An insight into the publishing world…

Archive for the ‘People in Publishing’ Category

Introducing International Rights Manager Richard Carman

I am delighted to welcome today’s interviewee, a former colleague of mine at Award Publications. Richard Carman has now moved on to pastures new and his new company is an exciting new children’s publisher which is set to do big things. Read on to find out more about Richard, Fourth Wall Books, and the role of International Rights Manager within publishing…

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Please can you introduce yourself and give a brief overview of your career?

My name is Richard Carman, and I am International Rights Manager at Fourth Wall Publishing. I started in the book trade aged about 6, when I started sticking labels into the fronts of my Enid Blyton books and lending them to my friends as a library. I had my own duodecimal system of numbering. No-one was interested! I dropped out of a Master’s degree and got a job in WH Willshaw booksellers in Manchester, and from there joined David & Charles as a rep. I was headhunted by Hodder to join them in the same role, and went on to my first managerial role, aged 31, at Omnibus Press. From there I was UK Sales Manager for Penguin, then South Africa Sales Manager for Dorling Kindersley, which let to five very happy years as Head of Export. Made redundant when DK went bust, I was a freelance for nearly ten years in Africa working for people like Orion, Walker Books, Kingfisher and Kogan Page, and I joined Award Publications in 2010. I joined Fourth Wall in March of this year.

 

Can you tell us a little bit more about Fourth Wall Books? How did it come about?

Fourth Wall Publishing was originally conceived a few years ago, but the owners’ background led them to found a very successful branding and marketing agency first. We work with some very well-known high street brands as well as a lot of the Premier League football clubs. Fourth Wall Publishing was launched at London Book Fair 2015, and the first ten titles published in the autumn of that year. Our pace picked up this spring, and we’ll be publishing around 50 books a year.

What is the most challenging part of your role as International Rights Manager?

A lot of the companies I worked with in the past publish different kinds of books to those that we specialise in, so finding new customers and establishing relationships with them from scratch is probably the most challenging element.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I like people, I like being in a busy team and in a creative environment. Because the majority of my colleagues are designers, it’s good to be involved in every book from day one of its creation, and to be able to look up from my desk and see books being developed just across the room. And I love book fairs (anyone in publishing who tells you they don’t are liars), and travelling.

What trends are you currently seeing in the children’s book market?

YA fiction continues to be a big pull I think, but really good, contemporary, international-feel illustrations seem to be increasing in popularity. There’ll always be the pull of Disney and big-branded products, but underneath that it’s a healthy market too I think.

What upcoming Fourth Wall books are you most excited about?

My favourite of the next batch is “When The Sky Was Too Low” by Adam Bestwick, which is based on an old Native American myth. In ancient times, the sky was very close to the ground. Adults couldn’t walk upright, elephants were as big as dogs, and giraffe’s necks pointed sideways, not upwards. The children can’t fly their kites or kick their footballs high, so they get together and – after some false starts – find they can push the sky up high if they join up all their sticks and push together. When night comes they see the stars for the first time, because the light shines through the holes they made with their sticks. It’s a beautiful story about kids being able to solve problems that adults can’t, and about working together being the best way to work.

How do you go about marketing yourself as a brand new book publisher?

With a lot of hard work. Networking, visiting customers, social media, distinctive and memorable stands at book fairs, joining in everything we can really – getting our name seen and included. One has to be realistic and realise Rome wasn’t built in a day. But by the time it was finished, Rome was a beautiful place and people are still going there. So I want us to be a beautiful, successful publisher to whom people are still coming many years in the future.

You are based up in the North of England – how do you feel this will both benefit you and hinder you?

You can get a decent coffee anywhere in Cheshire now, so that’s the first thing. I think companies based outside of London obviously benefit from being immune to the costs of being in the South East. There’s a whole wealth of untapped talent in the North West, and we have access to fabulous illustrators and designers, writers, and people looking to work in marketing and production are welcome to contact us too. There are lots of people not based in London who want to work in “proper” book publishing. We can’t give a job to everyone, but we’re not short of options. We can be in London in a couple of hours maximum if we need to be. If you work in Hammersmith and live in Brockley, that’s going to take you the best part of an hour. I can’t actually think of any downsides!

You can follow Fourth Wall publishing on Twitter @4thwallbooks

Like them on Facebook

Check out their website at http://www.fourthwallpublishing.com/

 

Introducing Evan Jones, Publisher at Together Tales

I’m so pleased that my first interview back after an incredibly hectic few months away from blogging is with Evan Jones of Stitch Media, discussing the new and exciting product Together Tales. This is a really interesting new project and Evan explains how it came about it in this fascinating interview. Welcome, Evan!

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Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background and career.

My name is Evan Jones and I’ve spent my life interested how new technology changes the way we tell stories to each other.

Early in my career I became obsessed with Alternate Reality Games. ARGs are a style of narrative that really couldn’t exist before the internet, because they rely on the audience as investigators who connect different types of media together to make a complete story.  They’re also intensely interactive and the best ones consider the audience as collaborators – their theories and solutions inspire the creative team working behind the scenes.

I’ve had the good fortune to collaborate with incredibly talented people on projects across every genre. We’ve worked in comedy, drama, documentary, horror, science fiction, children’s, lifestyle – but always with an interactive point of view. Stitch Media is the company that you call when you want to push the boundaries. I’m always working hard to stay ahead of the curve on new technology but more importantly the media trends that are shifting around us.

Together Tales – what’s the premise?

Together Tales are Adventure Kits that combine physical books and artifacts with interactive challenges. Parents bring these stories to life as an insider working with the author to plant clues and create coincidences.

For kids aged 8-10 reading the adventures, it’s like the whole story surrounds you. You are a character in the books and your actions end up saving the day. We’ve had a lot of feedback that this product is perfect for ‘reluctant readers’ because it’s broken into short chapters that connect with activities both offline and online.

For parents, it’s like having a creative sidekick for those moments where you want to want to play along with your kids but don’t always have the time or energy to make it up. Adventure Kits give you all the tools you need and simple instructions via email to prompt you at the perfect moment. You’re playing alongside your kids with a cheat sheet from the author.

 

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What made you, as a media and TV professional, look at the idea of interactive books? How did the idea and the concept of Together Tales come about?

We didn’t set out to make an interactive book. Our company never starts with the technology first. It’s that old adage “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Instead we started with a question: “How can recreate some of our fondest memories of childhood?” 

We loved reading books of course – books are imagination fireworks where you can do anything at all. We also loved simple games like scavenger hunts and puzzles. But the secret ingredient is the name of our product – it was those moments we spent together.

Together Tales is a platform to combine all of these things.  We rely upon an ‘insider’ who truly knows the reader. We use the shorthand of parents but it could easily be grandparents or that cool uncle or an amazing teacher. The point is that our adventures come to life in through others – they are the ones who personalize a letter online, print it out and tuck it under the child’s pillow because they received an automated email yesterday explaining that the Magician will be answering their dream questions tomorrow. It’s a system to make more of those memorable moments by connecting them together with a story.

What kind of success have you enjoyed so far?

Our first success was convincing a jury to give us the CMF Experimental Fund – it allowed us to build the technology and test the concept until we got it right. The one thing we needed after that was the money to pay for our first print run. We created four Adventure Kits in our first year and launched the concept on Kickstarter – that was really when Together Tales took off. We’ve shipped hundreds of kits out to families now and the response has been incredible. The five-star reviews on Amazon have really inspired us – parents talk about how excited their kids get about reading the stories and their adventures.

It’s also been a huge boost for us to be recognized by our industry. We were nominated for the BookTech prize in the UK this year and for the Canadian Screen Award for Best Original Interactive Project. These endorsements help a great deal in promoting sales.

Anything that has been particularly challenging?

Our biggest challenge is everyone’s biggest challenge – discoverability. Our target demographic is parents with 8-10 year old kids and I’m one of them. It’s a very busy and distracted group of customers and we don’t have a marketing budget to spend yet. We know that families love the product but we haven’t yet mastered the way we reach that audience.

Why do you think there’s a market for this kind of publishing?

Publishing is not going away. Yes it’s changing but all of the media industries shift when a new paradigm appears. We know this is a crowded market but we feel that Together Tales is something truly new and will strike a chord with the right type of customer.

Together Tales is also built to empower authors to write their own Adventure Kits. Our platform expands with every new book as we build a library of games and technology which are reused in subsequent stories. They’re also not tied to a particular platform. We’re not thinking about the issues of paper vs tablets because we use them all in the way they were intended. Media consumption habits for us aren’t an either/or proposition, they’re all potential for us.

Have you found that you have been able to reach out easily to children who may not be particularly enthusiastic about reading?

Together Tales is very accessible because the story is portioned out. The child never sees a huge book because the story is divided into chapters and interactive moments. The first chapter looks like a comic book, but once you’ve read it you’re hooked. The characters need your help and a game begins. It’s not hard to convince kids to play games but when the game is over you want to see how it affected the story. That’s when the second chapter magically appears (thanks parents!) and the cycle continues.

I would point you to this customer review specifically on this topic:

http://www.amazon.com/review/R6AXQ8UB23B37/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0994861907&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books

What has been your best feedback so far?

It’s when we bump into a kindred spirit. Some of our feedback from parents was “I’m too busy to spend 15 minutes setting this up.” That’s when we realized that it’s all about perspective. Fifteen minutes is a lot when you’re comparing it to passing an iPad into the back seat. But for some parents, they are already spending 2 hours sewing a tail on an old pair of shorts, or researching crafts for their kids on a rainy weekend. For those parents, we get the opposite reaction – fifteen minutes to look like a hero. They’re in.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

The agenda has been set by our commitment to bring a Year of Adventures to our customers. We’re publishing three more Adventure Kits this year and I’m taking them to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair to find some international exposure. We’re going to be selling them at the Toronto Word on the Street Festival and looking for many more ways to reach families.

 

You can find out more about Stitch Media and Together Tales by clicking the hyperlinks in the introduction to this interview.

Follow Stitch Media on Twitter @stitchmedia

Follow Together Tales on Twitter @togethertales and on Facebook 

 

 

Exciting news from author Daniel Pembrey

Today’s interview is a catch up with my friend and author Daniel Pembrey, author of The Harbour Master. He’s dropped by Words Are My Craft to share with us some exciting news…

Daniel, what’s new since we last worked together on the Britcrime Online Literature Festival?

Hi Stephanie! Nice to be here … I just released a short story as a Kindle Single (Amazon’s curated, short e-book programme). The Lion Hunter was inspired by a combination of Cecil the lion, a recent trip to Tanzania and my re-reading of Hemingway’s African short stories. It’s about a newly married British couple who meet a Texan trophy hunter at a remote game lodge. The lion hunting turns out to be less morally straightforward than the husband bargains for. It really is short at approximately 40 pages. I loved writing it, and I love the creature it’s based around.

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You can buy The Lion Hunter: A Short Adventure Story here if you live in the UK and here if you’re in the US …

You seem to like novellas and short stories …

I really do – both as a reader and an author. I love nothing more than being gripped by a story during the course of a plane or train journey. Also I feel so lucky to be living in an era when there is a viable market for them. Before e-books, novellas were the realm of Hemingway and perhaps Stephen King; now, with programmes such as Kindle Singles, they are flourishing.

The Lion Hunter is in fact my fourth Kindle Single; the previous ones are a standalone espionage story called The Candidate: A Luxembourg Thriller and the first two instalments of the Harbour Master series.

Speaking of The Harbour Master, which I read and reviewed earlier in the year (click here to read); what’s going on with that?

Well, thanks to the success of the Harbour Master Kindle Singles (the first became the No. 1 Short Story on Amazon UK), I got a picked up by a great agent, and between her and the visibility I received at our BritCrime Festival this summer, I ended up receiving two offers from traditional publishers. I went with No Exit Press, who have built up a terrific crime list. The Harbour Master e-book novellas are now being withdrawn from sale in preparation for the launch of two, novel length books. The first should be out next year.

How exciting! So what else can we look forward to from you?

I’m working on a novel set in Berlin and the screen adaptation of my standalone spy story The Candidate, which has been optioned for a film in Luxembourg. I’m also working on the new Harbour Master stories, and of course there is the BritCrime Christmas Ball on Sunday December 13th to look forward to!

That will indeed be a ball! Thank you for taking part in this interview.

My pleasure! Thanks for having me, and see you on December 13th if not before!

Before you rush off, can you tell us where our readers can find you online?

Good catch! I am active on Twitter, https://twitter.com/DPemb, and also present on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/DPembrey … You can view my latest news on my website too, http://www.danielprembrey.com, and also sign up there to receive my quarterly email newsletter with offers of free exclusive content. See you soon!

 

Introducing Literary Agent Sherna Khambatta

Today’s interview is another international one, with a literary agent based in India. Here Sherna Khambatta discusses her role in the industry and the books and publishing landscape in her country.
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Please introduce yourself and give a brief overview of your career.

I started the Sherna Khambatta Literary Agency in 2007 after gaining a Msc. in Publishing. The publishing system in India at that time didn’t have many agents and I thought it would be a good way to bring in a certain amount of structure into the industry and help authors get their work sold.
 

What were some of the challenges in doing so?
In understanding how the system worked/ works. The main challenge in India is distribution / visibility of books and marketing so for me, once the book has been published, that’s more of a challenge than getting a book sold.

Your website says “Literary agents are a new concept in Indian publishing.” How has the system worked previously and what do you feel your company brings to the indian publishing landscape?

There are a very few agents in India still, some publishers such as Hachette India now only work through agents so I think in a miniscule way we’ve been able to bring in some structure into the system. Previously authors could directly send in work to publishers by mail and now by email.
 

In what ways do you work as the liaison between the author and publisher?

I negotiate the contract, help out in editing the book, and if there are any issues whilst the publisher edits the work then I step in sometimes as a moderator between the two. I also help out in social media marketing, making sure the books are in store, sending out media copies, arranging interviews, organising events/book signings and with Literary festivals.
 

What is particularly exciting you about Indian publishing right now?

I think India is a country ever changing and there are so many stories to be told and so many individuals with a lot of talent so it’s always exciting!

How many submissions do you receive a month on average and what is it that you look for in a manuscript?

I receive about 70-100 manuscripts a week on average. I prefer working with non-fiction as I believe that no two people have the same experience and so that’s very interesting for me to see something written with a different perspective. I’m in search of well written narratives which I feel should be shared.
 

What’s been your biggest success so far?

I’m very proud to have worked on the newest book that we’ve released –  Himalaya Bound by Michael Benanav –  on a tribe in the Himalayas. It’s published by HarperCollins India and has been a very fulfilling experience.
 
The book The Nanologues by Vanessa Able, published by Hachette India, has had its rights sold in the UK & US by the publisher Nicholas Brealey and re-named ‘Never Mind The Bullocks.’ I feel this has been one of my biggest success stories so far.
You can follow Sherna on Twitter @ShernaKhambatta
Find out more about her company here: http://www.shernakhambatta.com/

Introducing Nathan Connolly, Publishing Director at Dead Ink Publishing

I was very happy to bag an interview with Dead Ink books, a publisher I’ve been following for a few years, since I met publisher Wes Brown at a Society of Young Publishers event, when they were an innovative new digital publisher. Here his partner at Dead Ink, Nathan Connolly, gives us an overview of the publishing house and how they went about building a community around their company…

Nathan Connolly Headshot

Please introduce yourself and give a brief overview of your career.

I’m Nathan Connolly and I’m the Publishing Director of Dead Ink. I started in Publishing when I began The Night Light, an online literary magazine, after graduating from University. I’ve worked with The Big Issue in the North, Crécy Publishing and The Society of Young Publishers.

Tell us about Dead Ink Books – how did the company come about? What’s its premise?

Dead Ink started towards the end of 2010 and it was set up with funding from Arts Council England as a digital-only press. This was around the time that ebooks were really just starting to blow up and there was a lot of both panic and optimism in the industry. With Dead Ink we were experimenting with what a book could be – at a time when that really did seem to be a valid question.

As the industry started to come to terms with digital, Dead Ink released its first print titles. When Dead Ink began, it was the medium that we thought was revolutionary. As we developed it became clear that the biggest opportunity presented by digital technology wasn’t in restricting ourselves to solely digital books but in connecting readers to them.

Our focus now is based on two strands. The first is to develop the careers of new literary authors and the second is to do that through experimentation with digital technology in publishing.

What challenges did you face setting up Dead Ink Books?

The challenge of setting up a small press today is that the industry is becoming increasingly concentrated and homogenous in terms of both publishing and retail. We’re fortunate in that we are represented by Inpress books who fight our corner, but overall I think the industry is becoming harder and harder to survive in. I wouldn’t be surprised to see further concentrations taking place in terms of partnerships and mergers.

I think this challenge is also an opportunity, though: publishing needs challenging small presses and I think readers enjoy them too. Hopefully the tide will begin to turn in the next few years and the independents will win back some influence and breathing space. Maybe it’s already begun?

What kind of literature do you publish?

We’re interested mainly in literary fiction. Specifically, we want fiction that is challenging, brave and confident. I try not to define the specifics of what I’m looking for too much. I worry that I will put someone off who would otherwise have been great. I think all the books that I have published so far have surprised me. I wasn’t looking for them and I didn’t expect them.

What achievement to date are you particularly proud of?

We work almost exclusively with debut authors and I think that is something that I’m particularly proud of. We take a huge risk on every author that we publish and put all of our resources into making their book, and their career, a success. Receiving a manuscript and taking it through the long road to publication isn’t an easy process and there is a lot that can go wrong. When we finally receive those books from the printer and we get to give them to a writer who has spent years of their life trying to reach that point then it becomes obvious that all the sweat and tears were worth it. Each time we reach that point we’re reminded of why we started Dead Ink in the first place. Despite our commitment to author development and technological innovation we’ve always been motivated to take a risk on people that nobody else will. That’s what I’m proud of.

How have you managed to build a community around Dead Ink Books?

This is a huge question and one we still don’t have the complete answer to. In fact, this is one of the major questions that we have to ask ourselves every single day in order to make the press work.

I think that we’ve been lucky in that readers seem to get what we’re doing and completely engage with it. There are a lot of safe decisions being made in the industry and I suspect that they find it refreshing to see a small press based entirely on the concept of taking a risk. Authors frequently commit years of their life to working on a book which may never see the light of day. They’re innately risk-takers and when they see a press with that same conviction I think it is refreshing.

On the other hand we commit a great deal of resources to building that community. We get out there into the world and interact with writers at readings and events. We also try to treat our readers as a community not just customers. They’re the reason that we’ve got this far and every time they do buy a book they are having an impact. I think people appreciate that connection. We’re very much not faceless.

Why is it important to have a range of both digital and print books?

This question plagued us when we were digital-only and we always wondered if we were doing the right thing by focusing on a single medium. Eventually we decided that we weren’t. What is important about digital technology isn’t the end product. People want the option to choose whatever they individually prefer. The important part is how we connect. When we were creating just digital books we were holding ourselves back.

The success of that time was the community we had built. When we transitioned to paper books that became apparent and we’ve been growing steadily since. Readers want options and they want to feel involved.

What lessons have you learned about marketing books – what works and what doesn’t?

I still don’t know the answer to what makes a book sell. I only know how we have made it work for us. We don’t have unlimited reach or resources. There’s very little that we can do to actually market the books in a traditional sense.
What has worked for us is to build a community and reward everyone involved for the contribution that they make. I think early on we realised that we couldn’t just treat someone like a customer and forget about them. We really owe everything to the people who buy our books, so it didn’t seem right or fair to just market to them. If someone buys a Dead Ink book then they are taking a risk – just as we are in publishing it – and I think that sort of commitment deserves recognition and reward. That’s what I’ve tried to achieve with the community aspect of Dead Ink and I think that is what keeps us going.

What are you looking forward to for 2016?

2016 is going to be a big year for us with a lot happening. We’re already looking for next year’s authors and hopefully it will be our largest list yet. There are a few authors that we’re already interested in.

There are also going to be further developments in terms of our organisation and technology. I’m still thinking about the relationship between all of the elements of Dead Ink, and in 2016 that should not only grow but also develop to include something completely new.

Readers should expect more books as always, but also a new way to engage with a new type of literature. That’s all you’re getting for now though. We have to maintain an air of mystery.

You can follow Dead Ink on Twitter @DeadInkBooks

Find out more about them at http://deadinkbooks.com/

Introducing Author Nathan O’Hagan

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Please introduce yourself and give an overview of your career.
 
I’m 37, from Birkenhead originally but now living in Northamptonshire. There’s not much of a career to speak of as yet. I’ve been writing for several years now. I self-published a collection of short stories, “Purge” a couple of years ago, but had struggled to even get my novel read. After years of trying I found Armley Press and they responded really well to it, and it was released at the end of August.
 
Tell us a little bit about your book The World is Not A Cold Dead Place.
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I began writing it about ten years ago. The first draft was written in a frenzied few months during a fairly dark period in my life, and was largely a form of improvised therapy. Then, over the coming years, I gradually improved it, edited and redrafted, submitting to various publishers, possibly when it wasn’t ready at times. Each time I did that, I’d get the rejection, work on it some more, then leave it for a while before eventually coming back to it.
Plot wise, it’s a first-person narrative, told through the eyes of a mentally ill, very angry young man in my home town Birkenhead. He’s a man who’s cut himself off from society, struggling to cope with his illness and OCD, but for reasons beyond his control, he’s forced to re-enter society. It’s very dark at times, but also (I hope) funny. Judging by the feedback I’ve had so far, people have really responded to the dark humour, and found an unlikely empathy with the main character.
Stylistically, the writers I’ve most been compared to since the book was published are Irvine Welsh, Chuck Palahniuk and Kevin Sampson.
 
What is it that you love about writing in this genre?
 
I’m not entirely sure what genre I write in, though I suppose literary fiction would be the one I’d pick, though someone recently told me TWINACDP is a picaresque novel. My focus is always, primarily, on the character, and I build everything else around that, which probably does place me in both the picaresque and literary fiction genres. I think that gives me freedom to focus more on the character arc.
 
How did it come to the attention of Armley Press?
 
I had almost given up with submitting it. There’s only so many rejections you can take. Then someone or other retweeted a tweet from Mick McCann where he said Armley Press were on the lookout for submission. He described them as “Northern, punk publishers”. Well, I’m Northern, and I’m a punk, so they seemed like they might be a good fit and I got in touch with them. John Lake, the novelist who is Mick’s partner in crime, read it and instantly responded to it.
 
What value do you feel has been given to your book by being published by an independent publisher?
 
Mick and John have really made me feel like the book is important to them in a way that I doubt a mainstream publisher would. There were times when I had doubts and anxieties, and I was able to just text or phone Mick or John and they were always available. I think Mick’s main motivation is to give a voice to writers who deserve to be heard, but are simply being ignored by the mainstream because they can’t guarantee huge sales. I had a couple of close calls with the mainstream publishers, but ultimately they weren’t interested, but, by wanting to publish it, Armley Press gave the book value.
 
  
What would you say has been your most exciting or satisfying experience about the whole process?
 
Definitely the feedback I’ve had. Hearing from a complete stranger that they’ve not just read it, but liked it, makes all the years of toil worth it. Although, I have to say that simply holding a copy of the book in my hand was a pretty incredible feeling too.
 
 
What have you learned about the author’s role in today’s publishing industry in promoting and marketing their own books?
 
I understood right from the off that there was no way Armley would have the marketing and promotional weight of the big boys, so I knew I would have to do my bit. That means being very visible online, particularly Twitter, and being willing and available to appear at anywhere that might provide any sort of publicity and promotion. The latter hasn’t really come up yet, but I’ve certainly tried to be active on Twitter, and Armley and myself have shared the workload in terms of trying to get the book into the hands of reviewers, bloggers and influential people.
You can follow Nathan O’Hagan on Twitter at https://twitter.com/NathanOHagan
He also has an author Facebook page here.
 

Introducing Darren Laws, Founder of Caffeine Nights Publishing

Time for yet another Publisher interview! This time with the publisher of the amazing Abide With Me by Ian Ayris. Here the founder Darren Laws, with whom I connected on Twitter, explains the origins of his innovative publishing company…

Darren Laws

Please introduce yourself! 

My name is Darren Laws, I am the founder, owner and managing director of Caffeine Nights Publishing.

 

Can you tell us about the origins of Caffeine Nights Publishing? How did it all begin? 

Caffeine Nights began life as an online site in the late 1990s, 24/7 Caffeine Nights, publishing short stories and other works from unpublished authors. This stemmed from a writing group I founded in Maidstone Kent, when I realised there was a huge amount of unpublished quality writing. In 2007 we moved into Print-on-Demand and eBooks and I spent a few years researching the market before we published Nick Quantrill’s Broken Dreams in 2010.

 

What kind of literature do you publish and why did you choose to specialise in this field? 

We specialise in crime and horror fiction, both genres that I love and have read avidly since I was young. James Herbert’s The Rats was my introduction into adult books at the age of 12.

 

What would you say has been your biggest success so far? 

Every book is a success on one level. Publishing is an extremely competitive business and it’s great seeing many of our titles get in the various top 10 charts at Amazon. Caffeine Nights was shortlisted for The Bookseller Awards last year for Digital Strategy for our free app. That was special!

 

What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome? 

Every day in publishing is a challenge. From gaining the attention of the buyers in book stores to finding ways to market and advertise books on a tight budget.

 

What can you give to your authors that other, bigger publishers can’t? 

A personal service! Caffeine Nights work with authors to help them develop a career. We realise that few authors become an overnight success and that there is a nurturing stage.

 

How does the ebook format benefit independent publishers? 

eBook are another sales channel and an important one. The advent and popularity of eBooks cannot be ignored as a significant factor in the democratisation of publishing.

 

What do you look for in a submission and what is it that shines through in the slush pile? 

I don’t call it a slush pile, every submission has had a lot of effort from the author, regardless of how good or bad it is. Good submissions really do leap from the page and from the introductory email or letter from the author. Bad ones are sloppy, error prone and usually over-sold by the author who thinks they have written the greatest book ever. Arrogance always rings alarm bells.

 

What books are you particularly excited about publishing?

I wouldn’t publish any book I am not excited about. So the simple answer is all of them!

Find Caffeine Nights on Twitter @caffeinenights

You can find out more about their digital app, titles and more at http://caffeine-nights.com/

Introducing Karen Sullivan, Publisher at Orenda Books

I am so honoured to host an interview today with Karen Sullivan, publisher and founder at Orenda Books, a fantastic independent publishing company based in London. Orenda Books published one of my favourite books this year, How To Be Brave by Louise Beech and in less than a year has achieved great success. Karen is a wonderful person and clearly a talented publisher. Here Karen discusses her journey into becoming an independent publisher and what independent publishing can bring to the industry…

karen sullivan

Please can you introduce yourself and give a brief overview of your own career.

I’m Karen Sullivan, publisher at Orenda Books. I moved here from Canada when I was 21 (ostensibly to travel around the world) and worked for a small publishing house for a couple of years, before leaving to forge a career as a health editor and writer. I wrote quite a few books about raising children, emotional health, discipline, bullying, nutrition, and that sort of thing, while having three children of my own, and did some TV. I unexpectedly arrived back in publishing when I took a part-time job in a small independent, which soon became full-time. That move was more about a need for change than anything else, but I realised how much I’d missed ‘front-line’ publishing. When a restructuring of the list took place about a year ago, I decided to set up my own publishing house, and the rest is history!

Orenda Books is just under a year old. How did the company come about and how many staff do you have?

The company came about when the shareholders at my previous job (where I worked for about 18 months) decided to undertake a restructure of a list in which I had not only an enormous amount of faith, but a personal sense of responsibility. I chose this time to go out on my own. It was a long-held ambition, in fact, dream! I have no staff, as such. My husband looks after the contracts and finances in his spare time. I have a brilliant freelance editor, West Camel, who works alongside me on some of the titles, doing second reads of submissions, helping with structural and copy edits, and generally covering when I am away, which is frequently the case. He knows my taste completely, which makes things much, much easier. Liz Wilkins (Liz Loves Books) helps to arrange blog tours and provide feedback on potential titles, as well as other useful things. A wee girl, Emma Clifford, has helped out when she can to chase up publicity things. The community in general has been amazingly supportive, and that is the reason why things have gone in the right direction.

orenda letterhead red

 What kind of literature do you publish?

I publish literary fiction, with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, about half in translation. Having said that, I have two books on my list this year that fit in neither category. They resonated and I loved them, so I put them on the list! Next year I have a couple more, and you’ll see why I bought them. Great books deserve to be published, and that’s what I’m aiming to do.

 What would you say has been your biggest success so far?

I would love to narrow it down to one book, but the truth is that every single book has exceeded expectations. I have four debut authors on my list (of six), and the reception has been astonishing. My first-ever book was Paul E. Hardisty’s exceptional thriller, The Abrupt Physics of Dying. Not only was it shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger, but it’s gained over 150 five-star reviews online, and hit the ‘best book of the year’ spot for a number of bloggers and hopefully also reviewers. I don’t think that I’ve read anything like it, and I don’t think I could ever forget it!

David F. Ross’s wonderful, music- and politics-driven debut novel The Last Days of Disco, has not only been a massive bestseller north of the border, but he’s been called the most ‘exciting new Scottish voice’ and compared to John Niven and Irvine Welsh. Rights were almost instantly sold to Random House in Germany. Funny, sad, heartwarming, it’s just amazing – coming of age cum humour cum WOW.

Snowblind, by Ragnar Jonasson (translated by Quentin Bates) has been our bestselling title this year to date. This unknown, completely amazing Icelandic crime writer managed to hit the number one spot on Kindle, knocking off The Girl on the Train, for the first time, and selling brilliantly in all markets. He blends Golden Age crime (a la Agatha Christie) with the modernity if Nordic Noir, and it’s created a storm!

And then there was Gunnar Staalesen’s We Shall Inherit the Wind, translated by Knausgaard and Nesbo supremo, Don Bartlett. Gunnar is not only one of the fathers of Nordic Noir, but an internationally famous author whose time for recognition in English has come. I breathe a sigh of pleasure when I read his books! We’ve had brilliant reviews, and very strong sales, and his festival appearances and the tour we took in September were sell-outs!

The autumn brought Kati Hiekkapelto’s stunning crime-thriller The Defenceless (translated by David Hackston)Not only did this win the Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2014, but Kati is also up for the coveted Glass Key (previous winners include Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo) for a book that is scarily timely. This book takes crime fiction to a higher level, and I am so proud to publish Kati, whose distinctive voice has already earned her a spot on the Petrona shortlist!

My final book of 2015 is another aberration. A compelling, moving, astoundingly evocative debut novel called How To Be Brave, by Louise Beech, which weaves together the contemporary story of a woman struggling with a seriously ill child and a true story from the author’s own past (think survival on a lifeboat for 50 days during the Second World War). Just out two weeks ago, we’ve had dozens of online reviews and, more importantly, many bloggers calling it their book of the year.

Everything has gone better than I could ever have dreamt.

What book are you particularly looking forward to publishing?

That’s rather like asking me who is my favourite child! I am looking forward to publishing them all, and my 2016 list and the beginnings of the 2017 list are simply brilliant!

I’ve got second novels for all of my existing authors (The Evolution of Fear, by Paul E. Hardisty; Nightblind and Blackout by Ragnar Jonasson (trs Quentin Bates); The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas, by David F. Ross; Where Roses Never Die, by Gunnar Staalesen (trs Don Bartlett); The Mountain in My Shoe, by Louise Beech, and the third in the Anna Fekete series, by Kati Hiekkapelto (trs David Hackston).

 As well as that, we’ve got Deadly Harvest and A Death in the Family from the magnificent South African crime-writing duo Michael Stanley (the Detective Kubu mysteries, set in Botswana);In Her Wake, a gorgeous, chilling psychological thriller based around an abducted child from the inimitable Amanda Jennings; an unputdownable, exceptional Homeland-style thriller from debut author Yusuf Toropov, entitled Jihadi: A Love Story; a page-turning, gritty and authentic thriller by ex-Met Police officer, Matt Johnson; Epiphany Jones, an extraordinary thriller cum dark comedy by journalist Michael Grothaus – simply amazingly written, it’s got sex trafficking as its theme, but some fabulous humour and a deeply moving emotional core; Norwegian author Agnes’ Ravatn’s absolutely exquisite, Rebecca-esque The Bird Tribunal (trs Rosie Hedger)which has been a massive success in her own country and put her on every ‘author to watch list’ there is; TWO brand-new Nordic Noir thrillers (Coat of Arms and Mortal Wound) in the Henning Juul series by bestselling, talented Norwegian author Thomas Enger; an absolutely stunning retelling of the Selkie legend, Sealskin, by newcomer Sujata Bristow, and a couple more up my sleeve that will be announced soon. I love every single one of them, or I wouldn’t be publishing them.

What were some of the risks you had to take into consideration when starting your own independent publishing company?

Starting any business is a risk, particularly in an industry that is in a state of flux, with many independent publishers being swallowed by conglomerates or closing their doors completely. I was aware of my responsibilities to my authors, whose blood is in their books, to their agents, to my distributors and sales team, booksellers, to everyone, and worried that an unknown company with a fairly unknown publisher and a host of debuts on the list, could fail to make any impact at all. I also have a family, and had to be sure that I wasn’t going to end up homeless and penniless because of my determination to follow my dreams. More than a few people said I was mad, but a lot more than that believed it could be done. Ultimately I reckon that people always read great books, and if I could find them, publish them and market them, then I stood as much chance as anyone else. It’s a difficult business, with tiny margins and many nail-biting moments, but I have fantastic authors who work so hard to promote their books and ultimately, as I suspected, good books will sell! And the truth is that many big companies are struggling in a market that is ever-changing, and I might as well throw in my lot with them.

 What does Orenda Books have to offer that others don’t or what do you feel makes your company unique?

The nice thing about being an independent publisher is that we can probably take risks that other, larger companies can’t. While we have hopeful sales targets, they aren’t deal-breakers, and we can invest in authors while they find their place in the market (and the bestseller lists!). In many larger companies, an author needs to reach a certain level of sales or risk being dropped. Our overheads are low, and we can take a punt where other companies might not. More importantly, we can do something different and create or cater to a niche community. I love publishing translated fiction, for example. It’s hugely expensive, with the cost of the translation to take into consideration before you’ve even edited, jacketed, printed, marketed or sold a single book, and on paper it doesn’t look very promising; however, there is a community of avid readers out there and I take huge pride in bringing to English some of the finest international authors there are. We can cherry-pick from the very best! Every publishing company differs according to who is buying the books, and what you get at Orenda is my taste. I always worry that people won’t see what I saw, but so far that has not been the case. There has been resounding enthusiasm and support. So I guess the answer is that we just publish good books. We take risks with debut authors, with translated fiction, with books written in Scottish vernacular (for example), with sensitive themes, with authors who have been rejected in lots of places before finding their home on a team. We are growing together as a company and I think that harmony, that shared belief, is what will shine through. Well, that and the great books!

Why do you feel that independents are good for the publishing industry?

For most of the reasons above, really. Bringing something different and new to the market, taking risks that bigger companies can’t accommodate because of accountability to shareholders or targets, and publishing passionately. This might sound odd, but in larger companies, the enthusiasm, excitement and commitment of a great commissioning editor will get a book commissioned, but by the time a book heads down through various departments, even the greatest energy can be diluted. Here, as in many independents, a few people (in our case, just me) do everything from commissioning and editing to pitching for festivals and reviews, marketing, selling rights and even accompanying authors on tours and to events. The initial excitement is always there, and that helps. I can’t tell you how many authors from bigger companies have approached me. They aren’t after bigger money; they are after a continuing relationship, personal care, continuity, and the belief that their book will have more than a week in the sun.

Independents also tend to cater to niche markets, which are rich and vibrant communities, with avid readers who appreciate the different things we bring to the market. There should be books for all types of readers, and in an industry increasingly dominated by conglomerates and chains, with the obvious repercussions, it’s nice to offer something new and to give perhaps less catered-for markets what they want.

dark dayshow to be bravein her wake

death in the family

You can follow Orenda Books on Twitter @OrendaBooks

Find out more about their company and their books at http://orendabooks.co.uk/

Introducing Hull Author Nick Quantrill

Nick Quantrill has become a good friend of mine from Hull and is a big name in the literary scene up North – which is how I came to meet him. He is author of the Joe Geraghty trilogy published by Caffeine Nights Publishing and runs and attends a number of literary events in and around Hull. He’s successful and always likes to help others around him – me included – find opportunities to become more involved in the literary scene. He is the man who helped give me the opportunity to work on the BritCrime online literature festival. He is a lovely man and a talented writer. Below he discusses Hull, literature and crime writing…

NQ photo

Please introduce yourself and give a brief overview of you career.

I’m Nick Quantrill and I’m the writer of the Joe Geraghty trilogy, a series of crime novels set in Hull. Geraghty’s a former rugby league player turned Private Investigator and the books see him deal with a variety of issues. “Broken Dreams” is about the way the death of industry is still being felt in the city, “The Late Greats” sees him babysitting a reforming Britpop band and “The Crooked Beat” takes him into the murky world of smuggled cigarettes. May 2016 sees my fourth novel, “The Dead Can’t Talk”, published. It’s a Hull set crime novel, but with different protagonists.

What motivated you to move away from your previous job and into writing?

I only gave up my day job to write because of the birth of my daughter. After fainting at the price of a nursery place, I thought I’d combine looking after her with writing. How hard could it be? Turns out it’s pretty testing, but also a great opportunity. Of course, writing is my passion and what I want to do even though it’s incredibly difficult to build a career. Maybe I’ll have to get a day job again at some point, but it won’t stop me from writing.

You’ve become very popular and active in author and book events. Why is doing this so important? How has it helped you with your own career and networking?

Unless you’re with a large publisher and a priority for them, it’s all about being visible as an author and discoverability. Getting out into the real world is a great way to achieve that. It’s helpful in many ways, mainly because I’m directly connecting with readers. Beyond that, events and festivals are a great way to meet fellow writers and professionals. It feels like a snowball effect. Once people know your name and face, the more likely it seems you are to be asked to do more things. Lastly, and certainly not least, talking to real people is thrilling when you spend most of your day chained to a laptop!

How did you come to be involved in the BritCrime Festival and what was the most enjoyable part for you? What do you think we can learn from the experience?

I was lucky BritCrime was such an open and welcoming festival. Helen Smith, the organiser, sent a message out to see if other writers wanted to join her and I replied, realising it had the potential to be really interesting. Helen put in a huge amount of work and led the way, but it become a collective effort with the writers involved getting stuck in the promotional side of things. I really enjoyed taking part in my allocated panel, “Crime in the City”, but running the Facebook page for a spell was an education. What I took away from it was the power of the internet. It’s great to go out to festival and libraries, but readers may have many reasons for not wanting to attend such events. This was free and accessible in a different way. I think we’ll see a lot more of this in the future, as writers and readers use different technologies to connect.

Tell us a little bit about your books – how did they come about? Have they been well received?

As a crime writer, my first instinct when I decided to write a novel was to invent a police officer. It’s an enduringly popular way of doing things, but I quickly learned from a failed novel that it wasn’t for me. We have writers like Eva Dolan, Sarah Hilary and Luca Veste who are pushing that sub-genre in interesting directions, so I invented a Private Investigator and immediately felt more comfortable. My take on it was that he couldn’t be anything like the American archetype. He doesn’t have a string of femme fatales walking into his office and nor does he wise crack his way out of difficult situations. I also decided the crimes he’d investigate would have to ring true in an isolated an unloved northern city. I hope I can say my novels have been well-received by readers and peers, but as a writer I’m satisfied that each book shows a progression and more skill.

The latest in the Joe Geraghty triology.

The latest in the Joe Geraghty triology.

Why do you choose to set your books in Hull? How important is it for you to establish a literary scene in Hull?

Simply because it’s my home city and I want to understand it. When I started writing in 2006(ish), it felt like very few people were exploring the place on the page. At the time it was the country’s reigning ‘Crap Town’. Since then, the city has transformed to the point it’ll be UK City of Culture in 2017. It’s an amazing backdrop to have as a writer. I think the rise in the number of writers active in the city has been both organic and engineered. The council have put money into things like ‘Head in a Book’, a monthly literature night which allows a local writer to interview a high-profile guest. It deserves credit as it’s really built an audience and helped people like me develop new skills. I certainly want to be an active member of the literary scene in the city and that means giving as well as taking. I’ve been fortunate to receive help when I’ve asked, so I want to pay that back if I can.

What do you enjoy most about being an author, and what are the challenges?

I enjoy it all. It’s a privilege to be published, it’s a privilege to be invited to places to talk, but most of all it’s a privilege that people choose to spend their time reading my work. It’s mind-blowing, really, when I stop to think about it. The biggest challenge is finding readers, that sense of discoverability when there are so many other good writers out there. It’s not easy, but being generous and enjoying being part of the crime writing community (writers, readers, bloggers etc) goes a long way.

What are the benefits of publishing with a small press?

I think the major benefit is the closeness of relationship you enjoy, the sense that you’re fully involved in all the important decisions. A small press has to be nimble and lean, but they can’t afford to make mistakes. Their titles have to succeed and that means you’re all on the same page. It’s not the only way, of course. I know of writers with big publishers and their experiences range from terrible to excellent. Also, I know writers who have embraced self-publishing. It’s about what works for you.

What is it about crime writing that attracts you the most?

I’ve always been a big reader of the genre. I love the fact it’s such a broad church, but for me, it’s a brilliant tool for exploring contemporary society with. I’m a big fan of writers like Graham Hurley, George Pelecanos, Ian Rankin and Ray Banks. They’re all very different, but what connects them (in my opinion) is a curiosity about people and the way they interact with their surroundings.

And finally, what are you working on next?

The Dead Can’t Talk” will be published May 2016, so I’m currently working on edits. Here’s the blurb:

How far will Anna Stone, a disillusioned police officer on the brink of leaving her job, go to uncover the truth about her sister’s disappearance? Approached by Luke Carver, an ex-Army drifter she’s previously sent to prison, he claims to have information which will help her. As the trail leads from Hull and the Humber’s desperate and downtrodden to its great and good, an unsolved murder thirty years ago places their lives in danger, leaving Stone to decide if she can really trust a man who has his own reasons for helping.

You can follow Nick Quantrill on Twitter @nickquantrill

Find out more about him here: http://www.nickquantrill.co.uk/

Introducing Kevin Duffy, Founder of Bluemoose Books

I am incredibly honoured to feature Kevin Duffy of Bluemoose Books, an independent publishing house, on my blog today. I first met Kevin at a Society of Young Publishers event a few years ago now, and since then I have been a big follower of the company. Bluemoose Books have enjoyed enormous success in their short time of publishing. Their book Gabriel’s Angel is a particular favourite of mine. Read on to find out more.

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Kevin and Hetha Duffy with author Ben Myers, winning The inaugural Gordon Burn Prize with PIG IRON.

Please can you introduce yourself and give a brief overview of your own career.

My name is Kevin Duffy and I started Bluemoose Books with my wife Hetha after re-mortgaging our house. I have been involved in sales and marketing in publishing over the last 30 years with commercial, academic, fiction and non – fiction publishing companies

How did Bluemoose come about and how many staff do you have?

We started Bluemoose as a result of me winning a national writing competition, being whisked down to London, wined and dined at The Ivy by the directors of Macmillan and an uber agent from Curtis Brown. However, they didn’t want my book. I then read in The Bookseller that all the big money was being given to Irish writers, so I changed my name to Colm O’Driscoll, sent off the first three chapters to Darley Andersons, agents to Martina Cole and Lee Child. I had to be Irish for a year, even lied to my children telling them that if a posh man from London rings and asks for Colm that is me, your dad. Confusion reigned but after sending the finished book I got a contract. He sent it out to all the big publishers and all the editors loved the book but the most important people in publishing, and that remains the same today, the commercial directors didn’t think they could sell 20,000 copies, so they didn’t publish. After twelve months I got the book back. We re-mortgaged our house in Hebden Bridge, started Bluemoose and the first two books we published were my book Anthills and Stars by me The Bridge Between by Canadian author Nathan Vanek. We made enough money from these two books to continue and we’ve published 25 books since.

I am full time and we have four freelance editors.

What kind of literature do you publish?

We publish cracking stories which are beautifully written that engage and inspire readers.

Many of your books have now received awards/sold film rights/been translated into numerous languages. What would you say has been your biggest success so far?

I think all our books are successes. The beauty of Independence is that we don’t have the acute economic imperative that the big corporates have. In their world if a book doesn’t succeed economically straight away, the author is dropped. We’re here for the long haul. Books we published five years ago like GABRIEL’S ANGEL by Mark A Radcliffe, still sell really well. NOD by Adrian Barnes has sold incredibly well, and has just been published in North America. PIG IRON and BEASTINGS by Benjamin Myers have won awards and been short listed for others too. KING CROW by Michael Stewart still sells and we published that in 2011. Our biggest seller was the non-fiction book THE HARDEST CLIMB by Alistair Sutcliffe. The story of how he overcame a life threatening brain haemorrhage after being the first man to climb the highest mountain on each of the seven continents at the first attempt. He was on BBC Radio 4’s midweek programme and the sales went doolally tap.
What book are you particularly looking forward to publishing?

Our list for 2016 is stunning.

IF YOU LOOK FOR ME, I AM NOT HERE by Indian writer Sarayu Srivastra in January. The second novel by Anna Chilvers, TAINTED LOVE in March. The debut, THE LESS THAN PERFECT LEGEND OF DONNA CREOSOTE by Dan Micklethwaite in July. The CODEX EPIPHANIX by David E Oprava in September and the debut, THE HANDSWORTH TIMES by Sharon Duggel in September too.

What were some of the risks you had to take into consideration when starting your own independent publishing company?

Losing our house was the biggest issue. Getting it hopelessly wrong and not being taken seriously. Marketing, sales and building a relationship with booksellers on the high street and with libraries too.

What does Bluemoose Books have to offer that others don’t or what do you feel makes your company unique?

We are the delicatessens of the publishing world. Our books are honed and polished and made the best they can be. We spend an inordinate amount of time in editing and working with our authors. After all, they are the most important people in publishing, because they create the wonderful stories we want to read. As a family of readers and writers with differing reading tastes we know that once we’ve agreed to publish an author, our passion and individually tailored marketing and sales will get our books into reader’s hands.

Why do you feel that independents are good for the publishing industry?

I think Independents are actually in a different publishing industry than the corporates. We are the only ones taking risks with new writers and promoting new voices. We are to some extent the R&D departments of the corporate world. It is interesting to know that 4 of the last 8 winners of The Man Booker have come from the Independent sector. Our publishing decisions are made on the quality of the stories. The economic imperative is first and foremost the main consideration for the corporate publishing world. Great stories are not made round the committee table, great stories are created in the minds of authors. We give our writers time and space to create these stories. If literature is about anything it is about new writers and new voices. As the books editor of The Guardian recently said, ‘It is the independents that are driving innovation in publishing.’

You’re a big voice for publishing in the North and often discuss class and region in terms of publishing. Why is it so important that we continue to promote publishing up North?

Geography shouldn’t dictate what is published. I get that historically the publishing industry has been in London but with internships alienating so many creative people entering publishing in London, we are limiting the creative and talented pool of people which will make publishing more dynamic. Having a Northern Power house of publishing in the north will enable wonderfully creative and talented people to get jobs in publishing without having to go down to London. Publishing needs diversity, people who have different life experiences and backgrounds not just the homogenised group of people who come from the same educational institutions and dominate what is being published today. We are justly proud to be a publisher based in the North but we are just as proud to have published stories that are sold in over 42 countries around the world.

bluemoose

You can follow Bluemoose Books on Twitter @ofmooseandmen

Find out more about the company here. http://www.bluemoosebooks.com/

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