Where: The Adelphi, Leeds, LS10
When: from 7 pm to 11 pm, Wednesday 28 October, 2015
What a night! Stephanie Cox, blogger and interviewer at the Bookmachine, organised a great comeback event for the Society of Young Publishers North & Midlands. As an event organiser for the SYP, she got two wonderful speakers on board: Martin Goodman from Barbican Press and Brian W. Lavery, author of The Headscarf Revolutionaries.
Indie publishers are creative and innovative – they have to be to compete with the Big 5. Take for example Peirene Press which publishes beautifully designed books, all award-winning or best-selling European titles translated into English. Their books are less than 200 pages long “…so you can read them in the same time it takes to watch a movie”, says publisher Meike Ziervogel.
Barbican Press is about publishing those innovative and creative stories that are uncompromising and challenging, books that bring the reader to pause, quality stories that deserve to be read but that commercially-oriented publishers won’t take a risk on because they’re too on the edge – books that are daringly different. As Martin puts it, it’s “writing from the discomfort zone”.
His partnerships work the same way, found on the edge of things. After coming to dead-ends with Inpress Books and Faber Factory, he had to find other businesses to work with. He points out that “it’s about finding people that are willing and working with them”. He found a cover designer through LinkedIn, a partnership that worked well because there was an exchange, a conversation between designer, writer and editor. In indie publishing, there’s the time and space to do that.
In order to market his books, he tried everything from visiting local stores to having a stall at a market. It’s all about finding the right angles to market your book. Martin takes every opportunity to enter every book to every prize that he can, getting his titles out there and his authors recognised.
There are a lot of costs involved in the production of a book, from typesetting to distribution. A company like Tetragon Publishing, for example, charges £1.10/page for typesetting. Between the various discounts given to distributors, retailers, and others on the value chain, “it’s a pennies games”, says Martin. Barbican Press tried out different pricing and book formats, fine-tuning costs, and finally settled for a standard size at £8.99 for their books.
A London PR agency offered to market Brian’s book for the modest sum of £10,000. With the amount of copies he would have to sell to even cover that sum, he decided to do it himself, wearing out his tyres going up and down the country for book events. Having been in journalism for 25+ years, Brian understands reaching out to an audience, engaging with a community; he’s also met, trained, and worked for a wide range of people during his career. A contact of his had 300’000 followers on Twitter, so he went on Twitter, created an account, and posted his first Tweet about The Headscarf Revolutionaries. Overnight, after a RT by his contact, the social media marketing took off.
The Headscarf Revolutionaries is an incredible book and the result of a collaboration between Brian’s knowledge and skills and Martin’s guiding editorial hand. It is literary non-fiction, a gripping story with vivid accounts written by a skilful hand.
Here’s the blurb:
In the harsh arctic seas of 1968, three trawlers from Hull’s fleet sank in just three weeks. 58 men died. Lillian Bilocca put down her filleting knife, wrote a petition, and stormed into action. With her army of fishwives she took her battle to the docks and led a raid on Parliament. They changed the shipping laws.
Lillian Bilocca became an international celebrity. The lone survivor of the tragedies made headlines too. In a tight fishing community, it’s dangerous to stand out.
How can you not go and read the full story after that, ey?
Brian could have pursued other publishing options through his journalist contacts but chose Martin, admiring him for his intuition and sharpness. He advises that writers should go with a publisher because “you like them, you trust them”.
A few facts about Barbican Press
- Publishes on average 3 titles a year.
- Worked with INscribe Digital, based in California.
- Printing and binding by Totem in Poland, which cuts down on costs. You can order batches of 500 copies at a time. If you sell well within a short period of time, and end up buying three batches of 500 copies, they’ll give you a discount as if you had initially bought a batch of 1500 copies.
- Cover design for The Headscarf Revolutionaries and other titles by Jason Anscomb of Rawshock Design.
- Has worked with distributors: Central Books and Lightning Source (which also offers POD)
Advice from the speakers for those wanting to get into the industry:
- Be willing.
- Be interested.
- Show you can grow something small into something bigger.
- “It’s who you know, of course it’s who you know.” – Brian Lavery. So get to know as many people as you can. Get your name out there.
- Be present online. Show your interest, tweet, blog, connect, engage.
- Don’t just broadcast, look who’s looking at you. For that, websites like Gorkana PR are invaluable to track social media coverage.
- Go to literary and book-related events and approach the authors and speakers there. Exchange business cards. Get yourself out there.
- Don’t be scared of trying different things. You’ll learn what you don’t like and realize what you do like.
- Get help from bookcareers.com.
- “Write the story you need to write.” – Brian Lavery
- “Every writer needs a good editor.” – Brian Lavery
- The audience doesn’t come to your house, reach out online and in person by attending events.