A chat with my publisher

If I haven’t mentioned it enough already, my debut novel Haven Wakes was launched by the wonderful Burning Chair Publishing last year.

They’re busy people with all their 2020 book launches, but I finally managed to catch up with Pete and Si for a chat and ask them to share their writerly/publish-y knowledge.

Here’s what we talked about.

Who are the faces behind Burning Chair Publishing?

Pete: I’ve been writing stories ever since I can remember, getting bitten by the bug when I won some children’s writing contest for my local paper, the Wrexham Leader. I kept plugging away, although as I grew older life kind of got in the way. But then I jumped on the self-publishing wagon in the early days of Kindle publishing – my first book, The Wedding Speech Manual, was released in 2012, and other books followed. I learnt the ropes as an indie author, gobbling up everything I could learn from all the amazing authors out there.

Si:  The first book I fell in love with was Great Expectations which showed me the expanse of the world, which as an 11 year old boy in 1980s Glasgow really opened my eyes. So I read and read and then I wanted to write. Then I met Pete and realised that if an idiot like Pete could be published then maybe there was hope for me…!

Tell us a little about Burning Chair Publishing

Pete: I’ll hand this one off to Si to kick off with – he’s much more the silver-tongued schmoozer out of the two of us…

Si: Thanks Pete, I think… We have always been extremely passionate about books, both as authors and readers, and the one thing we kept seeing, time and again, was that great stories were being lost to the world because they couldn’t find the right home.

We’re huge fans of the self-publishing and indie publishing revolution: naturally, because we have been on that side of the fence for a long time. There are some great, cutting-edge things being done by indies which the larger and more established publishers don’t seem to be getting to grips with. We felt that there was a space in the market for a publisher which took the best of indie publishing—the nimbleness, the cutting-edge marketing, the author-centric model—while also providing authors with all the backing and support (financial and otherwise) which they’d expect from a publishing deal.

Pete: Basically we wanted to create the sort of publisher we always wished would sign us up.

Si: That’s right. Our focus from the start has been on our authors and our readers: we want to build a community of outstanding authors who are all invested in each others’ success and who want to engage with their readers, getting the best stories they possibly can out into the world.

Along with so many other great indie publishers, we see ourselves as disruptors. But, in a British sort of way, rather than shouting about it and banging the drum about how disruptive we are, we’re just quietly getting on with it. Polite disruption, if you will…

What part do you think independent publishers will play in the future of the publishing industry?

Si: Huge. All publishers have their priorities, driven by who runs them, who owns them, what overheads they need to cover… The big publishers, the so-called traditional houses, will always have a place, but what’s becoming very clear is by no means do they have a monopoly. There are some fantastic independent publishers out there, putting out some great books and discovering and giving voices to a load of authors who might otherwise have never been read.

What advantages do independent publishers have over the Big 5?

Pete: We’re a lot more nimble, for a start. We don’t have a huge staff base with massive offices to pay for, so we’re able to make decisions on the basis of what we love, rather than purely on what will give the shareholders the biggest returns.

We’re therefore able to take more risks – while Big 5 publishers might often prefer to play it safe, indies can – and often do – take a punt on something that might not be immediately on vogue, or not written by a huge celebrity name, and so on.

What do you look for in a good story?

Si: A story that grips us, something that makes us simply HAVE to read on.

Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect when you send us a submission – we fully expect to do some editing and work with you on the novel – but it should be as good as you can make it. Sloppy errors and unreadable text will make it so much harder for us to want to read more.

Pete: But it’s also not just about the book and the story – for us the author is just as important. We only work with people we like and who are as passionate as we are about their story.

Any advice for writers who want to get their books published?

Pete: Write! Seriously, if you don’t write stuff down then you’re never going to have a story worth publishing. The more you write, the more you hone that skill, and the better you get. As someone once said: “You can’t edit a blank page.” (Don’t tell Si I’ve just quoted him…)

Si: Thanks Pete! Also, read loads. We don’t mean the countless “how to” books on structure and so on. Whatever you’re interested in, whatever you love reading, whatever genre you’re going to be writing in, read everything you can. It will help your own writing no end.

And don’t take yourself too seriously. Seek out feedback from likeminded people who will give you constructive criticism and listen to them.

And finally, and really importantly – avoid the sharks. Like any industry there are loads of disreputable firms and individuals out there who will take your money and give you very little in return. Our golden rule is that money should flow from publishers to authors, not the other way round. So if someone promises to publish your book in return for you paying them, then run a mile!

Where can readers buy your books?

All good bookshops (and some not-so-good ones too!). Check out our website.

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