Today I’m pleased to welcome Bluemoose Books to the blog. Bluemoose are an independent publishing company based in Yorkshire. September sees the 10th anniversary of the start of the company so I invited Kevin Duffy, the head of Bluemoose onto the blog to answer a few questions.
1. Tell us a little about Bluemoose Books. Where did the name of the company come from?
Bluemoose Books is an independent publisher based in Hebden Bridge – We started publishing in September 2006 so, it’s our 10th birthday. We publish literary fiction and our authors have won national literary prizes, been short listed for national and international literary prizes. Bluemoose books have been translated into Russian, Bulgarian, Hungarian and Turkish and sold in 52 countries. We’ve sold TV and Film rights to Hollywood and our books regularly get reviewed in the national press.
I won a national writing competition and was whisked down to London by a Sunday newspaper to be wined and dined at The Ivy with the editorial director of Macmillan and an agent from Curtis Brown. It didn’t go well.
A year later I read in THE BOOKSELLER that all the big money advances were going to Irish writers so I changed my name to Colm O’Driscoll and sent the first three chapters off to Darley Anderson, Lee Child and Martina Cole’s agent. He tried to get hold of me by phone but of course I didn’t exist, so he wrote a letter. I contacted him but I had to be Irish for a year. I even had to tell my boys that if a posh man from London rings and asks for Colm, that’s me. The things you’ll do to get published. He loved my book and so I signed up to Darley Andersons but they couldn’t sell ANTHILLS and STARS. Nobody was buying comedic fiction. After 12 months I got the book back and moped and moped some more. Hetha, my wife told me to do something about it, so we re-mortgaged the house, started Bluemoose Books, published my novel and a book by a Canadian writer, Nathan Vanek, called The Bridge Between. We made enough money from these two books to continue and here we are, 10 years later still publishing.
There is a pub called The Blue Pig in Hardcastle Craggs that I go past whilst walking our dog, Eric. I was reading a book about the history of soul music called Sweet Soul Music by Peter Guralnick and there was a great Sax player called Bull Moose Johnson, and whilst walking past the pub, the name Bluemoose fell out of my head, so Bluemoose Books came into being.
2. Bluemoose is based in Yorkshire. Do you find that there are any benefits or downsides to working outside of London?
I love the fact that I don’t have to be a part of the champagne and peanut trail and lurk in the corners at literary salons in Highgate whilst pretending to read the latest poetry collection from some wunderkind from Madagascar. I remember being at a swanky literary doo in Holland Park. A lady sidled up to me. She was festooned in pearls and silks and wore a turban. ‘What do you do?’ She said. ‘I’m the sales representative for central London.’ I replied. She took a step back, raised her nose and said.’ You mean you’re not creative!’ And walked off. I followed her and said. ‘If it wasn’t for people like me selling your author’s books, you wouldn’t be able to afford that turban on your head.’ I left shortly afterwards.
The benefits are that I don’t have to meet these folk anymore and we’re not worried about following trends and what ‘they’ think will work. We can concentrate on what we love, finding great new writers and stories without worrying about all the flummery and white noise that can be a distraction. There are downsides regarding the national press, who are all in London. They still say ridiculous things like, ‘But Kevin you’re not a London publisher.’ Which, I think says more about them. Geography and post codes should not dictate if a story is good or not.
3. How hard is it establishing a foothold in the publishing market as an independent publisher?
It was very difficult in the beginning to get any traction or coverage. Without the brilliant library services we had 10 years ago and wonderful bookshops, we wouldn’t have survived but since we have won some major literary awards, keep getting short listed for literary prizes and selling books abroad, they have had to take notice.
At one time you could see the manager of your local Waterstones and sell books that way but now it is all done from head office in London, and that can have its difficulties. But if you produce great new stories that engage and inspire, readers find your books and especially now through social media, traditional media is playing catch up and asking to review books we’ve published months ago.
4. Do you find that your books sell mainly in the UK or do you get enquires from further afield?
Our books are now sold in 52 countries. The latest being Kazakhstan, Iceland and Greenland. Our digital books are sold via Faber and Faber, and they do a brilliant job. It also means we can sign up to online promotions through Amazon, Kobo, and Apple.
5. One of your latest titles, The Less than Perfect Legend of Donna Creosote by Dan Micklethwaite has been shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize. What affect has this had on interest in the book and what does it mean to be short-listed?
It gives Dan’s story a national platform and people can also see what other titles we have. Dan’s sales have been absolutely brilliant since the short listing and we have had 3 French publishers and 1 Italian publisher asking to read with a view to buying the translation rights for their territories.
6. How many new titles do you publish a year and what do you look for when selecting a title to publish?
We publish 3 to 4 books a year. This year has been an exception and we’ve published 6. For me publishing is very simple. You simple fall in love with a story, the characters in that story and how they react to situations that are thrown at them. They have to be beautifully written too. We are very democratic, so if all four of us think there is something in a book, we publish and as we all have varying reading tastes it means, hopefully, that readers will to.
7. Many of your books have a strong connection to the North, and Yorkshire in particular. Do you think that geography has an influence on creativity?
I think we are all shaped by our landscapes. With me it is the landscape of the industrial revolution and what that has meant since the demise of the mills. It engenders a sense of survival and self-reliance on yourself and community with a disregard for those in the metropolis who wrongly think they dictate both culturally and creatively what happens. We just get on and do what we want to do and London and the rest of the country usually catch up in the end.
8. People may be curious to find out more about your submissions criteria. What would be the best way for someone to submit their manuscripts?
If they send the first 3 chapters and synopsis to firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll have a look at their work. We usually say it will be 12 weeks before we get back to them but it can take longer.
9. Do you have any tips for those wanting to be published?
Write every day, even if it’s only for ten minutes and read, read, read.
10. What are the best things about publishing, and the worst?
The best thing is seeing a manuscript you read a couple of years back finally sitting on a bookshelf as a proper book and receiving great comments from readers who’ve loved it. The worst – trying to convince bank managers that numbers, Venn diagrams and graphs don’t create great stories.
You can find out more about Bluemoose Books and their titles on their website.