An insight into the publishing world…

Posts tagged ‘authors’

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 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/

An interview with FutureBook founder Sam Missingham

Anyone who knows anything about the publishing world know that an interview with Sam Missingham is a Big Deal. Having worked for publishing giants such as the Bookseller, FutureBook and HarperCollins, she has forged an immensely successful and influential career in publishing and marketing within the books industry.

I’ve been an admirer and follower of Sam’s for a while now and I was very excited when she agreed to undertake this interview for my blog.

The lovely Sam Missingham

The lovely Sam Missingham

Can you give my readers a brief overview of your career so far?

 Sure.

I’ve spent the vast amount of my career working in magazine publishing. I started at a very small company that published financial technology titles. I learned a huge amount working in a small business with a very entrepreneurial boss. He taught me a few simple but important things – everyone in the company should be able to answer the phone & give a decent answer to any question about the business, also, pretty much every call coming into a business is a sales opportunity – if you understand everything that you sell.

I then worked at Centaur on many of their B2B magazines, including Marketing Week, Creative Review and New Media Age. I launched their community site MAD.co.uk (for marketing, advertising & design professionals). This is where I learned about building audiences/communities and the various ways you can get people to pay for content. And yes I was MAD Marketing Manager for a while 😉

 I took a career break to have my daughter, move town & divorce (why not do all of it at the same time, right?). I then worked for several years as a freelancer/consultant, always working on circulation & subscription strategy work. I worked on consumer magazines at Future Publishing on titles about weddings, cars, photography & design.

Seven years ago I was offered temporary freelance work on The Bookseller, where I stayed for 5 years. This was the most fulfilling 5 years of my career, mostly due to falling in love with the book business and being part of the industry while it transformed so dramatically. I launched the FutureBook community, blog, conference and awards while I was there which I am still very proud of.

One of the most exciting moments of my professional life, was when Charlie Redmayne, HarperCollins’ CEO offered me a job running events. Until that point I had NO experience in books, so I appreciate the leap of faith he made employing me. I have now been at HarperCollins for 18 months and I genuinely believe I have the best job in publishing. My remit is to come up with engaging events and campaigns across our entire list to put more books into more hands. Doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

 You originally studied maths and Russian at university. What lead you down the publishing and marketing career path?

Oh I forgot to mention above that I was also a spy for the KGB for a while. Kidding aside, I enjoyed studying Maths & Russian and although I haven’t used either of them directly, logic and arithmetic are useful skills to have in marketing. I didn’t exactly choose my career in magazines – I graduated in a horrible recession and it was the only job I could get. No regrets.

I genuinely believe I have the best job in publishing

Over the years and in your many marketing roles in the industry, what are some of the biggest changes youve experienced?

 I suppose the most significant and seismic shift would obviously be the Internet. I worked on a magazine charting the very start of the Internet around 1996, a time when businesses were launching websites for the first time. So, everything that has followed; email, ecommerce, social, apps etc. Hard to imagine now.

Youve won and been nominated for a number of big industry awards. Can you possibly pick one or two that you are most proud of and/or most touched by and explain why?

 Well, I’m proud of all of them. But being runner-up for the Pandora award for outstanding contribution to publishing takes some beating. Also, I was a runner-up to Dame Marjorie Scardino. How cool is that?

In your view, what role has social media and digital played in attracting more people to reading and the industry? Why has it been so effective?

 Wow, not sure I can do that question justice as the impact is so huge and varied. In very simple terms, social media has removed the barriers/gate keepers between readers and authors. It has also facilitated an open and engaged conversation amongst all book-lovers. Authors can now talk directly to librarians, bookshops to agents, book marketers to readers. There is certainly still a way to go for publishers to fully maximise the opportunity social offers, but that’s the fun and challenge of continual change.

 In terms of digital, it would be impossible for me to understate the impact Amazon has had on the book business. Not least creating an ebook ecosystem that actually worked. They are a phenomenally impressive business, a week hardly goes by where they haven’t launched a new program, service or tech innovation.

Digital has had impact across all areas of our business in areas too many to mention; in no particular order, significant shifts in the last 7 years: the Ipad, apps, Wattpad, KDP, mobile, YouTube – the list goes on

For those unfamiliar with virtual events  how do they work and what are the benefits? What have been particularly successful and challenging about the ones you’ve launched?

Yes, these have been great fun. The virtual festivals replicate literary festivals, but are delivered on social media. I have organised virtual festivals in romance, crime and SciFi, delivering engaging programs for readers/fans. I suppose the thing that is significant about these festivals is that they are publisher-agnostic, open and inclusive and global – everyone is welcome. As far as know, no other publisher has run events/campaigns where they have included other publisher, organisations and indie authors. My view is we all have the same aim – more books into more hands and working together genuinely puts the reader at the heart of what we’re doing. How many readers buy books from just one publisher, for example?

There have been a few highlights during these festivals, one being Margaret Atwood’s Twitter Q&A – she is a goddess. We also had Agatha Christie’s publisher answering questions about what it’s like to publish the Queen of Crime. Fab.

You have worked as Head of Events & Marketing for two of the biggest publishing organisations in the UK today The Bookseller and FutureBook. What has been the most rewarding part of these experiences?

Launching FutureBook and building an engaged community as the book industry transformed. During this time I made many friends across the industry, many of whom were gracious and supportive when quite frankly I knew nothing.

 Most rewarding part of publishing? The people, by a mile.

In very simple terms, social media has removed the barriers/gate keepers between readers and authors.

How important is collaboration in this industry?

 Extremely, as mentioned in my previous question. A rising tide lifts everyone, yes?

How does it feel to be a huge influencer in the publishing industry and what qualities do you feel are essential for a person to become successful in this area?

 Huge influencer is overstating things. The qualities I try to bring are enthusiasm, a genuine passion for books and the business, a broader interest in news and trends with a little irreverence, perhaps. One thing I am particularly passionate about is supporting students and people at the early stage of their careers. I see that has my responsibility and also very rewarding. Nothing better than seeing someone fly.

What would your advice be to someone interested in the industry in terms of attending literary and publishing events?

 Id recommend you attend London Book Fair  lots of free events and also talk to people in the coffee queue. Making contacts is the NUMBER ONE thing that will help you at every stage of your career. Also, Byte The Book, Book Machine and SYP all run excellent events throughout the year.

Youve worked on both newsletters, magazines and now books. How important do you feel working on a variety of publication types to be when building a publishing career?

 Not sure the publication types is the important bit. What is more valuable is working in different types of businesses. As I have said many times, retail experience is extremely useful, particular bookshops. But honestly, the skills you learn dealing with customers directly cant be underestimated. I grew up in a flower shop and also spent many years working in shoe shops and waitressing.

Working in other entertainment and digital businesses would also be useful. My philosophy is that no skills are ever wasted, so gain as much experience as possible.

Who are some of your favourite and more approachable authors and publishers that you have worked with and why?

I had the privilege of running an event with George RR Martin & Robin Hobb last summer. One of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. Spending an evening with George RR was how I imagine hanging out with Mick Jagger would be. A total rock star. He invited all of the Game of Thrones cosplayers back to his room after the event – you’d could see the real connection with his fans. Robin was an absolute delight too.

 On Twitter, there are a number of authors I think rock; Ian Rankin, Joanne Harris, Jill Mansell, Lindsey Kelk to name a few.

You can follow Sam on Twitter: @samatlounge

Check out The Bookseller and Futurebook sites.

Introducing Book Reviewer and Blogger Mieke Bijns

Today’s interview is with Mieke, a book blogger and reviewer who writes for both English and Belgian audiences. It gives my blog an international perspective and shines a light on the publishing and book industry in Belgium and the Netherlands and discusses the differences in publishing culture between the two.

Mieke, the book blogger behind Boekenvlinder.

Mieke, the book blogger behind Boekenvlinder.

Please introduce yourself and give us a background of yourself and your career.

Hiya! My name’s Mieke, I’m 25 years young, I live in the Northern part of Belgium together with my boyfriend and two cats and during the daytime office hours I’m a full time Data Entry Coordinator at a company that creates and distributes thermal imaging and infrared cameras. In the evenings and in the weekends, I’m a book blogger and reading addict.

When and why did you start reviewing books?

I started reviewing books pretty much in high school, though I never published book reviews online. I only started my blog at the end of last year, so I’m still pretty new to all this. I started reviewing books because I was “forced to” at school but the more reviews I wrote, the more I started to like it and actually see the purpose of it. Writing down my opinion on the books I read helped me to remember them more easily, especially when someone asked me about my opinion on a book I read. As to my blog, I publish my reviews online because I want other people to know what I thought about it and probably help them decide whether or not they’re going to read the book I reviewed.

Mieke's cat Ezra - who crawled all over Mieke's keyboard and sent an email of unfinished interview answers over to me!

Mieke’s cat Ezra – who crawled all over Mieke’s keyboard and sent an email of unfinished interview answers over to me!

What platforms do you use for reviewing books?

Well, obviously I use my own blogs (http://www.boekenvlinder.be for the Dutch reviews and http://loveforbooksandbutterflies.wordpress.com for the English reviews), and other than that I also use Goodreads and some Dutch websites like dizzie.nl, hebban.nl,bol.com and standaardboekhandel.be. I also use my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/Boekenvlinder) and Twitter (@Boekenvlinder) to publish links to my blog or to other book-related websites or news items.

In my opinion, a badly written review is either a very short review or a very long one.

Which do you find is most effective in getting your reviews read widely? How do you build up traffic and exposure for your reviews?

I found that most of the traffic on my review posts comes from Facebook, so I’d say that for me, Facebook is the most effective channel for getting my reviews read. It also helps that I host giveaways frequently. That way, people get to know my blog and they’ll come back more often to read reviews.

In your opinion, what should all good book reviews have/do? What do you think makes a badly written review?

Now this is a hard one… I think all good book reviews should be unique and written by yourself. I hate it when I read book reviews that are pretty much an exact copy of someone else’s review. That’s also one of the reasons why I don’t read other people’s reviews before writing my own. Chances are I’ll think “ooh, I thought that as well!” and write exactly the same thing in my review.
In my opinion, a badly written review is either a very short review or a very long one. I also don’t like reading reviews with tons of spelling or grammatical mistakes, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad review.

Do you have a favourite genre of book that you like to review and why?

I don’t really have a preference, but If I get to choose between lots of genres of books to review, I’d choose war stories. They may be fictional but true stories -or stories based on true stories- are fine as well.

I think it’s important for authors to get recognition for their hard labour.

How does the Belgian publishing culture differ from and also how is it similar to English and American publishing?

Hmm tough question, since I don’t get in contact with English and/or American publishers much. I’d say English and American publishers are far more prepared to let readers acquire review copies of their books. When it comes to Belgian publishers, you practically have to beg for them, or you have to win some kind of contest.

Also, I found that English and American publishers have a more open mind as to the kind of books they publish and they’re far more ahead of their time. The genres Young Adult and New Adult, for example, are hugely widespread and a lot of different publishers actually publish these genres, but in Belgium we have to go looking REAL hard to actually find a publisher who wants to publish these genres. In The Netherlands, however, it’s not like this at all.

Which authors and books have really stood out for you? Which publisher do you feel is currently producing top quality content?

Currently, I’d say Anthony Doerr and Margaret Leroy or both authors that are standing out for me. “All the Light We Cannot See (published by Scribner) and The English girl (published by Sphere) are both fantastic books by publishers that are, in my opnion, producing top quality content as far as I know. In Belgium, both books are published by The House of Books and this publisher has always been one of my favourites, together with Xander Uitgevers.

I found that English and American publishers have a more open mind as to the kind of books they publish.

Why is it important for authors to get their work reviewed?

I think it’s important for them to get recognition for their hard labour. Out of reader reviews, they can get a lot of feedback and this might help them on writing their next book. They get to know what people think of their writing style, their language use and all that. I think reviews are also quite important to the publishers and editors of the books. It happens regularly that spelling or grammatical mistakes slip through the editing (and re-editing) and readers that notice them, could help getting these out of the book in future editions.

How do you achieve tact and gentleness in reviews that may not be so favourable? Or do you prefer to be blunt and to the point?

I always try to stay gentle in “bad” reviews. I might find a particular book quite bad, but someone else probably doesn’t share my opinion. If I have something negative to say, I always try to add something positive for the author to think about for a next book. Of course, that’s not always possible, but still… I try to thoroughly explain why I find a book bad so other readers can understand my opinion. Just writing “this book was awful and I wish I’d never read it” doesn’t really make a review (even though there really are books where I felt like this).

And finally, what are you reading at the moment?

At the moment, I’m reading Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little (in English), The Code by Fredrik T. Olsson (in Dutch) and Hitte by Lis Lucassen (in Dutch and it is currently being translated into English, as “Heat”).

Links for Mieke’s work can be found within the body of the interview!

boekenvlinder

Introducing Red Button Publishing

I am extremely excited to share with you all my interview with Caroline of independent publishing house Red Button Publishing. She has kindly taken time from her busy schedule to share with us insights into the independent publishing world, information about their upcoming titles and a wealth of knowledge and experience gained over her years working in the publishing industry…

Caroline Goldsmith, one of the lovely ladies behind Red Button Publishing

A shelfie from Caroline Goldsmith, one of the lovely ladies behind Red Button Publishing

Please introduce our readers to yourself and to Karen Ings. What are your backgrounds and career journeys?

I met Karen nearly fifteen years ago when I started in my first job in publishing at Aurum Press where she was Commissioning Editor. We’ve been close friends ever since. We both moved through various roles over the years. Karen curated her list at Aurum Press for ten years before moving into a freelance role and working for companies like Penguin, Macmillan and Quercus. I worked my way through various departments including sales, rights, marketing and publicity for companies like Tate Publishing and finally DK where I worked in International Sales.

Tell us about Red Button Publishing. How and when did the company begin?

One of our regular conversations, usually over a glass of wine, over the years has been about how we would run our own publishing house. In 2012, Karen was freelancing and I was in the process of leaving my job in International Sales and moving from London to the countryside. We had both taken a keen interest in how digital technology was changing our industry and we saw opportunity. We had little funding but we had nearly three decades worth of experience between us and a lot of energy. We drafted a plan for Red Button over lunch one hot August day and decided on a name the following day. Red Button Publishing was born.

The big guys still rule the roost, but this is really the age of the independents.

What kind of literature do you focus on? How successful have you been so far?

Our aim has always been to give a voice to really outstanding fiction that might be overlooked by the mainstream. This idea was encapsulated in our first publication, The Human Script by Johnny Rich, a poignant story of a doomed love affair and also a mind expanding journey through philosophy, science, art and religion. Johnny had written the novel over a decade ago whilst on the acclaimed Creative Writing MA course at the University of East Anglia. It had been heaped with praise by writers like Ian McEwan and Tom McCarthy and was signed up by one of the top London agents. The book continued to meet with praise from commissioning editors at the major publishers but never quite made it past the commercially minded sales departments. As a sales person, I knew that a lot of good writing was deemed too risky and never saw the light of day. This was what had happened to The Human Script. We read it, we loved it and we published it in April 2013 as an ebook. It’s again been met with almost universal praise from people who’ve read it and we hope that when we publish it as a paperback later this year it will be discovered by even more readers.

Since then we’ve published three more titles and they’re all very different. The Anchoress by Paul Blaney is an exquisite novella about Maggie, a woman who locks herself in her wardrobe. As the story progresses you find out why Maggie has really decided to escape the world. It’s a very moving story about memory, childhood, grief and acceptance.

We followed this with Home by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone, a powerful and dark novel about a caretaker at an old people’s home who discovers something horribly disturbing about his workplace. It’s a compelling and chilling novel that asks questions about how we treat our elderly and what it means to be forgotten.

And then we published Mockstars by Christopher Russell which is a comic, coming-of-age novel best summed up by author Alex Marsh as “The Inbetweeners meets Spinal Tap’. It’s a brilliantly funny story about a group of friends trying to make it as a band, based in part on Christopher’s own tour diaries with his rock band.

Red Button Publishing's upcoming paperbacks.

Red Button Publishing’s upcoming paperbacks.

Your website states that you publish ‘fantastic fiction.’ What, for you, constitutes fantastic fiction?

We’ve often said that we’re looking for fiction that really jumps off the page, stories that are just crying out to be published. When we read a submission we’re looking for something that we would recommend to others. We both have to be completely on board to make it work. We have similar tastes in many ways but we also differ. I am a sucker for a horror story and Karen has still never quite understood my distaste for Jane Austen. We challenge each other and that’s a good thing for the list. I think it means that the books we publish are really special.

What has been the most rewarding part of the Red Button Publishing journey? Just how difficult (or indeed easy!) has it been carving a way for yourself as an independent publishing company when the competition in publishing is so large and dominating?

It’s always going to be hard for smaller companies to make their voices heard. We don’t have the marketing budgets that we were used to working with in our previous publishing lives. I think there’s an appetite for something a bit different though. People seem to like what we’re trying to do and we’ve been really overwhelmed by the support we’ve received from readers and publishing colleagues. The big guys still rule the roost, but this is really the age of the independents. We really take inspiration from other independents like Galley Beggar Press, Salt and And Other Stories who are out there doing great things for fiction.

Writers are very much front and centre of the publishing industry today, in a way that they haven’t been before.

What upcoming titles (that you’re allowed to mention!) are you really excited about?

Currently we’re working on bringing all four Red Button titles out as paperbacks. The Anchoress and Home will be published in paper on April 9th. The Human Script and Mockstars will follow over the summer. We’re big advocates of digital reading but the paperback remains a strong format for fiction and we want our books to reach as many readers as possible. We’ve also got another book from Paul Blaney lined up later in the year. It’s another challenging piece of writing that will raise questions about parenthood and biology.

Do you find that you receive a lot of submissions? If so, why do you think more and more people are looking to get published?

We read every submission that comes into our inbox so yes, it sometimes feels that we do receive a lot. I don’t think that there are more people looking to get published than before though. I just think that there are more options open to writers than there ever have been. They are very much front and centre of the publishing industry today, in a way that they haven’t been before.

You also offer consultancy services. How successful has this been?

Writers have a lot more choice in how they publish their work these days. Essentially you don’t need a publisher to get your work out there. We’re grateful that some writers still prefer to work with a publishing team but we’re also aware that many writers prefer to publish independently. But good publishing still requires work, it’s not, as some commentators have suggested ‘simply pressing a button’. And that’s where we can come in. We offer a range of services including editorial, typesetting, ebook formatting, book cover design as well as guidance through the publishing platforms. We’ve worked with some lovely writers and it’s always a good feeling to know you’re helping someone achieve their dream.

The online book community is huge and if you’re not engaged with it you’re missing out.

What do you feel are the most important skills needed for independent publishers who do all of the work for their companies themselves?

Adaptability. Things never stay the same in any industry but the pace of change in publishing has really accelerated in recent years. I have learned more in the past five years than at any other time in my career. You have to keep taking on new ideas, learning new skills, challenging your preconceptions and trying new things.

And lastly, how important is having an online presence for publishers today and why?

Hugely important. It’s not just about book discoverability either, it’s about being part of the publishing dialogue. 

Red Button floating logo

Discover Red Button Publishing online:
Twitter @RedButtonPubs
Caroline and Karen are also on Twitter (@goldcaro and @ladykarenza respectively)

Introducing Popular Author Rowan Coleman

So…I’m back!

And why have I waited until 2015 to post another interview?

To give myself some credit, there is a very good reason for this, and that is why I hope you’ll forgive the silence. You see, in August of last year, after kick-starting a very intensive job hunt for a publishing role, I received invitations to interview for 5 different publishing jobs all within the space of two weeks.

Anyone who knows me and knows just how hard I have been working towards a publishing career will know just how exciting this was for me. It was also very time-consuming and costly as all of these were outside of Hull and most of them were in London (a good 4-hour journey away on train.)

Eventually I was offered the role of Editorial Assistant at Emerald Group Publishing in Bingley (just outside of Bradford.) I don’t think I’ve ever felt so excited and happy in my life.

…Oh, and not to mention overwhelmed. The next four months consisted of finishing my notice at my current job, shopping for and buying a car, house hunting in Pontefract (equidistant from Hull and Bingley), moving to a new city, and starting a brand new (exciting but challenging) career in a strange new location. All at the same time. I was physically and mentally exhausted. Something had to give, and unfortunately it was this blog.

However…

In the midst of all this, my close friend and published children’s author Annie Dalton (whose interview you can read here) managed to help me get in contact with some very established and successful people in the publishing and literature world in order to conduct interviews with them. This is how I managed to get an interview with none other than Rowan Coleman, author of The Memory Book. The Memory Book recently won the Seal of Approval from the Richard and Judy Book Club (and for a good reason – the book is amazing. My next book review will be on The Memory Book.)

Needless to say, I am so very excited that she agreed to do an interview for my blog. This is a Big Deal for me. As a newbie blog writer and interviewer, I may not be the best, but Rowan’s personality springs from the pages through whatever she writes, so this interview is well worth a read as a sneak peak into her life and work. Enjoy!

Rowan Coleman

Rowan Coleman

Can you tell me how you got into writing, and then how you initially got published?

I’ve been into storytelling and writing stories since I was a child, but my first publishing deal came after I entered and won Company Magazine’s Young Writer of the Year short story competition. Winning was not only a huge boost to my confidence, but it also opened doors to agents and publishers and set me on the road to getting my first novel published.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I have always had my head stuck firmly in the clouds making up stories, but I think I didn’t realise that that translated into being a writer until I was in my late teens – early twenties. And really it wasn’t a firm ambition until I was in my late twenties. I always thought it would be an impossible dream.

Tell us a little bit about your novel The Memory Book.

The Memory Book is the story of Claire, who at the age of around 40 is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. It sounds like it could be depressing, but really it’s a book about love, in all its forms, but especially maternal love. It’s about learning to live in the moment, to grab hold of life and make sure you leave a legacy behind in the form of happy memories.

The Memory Book, part of Richard and Judy's Summer Book Club 2014.

The Memory Book, part of Richard and Judy’s Summer Book Club 2014.

You’ve just won the Richard and Judy Seal of Approval. What does this mean for you and your career?

Personally it means a great deal to me. It’s something that I think every writer secretly dreams of, and it’s a real boost to my confidence. Professionally it means that hopefully my books will reach a wider audience, and that more people will read The Memory Book. I really hope so!

Which of your (many) awards are you most proud of and why?

I think the award that has the fondest place in my heart is the award for Best Romantic Read from The Festival of Romance. It came at a difficult time in my life, and it meant so much to me. It really helped me pick myself up and dust myself off, and get on with doing what I love.

How important do you find social media to be in the life and career of a published writer?

It’s a great place to meet readers and make writer friends. I think you need to treat it as a kind of virtual cafe, and not constantly try and sell, sell, sell – though all writers have to do that now and then, because our publishers make us!

Do you believe authors need a strong online presence in today’s climate?

Yes, I think a strong online presence for anyone who isn’t already very well established is very important.

How do you deal with this while juggling a large workload and even larger family?

Badly!

Did your life experiences as a mother change your outlook on life? Did it affect your writing at all?

The moment you become a parent the world is a much scarier place. Interestingly, I had my first child shortly before my first novel Growing Up Twice was published, so apart from that book, I’ve always been a mother and a writer at the same time. I don’t think motherhood affected my writing directly so much, but I do think my books have gradually grown up with me.

You also write under the name of Scarlett Bailey, whose writing you describe as more ‘comedic’ in your blog. What do you feel are the benefits of writing under another name?

Well, I think it’s just nice for me to have a very fun romcom persona. I love writing the Scarlett books, they make me laugh a lot, and I love the sort of slightly fantastical and whimsical element in them. It’s very freeing as a writer. The simple reason I write them under another name is that they are very different from my Rowan books, and it’s easy for readers to know what they are getting when they pick one up.

How about the disadvantages? 

Well, Scarlett is very demanding and bossy, and keeps borrowing my clothes!

Which (if any) of your works are you most proud of and why?

Very hard to say! I am proud of that fact that last year I republished a short novella called Woman Walks into a Bar from which 100% of my profits were given to the charity Refuge. I haven’t reached my £10K yet, but I am slowly getting there.

What type of literature do you most enjoy reading?

I love reading, and like most readers, any sort of book can catch my eye. Recently I’ve really enjoyed The Girl with All the Gifts, Dr Sleep, The Killer Next Door, Where Love Lies and The Accident.

Would you say there are any themes running through all of your books, or do they each deal with their own unique themes?

I suppose if there is one theme running through my books it would be it is never too late to make the change that will make you happy.

What advice would you give as a successful writer for others just starting in the industry?

Write every day, if you can. Commit to writing, treat it like a profession, show the industry that you are serious about what you are doing, and be polite – really polite, all of the time. The publishing industry is a small world. Everyone knows everyone.

What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the publishing industry since you started writing?

Well, I suppose that would have to be the rise of ebooks and Amazon, which in wake of the demise of the Net Book Agreement means that readers never want to pay full price for a book, and actually they’d like to pay less than the cost of a cup of tea or certainly a greetings card. This is hard to bear for writers who try and earn a living creating quality fiction, but someone let the genie out of the bottle, and now we all have to live with it! It also means that there are greater opportunities for writers who might not always be traditionally published, and many are carving out great careers for themselves, so there is always a bright side.

Follow Rowan Coleman on Twitter @rowancoleman

See what Richard and Judy have to say about The Memory Book here

Find out more about Rowan Coleman here.

Have you read any of Rowan Coleman’s work? Please discuss this with me in the comments below!

Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson

This novel came into my hands in quite a different way to the usual trip-to-the-bookshop routine. Anyone who looks on my Twitter or Facebook feeds for more than 30 seconds will know that I’m currently searching for a job in publishing. As such, I decided to become more actively involved in the literary scene in my home city of Hull (incidentally, the City of Culture for 2017!).

It was at a literary event named Head In A Book (run by the editor of local publisher Wrecking Ball Press) at Hull Central Library that I first heard about the book. I hadn’t read it before attending, and so I went into the event a little blind. The author, Kerry Hudson, was giving a talk with fellow author Russ Litten about this book and also about her newest novel, Thirst, which is on my ‘to be read’ pile. Immediately after the talk was finished, I went ahead and bought the book. There was no way I was leaving without a copy. Russ and Kerry did a great job of selling it to me!

First off, I should state that Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma (I’ll refer to it as Tony Hogan for short from here on out) is unlike any other book I’ve ever read. In a good way! To use such a narrative viewpoint is extremely brave; Kerry Hudson said herself at the event that she expected to be ‘given a lot of stick’ for writing a first person narrative which begins in a child’s infancy (from the minute she’s born, in fact). When I heard about this, I was dubious as to whether it would work. My first thought was that it would lose credibility as nobody could physically remember things – in such detail, at least – from such an early age.

However, it doesn’t seem to take away from the book at all, at least in my view. If anything, it works to highlight how easily a young girl can grow up perceiving the poverty, conflict and brutality of her life as normal. It also helps solidify Janie’s bond with her mother, Iris. Despite Iris’ flaws and occasional neglect, Janie is utterly devoted to her as she is growing up. Iris is her lifeline and her only chance of survival, and in setting the book at the absolute beginning of Janie’s life, the author manages to convey that perfectly.

The Head In A Book event for Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma. Yes, I will review books with short titles, too. I promise!

The Head In A Book event for Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma. Yes, I will review books with short titles, too. I promise!

The novel follows Janie, ‘the latest in a long line of Aberdeen fishwives’, as she and her family go through life moving from council estate to council estate, in increasingly dangerous and deprived situations, struggling to survive in a state of constant poverty. But Janie is different. She’s seen her mother, and the generations before her, failing to make anything of themselves and she decides that she wants more from life.

Kerry mentioned in her conversation with Russ that one of her original titles for the book was Echoes of Small Fires (a line from the book), but the publisher decided against this as it was “far too literary a title” for a book with such brutal subject matter (and so much swearing!). Be that as it may, the book is filled with “literary” language that really sets the writing apart. Take, for example, this line:

It was so quiet I wondered if the people who lived there ever turned up the telly or stitched their sentences with shouted swear words aimed to wound.

The entire novel is peppered with beautiful and lyrical wording such as this, which works fantastically as it contrasts heavily with the harsh subject matter, making it seem even more shocking. Because of this, I found myself really feeling for Janie and her entire family. Yes, they are surrounded by drug takers, alcoholics and dole bums, but Hudson portrays Janie, her little sister Tiny and her mother Iris in such a vulnerable and tragically fragile way that you cannot help but want more for the family. Here it is not a case of rooting for the legally and morally perfect protagonist – there are none in this book. But Hudson managed to make me overlook the character flaws and wish for a better world for Janie, because in a better world she could become a better person.

The Observer reviewed Tony Hogan and described it as ‘colourful, funny, joyful and compelling.’ While it is definitely not ‘joyful’ throughout (in fact there are some pretty grim and upsetting scenes) it is ultimately a very realistic piece of work that grips you from beginning to end. It is funny, it is sad, and it is definitely compelling. The characters will stay with you for much longer than it takes to read the book. And considering how good it was, it didn’t take that long to finish.

Novels like Tony Hogan are what the literary and publishing world seems to be lacking for the most part. One of the main themes of Kerry’s talk at Head In A Book was the working class writer and the struggle to get published. Kerry and Russ talked at length about the difficulties facing working class writers due to elitism in mainstream trade publishing. Kerry argued that the publishing industry needs to introduce a wider spectrum of voices – including working class voices – into literature. She stressed that it is the job of publishing and writing professionals to break free of the mindset that some people of a certain type (i.e. working class or underprivileged, forced into a criminal lifestyle) ‘do not deserve to be seen in literature.’ These things DO happen, these people DO exist, and they have a right to be heard and represented in writing.

As a result, Kerry runs an amazing and inspiring project called the WoMentoring Project which offers ‘free mentoring by professional literary women to talented up and coming female writers who would otherwise find it difficult to access similar opportunities.’ – womentoringproject.co.uk

This writer is not only speaking out and being heard on behalf of working class female writers everywhere – she is also paving the way for others to do the same.

You can follow these people on Twitter:

Kerry Hudson @KerrysWindow

Russ Litten @RussLitten

Wrecking Ball Press @wbphull and Head In A Book @hiabhull

Hull Libraries @hull_libraries

Hull City of Culture @2017hull

Website links:

Kerry Hudson

The WoMentoring Project

Head In A Book

Wrecking Ball Press

Vintage Books

Hull City of Culture

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