Last month, I talked about how you have to put in the time and effort in order to become knowledgeable about something and I highlighted the publishers and imprints working with YA fiction. In that post, I mentioned two new-to-me publishers, Strange Chemistry (an imprint of Angry Robot) and Entangled Publishing. After posting, I had authors from both contact me to talk about what their publishers are doing, and both were eager to share a little more about that. Welcome Gwenda Bond and Amy Spalding, who will talk a bit about their publishers, the process in working with new YA publishing endeavors, and, of course, their forthcoming titles.
Gwenda Bond & Strange Chemistry
Up front I’ll also say I don’t know much about non-traditional publishing. Big or small, part of a giant publishing conglomerate or an independent house, the traditional publishing model is what I’m talking about here. I’d define that broadly as a publisher with a means of distribution, buying a certain set of rights for publication and paying an advance, including a fair royalty rate, and the rest of the things entailed by that as part of a business enterprise.
So...the new imprint Strange Chemistry. Who are they and how did my debut YA novel Blackwood end up as one of their launch titles, and what has that been like?
(One last caveat: I speak only for myself, not my publisher, obviously. Though I *blow kisses to them*. )
Strange Chemistry is the YA imprint being started by Angry Robot Books, a science fiction and fantasy publisher owned by the Osprey Group that burst onto the SFF scene and took it by storm with beautiful design, a fresh perspective on how they did things, and some truly marvelous books (Lauren Beukes’Zoo City, Adam Christopher’s Empire State, and Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds are all excellent starting points, to single out a few Angry Robot titles). The publisher is based in England, but their books release simultaneously in the U.S., the UK and Australia, in paperback (usually) and as e-books (with DRM-free versions always available), along with audio for select titles. Their U.S. distribution is through Random House. (Who are the best sales team! I might have a biased opinion based on how wonderful they’ve been, and I now definitely have a greater appreciation for how crucial sales reps are. *blows more kisses*)
In 2011, Angry Robot announced they were launching Strange Chemistry, to be headed by Amanda Rutter. My agent--the divine Jennifer Laughran--and I immediately emailed each other; this could be a good place to submit the Roanoke Island-set gothic fantasy/nerd romance/thriller I’d been working on. Blackwood is about two smart 17-year-olds--Miranda Blackwood and Phillips Rawling--who are drawn into the investigation of a mass disappearance on modern-day Roanoke Island and uncover their own connections to the original history of the Lost Colony as they work to save the missing people and themselves.
Once Amanda started reading submissions, in the book went and we heard from her not that long after--she wanted it and she was really excited about it, though the Editorial Board (dreaded by all writers) still lay ahead. But the ed board said YES. Hallelujah, heavenly choirs, the usual. As a debut author at a small publisher, you can’t expect a “shut up, you’re buying this round”deal. BUT that’s also true as a debut author--or a midlist one, for that matter--at many larger publishers. Giant deals are far fewer than it seems. Really. What giant deals also result in is immense pressure for everyone involved to deliver big sales numbers, something which is very hard to make happen even with a huge marketing budget. But, regardless, those marketing dollars can be very loud, and sometimes drown out other voices--one reason Kelly's excellent post on finding out about non-bestsellers and books from smaller houses was so great.
This is something I really and truly believe, having witnessed many triumphs and tragedies among author friends: the most important thing is that the editor is behind your work, and the best scenario is that the whole team is. One thing I knew going in was that Strange Chemistry was building an imprint. That’s not done haphazardly. And having since gotten to listen to my editor, Amanda, describing the launch list in meetings at BEA, I can say that she advocates for every single book on her list strongly, passionately. I am definitely not saying this isn’t the case at other publishers, just that it may be a little easier to accomplish when a list is smaller. (You can read more about the vision for the imprint and its expansion plans in this SFX interview with Amanda.)
Because this is a brand new imprint and I’m lucky enough to have Blackwood be one of the first two titles coming out this September (alongside Kim Curran’s excellent Shift), we have all been working very intensely since the sale--first rounds of edits, then copy edits, ARCs going out, and etcetera. Only, in this case, on a timeline with wayyy less slack in it--new imprint and all.
Steven Wood’s gorgeous artwork as mine--and which I was consulted on the concept for. While some people might prefer to debut in hardback, I’m actually happy to have my first book come out in trade paperback. I know I’m personally more likely to try a new author in paperback--I feel it’s a smart strategy, and the reason why (it seems at least) there have been more YA paperback originals in recent years. As I already mentioned, the Osprey and Random House sales teams have been amazing, going out and, well, selling the book to the places where people buy or look for books. At the same time, the publisher has been doing a great job of building an identity for the imprint and starting to communicate directly with readers via twitter, the blog, Facebook, their mailing list, etcetera, as well as working to make ARCs available to more reviewers through NetGalley. They’ve set up and/or helped set up events and other launch activities, and talked me down from the occasional panic attack every new author has from time to time. There is also a real sense of camaraderie among us first Strange Chemistry authors.
My next book--unrelated to Blackwood--will be out next year. It’s a near future urban fantasy called The Woken Gods, a title we all spent a considerable amount of time to arrive at and a direction I’m beyond happy the publisher was on board with. I’m grateful that I never felt a smidge of pressure to force a Blackwood sequel, when it was always meant as a standalone. (If I ever do another related book, it’ll likely involve different characters, and a different mystery, but I suppose never say never.)
So, in short (okay, in loooong), my experience with this small publisher has been all I could’ve hoped for. The book’s out soon (September 4! eek!), and fingers crossed, some of you will read it and like it. I hope this post will also encourage some of you to keep an eye on Strange Chemistry, and look at the other wonderful books they have coming. I’m grateful to be a part of this imprint as it starts up, and no matter where my career may wander in the future, that won’t change. Having a mix of big and small publishers in the world is good for all of us; it’s good for books.
I’m happy to answer any questions I can in the comments, and thanks so much to Kelly for the invitation to soapbox and letting me ramble (on and on...).
My first book with Entangled, The Reece Malcolm List, will be released February 12, 2013. It is about family, musical theatre, and boys with good hair. Ink Is Thicker than Water will be available late 2013. You can visit my web site at www.theamyspalding.com and follow me on Twitter at @TheAmes. If you want to check out the behind-the-scenes of the cover design (which Amy had a ton of input on!), then check out the stops along the cover reveal blog tour.