Creating a new publishing house

How easy is it to start a new publishing house?
Mark Bilsborough explains how Wyldblood
came into being

 

Ever wake up one morning and do something really stupid?  Well one day recently, suffering heavily from lockdown fever, I did just that: I set up a publishing house.  It seemed like a good idea at the time. Iíd just self-published a short story collection (mainly reprinting stuff Iíd sold before) and was drunk on how easy it was and how bloody fantastic the paperback version came out (well, Iím a proud book-parent: of course, Iím going to think it was bloody fantastic).  Iíd probably lost my mind, too, for a short while.

The product of all this fevered enthusiasm was Wyldblood Press, and before the week was out weíd got a website, a clutch of (surprisingly expensive) ISBN numbers on file, a Facebook page, listings on Duotrope, Ralan and the Submissions Grinder, a business plan, a fancy spreadsheet and submissions already hurtling towards three figures. And we published our first piece of flash fiction (Vaughn Stangerís In Every Dream Home). Only a week before we hadnít even decided on a name for the company. I needed to lie down.

This whole project may ultimately collapse into its own entrails but Iím going to give it a major go.  If I can turn Wyldblood into a quality writing outlet then thatís one more market Ė and we certainly need them. And if not thereíll be a great case study into setting up a new small press whether or not it takes off or crashes and burns.

Thereíll be three primary fiction outlets Ė Flash fiction every Friday on the website, short fiction in a magazine launching in January (still publicly called Wyldblood Magazine, but Iím leaning towards Wyld Stories) and novels and novellas published separately, if I get quality work in.

All together thatís led me into some interesting areas. Publishing my own collection, Dreams and Visions, on Amazon was a doddle, both e-book and paperback, though cover design was a nightmare and Iím definitely going to use pro design for them from now on. Cheap, too, because there were no upfront costs (the main stories had already been edited for previous publication, and the covers were free). But selling them to anyone other than family and friends? A new, nightmare world of Search Engine Optimisation, boosted Facebook posts, Google Ads, networking like crazy, pricing strategies and splitting headaches.

But when Iíd pressed the Ďpublishí button that brave new world of internet selling was ahead of me, and by the time reality had set in it was too late: Wyldblood Press was up and running.

And the costs, oh the costs. Publishing ainít free no more, not if youíre doing it properly. Weíre starting modest, because I donít want to eat up our starting budget before weíve actually published anything outside the website, but even so thereís the website to pay for (upfront, with all the business add-ons that Iíve not had to bother with before), the mechanics (registrations, filings, accountants, barcodes etc. Who knew barcodes cost money? And the content. Weíre paying for content because writers need to be paid for their work (no argument), and because paying good money equals good stories. Weíll pay pro if we could, but weíre not there yet Ė but we will, when we can.

Iím astounded weíve had so many submissions so early. Maybe itís an early peak, and itís certainly helped by getting our listings in early on Duotrope etc, but Iíve seen enough already to know that finding quality stories is not going to be a problem for us (at least for the first few issues).  Most submissions are supposed to be typo-infested tonally jarring plot nightmares, right?  Most from newbies taking a punt and jaded old lags dredging the bowels of their computerís Ďunsoldí folders, yes?  Not this lot.  Serious writers, already published in serious places, with quality submissions in the majority. As an editor itís left me rubbing my hands, even though the selection process is going to be tough (as a writer it was a bit of an Ďoh shití moment, though, because it gave me an insight on what my own works are faced with when they sit in an editorís slush pile).

Some things Iíve learned so far:-

  • Have a plan.  Works for writing, works for life. Iíve got a pretty good idea where I want Wyldblood Press to be in a couple of yearsí time, and the broad steps along the way.
     
  • Have some up-front money (and be prepared to spend it).  Iím one of lifeís natural misers, so this is tough for me.
     
  • Take advantage of previous experience.  Fortunately, Iíve edited before, know what goes into a writerís publication journey and have made some good contacts and friends in our world. Without all that, I probably wouldnít have a clue.
     
  • Be prepared to learn.  There are some tough choices to make, many with hefty financial implications (use Amazon for book distribution or use a book wholesaler or distributor (not the same thing)? E-book or print for the magazine? Amazon again or use newsstand distributors (like Interzone does)?
     
  • Have some time.  Iím lucky that I have options, but itís already clear that the only way for this to succeed is to fully embrace that this is a job, not a hobby.
     
  • Get some help.  I have some great support from my partner Sandra, a writer with a background in journalism and copy writing, but weíre going to need slush readers soon, and an artist/designer, more editorial help and some reviewers and most of that, at this stage, is going to be on a for-love basis.
     
  • Build a community.  Working on that.

If anybodyís been through this before (and I know some of you have) it would be great to pick your brains.  Whatís your advice?  What should I be doing and what should I never, ever do?  And if you fancy reading some submissions or reviewing some books/TV/films for us, let me know.

But if you want to talk me out of this?  Too late.

Mark Bilsborough

 

Mark Bilsborough worked for years writing policy documents and speeches for UK Government ministers.  Now he writes more creatively and his science fiction and fantasy can be found through Amazon or via his website , on his Facebook page or Twitter @MarkBils.  Heís the co-founder of Wyldblood Press and reviews fiction for the Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation.

 


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