I remember when I first started sending my work out into the world and adopting this great new hobby called collecting rejection slips, how I saw publishers as these massive big corporations and I was like a tiny helpless drowning fly… oh please look at my work… please Sir. Of course I was more pro than that and as we should all know a submission is a job application and should be treated with that professionalism. Now of course the big publishers are these big machines like that but we can’t approach these without an agent anyway. What I didn’t know was just how little these small presses are and that actually when I joined one with Gill James and we started working as small indie press, that we were not so different.
I always imagined at least half a dozen people, more likely double that, working for them. I imagined offices and press rooms… where a lot of the indie presses are people doing other jobs as well from home, just like Bridge House. Now I know some are a lot bigger but it’s amazing how many are not. They’re just like us.
And know what else I learned? How hard it is to sell books when you have no marketing budget and tiny team of people busy having to do other things to survive. But we’re doing it and we’re making people happy… well we hope we are 🙂
But what I have really learned from working for a press and having to learn everything from the ground up was how the industry works, or doesn’t work, on a tiny scale of course as the big boys are doing the same process but they have big budgets and contacts and a lot of the things we don’t. They can pay Waterstones several grand to have their book at the front of store with cardboard cut-out advertising material.
But hey…at least we’re there and at least we have a presence. If only small. Big things come from small seeds, right? Everyone likes the underdog (apparently!)
I’ve learned about selecting stories and what works and what doesn’t, I’ve learned to work with writers to edit stories into shape. I’ve learned to project manage and with Gentle Footprints this was amazing (a personal triumph) as we got the book to Hay and on TV and there was a lot of team work with the small team and managing right down to what we ate at the meet n greet with Virginia McKenna. I learned about working with artists and designing covers, about putting the book together for the graphic designer. I learned about how you register books for Nielsens and how the press works in terms of uploading files and proofs right down to ordering books for book shops and how Amazon works (kind of).
It’s been great doing some of everything.
Of course what I love the most is dealing with all our lovely talented authors. 🙂
On the marketing side, well that’s tough with no budgets and doing as much as we can via social networking which I have just learned and know I could do more but it’s all about having the time. Sadly that’s the way it is. We have some interns now helping where they can as well.
I guess we have all come to see at Bridge House that what counts is giving writers the chance to see their work out there. Getting published, being on Amazon etc is great for the CV. With short story collections it is really only friends and family of the authors that buy the books. With Gentle Footprints we did get more to the masses as it was on TV but that was our best seller and only sold just over 1000. When authors look at royalties or lack of them it can come as a shock to think we never sold enough for them to get anything. But when you think for a lot of the earlier books we offered a 50% profit share to authors then if they didn’t get anything… nor did we. And we never have. It all goes back into producing the next lovely book.
It’s a total labour of love that we hope will one day see a book walk off shelves… well if we can get it on the shelves first.
But that’s not really why we do it. We do it to give writers a voice, get their work out there and while we would love to sell hundreds… no thousands we know that may never happen.
But we’re here and we’re doing it and I hope that is reason enough.
I have Gill to thank for the opportunity of course as she knew so much more about the business and nurtured me along. And I think what small presses do at least is let us do. By that I mean how I was able to run with my own projects, something I never imagined. Like Gentle Footprints but now the Voices of Angels book. I selected, edited, decided on the cover, dealt with Gloria Hunniford and am now trying to market it. Of course Gill has done this with most of them 🙂 I am just grateful to have some that I have worked on exclusively like this (well more or less we all need a team and we so liaise of course and support – nothing is really a single effort and we couldn’t do it without each other). But this latest book is another project I am proud of and while I imagine it will not sell that many copies (will try!) at least it’s out there. It’s real and I hope it touches lives in some small way, just like the angels in the stories. And by its donation to the Caron Keating Foundation.
Here it is by the way:
Authors do gain from small presses even if books do not sell huge amounts by the experience and from being part of something. Getting published! Who knows where the book might end up and who might want to do something with one of the stories?
If writers hoped for more they needed a bigger publisher, we are what we are. We are limited and there are pitfalls but there are advantages too. I mean, with the BloodMining novel at least we let Laura work with the photographer on the cover and she had far more creative input than she would ever have got from a big publisher who choose the cover, that’s it. Or there might be a choice of 2 or 3 but it’s not their decision. So we can do this, at least. But then there are pitfalls as well as Laura has really then had to do a lot of her own promotion. But even the big houses expect this now anyway.
I guess my pet peeve is when things go wrong and authors in our collections feel the need to vent (not often but it happens) and I totally understand but I also don’t get paid for this and am donating all those hours for free for the love of books and writing. I know it’s a business, but not really a business with anything to show in terms of profits, it all goes into the next one, it’s more about time. Giving our time to make something special. So sometimes I have to remind people of that. I’m doing my best.
But that’s rare as the authors we work with are all lovely almost all the time and I am so pleased, it feels like a family and many are now Facebook friends and helped with my Paws Competition for example. This is what I always wanted, or should I say, we always wanted, my partner and I, Gill, for Bridge House; a friendly approach to publishing, professional sure, but approachable, helpful- we hope anyway.
And as I keep saying, we are doing it. The books are great.
Would be nice to see a few more of course 🙂
But we are here. Who knows what the future holds but we are here now.
So in the spirit of thanksgiving… cheers Gill.
And thanks to all of you.
Over and out and have a fab weekend y’all!
Buy me please 🙂