Ginger Nuts of Horror
The main aim of my blog has always been one of lending support to the Small and Independent Presses. With the rise in recent times of Amazon it has become an ever increasing task to find the real gems of the genre.
From what I have read so far Anachron Press, is one of those gems, and it is a great honour and a pleasure to offer Colin F. Barnes a chance to talk about why he set up his press, it's aims and where he hopes to take it.
I’d like to thank Jim for this opportunity to feature on his excellent blog today. Jim is not only a great book reviewer, but also a genuine lover of books, authors and publishers and has today given me a spot to highlight my contribution to the genre world: Anachron Press. We specialize in an eclectic mix of daring genre fiction from fantasy to sci-fi to horror and pulp, and anything in between.
Why I Set Up Anachron Press
Primarily, I’m a writer, and hadn’t considered running a small press until one fateful night on twitter in 2011. I had this idea for a shared world, H.P Lovecraft Cthulhu Mythos-style. From a set of guidelines I had developed for one of my own stories, I invited a select group of authors to write in my world in a collaboration project. This led to the very first Anachron Press horror anthology ‘City of Hell Chronicles: Volume 1.’ Anachron Press was set up to publish this book, and from then on the bug hit, and I sought to add more titles to the catalogue.
One of the early challenges was how to decide on what to publish. Flush with enthusiasm after City of Hell, I wanted to start expanding the remit of the press. Although I have a love of horror, it was important to cover wider ground—a decision that later I both regret and appreciate.
Next up then was the anthology ‘Day of Demons’ which combined fantasy, dark fantasy and horror. A notable step forward for the press came with the introduction of a short story by K.T Davies, who we would later publish her amazing epic fantasy novel ‘The Red Knight.’
A secondary reason for the press, apart from meeting other authors and getting involved with the genre community, was to provide a platform to publish a few stories of my own. I consider myself a hybrid author—an author who straddles the indie and traditional publishing divide. Traditional routes aren’t always open to a wide variety of fiction and formats, so for novellas, short stories, and experimental mixes of genres, Anachron Press has provided me a platform to publish these stories that might not otherwise find a place with traditional publishing markets.
Aims and Future Plans
When first starting out, there wasn’t an explicitly established aim. It was a fun side-project that allowed me to help promote authors and give new authors a leg-up into the publishing world, as well as a means of meeting other small press owners and members of the genre community. But, as it has developed and I have continued to expand its reach and coverage, a few objectives have bubbled up from the early experiments.
One of those is to continually seek out new talent. With all Anachron Press anthologies, you’ll find authors whose stories are their first to be published, and other ‘new’ authors. It’s always very satisfying to see authors I was the first to publish go on to get agents, book deals and continuing success.
In terms of the direction of the press, up until now, we’ve not had a genre focus. Happy to cherry-pick ideas and dip and dive into the wide spectrum of genre we’ve served a smorgasbord of choice. I plan to narrow that focus a little in the future and spend some years carving out a reputation in a shorter band of variety. The more projects we do at Anachron, the closer we’re coming to our ‘one true love.’
Of course, that doesn’t mean we’ll stop experimenting and stop publishing stories across the board, it just means we’ll have more of a focus and chain related releases closer together.
We’ve done something similar to that in the last 6 months with the introduction of our imprint, ‘Pulp Line’: a series of novellas and short-story collections in the pulp tradition of the old magazines, covering crime, fantasy, the weird and horror stories. In a short period of time, we’ve launched—or in the process of launching—8 volumes.
Our next focus will likely be a blending of the darker genres: crime and horror/thrillers. This will possibly comprise a number of anthologies, such as our recent anthology ‘Urban Occult’ which reflects our biggest step forward yet with a collection of world class authors, novels—such as Craig Gardner’s ‘The Noose & The Gibbet,’ and a number of as-yet to be announced projects.
By focusing on one segment for 6 months to a year, we hope to be able to provide that particular genre enough titles to make a name for ourselves within the respective community, and give a breadth of catalogue to please those readers.
There are more than a few, and I could probably fill an entire book of all the trials and tribulations that I’ve gone through since starting this crazy journey. From dealing with volatile authors, to making terrible mistakes, and taking on too much work, there’s never a day that goes by where I don’t learn something.
But for the sake of brevity, and for those who are looking to start a small press, or are just interested in the publishing pitfalls, I’ll outline briefly just three of the main ones.
1. Learn contracts and copyright law.
To be able to give your authors fair contracts, and to ensure you have the rights to build your catalogue, you need to know this stuff. There are various good books (search on Amazon) out there, and I’d perhaps even suggest reading Katherine Rusch’s business blog to help you along. I spent some time before releasing my first book reading up on this and was glad I did. I see too many small presses giving out bad contracts (for both parties) and not understanding what they’re asking for. So, do yourself a favor and learn this.
2. Hire more than one proofreader/editor.
Although I as the editor of the press oversee and copy-edit everything that comes through, in the early days I relied on myself also for the proofreading. This is tough. Not only is it a slow process and a lot of work for one to take on their own, but you often find fewer mistakes if you’ve already been working on the book in the copy-edit stage. Nowadays I have two proofreaders on hand to go through a book after my initial editing. This greatly reduces the amount of work I have to personally do (Which was always too much), and you get better results. It does cost extra, but is worth it.
3. Don’t over-stretch yourself and establish a publishing schedule/process.
This was a hard one to learn. I’m naturally a workaholic, but I took on way too much myself numerous times, and I have the lack of hair due to stress to prove it. Although as a small press or indie author your time to market is greatly shorter than the bigger publishers, you still need to give yourself time, and introduce a proper schedule. The temptation is to get it to market as soon as possible, and then move on to the next project. But this is folly!
Things don’t happen perfectly. Printers won’t get your book right, or they’ll go missing. Reviewer’s schedules change or your blog tour to promote the book has problems. Don’t let a tight schedule stress you out. Make sure the book is completely done, and you have the finished print (and ebook) in your hands. And then work out a release date. Give yourself at least a month to counter any disasters.
I didn’t do this for the first year and learned some really hard lessons about scheduling and having a proper process in place. Now that I’ve gone through that experience, the stress-levels of releasing a book are greatly diminished. That’s not to say that it’s always easy; it’s not. There’s a tremendous amount of work that has to be done that not everyone, including the authors, could understand.
So there we have it. A little exposé of what it’s like to run a small press. I could go on and on about a million other things that have impacted my life since starting this crazy journey, but perhaps I’ll save that for a memoir when I’m old and completely bald.
There’s one other important thing I’d like to say: The authors, editors, cover artists and my self work tremendously hard at this malarkey for almost no returns (As do most book bloggers/reviewers). The old saying “If you want to make a small fortune in publishing, start with a bigger fortune,” is entirely true.
We do it because we love stories. We’re all storytellers at heart and get a real thrill at seeing our books out there in the wild. But without readers we’re just shouting in the wind.
So please, for the sake of the community, please support a small press by buying some of their books. Not just Anachron, there’s a bunch of great presses out there who deserve your attention.
In the small press you’ll find the gems, the outliers, the experimentalists. The small press is host to the most vibrant and daring fiction in the world today.
The last thing to say is, thank you, Jim for all the support and great work that you do for us little guys. You’re a gent and a star.
Colin F. Barnes. Writer, Editor, Small Press Owner.