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I'm very pleased to present an interview with Louise Walters, the founder of the independent publishing company Louise Walters Books... So Louise Walters Books was founded in 2017, but you actually became a published author yourself in 2014, with the novel Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase. Did your experience of being published inspire your ambition to establish your own publishing company, or was the idea already there at that point? And, if it wasn’t that, then what did inspire you? My second novel, A Life Between Us, was turned down by my publisher. That was a big moment for me... hugely disappointing at the time... but it led to me deciding to self-publish my novel. I enjoyed the process and started to think about setting up as an indie publisher and bringing out books by other writers. How do you think that publication experience (with Hodder, I believe?) influenced the way you are as a publisher, if at all? It was so useful. I learned about the timescales involved in publishing; the editorial process; about publicity and marketing. You’ve indicated in the past that you’re particularly keen to hear from working class authors. Do you think independent publishers have a particularly important role to play in getting stories by working class authors told? I can't speak for other publishers, but for me, absolutely. There are very few working class people in publishing (or so it seems). I am keen to hear from working class writers... people with a similar background to my own. I have taken on a very talented working class writer and we work together really well... similar sense of humour, a similar understanding of the world... he couldn't get his super novel taken up by agents... yet I found it hilarious, moving, very clever. Proud to be its publisher! What was the first book you published with Louise Walters Books and why did you take it on? My first book was Laura Laakso's Fallible Justice, the first in her paranormal crime series, Wilde Investigations. Nobody was more surprised than me when my first book proved to be a fantasy novel. On my website submissions page I even stipulated "no fantasy"... but Laura's writing blew me away - it's so powerful. Her world-building is second to none, and her characters are like old friends. I couldn't resist. I also thought it might be a shrewd idea to publish a series... and I was quite pleased to surprise a few people with my first choice of book. You publish a really broad range of genres, was it always your intention to do that? My original concept was to publish books aimed at older, female readers... and I do that... but not only that. Laura's work, as I say, a bit of a surprise, made me realise there is no point in being too "niche". So my USP nowadays is the quality of the writing... that's my first and main consideration. I am open to all genres for adult readers, and some YA. I think all my books so far are written by very talented writers and I will always stick to that. I see that you’re currently open to submissions. What piece of advice would you give to an author submitting their work to you? What is it that really attracts you to a book? It's difficult to be specific. A convincing world, a writer in complete control of their material, vivid characters... I look for all of these. Neat presentation helps but isn't the be all and end all. A couple of the novels I've taken on were pretty untidy - spelling errors, typos... but the quality of the writing was evident and that shone through. I look for talent, including raw talent... typos can be edited out, but talent is either present or it isn't. It's easy to tell very quickly if I'm reading a talented writer, often within a few sentences. The more I read of a submission, the more likely I am to end up offering to publish it. We can all appreciate the great deal of work that goes into publishing a book, but could you give us a brief insight into that process? What happens once you read the first few pages of a book with great potential? It takes about 18 months... OK, this is what happens: Once I know I'm going to read the whole thing, I do that; then I usually read it again, to be sure. Then I offer to publish... so far all my offers have been accepted. We sign contracts and I draw up a schedule. I check with my freelance team to see if they can do the work when I need them to (cover design, copy edit and typesetting are all done by my wonderful freelance "team"). I then draw up a schedule, for my benefit, as well as the author's. I allow at least 6 months for editing - it can take longer. One of my novels took ten months - and another six months for marketing and publicising. Around 18 months is a typical timescale from signing the contract to publication date. In that time many tasks have to be completed, and it really does take months. Essentially, it's project management. What would you say is the most important lesson you learnt about publishing, since the establishment of Louise Walters Books in 2017? Time. Allow more time than you think. Rushing any stage is horribly stressful... so I am now allowing up to two years to bring out a book. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing independent publishers today? Sales in general, and getting into bookshops particularly. The Big 5 publishers take up almost all the space in Waterstones, for instance. I've been very fortunate in having Blackwells stock my titles, and other smaller indies have been fabulous and ordered my titles in. But it's seemingly impossible to crack Waterstones... one day I will! I need more sales, no doubt about that. Currently running at a loss on all my titles so far. I enter all the writing prizes going, as I think a long listing would make the world of difference. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get into publishing? Social media is very important, getting involved on Twitter, for instance, which has a huge and thriving bookish/writing/publishing community. Book blogging could help too... book bloggers are very important in helping to publicise books. Generally getting involved in anything bookish; reading widely. If you were thinking of setting up as an indie, keep your day job and be prepared for setbacks and not much money coming in... at least to begin with. It seems like it’s an exciting time for Louise Walters Books, with glowing reviews for the recently published ‘Don’t Think a Single Thought’ by Diana Cambridge coming in and ‘The Naseby Horses’ by Dominic Brownlow set to be published in December. As you know, I’m personally very excited for the release of the third ‘Wilde Investigations’ book, ‘Roots of Corruption,’ in March! What else should we be looking out for in 2020? OK, Roots of Corruption in March 2020; followed by the paperback of The Naseby Horses in June... then in September I'm bringing out a beautiful novella by Cath Barton... exquisitely written and delightfully short; then in December 2020 I'll be publishing the book by the working class author I mentioned earlier - The Dig Street Festival by Chris Walsh. It's a remarkable novel, truly unique, and funny, moving and in its own way, quite bleak... in a bizarre way. Difficult to describe, you just need to read it really to understand it. Huge thanks to Louise for taking the time to answer these. I'd like to point out here that there are some good offers on the Louise Walters Books website at the moment, including 3 for 2 on the Wilde Investigations series (which means getting an early release of the upcoming book) and a Supporter Subscription (which gets you quite a lot of stuff, including 4 early, signed books delivered throughout the year, invitations to book launches and discounts on books and editorial services). You can find the offers on this page: https://www.louisewaltersbooks.co.uk/shop-1.
This is something a little bit different and, I believe, the first time we've had a publisher interview so do let me know what you think (either here or via a direct message) and whether you'd be interested in similar interviews in the future. Mortons are a printers and independent publishers with a fascinating history going back to the 19th century (seriously, it even involves shipwreck! You can read their full history on their website https://www.mortons.co.uk/dates.html ). Now they're looking for authors. I spoke to Steven O'Hara about their exciting new project... So, I understand that Morton's long history has involved a range of newspaper, magazine and bookazine publishing. Now, for the first time, the company will be branching out into book publishing... Where did this decision come from? We have built up a significant archive of content and have lots of exceptional Authors that we work with. So it was a natural progression from our magazines to bookazines and now into the world of books. What types of books are you hoping to publish? We are not restricting the areas that we plan to operate in, but starting where we are strong in non-fiction. Could you tell us a little bit about the publishing process? Say a book comes in that's just what you're looking for, what happens next? Once we have a good idea to work with, the team here will work with the Author to polish the idea. Once we are happy that we have a good chance of success we will agree timings and commercials. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? We really want to work with you so get in touch, you have the ideas and the creatives to bring your passions to life. We want to help find a commercial route for you. What's the best way for readers to support independent publishers like yourselves? It’s so important that we know what readers like, this will ensure that we can offer new books to the right people. I know there are some wonderfully talented people on the forum, so if you have an idea, or even a book in progress, you can email Steve directly at SOHara@Mortons.co.uk. They plan to review and respond to every idea sent to them so hopefully we'll be seeing some interesting new books from Mortons!
10th Anniversary Writing Competition As part of the celebrations we are hosting a Book Club Forum Short Story Competition. Sharpen up your pencils and have your notebooks at the ready! All entries are to be emailed to me by Tuesday 30th June [Now extended to 14th July] and I will then post them anonymously on the forum. We will then have a 2 week reading and voting period before the winner is announced. The winner will be the story that receives the most votes in the thread. As this is the 10th birthday for our forum, the theme will be "10". That's all we are giving you. From here on in, your story is your own. Rules You can enter as many times as you like. Your story should be no more than 20,000 words. Your story should contain the selected theme. Your story should be entirely your own work and you should be happy for it to be published on the forum as part of the competition. Once the winning story is announced, it is then up to you if you would like to reveal which was your entry. The competition is open to all members and mods alike and if you would like to collaborate with another member, you can, although you will have to fight it out between yourselves for the prize. The winner will be the story that receives the most votes at the end of the two week voting period and the lucky author/s will receive a Mystery Prize ( I can hear you all Ooooohing and Aaaaahing) Once a vote is cast it can not be changed, so please vote carefully! The email address to send your entries to is firstname.lastname@example.org Please let me know in this thread if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer them. Good Luck and Happy Writing!!