An insight into the publishing world…

Posts tagged ‘publishers’

SNOW BOOKS – You Don’t Belong Here by Tim Major

Sooo, it’s about time I started reviewing the books in my 52 Books by 52 Publishers reading challenge!

First up is:

snow-books

 

Snow Books!

 

 

About Snow Books:

“IT’S MORE THAN TEN YEARS SINCE OUR FIRST BOOKS WERE PUBLISHED IN 2004.

Snowbooks started in a spare room in Hackney in April 2003 and soon moved to a couple of rented desks in a business incubator on Old Street — before it was cool. We hired staff, signed up authors and our first books hit the shelves in 2004. Waterstone’s — with a possessive apostrophe back then — were our first and most supportive customer and with their backing our first books sold several tens of thousands of copies.

We’ve always been very interested in the business side of publishing — about being more efficient and canny than others. Early on, it pretty soon gave us a high profile. We won a Nibbie, then another one, then an IPA award too. Later, our books started to win prizes too: The Red Men got shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke award and Mark Hodder won the Philip K Dick award with Spring Heeled Jack. You can find reviews of our books everywhere, from The Telegraph and The Sun to SFX Magazine and The Guardian and on all shapes and sizes of blog.

Our efficiency has been made possible by our technological skill. We are publishers-turned-Ruby on Rails developers, specializing in web application development and database management. With the benefit of a sizeable Arts Council grant we launched a sister company, General Products Ltd, in 2012. Through it we licence the software we’ve written to other publishers, in the expectation that it’ll help them as much as it helps Snowbooks. Our main product is Bibliocloud.com, an enterprise-level publishing management system. The website you’re reading right now was populated with data and images from Bibliocloud’s API in a single click. The combination of sleek technological efficiency and solid creative excellence is, for us, as potent and heady a combination as it’s ever been. And in 2013, Bibliocloud won us the Futurebook Best Technology Innovation award.

So here’s to the next ten years. Let’s hope it’s as fun as the first.”

Find out more about Snow Books and check out the rest of their titles here.

 

The book I’m reviewing from Snow Books is….

 

ydbh

You Don’t Belong Here by Tim Major.

 

Daniel Faint is on the run with a stolen time machine. As the house-sitter of a remote Cumbrian mansion, he hopes to hide and experiment with the machine. But is the Manor being watched by locals, his twin brother or even himself? Daniel is terrified about what the future may hold but, as he discovers, there can be no going back.

I loved this book! It really is unusual in a fascinating way. Despite the fact that the book is about time travel, it really didn’t feel too science-fiction-y to me, which I was quite happy with. It made the subject matter feel accessible. Daniel isn’t a scientist. He isn’t a great mind. He’s just a troubled man with a guilt-ridden past, looking for something to give his life a bit of meaning and excitement again.

After a little bit of a slow start, the book quickly picked up its pace. Daniel finds himself with a stolen time machine that he’s taken from a research facility, deep in the rural countryside of Cumbria. There the paranoia kicks in almost immediately. Who is watching him? Who can he trust? How can he hide this rather huge secret? How can he master the capabilities of the machine?

I particularly enjoyed the easy-to-read narrative which is studded with poetic writing and scenes of time-travel (and the subsequent confusion it creates). The time travel element unsurprisingly adds to the deep sense of mystery and allows the reader to really experience the feeling of detachment that Daniel suffers. Is he doing the right thing? How can he make the time machine take him to a time and place of his choosing?

Daniel’s obsession with his twin brother William is particularly fascinating throughout the book. You get the sense, after a little while, that Daniel feels uneasy or guilty about something to do with his brother. This guilt is there under the surface of the narrative throughout the story, humming away as  background noise until it emerges at some point in the book and hits you like a punch in the stomach.

There are some really strong characters in the book, giving the story a real richness and realistic feel. The women are strong and defiant, at the same time as showing real vulnerability when things get hard or terrifying. The male characters provide a real rainbow of seriously interesting personalities, including a rogue hunter, a shady figure from Daniel’s past, an untrusting gardener and a loving, dedicated brother.

There is also an unrelated twist at the end which was brilliant, and something I really didn’t see coming. Of course I won’t give away any spoilers, but it’s really worth reading for this aspect of the story alone.

All in all, this book deserves a massive FOUR stars. Really well done to the author, Tim Major, and to the independent publishing house Snow Books.

four-stars

 

 

 

I’m back with an awesome reading challenge

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote, right?!

I tell you, trying to be so IN with the publishing community is absolutely amazing. It also gives me so much to do and so many ideas, with so little time to actually get it done. But I’m going to try my best to continue blogging this year.

I’ve started an AMAZING new job as Assistant Copy Editor at a new mental health publishing company called Trigger Press, so there’s that to deal with too. I will blog more about it later, so watch out for that.

Amazingly, on top of all of this, I’ve given myself quite an ambitious reading challenge for 2017, too, despite having ambitions to do a million and one other things and still find time to work, eat and sleep.

I know a lot of people scoff at the idea of new year’s resolutions, but I love them. One of them for this year is to travel all around the UK and learn about the different places in my own country. I realise I know so little about the UK and so I want to remedy that, and enjoy life outside of work a bit more. Perhaps I’ll blog about that too, maybe. Or I’ll just keep a personal diary for that. I don’t know if I can possibly start a travel blog as well as a fairly quiet publishing one 😮 I’ve done quite well with that so far, as I’ve already planned quite a few trips and already taken my first one to Sheffield.

What I’ve also decided to do is set myself a “52 Books by 52 Publishers” reading challenge. Averaging at one per week obviously, but some of that will have to involve binge-reading on my holidays, but that’s OK. It’s 52 by the end of the year, not 1 a week.

52-books-by-52-publishers

Apologies for the rubbish picture. These will improve.

 

So far I think I’ve read around 6 or 7, so I’m kind of on target, but I will post the first review up shortly.

Any genre goes. I am mainly concentrating on independent publishers, but the Big 4 will show up some places too. The only rule I’ve set myself is that different imprints that belong to the same publisher do not count. They have to be 52 completely different publishers. Makes things more interesting and more challenging that way.

If anyone feels like being a nosy bugger, here’s my amazon list that shows you the ones I’m looking at buying/asking friends and family to buy me for birthday etc. over the year. I won’t necessarily get them from Amazon every time, as I am trying to visit lots of indie shops this year or buy from the publisher’s website where possible, but Amazon and Goodreads are the easiest place to make a wishlist and probably the easiest way to get others to buy for me (I can just point them towards a list and they can pick which one they want to get me.)

http://amzn.eu/6L8JH2r

If anyone has any recommendations of books or publishers, PLEASE, holler!

Follow the journey on Twitter @cox_stephanie  #52booksby52publishers

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/publisherstephaniec/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hull Central Library Book Fair – attracting top quality authors!

This is just a quick post to highlight the quality of events that are happening in Hull now. Hull has been awarded the title of City of Culture for 2017 and has since held a large number of literature and book events, a lot of which I’ve attended. When I heard about this book fair at Hull Central Library, I was very excited. It was a chance to meet a hell of a lot of extremely talented local authors.

Below are just a few people who exhibited at the event, and I outline why they are so important to literature in and around Hull.

Myself talking to authors at the Hull Book Fair

Myself talking to authors at the Hull Book Fair

Exhibiting at the event was Louise Beech, author of the brilliant book How to Be Brave. Her book is set in Hull and follows the story of a mother and daughter whose lives have been turned upside down by diabetes and the struggles that are brought with it. Running parallel to that story is the story of her grandfather, Colin Armitage, who is left stranded on a rescue boat when his trawler sinks in the middle of the North Sea. Louise’s book has become hugely popular since publication and looks to continue to make waves throughout not only our community but the larger publishing industry.

Louise Beech signing

Louise Beech signing a book for a eager customer

Margaret Dickinson, a legend of Hull’s and an phenomenally successful author, was exhibiting at the event and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a chat with her.

The hugely popular Margaret Dickinson

The hugely popular Margaret Dickinson

Published by Pan Macmillan, Margaret is a local Lincolnshire author whose vast numbers of published works have touched hearts and invited readers from far and wide to experience her wonderful writing. I felt a little bit like I was meeting a celebrity when I talked to her. She described to me how her writing process was a lot like how a painter works – sketching in the outlines first, writing a quick first draft of the novel, before going back and adding in more detail, colour and life.

Brian Lavery, fellow Hull Alumni. Photo credit: Martin J Goodman of Barbican Press.

Brian Lavery, fellow Hull Alumni. Photo credit: Martin J Goodman of Barbican Press.

Brian Lavery, author of The Headscarf Revolutionaries, was exhibiting and, as always, brought warmth, humour and a general friendly and happy atmosphere to proceedings. Brian is a great friend of mine as we did our English with Creative Writing BA degrees together a few years ago. Since we graduated, he has written and published the enormously successful The Headscarf Revolutionaries. It’s a creative non-fiction book that takes us through the story of the Triple Trawler tragedy in Hull and the story of Lily Billocca, a widow who campaigned tirelessly to bring in new safety regulations for the trawlermen.

Marion Gamble and her children's books

Marion Gamble and her children’s books

I had a chat with Marion Gamble, local East Yorkshire children’s author. Marion works in education and has enjoyed big success with her books, with Moon Cat a particular favourite. Her beautifully illustrated books are igniting passion for the print book in a new generation of readers, when it is needed more than ever.

Anna Bransgrove, author of Simple Dame Fairfax

Anna Bransgrove, author of Simple Dame Fairfax

Anna Bransgrove particularly impressed me with her new novella Simple Dame Fairfax, a kind of ‘spin-off’ from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre which focuses on the character Mrs Fairfax and tells her own as of yet untold story. For more info on this, visit this link.

Annie Wilkinson

Annie Wilkinson

Last but not least, the final author I spoke to was Annie Wilkinson, a best-selling novelist who currently lives in Hull and whose novels are based there. Her books fetch 4-5* on Amazon and I cannot wait to read her latest, The Land Girls. She was a wonderful author to talk to.

There were many stands and authors that I didn’t get the time to visit – but all the more reason to attend more upcoming events. Hull has so much to offer.

Overall, what struck me was that sense of community and pride in Hull and the North, and I think this needs to continue to be communicated and shared through literature. A big passion of mine is to continue to promote publishing, books and literature in the North and organise and promote book events which show just what the North has to offer. Keep tuned for some upcoming events run by yours truly!

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 Independent Publisher Martin Goodman

Today’s guest on my blog is the Publisher and owner of Barbican Press, the publishing house based in my native city of Hull and the company for which I undertook a social media internship last year. I first met Martin Goodman at a Head In A Book event (run by Head In A Book, Hull, discussing the Tony Hogan book by Kerry Hudson) at Hull Central Library last year. From there we began talking and I secured an internship in which I ran the Twitter and Facebook activity for Barbican Press over the course of a month. Of course, I knew of Martin before this, but I hadn’t had a chance to meet him before then. I’m very grateful that we have a formed a good working and personal friendship and I love seeing Barbican Press go from strength to strength. Here in this interview, Martin talks publishing, teaching creative writing, and Barbican Press.

Martin Goodman: Publisher and Professor

Martin Goodman: Publisher and Professor

Tell me a little bit about your background and career.

I was born in Leicester and determined it was time to become a professional writer aged 12. By the end of my first week I had filled a folder and realized I was overproducing – more than the market could bear – and so determined to bide my time. I felt it would be later in life before my writing started to connect, so I kept writing but kept it to myself or sent it out and had it come back. My first novel came out in 1992 – On Bended Knees, shortlisted for that year’s Whitbread Prize. And I keep on going. I moved into academia in 2007 and am now also Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Hull.

What drove you to start up your own publishing business?

I know what sort of publishing house I need as a writer – one inclined toward quality and risk – and so choose to provide such a house for others. I was external examiner for D.D.Johnston’s The Deconstruction of Professor Thrub when it was up for its PhD. D.D. had determined to write a novel that would be unpublishable by the industry, and I knew it was too brilliant not to share – and so kickstarted the company then.

Do you focus on a particular kind of literature, or publish a wide range?

Our slogan is ‘writing from the discomfort zone’ – ours are the sort of books Picador used to bring out in the 70s. One of our writers sees our books as being ‘dark with a sense of humour’. There’s also some regional focus on great writing coming from Hull.

Mainstream publishers can’t generally risk the sorts of books we bring out because they don’t tick all the mainstream boxes; they don’t come with a sure return.

What are some of the biggest challenges you faced with starting your own publishing company?

Getting anybody to notice. After four trips to an independent bookstore they agreed to take an individual copy of two titles. Getting a book shortlisted for Scottish Fist Book of the Year resulted in three copies being bought in for Scottish stores. So bookstores need to know and support us, as do reviewers. We target and send out scores of copies for reviews, then watch them come up for sale on ebay.

Previously, huge publishing conglomerates have dominated the industry. With the publishing industry changing and evolving at a rapid rate, what do you think the independent publisher needs to do in order to stay in the race?

Don’t join in. We can’t win that race. The trick is to keep independent virtues – have faith in the offbeat and determine that other readers are out there and in fact longing for the sort of books with a difference we can bring out. Mainstream publishers can’t generally risk the sorts of books we bring out because they don’t tick all the mainstream boxes; they don’t come with a sure return.

When looking for an outstanding piece of writing, do you have a set, firm criteria that the manuscript must meet? What do you look for? Or do you generally let your gut feeling decide how you feel about a manuscript?

The writing is immediately clear, and opens up a striking and alternative world view. Beautiful prose plus a striking intelligence.

What are your short and long-term goals for Barbican Press?

We have to make a profit in 2015. We need to see our books in bookstores, picked up by overseas agents and customers, and achieve reviews and prizes. All accomplishable. Long-term the goal is to have readers seek us out as their choice brand.

What is your proudest moment for your company?

Honestly it’s each time an author trusts us with their book and we bring it into the world. And they are happy. That’s the crux of what we are about: releasing genius works that might otherwise have languished.

What is your biggest personal achievement?

In Barbican Press terms, where I am very much a hands-on editor, it’s probably supporting Hana Sklenkva on her translation of Martin Vopenka’s THE FIFTH DIMENSION, a book destined to become known as a modern classic which would have stayed obscure otherwise.

Are there any general or universal misconceptions about writing and publishing that creative writing students tend to bring with them into the classroom?

Students generally aim to write better, which is the proper focus. As a long-time published writer, starting a publishing house showed me all the misconceptions I had had. I had never appreciated all the steps and costs and work that go into bringing out a book. I had never given full credit to the extent of a publisher’s commitment.  Writers always deliver books that are special to them, but don’t necessarily give thought to what will make those books stand out in a preposterously crowded market.

How do you find managing your workload as a writer, publisher, and lecturer?

Full-on. I keep the writing side going by starting at 5am. 5-8 became my creative slot. Then I let the day hit me with whatever it wants until it’s time for bed.

Who do you see as a big influencer in the industry? Anyone you feel people should be keeping their eye on as the next big success?

I honestly believe any of our writers could break through in a big way. Such blazing optimism comes in handy. Creative writing departments are going to have an increased say. Most writing of note coming out of the US has some creative writing school allegiance, and that will happen increasingly here. And deservedly so, since so many writers are sacrificing so much and working so hard on their writing with expert tuition over many years. The best ones are using the opportunity, freed from commercial pressures, to break bounds and come up with books that are vibrant and unique.

The Fifth Dimension, one of Martin's proudest achievements.

The Fifth Dimension, one of Martin’s proudest achievements.

Follow @MartinGoodman2 and @BarbicanPress1 on Twitter

Find out more about Barbican Press here.

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