Q&A with Salt Publishing

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Today I am delighted to welcome Chris from Salt Publishing to my blog. I discovered this publishing house whilst I still harboured thoughts of one day writing a book (I recovered). I stumbled across their call for submissions to ‘Modern Dreams’, a series of ebook novellas which included Michael Nolan’s The Blame (you may read my interview with the author here).

More recently I have read and reviewed The Good Son, written by another Belfast born author on their list, Paul McVeigh (who I also interviewed here). I am looking forward to reviewing a number of books from their prolific backlist as well as a selection of their new releases, in the coming months. Watch this space.

Without further ado let us find out more about this independent publisher which, since the beginning of the new millennium, has published over 1,000 books.

1. Why did you decide to set up Salt?

We started Salt in Cambridge in 1999 – it was borne out of a conversation in the common room of Churchill College, Cambridge. John Kinsella and I wanted to set something up that was a fun outlet for publishing collaborative anthologies of poetry. They never saw the light of day. Within months we were publisging single collections of poetry and the journey began.

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

​Fiction, short stories, occasionally poetry, though the list has closed now; and writers’ guides.​

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

​We work with a range of UK and International agents to acquire new books and commission some directly ourselves. We have fairly wide outreach and often bump into new talent at events and online.​

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

​Not at all, marketing is really about understanding what people want (where and when) and giving it to them as effectively as possible. Building up knowledge of what your audiences want is a constantly changing and sometime fugitive experience. Reading is influenced by fashion and by the effects of critical awareness – the social impact of reading within communities.

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?

​We see publishing as a continuum, from​ the large conglomerates, through larger independents, smaller indies, right the way through to self-publishers. They’re all doing exciting work, and we’re both in competition and often collaborating with this big baggy community of passionate people. We don’t see ourselves as different from them, we just find books we’re passionate about and are willing to bet our own money on.

6. Latest trend or totally original – what sells?

Originality is often borne out of a realm of practice, nothing pops up in isolation, writers are responding to other writers and the world of readers. That writerly world is however distinct from the world of readerships – the two can overlap, or collide, in some cases it can be the readers producing material for their own distinct communities: fan fiction or genre specialists.

What sells is a different set of issues, this can be driven by a very wide range of influences: the media, prizes, cultural access, festivals, bloggers and booktubers, reading groups, libraries, store promotions, booksellers, the list could go on – finding a book that sells is often about navigating these different touch points in the life of the book and mediating them. In fact publishing is a highly mediated trade. No one can guarantee what sells, but you try and stack the deck in the book’s favour.

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

​About 88% of people want the physical book – and those that don’t initially, will often buy it later. In the world of literary publishing, eBooks haven’t had a huge impact.​

8. Do you consider Salt niche or mainstream?

​Mainstream, I think. Our books are accessible readers, sometimes conventional, but occasionally radical in nature.​ They’re often daring and quirky, sometimes Gothic, often feminist.

9. Collaborative or dictatorial? 

​Oh collaborative, for sure. No one can survive in the book trade without being collaborative. Not to say there aren’t the occasional dictatorial moments. We’re not a cooperative, we’re a commercial family business.​

10. Plans for the future?

Survive – one can’t be guaranteed success, and you’re only as good as your last book. Financial insecurity is a feature of all publishing and most people will face losses and bankruptcy at points in their professional lives. You need a high degree of tenacity and flexibility, there are times when in order to continue you may have to ​redesign your whole business and build it again. The key is to keep going. Keep pushing through. And, of course, enjoy the journey – the books make it all worth while.

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Thank you Chris 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: Salt Publishing

Keep up to date with all of their news via Twitter: Salt (@saltpublishing)

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littleegypt  9781784630232frcvr.indd

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 Galley Beggar Press

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Today I am delighted to welcome Sam from Galley Beggar Press to my blog. I discovered this publishing house when I reviewed Francis Plug: How To Be A Public Author by Paul Ewen in the summer of 2014. This book inspired me to start attending literary events. If you have read the book (and you should!) then you may interpret that as you will.

Since then I have read and reviewed enough of their titles to convince me that I wanted to own everything they published in hard copy (I don’t read ebooks). For Christmas this year my wonderful husband enrolled me as a Galley Buddy and presented me with the backlist titles I had not yet managed to acquire. You may look out for my reviews of these, along with their 2016 publications, in the coming months.

Without further ado let us find out more about this “old fashioned publisher for the 21st Century”.

1. Why did you decide to set up Galley Beggar Press?

It was a question of putting our money where our mouths were, in a rather literal sense. We’d had a lot of ideas about how we’d like to publish books, the kind of things we’d like to publish, design, building a list… I’d even written a blog for The Guardian on the subject: Does the Faber name still mean much? But the impetus came when a fantastic book came along that no one else was publishing. This was The White Goddess: An Encounter by Simon Gough – and we thought it deserved a proper chance and tried to give it one.

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

It’s hard to answer this question without sounding glib, but really the most honest answer is ‘good books’. If the quality is there, we want to publish it. For us, the book comes first, and then we work out how the marketing and everything else will follow. We want to publish top quality work. Often this tends to be what people term ‘literary fiction’ and people praise our books for their fearless and uncompromising experimentalism… But quality doesn’t just mean difficult. We also like our books to have stories and humanity. I like to think that we’d take a punt on something like Harry Potter too, if it came along. We like to think people will be reading our books for years to come, long after it no longer matters if they are fashionable or not.

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

Ha! Mystery, magic and I don’t know what. It’s a process even I don’t understand. We do sometimes have open submissions, and we’ve picked up a few good writers that way, especially for our Singles Club line of ebook short stories. Otherwise, it’s a question of listening to agents, keeping our ears to the ground, taking tips. We managed to get to work with the wonderful Paul Ewen, for instance, because I used to see him at book signings and public author events, and I was curious about what he was doing. He told me about the book eventually and it sounded fantastic. I knew he was a great writer as I’d already read London Pub Reviews, his previous publication, so had an idea something special was on the way.

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

Well, I’m a literary journalist so I had a few ideas. I’ve also had a few books published so am experienced in that way. Even so, I’m always surprised by the tremendous amount of work my co-director Elly does on marketing – and how important it is to get the right book to the right person. You really have to know what people are interested in. And, we were all surprised to see Eimear Mcbride’s name on the side of a London bus. But I think everyone was surprised by that!

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?

Well, I think we’re part of a movement of small publishers for sure – and very proud to be part of that movement when so many people are putting out great things. I guess we’re different in that publishing on our scale is often a matter of personality and personal taste. So our books are always going to have a unique flavour. As are those of other publishers like us.

6.  Latest trend or totally original – what sells?

I don’t know! We do always say to each other, however, that the time we start asking “what’s fashionable?” is the time to retire. We don’t want to get caught up in trends. We just want to put out good books.

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

Most want hard copy. But we try to cater to everyone.

8.  Do you consider Galley Beggar niche or mainstream?

That’s a hard one. We don’t sell millions of books and we know some of the titles we put out aren’t going to appeal to everyone. But nor do we shun the mainstream. We’d be happy for one of our authors to go overground. The more satisfied readers we have, the happier we will be.

9.  Collaborative or dictatorial? 

It all depends on the circumstances!

10. Plans for the future?

We just want to keep on publishing the best books we can. Hopefully on a sustainable scale.

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Thank you Sam 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: Galley Beggar Press

Keep up to date with all of their news via Twitter: Galley Beggar Press (@GalleyBeggars)

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Anthony-Trevelyan--The-Weightless-World  wroteforluck

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 Urbane Publications

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Today I am delighted to welcome Matthew from Urbane Publications to my blog. I discovered this small press last year and have since read a diverse and impressive selection of their books, a couple of which made it onto my list of recommended reads for 2015 (these are just a few of my reviews: Being SomeoneEden BurningLeavesThe Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb).

Without further ado, let us find out more about a small press which prides itself in the collaboration it offers its authors.

1.  Why did you decide to set up Urbane?

Gosh, I could natter on forever about this! Despite a general persistent theme of an industry in decline, I believed there was an opportunity for innovative, entrepreneurial publishers to grow and thrive, but only if they work with the authors, rather than assuming the authors ‘work for them’. Authors aren’t simply producers of content, they live and breathe what they write and care passionately about it, and publishers have to feel that passion too if we are to produce the best books AND engage with readers. So I took the plunge and before I knew it was knee deep in exciting new books!

The aim is to publish great books yes, but also to create a fully engaged publishing experience where all those who touch a project, from author to reader, feel part of something unique, innovative and special. It may be a cliché but sometimes if you want to do what you believe in you have to get off your arse and do it yourself. And when’s all said and done I simply love books.

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

Ridiculous as it sounds, books that I think people want to read, and will enjoy reading. I thought long and hard about whether I should be a ‘niche’ publisher, perhaps literary, or crime, or professional business books. But the truth is I want to share my love of all books. Yes I consider the commercial potential of each and every project I take on – it’s a business after all – but I don’t want to be limited to a certain genre.

The only books I don’t take on are children’s/YA and erotica, simply because the children’s market is very specialist and I don’t have that knowledge or skillset to do the authors and books justice, and because I think erotica is brilliantly served by the self-publishing market and has some amazingly talented and entrepreneurial authors who it would be difficult to compete against.

If you needed to break it down, it’s roughly 70% fiction (crime/thrillers, contemporary/literary/romance and fantasy/sci fi – and yes I’m generalising!) and a mixture of non-fiction in business (an area I know well), and one offs that interest me and I feel have potential and opportunity such as memoirs, self-development and history/politics. I’ve even published a book on architecture!

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

I’m now in the very fortunate position that authors are beginning to find me, which is incredibly exciting, flattering and gratifying. And even a few agents are now getting in touch – the thinking being I suspect that Urbane is now growing enough for them to take the company more seriously. I do still search for specific authors for particular projects or ideas I might want to pursue, though this tends to be in the business and non-fiction genres.

I try and give a response to everybody and I always try and provide useful feedback if I can, even in a rejection. If someone has made the effort to contact me they deserve the courtesy of a decent reply. I’ve been much slower recently in replying (sorry everyone) and that’s partly down to the sheer number of projects I’m sent, but also because I want to read them all so I can respond properly.

The signing process is different for every author and begins first and foremost with deciding on some shared goals for the project and how we’re going to work together. Every book is different and it’s therefore important not to template the process at any stage, particularly at the beginning when the publisher and author are both committing to the project and each other.

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

Yes, I knew it would be bloody hard and it’s even harder than that! There is so much noise now and regardless of what we might say as publishers it’s almost impossible to know exactly what works and what doesn’t. Very unscientific and scary as it sounds there’s still an element of luck in a books success, no matter how hard you work to get it right at every stage of the publication, marketing and sales process. I’ve put plenty of tools and partnerships in place to give every book a chance, from working with the brilliant sales team at Compass, hiring PR help when required or putting books on Netgalley (as well as spending far too long on social media!) and it’s a constantly evolving and engaging process. But the only marketing that is ALWAYS truly effective is word of mouth. Readers are everything and if there was one thing I could change it would be to drive home the importance to every reader that their reviews and feedback are absolutely essential to the potential success of a book.

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?

Urbane isn’t different in the traditional sense – it produces great books for a (hopefully) growing and eager readership. But I do think we offer a genuinely collaborative process. Getting the message out there has been a challenge, particularly when there are still so many misconceptions about the ‘right’ and the ‘wrong’ way to publish. Every project is different. For some authors an agent is the way to go, for others self-publishing. There’s no single right way of doing things. I’m trying to find an agile, responsive and consistently positive route through all the options so any author who works with Urbane, and any reader who engages with one of our books, enjoys the experience, benefits from the experience, and recommends it.

Urbane is, on paper at least, a traditional independent publisher, but I suspect we build far more partnership throughout our publishing programme than many organisations. Because authors are consistently at the centre of the publishing experience, from initial discussion and on throughout the life of the book. Every single project is unique and every author plays a key role in not just delivering a manuscript but bringing it to life. For too long many in the publishing industry have been treating authors as a commodity, a deliverer of content, part of a process and not a key driver of the publishing experience. This seems particularly daft when the routes to market have changed so much, are so varied and competitive – you can’t just go back to an author with a templated product and ask the author to then go and market and sell it (which happens far more than people suspect).  No wonder so many authors self-publish. I need authors to be engaged from day one – they are my most valuable piece of content. The book is their vision, I’d be mad to dismiss their input. The aim is shared goals from the outset – what do we want, how can we make it happen, how do we realise success. It makes for a lively, engaged (occasionally positively combative!) and ultimately fulfilling publishing experience where both parties want exactly the same thing – a great book that sells like hot cakes. That’s why the majority of our authors quickly earn 50% royalties. It’s not a gimmick, it’s because authors deserve a fair return on their investment and belief in their project. Not sure that all makes us very different, just hopefully a more exciting and enticing option.

6.  Latest trend or totally original – what sells?

I think it very much depends on the channel you’re trying to sell it into. There’s a huge difference in the traditional, rather ‘risk-averse’ retail channels, who are very often much keener on the ‘safe’ options, or a book with a huge, guaranteed PR spend. I get that, they want sales and revenue. And being able to engage with readers direct about a new book obviously gives the publisher much more scope to push debuts or original, challenging content.

I think the key perhaps is not seeing something as trend or original, but making sure you pitch the book effectively to the relevant channel, and  making sure you don’t just push the book with one story, but with the stories around the story. That’s the joy of books, they’re different for every reader and you need to try and capture some of that when you develop their profile. So for WHS they might want books that will appeal broadly to commuters, or an impulse purchaser; whereas if I’m trying to drive direct sales I can partner with specific groups and target very particular audiences. And don’t get me wrong, I’d be thrilled to have a ‘trend’ title that sells tens of thousands – but we must keep pushing to publish the new, the bold, the different, the challenging, because that is the lifeblood and the future of publishing.

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

Hard copy! Print forever! I find ebooks fascinating and I’m still trying to get to grips with the entire ebook opportunity, but they’re not the ‘future’ of publishing, they are simply a different format. Print is still very much key to Urbane’s business, and I suspect every publisher’s business (that offer both options). Many reviewers, booksellers, buyers won’t even consider looking at a project if it’s not in hard copy. While I detest the ‘snob’ factor that exists in some quarters around hard copy, I do understand and appreciate the joy of print. But there is absolutely a place for digital and Urbane will always offer print, mobi and epub on its projects.

8  Do you consider Urbane niche or mainstream?

Mainstream for the most part. Of course I’d like a huge pot of money from a few million copy sellers. Yet no matter how good the words, if people don’t discover and buy the books the revenue doesn’t exist to create more, so driving revenue is always going to be the key challenge – and that’s very mainstream indeed! Of course I also have to remember I’m only 20 months in – Rome wasn’t built in a day (or 20 months for that matter!) – and I’m not competing with the big boys yet. But the wonderful aspect of not having a set way of doing things, of not pursuing the same templated, overhead-slashing process for every book, means that each project can be, and is, an entrepreneurial opportunity.

The aim is always to try different strategies with each and every title, always striving to drive discoverability and ultimately sales. And even after 25 years working with content I’m still learning. This is a dynamic, incredibly fast-moving industry and one of the biggest challenges is keeping up with all the opportunities. I don’t want to miss a thing! Discoverability and sales are the ultimate goal for every project, because for all the quality in every book they have to sell to be deemed successful. In that sense we’re niche because we’re always trying to find the right audience for every single title.

9. You talk of collaboration with your authors – who drives?

I drive, but it’s a car with dual controls so I’m not averse to the author dabbing the brakes now and again (or in most cases wanting to put the pedal to the metal!). I like to think the author is going to trust in Urbane’s experience, but it is vital they not only see where we’re going but why we’re taking a particular route. There’s nothing better than a happy author when they receive a final copy and it genuinely reflects the vision they had for their book.

10. Plans for the future?

Still here hopefully, publishing great books! If I can take the company to the point where author AND reader genuinely thinks of Urbane as their first choice, then that would be a huge achievement. There are 60 titles lined up for 2016, and the plan is to grow even more in 2017, so we’re well on our way to our goal of becoming one of the UK’s leading independent publishers.

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Thank you Matthew 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: Urbane Publications – Ordinary words made extraordinary

Keep up to date with all of their news via Twitter: UrbanePublications (@urbanebooks)

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alastair stubb  Being-Someone_front-cover-RGB-e1394650362511

 

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 Byker Books

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Publishers come in all shapes and sizes, especially in the independent sector. Today I am delighted to welcome Andy from Byker Books to my blog. Andy answered my shout out for this series on Twitter and told me of his small press which aims to publish ‘Council Estate’ fiction by the best unsigned, ignored and unwanted writers in Britain. I was intrigued.

Without further ado, let us find out more about a publisher which prides itself in producing “industrial strength fiction”.

1. Why did you decide to set up Byker Books?

Way back in the mists of time, before e-readers were invented and everyone with a blog was a ‘publisher’, (or last week if you’re the taxman) a group of people from the North East of England who weren’t that enthralled by reading the memoirs of some ‘reality show’ nonentity came together…in a pub. I was one of them. We wondered aloud where the real writers were; the people we knew on the estate who loved the likes of Irvine Welsh and Alan Sillitoe and scribbled stuff around their jobs and household responsibilities. Then, after bitching for a bit, we actually decided to get off our arses and do something about it.

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

The whole idea behind Byker Books was to give an outlet to writers of British fiction, mainly based around the estates and suburbs – I don’t know about you but I can’t relate to tales of boy wizards, ancient codes hidden in paintings, crap erotica based on colours or super-gorgeous teenage vampires. So we came up with a plan to put together short story collections that mixed new writers (the unknown and unhinged as we like to call them) and more established authors (which we achieved with the ‘Radgepacket’ series – now up to volume six) and then move onto novels. The whole point was to unearth and expose authors that simply weren’t getting a look in.

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

It wasn’t easy to attract contributions and submissions in the very beginning as people view you with suspicion (quite understandably really) and one online writers circle I approached basically told me to bugger off as they were going to be producing their own magazine (I don’t think they ever did incidentally and a lot of their members thus missed the opportunity to submit for Radgepacket.) We spent many a night going through the various writers reference books and emailing writers circles and clubs etc. I think the fact we got a couple of ‘star’ interviews early on gave us a bit of credibility and the chance to be alongside the likes of Danny King, Sheila Quigley et al helped bolster the quantity of submissions. Obviously we had naysayers left, right and centre telling us we wouldn’t get anywhere so, as typical Northern boys, the bloody mindedness kicked in and we ploughed on regardless of little things like not knowing how to use the software we’d blagged! We’ve taken a bit of hiatus over the past year but we’ve just announced a two-week submission window for next April which is already creating a buzz via our Facebook and Twitter accounts so we’re confident we’ll have more than enough to choose our next novels from.

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

Marketing-wise, we’re basically rubbish. It’s changed a fair bit over the years as social media has become ever more prevalent but it’s something we’ve always struggled with – maybe because our books are little more ‘gritty’ than the mainstream – but it’s something we’ll be getting to grips with next year for sure.

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?

We’re a bit different to some of the others that have sprung up in recent years in that we don’t really chase the sales or the money. We are, and always have been, about publishing the ‘unknowns’. For instance our Radgepacket series was responsible for getting over one hundred (that’s 100!) authors into print and a number have gone on from that to get book contracts elsewhere – to me that’s our job done.

Having said that if Random House want to make an offer to buy any rights I’m all ears…

6. Latest trend or totally original – what sells?

We’ve never been trendy, well unless swearing’s back in? Our biggest seller to date was about a woman on a sink-estate who’s ex-husband started turning up in little bits and was described as ‘Shameless meets The Thorn Birds’…

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

It’s much cheaper to produce an e-book than a hardcopy so you can tweak the prices accordingly and as a result we sell more Kindle books than physical paperbacks. In fact despite the bad press they get, I think Amazon have been a bit of a game-changer for the small presses and am pretty thankful to them.

8. Do you consider Byker Books niche or mainstream?

We’re definitely niche. The closest we got to mainstream was publishing a few Danny King books – he’s written films and TV series and was nominated for a BAFTA you know!

9. Collaborative or dictatorial? 

We’re a curious mix at BB towers, I listen to other people’s opinions but if I don’t like them then we’re doing things my way. 🙂

10. Plans for the future? 

As I said we’ve just announced a submissions window and are looking into two novels per year going forward. We’ve also had a bit of an idea regarding the Radgepacket series…but you’ll have to watch this space…

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Thank you Andy 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: Byker Books – Industrial Strength Fiction!

Keep up to date with all of their news via Twitter: Ed BykerBooks (@EdBykerBooks)

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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 Influx Press

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Today I am delighted to welcome Kit and Gary from Influx Press to my blog. I discovered this publishing house when I reviewed the outstanding Imaginary Cities by Darran Anderson last summer. Since then I have also read Total Shambles by George F. and Place Waste Dissent by Paul Hawkins. I do not choose to read a great deal of non-fiction but this would change if all were as impressive as these.

Without further ado let us find out more about this independent publisher, committed to publishing innovative and challenging fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction from across the UK and beyond.

1. Why did you decide to set up Influx Press?

Gary: It actually happened by accident. It all started because we wanted to produce one anthology, Acquired for Development By… back at the tail end of 2011. We made that book, learned an awful lot about the nuts and bolts of book publishing in the process and made enough money to keep going. So we did, and it all got a bit out of hand. I can’t say there was much of a rationale beyond producing that one book at the beginning.

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

Kit: We want to publish anything that speaks from the margins of culture, specific geographical spaces and sites of resistance that remain under explored in mainstream literature.

Gary: Anything that interests us really, especially the stuff that doesn’t seem likely to get published elsewhere. Our attitude to it is publish books that we would want to read that don’t yet exist. We want books written with literary skill about subjects that are not necessarily deemed literary – hence the squatting memoir Total Shambles and experimental protest collage of Place Waste Dissent. We’re proud of those books and doubt they’d have found homes elsewhere.

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

Kit: Three ways.

The first way is that we approach authors directly to write a book for us from scratch. This has happened with a number of our books and is a really fun and exciting way to publish. As editors we are more involved with this stage as the book is unwritten and we collaborate more closely with the author. Marshland by Gareth E Rees or Chimene Suleyman’s Outside Looking On were created like this.

Second, we have submission windows (one is currently open) where we invite (unagented) writers and agents to send us finished manuscripts – so right now we’re looking for novels (for details click on this link: Submissions — Influx Press), particularly from BAME writers. Linda Mannheim’s Above Sugar Hill came to us as a full manuscript, but we still asked her to write a long afterword to her short story collection!

The third is after receiving a pitch from a writer, but there is no current manuscript. Darran Anderson’s Imaginary Cities is a great example of this.

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

Kit: I don’t think we had an expectation of marketing at the beginning. We just wanted as many people to hear about the books as possible, but on no budget! Marketing with no money is still a mystery, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We don’t choose our books on their marketing potential, but rather if we think they are saying something important or telling a story that people don’t already know.

Our distributors, Turnaround do a great job of repping the books to bookshops – but all publicity is done by us. Social media has been a great help with this, as have generous reviewers, bloggers and writers who have supported what we’re trying to do so far. There’s a lot of books out there to buy, but somehow we still get onto some people’s radar.

Gary: We’ve learned an awful lot doing this. I’ve found that simply doing the legwork contacting as many relevant press people, bloggers, reviewers and so on, can really pay off. Not sending out mass emails but personalising them and thinking about who you’re contacting and why. We learned how to come up with interesting pitches for articles and pieces on our books rather than just say ‘will you review our book’.

We have a good Twitter presence and use it well, I think. Now through a few years of being out there presenting what we do to people, making contacts, doing events and pushing for coverage, we have a good extended network of contacts that is becoming very helpful. I have a piece of software called Highrise that keeps all our contacts and email conversations in one place. Sadly, I love it.

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?

Kit: We are really proud to be part of this current surge in independent publishing. Since we started we’ve had wonderful support from many fellow small or independent publishers such as And Other Stories, Galley Beggar, Unsung and Test Centre, often sharing information and doing events together. We’re only different in the sense of what we publish, rather than how we operate. Our rivals are, in the end, companies like Harper Collins, not other small independents – so the more we collaborate and support each other, the better for all of us. It’s a great club to be part of! It feels something like a movement at the moment, hopefully we can push it further and further.

Gary: Well for a start this isn’t our day job. I don’t know about the other indie presses – it’s such a nebulous term anyway. Only two of us (plus occasional help) work on Influx whereas other small presses publish much more and have far greater staff numbers.

One way we might be different is we had access to writers from slightly different backgrounds than some of the other publishers, allowing us to publish books about squatting and protest culture very easily. We’re not trying to ape what big literary publishers are doing – like I said earlier, we’re publishing what we’re interested in, and it seems to be working.

One thing I will say is that the small press world is very supportive of each other. I have huge respect for those independent presses Kit mentioned, and many more; all publishing wildly different things, but they all fully believe in what they publish. That belief is something you just don’t get from the big boys.

6.  Latest trend or totally original – what sells?

Gary: Latest trend. Though Imaginary Cities was pretty original and is selling well. If a book is similar to an already successful book, it’s more likely to get picked up. I read something the other day that said when the marketing department was allowed a say in commissioning , everything went to shit in mainstream publishing. It’s true. But of course not everything can be like something else, can it?

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

Gary: I’m happy for people to read ebooks. But people who buy indie press books tend to be more into literature as ‘a thing’, rather than just casual readers, and as such they buy physical product much more. The codex is going to be a hard thing to kill.

Kit: Currently we sell far more paperbacks than ebooks. Readers still love paperbacks and we put a lot of time into our book design for that reason. However, it’s not up to us to decide how a reader wants to read the books we put out, so we always have an ebook version too.

8.  Do you consider Influx niche or mainstream?

Gary: I don’t like the term niche. There’s no reason why some of our books couldn’t have a wide appeal. Imaginary Cities appeals to anyone who’s ever been alive. Other books, sure, are a bit less mainstream. But purposefully mainstream books tend to suck and pander to the middle ground, so I’m happy with that.

Kit: I’d say we are nichestream. It’s a new genre that I’ve just invented. It means something that should be in the mainstream, but is too niche to be accepted. Or something.

9.  Collaborative or dictatorial? 

Kit: As said earlier, we really like commissioning books from scratch and both love building a book with an author.

Gary: Kit is definitely dictatorial.

10. Plans for the future?

Kit: We are really looking forward to publishing an anthology of London writing in 2016 featuring some incredible authors. And we’re hoping to get some proper good novels in our submissions window (open now until March 2016).

On the business side of things, we’d love to make more money and start employing people to do all the things we hate doing like marketing, post, choosing office music. We would also love to pay someone who can settle disputes between us; we’ve been friends since we were 11 years old, so there’s a lot of history to wade through!

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Thank you Kit and Gary 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: Influx Press

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

placewaste    totalshamblescov_imaginary_hires

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 March Hamilton Media

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Today I am delighted to welcome Andy from March Hamilton Media to my blog. This small press publishes one of my favourite authors, Beth Webb, who creates fabulous stories for children and young adults. Do check out my reviews of her Fleabag and Star Dancer books.

Without further ado, let us find out more about this independent publisher which aims to provide books that deserve their place on reader’s bookshelves.

1. Why did you decide to set up March Hamilton Media?

I felt that the international publishers were ignoring a lot of good writers, possibly because their appeal is to a niche audience and are not going to sell by the million but will be loved and treasured by some readers.

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

Although my books are targeted at children and teenagers they are mostly crossover books that are enjoyed by adults as well. If I don’t like it then I don’t want to publish it!

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

So far they are people I already know. I do not see books as a commodity, if I take on an author it is because I believe in them and want to nurture them so I could not cope with large numbers.

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

No! I seriously underestimated the difficulty and expense of marketing. Most of my sales are via Amazon or my website. I do supply shops but the cost of distributing is very high.

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 have great admiration and respect for other small publishers; we are all facing similar problems. There are others like me who take the view of working with authors over the long term so I am not unique but I think we are the minority. Obviously a business has to make money but just because a title does not instantly jump into the bestseller list does not mean it is no good and it does not mean there is not an audience for it.

6. Latest trend or totally original – what sells?

If anyone could predict what would sell then they would clean up! I am not interested in following trends, usually by the time you have identified a trend it is on the way out. I look for something that is different; it may be in an established genre but with a new take on it. For example, detective stories are well established but I’d be happy to publish one that I felt was fresh.

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

Both. Personally I like physical books, my house is full of them. But when I am travelling, Ebooks make more sense.  The cost of distributing books abroad is very high so Ebooks are a way of meeting international demand as well as local demand for people who may not be able to store lots of books.

8. Do you consider March Hamilton Media niche or mainstream?

At the moment, we are very obviously niche but I would have no problem with being mainstream!

9. Collaborative or dictatorial?

I don’t think dictatorial would work.

10. Plans for the future?

I plan to continue with what I’ve been doing but there are other areas to look into. I chose the word media in my business name as I never saw it as just publishing physical books. I am looking into audio books. I have had discussions about interactive Ebooks and most of my titles would make cracking films! (Ok, films should probably come under dreams rather than plans but you have to be open to possibilities).

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Thank you Andy 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: March Hamilton Media

Keep up to date with all of their news via Twitter: March Hamilton (@MarchHamilton)

fleabagringfire  FC front cover low  Star-Dancer-206x300  Fire-Dreamer-210x300  wavehunter

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 Legend Press

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Today I am delighted to welcome Lottie from Legend Press to my blog. Legend was set up ten years ago and became one of the fastest-growing independent publishers. They proudly proclaim their passion for championing both new and high-profile authors, and for ensuring that the book remains a product of beauty, enjoyment and fulfillment.

Without further ado, let us find out more about this press who, in 2011, were shortlisted for the Bookseller Independent Publisher of the Year.

1. Why did you decide to set up Legend Press?

Legend Press was founded ten years ago by Tom Chalmers who owns Legend Times Group.

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

We publish literary fiction, commercial crime and women’s fiction. We also have a non-fiction imprint, Paperbooks and a business book imprint, Legend Business.

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

The majority of our authors are submitted to us by their agents. We do also take unsolicited submissions and obviously receive foreign submissions from around the world.

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

The way in which we market has evolved over the years as social media is playing a greater role in how consumers interact with both authors and publishing houses.

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?

We work hard to ensure our books remain a product of beauty. We care deeply about the titles that we publish so each one has to stand out and they are selected to be part of our list for a reason. Publishing is a very competitive marketplace so when we take our list to international book fairs we have to feel confident that we can compete. We had two books longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction this year which was a fantastic achievement. Our authors are also invited to literary festivals such as Cheltenham, Bath and Edinburgh which always means there is a great atmosphere when they meet fans of their books.

6. Latest trend or totally original – what sells?

This depends completely on who you are selling to. Each title on our list is completely original but that’s not to say that brands don’t work. Our crime authors for instance, write very original crime stories yet their second, third and fourth books are packaged commercially so they can hold their own in high street shops and supermarkets.

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

Again this depends on the customer – all of our titles are published in both ebook and paperback formats simultaneously so everyone is catered for.

8. Do you consider Legend Press niche or mainstream?

We are mainstream, our books are stocked by all the major retailers both in the UK and abroad. The cover designs are special, we choose effects that will ensure the customer enjoys holding our books and it makes our titles pop out at customers from the bookshelf. But in terms of sales and marketing, we have a very commercial, mainstream list.

9. Collaborative or dictatorial?

We always welcome our authors input and we invite them to give suggestions on how they would like the end result to look, but the majority of the work in regards to taking the book from a manuscript to the shops is done in-house.

10. Plans for the future?

Our list is growing year on year as is our staff numbers. We’re very excited to see what 2016 brings and can’t wait to share with everyone what we have in store.

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Thank you to Lottie for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about this press, including details of their books, on their website by clicking here: Legend Press • Legend Times Group

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

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Look out for my reviews of both of the above books, coming soon!

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 ThunderPoint Publishing

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Today I am delighted to welcome Seonaid from ThunderPoint Publishing to my blog. I discovered this publishing house when I reviewed ‘Talk of the Toun‘, by Helen MacKinven. Look out for my thoughts on another of their books ‘The Bonnie Road’, by Suzanne d’Corsey, later this week.

Without further ado, let us find out more about this independent imprint whose aim is to publish books radical in ideas, concepts and message.

1. Why did you decide to set up Thunderpoint Publishing?

I am a literature graduate and Huw works in business, and for years we had talked about running a bookshop, but moving around the world and living in unusual locations (Hong Kong, Turkey, France and now the Outer Hebrides) this was not realistic. Following our move to the Hebrides and with a lack of job opportunities I signed up for a Masters degree in literature of the Highlands and Islands with the University of the Highland and Islands.

After graduation I was no closer to finding a job, so Huw suggested setting up a publishing company so we could combine my love of literature with his business skills. Hence, ThunderPoint!

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

When we started out we launched our website, Facebook page and Twitter account to put ourselves out there. Authors found us and sent us their manuscripts. We were lucky that some great manuscripts arrived in our inbox and we have signed an eclectic mix of authors over the years. We joined Publishing Scotland in our first year and this has also brought us to the attention of authors. We have had lots of manuscripts sent to us over the years, but we have always only picked authors whose manuscripts really grabbed us, that we would be proud to publish, that had a voice that grabbed us.

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

We don’t really limit ourselves to a particular genre, if a manuscript grabs us and we want to read past the first few pages, we ask for the full manuscript and take it from there. You can see from our list that the titles we have published are diverse, and we haven’t shied away from challenging topics, or books written in Scottish dialect either. In fact, those can be the very reasons we have been attracted to the books in question.

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?

We have not set out to be different, per se, but every publisher is probably looking for the next great new book/author, whatever the genre. You could say we have not gone for the obvious. We have published books written with strong Scottish dialect, short stories, a novel revolving around the auld ways in modern Scotland, and magical realism, as well novels set in less well-knowns locations and dealing with challenging subjects (e.g. child abuse and mental health).

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

Marketing is always hard work for new start businesses and publishing is a crowded, competitive market, with some large players dominating the marketplace. Bookselling is dominated by two main players in the UK, both of whom have near monopolies in their sector. Breaking into this has been challenging, frustrating and time-consuming and sometimes surprising. However, publishing and bookselling is an ever-changing market and there is always opportunity for new publishers and authors. Penguin changed the bookselling world when they brought out paperbacks, the chain bookstores changed buyers habits and Amazon has put more books within immediate reach of readers than ever before. This dynamic and changing market is good for independent publishers like us and we look to other Scottish publishers who are a few years ahead of us as an example. Sandstone Press, Freight Books and Cargo Publishing have all shown what can be done with determination and energy, and we hope to emulate their success.

6. Latest trend or totally original – what sells?

As to what books sell, it’s like any other product. Does it catch a reviewers eye, are the reviews well-written, are they seen by potential customers whose attention is caught? An author’s presence is also important and the more visible an author is the more books they will sell.

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

We sell both hardcopy and ebook, through a range of retailers and wholesalers. Amazon dominates ebooks, but we sell through Kobo, iTunes and B&N too. We sell paperbacks through Amazon, Waterstones, Blackwells and a growing range of independents. We and our authors also sell books at literary events, readings and any (non-bookshop) outlet that will stock a title. Our books are even sold on some Scottish ferries.

8. Plans for the future? 

Looking forward we have six exciting new authors signed up and titles scheduled for publication forward to 2018. We’ll have more Scottish crime fiction, and we also have some amazing Scottish historical fiction, and our first title of 2016 will be a moving literary LGBT novel, Queer Bashing, that we will shortly begin promoting.

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Thank you to Seonaid 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: ThunderPoint Publishing

Keep up to date with all of their news via Twitter: ThunderPoint (@ThunderPointLtd)

TOTTFC   bonnieroad  queerbashing

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 « neverimitate

Q&A with Orenda Books

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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!

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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)

 

snowblind  NightBlind BF AW 2

9781910633311  defenceless

brave  We Shall Inherit the Wind BF AW.indd

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