Ginger Nuts of Horror
Once upon a time I was a little girl reading Cyndy and the Lighthouse, but then I grew up a little, and thanks to my Dad's love of old Universal horror movies, I spent Saturday nights tucked under a blankie on the sofa, watching those films with a bag of chips and a bottle of Tango. Whilst my sister and friend Tracey hid under the blanket, I revelled in the delights on the screen. Thus, my love of horror was born.
I'd started writing about the age of 9 and was always meant to be a horror writer I think, my first entry into poetry, a piece about a vengeful Lord who chops of the head of his bride. He was Lord Windsor. My teacher was suitably unimpressed, but I never let that deter me, reaching my teen years as a writer of Fan Fic; X Files and Star Trek: Next Generation.
1999 I entered the Civil Service, still continuing to write for the work newsletter and working on various novels at the same time. Then finally, about seven years ago, I got sick. This was an incredible blow, as my illness, Endometriosis (see www.knightwatch.geeatbritishhorror.com/submissions/ for details of a related charity anthology) led to multiple surgeries, trauma, then Fibromylagia. I struggled through the day job, but the more ill I became, the less capable I became, until DWP and I came to a mutual decision; it was time to rest a while. So whilst I rested and tried to gather energy, I continued to write and three and a half years ago, after winning or getting runner up seats in various short story competitions, I sold my first story; 'End of Knights', a post apocalyptic story set in dear old Birmingham, my home town. This was published in Soul Survivors: Home Town Tales by KnightWatch Press, then run by David R Shires. It wasn't long before I started getting many more acceptances, selling around thirteen stories in my first year, so then, when I was offered a chance to edit an anthology by a local small press, I thought 'what the hey! Go for it'. So I did.
Now, I'm a big big fan of Christmas, and I adore Christmas horror, so Dec 2012 I finished editing 'Ain't No Sanity Clause' a collection of Christmas horror stories. Following this, I brokered a deal with David, buying KnightWatch Press for the small press I worked for, and managed the horror imprint for around a year, until, finally, I became power crazy (mwahaha) and bought KWP for myself.
Now I've hit my two year anniversary Feb 15 of running the horror press, I've decided to share what I call 'the life of a book' or as my friend Steve would put it, 'from tree to leaf'. Back in the day as a civil servant, I was a Lean Practioner, which is a form of project management. With every project I undertake, I now, after two years of trial and error, use a Master Schedule, a spreadsheet that lists every task involved in producing a book from start to finish including projected timelines.
So, how does the life of a book begin? It normally starts with a concept; an Anthology pitch, an idea for a Novella or a Novel. I was recently sent a cracking pitch for a horror anthology 'Man's Beast Friend', a Cujoesque concept that I loved, and I'll be releasing a submission call for in March.
So, if I like the idea, I'll generally commision it, agree terms with the editor or author. Let's say it's an anthology idea. I then have to decide if it'll be an Open call or Invite only. Once that's decided I'll post the submission call on the KWP site and await the plethora of stories to arrive. And let me tell you, we normally get a tonne of them on submission closing date. With each story I'll send an Acknowledgement to the author, so at least they'll know it's in safe hands.
Each submission is recorded on an Excel spreadsheet, a Tracker, where I record the title, author, email address, word count, reprint status, bio, contract and editorial notes or thoughts with a Yes/No column. Of course, the hard part, yet still the most rewarding is the reading period. You can find some serious gems at this stage, or some really dodgy fiction. Once I've read them all its time to make a decision. I have to take into account a variety of factors including royalties payable, reprint status, word count and visibility of the writer. If the author has a great online presence then it makes more sense if looking at two completely equal stories, to choose the story from the writer most willing to pimp the book.
Once decisions have been issued to the authors, I need to come up with a cover concept. It's normally inspired by the entire theme of the anthology, or by an individual story. For instance, the forthcoming Chip Shop of Horrors cover will use an excerpt from Chris Amies' story as a starting off point for artist Mark Hogg. So, I've got my concept, now I need to commission the artist, and I normally know straight away which artist is right for which project. I just need to convince them to take a gamble on the project. Next I issue all of the contracts out to get the business end of things sorted, including the artist, editor and authors.
Once the authors have returned the contract and myself or the editor has decided on TOC, I like to blog the TOC with the cover art so readers can get a flavour of what's to come. And next comes one of the hardest parts of the job, editing. I'll send the edits to the author, or the editor will, and then the haggling between author and editor begins; edits are refused and negotiation ensues, until both parties are happy and in agreement. I won't bore you with the rest of the technical stuff, but it all involves Pre formatting, Interior design, Cover design, creation of an Ebook and paperback, then uploading onto AMAZON.
However, now we get to the fun bit, where I Coordinate a launch venue, such as a local our, coffee shop or library, advertise it, invite the writers, artist and editors and order the stock, hoping to God it'll arrive on time.
Launch events are fantastic fun and a great opportunity for those involved to get a bit of PR going. We have one goal, ok, maybe two at these launch events; drink copious amounts of wine and/or beer and sell those mofos! So, that's generally what happens from concept to copy, not forgetting the copy editing.
It's bloody hard work, but for some insane reason I love it. I love bringing new and established horror voices into the market, envigorating the world of horror, hopefully creating something that lasts. And in between all of that I try to write.
If you have any questions about being a small press or writing in the horror genre, feel free to drop me an email to email@example.com.