a small publisher and it was exciting to be able to publish three of the authors whose work appeared in The Brighton Book: two debut novels (I Have Waited and You Have Come by Martine McDonagh and A Kind of Vanishing by Lesley Thomson) and Woodrow Phoenix’s first full-length graphic book, Rumble Strip.

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

We want to continue publishing a range of fiction, from crime to literary, and expand to include literary non-fiction and memoir. We select books on the strength of the writing or art, and power of the storytelling. Our tagline is ‘bold, original and full of character’ and these qualities are what we’re looking for in every manuscript we read, be that a psychological thriller or a literary debut. There is nothing more exciting than reading a manuscript that is crackling with energy and keeps your attention far too late into the night, making you see the world differently, even for a moment. It is especially exciting to uncover new talent and launch a writer’s career. Our authors include Elizabeth Haynes, whose debut novel, Into the Darkest Corner, has been translated into over 30 foreign editions. Other successful Myriad debuts include London Triptych by Jonathan Kemp (winner of the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award), The Spider Truces by Tom Connolly (shortlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize), The Cloths of Heaven by Sue Eckstein (dramatised on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour) and The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock (shortlisted for the EDP-Jarrold East Anglian Book Awards).

Many of the graphic ‘novels’ we publish are, in fact, memoir. The form is a wonderful vehicle for exploring difficult subjects in imaginative and thought-provoking ways. It was heartening to see Una’s graphic memoir, Becoming Unbecoming, featured on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, shortlisted for the Emma Humphreys Prize and the Broken Frontier Awards, and voted Best Book of 2015 by Elle Magazine and many others.

We publish several graphic books that fall into the relatively new category of Graphic Medicine, including Ian Williams’ The Bad Doctor, Henny Beaumont’s Hole in the Heart and Nye Wright’s Things to do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park, and we’re actively commissioning more in this area.

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

We have an open-door submissions policy and encourage writers to submit their work to us directly. We also accept submissions from literary agents. We speak on panels at universities, festivals and through writing organisations, and these events help to put us in touch with writers who are just starting out on their careers or wondering how to get published.

We also organise two competitions for works-in-progress: the annual First Drafts Competition and, every two years, the First Graphic Novel Competition. These are a brilliant way for writers to get their work seen by industry professionals as well as a useful pathway for us to uncover promising new talent. We have worked with excellent and generous judges, the best in their fields, who enjoy this opportunity to step into another role. For example, novelists Ian Rankin and Meg Rosoff have been judges for our First Graphic Novel Competitions. We are currently reading submissions for the 2016 First Drafts competition. This year it has a crime theme and will be judged by some of the UK’s most prestigious writers in the genre: Elly Griffiths and Peter James as well as Myriad authors Elizabeth Haynes, Lesley Thomson and the 2012 competition winner Lisa Cutts.

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

There have been tremendous changes in the book trade since we published The Brighton Book. Most notably, there were twice as many independent bookshops then as now; nearly 900 book shops across the UK have closed in the last ten years. In their place we have Waterstones, WH Smiths and Amazon, and marketing has become more centralised as a result. This can be challenging for small publishers: the books piled high in the shops and in the shop windows are not necessarily the booksellers’ choices but often as a result of publishers supplying massively discounted stock.

On the other hand, an unknown author can really take off on Amazon through a virtual word-of-mouth recommendation. This is what happened with the first crime novel we published: Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes attracted over 500 5-star reviews, won Amazon’s Rising Stars and was selected as Amazon’s Book of the Year. Success followed success with an auction for US rights, a period in the New York Times bestseller list, and an option for film rights sold.

It is much harder now than a decade ago to secure reviews because newspapers have so drastically cut available space. Digital editions and independent bloggers have grown to fill the vacuum, and small publishers like Myriad are hungry for online reviews and recommendations. When an author is active on social media they can help spread the word but what really helps kick-start a marketing campaign around a debut author is an endorsement from a well-known name. We are always touched by the generosity of authors in this respect; they are constantly asked to read manuscripts and each request steals valuable writing time. But to have a ‘name’ on the cover of an as-yet unknown author’s first book is a tremendous fillip.

Prizes are important, of course, and not only the major awards, such as the ManBooker, Costa or Bailey’s. We enter each book we publish for every prize it is eligible for: a prize listing is another way to bring a book to the attention of literary editors, festival programmers and the book trade.

For many authors, and certainly for the more literary authors, poets, graphic novelists, and for most small presses, marketing is all about handselling — at events and fairs and festivals. This can be a hugely rewarding experience for authors because they get to see and meet their readers, and they know that the signed copies will be treasured, especially if they come with a specially drawn picture from a graphic novelist.

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?

It is wonderful to see so many independent publishers and small presses thriving and creating a literary niche against the mainstream. Each one is different because the character of a publishing company is intrinsically bound up with the editors who are developing its list. Small publishers often focus on a particular area: Peirene, for example, brings us contemporary European novellas in translation, Persephone concentrates on twentieth-century writing by women, Comma Press publishes short stories.

With our graphics publishing, we have developed a niche around the Graphic Medicine titles. In contrast, our fiction covers quite a range of genres and often bridges the commercial/literary divide.

6. Latest trend or totally original – what sells?

The short answer is both. There is a glut of psychological thrillers with ‘girl’ in the title but the trend is so commercially compelling that I’m sure we’ll be seeing a few more. And this makes it all the more special when you see the success of a book that is bold and brave and completely original: Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing or Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk, for example. Next month we publish a game-changing gangland thriller, We Go Around in the Night and Are Consumed by Fire by Jules Grant.

As any bookseller will tell you, there is no magic formula and often what sells is a mixture of timing, luck and a great cover.

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

Until last year, we were selling twice as many ebooks as print books but these were the crime and more commercial titles. For literary fiction, people still want hard copies. And certainly those who buy graphic novels want the books because they are beautiful objects in themselves, rich with artwork, designed to the highest specifications and printed on high-quality paper with cover flaps.

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

At present I would say our graphics publishing is niche and some of our fiction nods towards mainstream. The theory is that the more commercial titles support the literary publishing but in practice publishing is an art not a science. We have to keep reading widely and copiously, trying to work out why one book has been successful whilst another has not been as widely recognised as we expected.

9. Collaborative or dictatorial?

Small publishers tend to be more collaborative and less hierarchical than larger publishers simply because there is always more work to do than people to do it. Everyone has to chip in and do their share of packing up and posting review copies, but everyone’s opinion counts when it comes to acquisitions.

We’ve found that collaborations with other publishers and arts organisations make things happen. Certainly without the University of Sussex we wouldn’t have been able to organise two First Fictions festivals, or to create the Quick Fictions app without Aimer Media helping to make it possible for us to try out the latest technology.

The most important people we collaborate with are the authors, and we include them in discussions about covers, design, marketing plans, and at just about every stage of the book and every step of the way.

10. Plans for the future?

We launched our 2016 list with Adam Baron’s incisive novel of the modern marriage, Blackheath, and we’ve just press released news about the next Elizabeth Haynes novel, a terrifying psychological thriller, Never Alone. Next month we have Douglas Cowie’s stunning novelisation of the dramatic love affair between Simone de Beauvoir and American writer Nelson Algren in Noon in Paris, Eight in Chicago.

Tom Connolly’s second novel, Men Like Air, which will be published in September, is already being heralded as ‘the Great British New York novel’. Will Volley’s masterly graphic debut, The Opportunity, is just out; in June, artist Henny Beaumont will be at the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival to talk about her memoir, Hole in the Heart: Bringing up Beth; and in July we have winner of the first Graphic Novel Competition Jade Sarson’s sexy comedy of manners, For the Love of God, Marie!.

As for long-term plans, this is an exciting time as we are looking at different ways to champion new writers and graphic creators. Market conditions are increasingly tough and we can’t always depend on the traditional bookselling routes. We want to expand our outreach through fruitful partnerships and collaborations. We’re keen to reach out to more diverse communities and encourage writers — new, aspiring and those who are only just beginning to pluck up the courage to put pen to paper — to submit their work to competitions and for publication.

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Thank you Candida 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: Myriad | Publishers of fiction, graphic books & atlases

Keep up to date with all of their news via Twitter: Myriad Editions (@MyriadEditions)

Over the next few weeks I will be reading these upcoming titles from their list. Do look out for my reviews.

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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

Q&A with Three Hares Publishing

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Today I am delighted to welcome Yasmin from Three Hares Publishing to my blog. I discovered this publishing house through one of their authors, Sarah Vincent, whose book, The Testament of Vida Tremayne, I plan to review later this week.

The Three Hares website contains a mood bar to assist potential readers:

“The mood bar came from the inspiration that choosing a book is often down to how you feel and not think, books are a direct connection to how we feel.”

Let us find out more about a small press which aims to offer the book each reader will enjoy on that day.

1. Why did you decide to set up Three Hares?

Three Hares Publishing launched with 6 titles in May 2014. Three Hares was a concept I had been considering for a long time, having been a literary agent for 12 years and seeing how the industry was changing. I wanted Three Hares to have an ethos which embraced ebook technology and based the emphasis on choosing books back into the hands of the reader.

Three Hares website has a mood bar, this enables readers to choose books according to how they are feeling. Feelings are very much an integral part of reading. One can re-read the same book over and over, yet, feel differently each time, this makes reading the work subjective and it all depends on how the reader is feeling at the time.

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

I love publishing books which are thought provoking in some way, whether they make you laugh, cry, shudder or evoke some emotion, this means you have really connected with the characters and you cannot put the book down! Characters with strong distinctive voices are vital, this means the reader is hearing the characters voice and not the voice of the author, this makes a huge distinction and it comes across instantly. Beautifully crafted stories will always have an immediate impact, as will stories touching on universal themes such as love, I am particularly interested in stories with a moral basis, such as One Thousand and One Nights, any story with a twist or moral will have me hooked immediately.

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

I receive submissions from new authors and some authors who are already published. Submissions are an integral part of discovering new voices. I am still very clingy about my submissions, discovering a new author is an incredible buzz. The anticipation of hearing their voice on the phone and meeting them in person and looking for their characters in them and being able to wax lyrical about their novel is a joy.

In February 2016, Three Hares acquired The Choice by Valerie Mendes. This is a philosophical and moving historical saga set in 1930’s Oxford. It very lightly touches on the abdication of Edward VII. The Choice has one of the most wonderful protagonists in Eleanor. Valerie, has woven a stunning spell through the novel.

4. 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 do consider Three Hares to be very different from other independent publishers, primarily due to the way it operates and because I never ever view it as an independent publisher, it is Three Hares and there is no limitation on it remaining an independent publisher. It’s all about the stories and not the status of Three Hares.

5. Latest trend or totally original – what sells?

Three Hares has been fortunate enough to publish original titles and this has enabled it to grow organically. In response to your question, totally original please, I don’t believe in following trends, I am lucky enough to be able to publish books I truly believe in and absolutely love, trends don’t allow you to express yourself in that way. If I followed trends, I would be publishing books which I don’t necessarily believe in.

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

Both please! There is a huge market for ebooks and hard copies, both should be able to reside in harmony, I take a very mindful approach to this issue.

7. Do you consider Three Hares to be niche or mainstream?

I consider Three Hares to be very much mainstream, it’s all about publishing great stories and they are not niche stories, I love huge all encompassing universal themes. There are publishers who specialise in niche titles, because it is their area of expertise.

8. Collaborative or dictatorial?

Collaborative every time, even the way Three Hares is structured is collaborative, this was always the intention. Teamwork is so much more conducive to creativity.

9. Plans for the future?

Plans for the future involve looking into more global distribution networks. UK and Ireland logistics are in place. I will also be publishing a further 4 titles this year and have plans for many more next year. Onwards and upwards, without a backward glance!

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Thank you Yasmin 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: Three Hares Publishing | Original, hand-picked books

Keep up to date with all of their news via Twitter: Threeharesbooks (@threeharesbooks)

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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

 

Q&A with Bluemoose Books

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Today I am delighted to welcome Kevin from Bluemoose Books to my blog. I discovered this publishing house last month when they kindly sent me a review copy of If You Look For Me, I Am Not Here, a stunning novel that you should all go and read now.

Without further ado, let us find out more about a small press which aims to engage, inspire and excite.

1. Why did you decide to set up Bluemoose?

I won a national writing competition and was whisked down to London by a Sunday newspaper to be wined and dined at The Ivy with the editorial director of Macmillan and an agent from Curtis Brown. It didn’t go well. A year later I read that all the big money advances were going to Irish writers so I changed my name to Colm O’Driscoll and sent the first three chapters off to Darley Anderson, Lee Child and Martina Cole’s agent. He tried to get hold of me by phone but of course I didn’t exist, so he wrote a letter. I contacted him but I had to be Irish for a year. I even had to tell my lads that if a posh man from London rings and asks for Colm, that’s me. The things you’ll do to get published.

He loved my book and so I signed up to Darley Anderson but at the time they couldn’t sell Anthills & Stars. Apparently nobody was buying comedic fiction. After 12 months I got the book back and moped and moped. Hetha, my wife, told me to do something about it, so we re-mortgaged the house, started Bluemoose Books, published my novel and a book by a Canadian writer, Nathan Vanek, called The Bridge Between. We made enough money from these two books to continue and here we are, 10 years later still publishing.

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

Our aim is to publish cracking stories, period. Books that engage, inspire and are beautifully written.

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

Writers send their work to us, they read our published books and get in touch, hear our authors at festivals, library events, through book reviews in the national and regional press.

Some even ring up on Boxing Day.

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

I’ve spent over 25 years in sales and marketing for fiction, non-fiction, academic and business publishers, so nothing is really that new, although the marketing of ‘brand names’ is quite frightening these days.

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?

There are some brilliant independents out there and we are all different. What, I think, makes Bluemoose successful is the brilliant editors we have, who all have different reading tastes and different life experiences, so when we get together and decide to publish a book, we know that there is something unique in that story and the writing that will attract readers.

6. Latest trend or totally original – what sells?

As a publisher I think you must never follow trends. That way lies madness. In my opinion you cannot predict what will sell, you may replicate what has sold and hope to sell but as an independent originality and authenticity are the two key things you look for in a new writer.

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

We find increasingly that people want paper books for sharing. However, we do sell a lot of digital books too. Our analysis tells us that people on holiday or business trips will buy digital for convenience but when they come home and want to share their reading experience they buy the paperback and share. Reading is solitary but can become communal and an online community experience too.

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

We are stridently independent and if we ever become mainstream and just publish to keep the accountant happy, take me away in a box.

9. Collaborative or dictatorial?

Collaborative but the final editorial decisions are always with the publisher/editor.

10. Plans for the future?

We have 6 brilliant books in the pipeline for this year, and several for 2017 and 2018.

Highlights in the first 6 months of this year being:

  • If you look for me, I am not here by Sarayu Srivatsa, just published;
  • Tainted Love, the second novel by Anna Chilvers, in May;
  • The Less than Perfect Legend of Donna Creosote, a debut in July from Dan Micklethwaite.

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Thank you Kevin 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: Bluemoose Books.

Keep up to date with all of their news via Twitter: Bluemoose Books (@Ofmooseandmen)

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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

 

Live Forever: Guest Post by Andy Rivers of Byker Books

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Today I welcome Andy Rivers, the man behind Byker Books, to my blog. In January, this small publishing house took part in my series of interviews with independent publishers. You may check out their post by clicking here.

Having learned about them I was then upset to read that they would be bowing out within a few weeks and approached Andy to see if he would be willing to write about why. He kindly agreed and sent me this.

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Way back in the mists of time, when Facebook was still unknown to many and something named ’Friends Re-United’ was the top social network, I was receiving my umpteenth rejection slip for a very sweary novel I’d written (Maxwell’s Silver Hammer if you’re interested) and banging my head against the wall wondering why. After all, every publisher and agent bio in the writers and artists yearbook proudly exclaimed that they wanted ‘original fiction’ (and MSH was certainly that!) and most of them were telling me they ‘liked it..but’ (there’s always a but) ‘…we can’t sell it.’ I couldn’t understand why as everyone I knew who read the likes of Irvine Welsh, John King, Kevin Sampson et al said that they would buy my kind of book. So who exactly couldn’t these agents and publishers sell it to?

Then it struck me. The people who worked in publishing, the people who wrote about books for newspapers and magazines and the people who judged the awards for books – none of them had grown up on an estate like mine had they? They couldn’t possibly relate to a book about a place like Byker so they knocked it back out of hand. Well…it was that or I was a shit writer anyway.!

After a phone call from another agent (‘Loved it. Excellent local colour. Great dialogue. Can’t possibly sell it. Bye’) an idea started to form in my mind. There had to be loads of authors like me so why didn’t I just publish my own books? Sure there was a stigma attached to it (told you it was a while back didn’t I) but giving a monkeys about what other people thought was an alien concept to me anyway.

How hard could it be?

Turned out to be really hard.

But, I started Byker Books back in 2008 anyway with the noble aim of publishing the working class lads and lasses like myself who weren’t taken seriously by the big publishers or agents. The people who didn’t have degrees in ‘creative writing’ but had crap jobs that sapped their souls instead, the people who didn’t have a ‘journey’ to bore people to death with but could make you laugh all night down the pub recounting tales from their life and the people who didn’t get to go to great schools and further education but instead had to battle their siblings for the one pen in the house to write anything down before doing their paper round in the rain and then getting a full-time job as soon as they could to help out.

That’s who Byker Books was for. People like me.

It was never about the sales or the money it was about the joy in those authors faces when we launched a ‘Radgepacket’ in Newcastle with their families and friends present (albeit helped by the free drink I always put on!) It was about giving some of them confidence to keep writing when they were on the verge of giving up and for some of them (I know this for a fact) it helped enormously in their personal lives to have the outlet of publication for their writing.

Byker Books was a ‘one-man and his laptop’ operation for eight years (and some of those laptops were proper shit as well) so I was always trying to do three jobs at once and taking on some tasks that I should really have outsourced in order to save cash. I was generally crap at marketing and had my fingers burnt a number of times when trying to kickstart sales but I was never that bothered. My only concern was whether I was letting the author down by not selling enough of their books and getting them in the public eye, in fact I turned down one of the best books I ever read because I genuinely felt I couldn’t do it justice and that I would hold the author back (no, I’m not telling you what it was called but I bet it wins a Booker Prize before I die.)

The advent of e-books (and particularly the Amazon Kindle) absolutely revolutionised the whole process and suddenly self-publishing was cool in a big way. I was pleased that everyone was getting a chance now but deep down I think I knew that was the beginning of the end. A whole industry has built up around getting your books into prime position on Amazon and where previously publishing an unknown (like BAFTA nominee Danny King – get me eh?) was about the quality of the writing, the brilliant story and even how well you got on with the author (You have lemonade in your drink Danny? Eh?) it increasingly became all about formulaic series of books all essentially telling the same story and then slavishly trying to perfect SEO on a glorified search engine. That, allied to a few changes behind the scenes meant that I could no longer give Byker Books or crucially, the authors, my full attention, time and energy. It had to end.

I’m pleased with what I achieved from a standing start and especially from knowing that over the years I encouraged and cajoled some people into print who didn’t think they were good enough – there are at least four authors walking around today who became novelists because of Byker Books. I’ve got drunk with the authors, learnt them new swear words and, with varying degrees of success, done my absolute level best to introduce them to the world.

During it’s lifespan my tiny independent press published over one hundred previously unknown writers through the ‘Radgepacket’ collections (some of whom went on to get book deals elsewhere) put out twelve paperbacks and published a number of others via electronic means. I’m very, very proud of that and I’ll always have the paperbacks on my ‘ego’ shelf at home. I’ll also still publish my own stuff through the BB label (I already own the ISBN’s – silly to waste them) and think I may have hit upon a new way to help out the struggling unknowns of the literary world.

I’ve started an e-magazine (BookD) which runs reviews, interviews and news from the world of books (and also has a column just for writers tips) that I’ve culled from all around the web which, once I’ve built up the subscriber list will be able to run cheap ads for books alongside interviews/reviews etc and will hopefully end up providing a solid (and cheaper!) UK alternative to the likes of BookBub. Have a look: BookD.

So anyway, the books will disappear from Amazon and the BB site over the coming weeks as the rights revert to the authors so you’d best check them out here and make sure you get a copy of the one that catches your eye before it’s gone for ever…worth one last try eh?

Byker Books wasn’t just me, it was every author I ever published, it was every person who bought a book and emailed me to say how much they enjoyed it, it was every review (got one in The Sun once – I felt dirty for days mind) we ever got and most of all, it was every radgepacket (loony if you’re not a Geordie) out there that loved reading and writing but kept it quiet in case their mates thought it was ‘soft’. As I said at the time it was a gut-wrenching decision for me to end it and I’ll probably get very drunk the day I delete all of the book files from the print publisher and the Amazon bookshelf but it’s been a fantastic experience and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

So with that I’d just like to extend a massive thank you to everyone who ever got involved over the years, I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. Here’s to the next challenge.

Cheers.