Shortly after I launched this blog last year I connected with the fine folks at Red Dog Press. They were a brand new indie publisher with a new crime book to promote, the opening entry in the Dr Alex Ripley series. Since then I have bought and reviewed every book they have published. In fact my copy of their latest Careless Whisper by T.S. Hunter has arrived this very day ahead of the blog tour in August.
To coincide with that first review M. Sean Coleman wrote a fantastic guest post about the experience of setting up a new indie and those first steps to getting the debut book published. That post is here.
For #IndieCrimeCrawl week, he has kindly written a follow up piece. Talking about the experiences since that debut and what they have coming up. Just before I had you over to Sean though, I’d be remiss if I didn’t drop in a link to buy the books. The paperbacks are all available direct from Red Dog Press online shop here.
And with that done, I’ll pass you ovet to Sean:
What’s another year?
We have a habit, in Red Dog Towers, of finding a song title in everything. This can be annoying for anyone who isn’t us, but it keeps us happy, and is probably why we fell in love with the Soho Noir series that we began publishing this year. But wait, I’m skipping ahead.
With Johnny Logan’s dulcet tones echoing in my ears, I sit down to reflect on our first year as an Indie Publisher. And what a year it’s been! Books have been published, new authors signed, money made, hair lost. With all the ups and downs of year one under our belts, the one thing we can certainly say is we’ve been publishing for a year, and that is pretty awesome.
Around this time last year, I wrote a blog piece for the lovely Matt Keyes—who has since gone on to become one of our most influential bloggers and reviewers—all about why we started Red Dog and what we were hoping to do. It’s interesting to look back on that post now, and I’m fairly relieved to see that we were not too naïve in our assumptions, although I can see, reading it back now, just how raw the emotion was when we started.
Red Dog Press was born out of necessity when a number of life changes happened to our small group and we all found ourselves foundering somewhat, frustrated with the actions of current publishers, or keen for a change of direction in our careers. It turned out that between us we had a pretty unique set of skills, which would lead us to realise that Indie Publishing was where we would find our home.
So, how has the year treated us? Well, last year, we started with one author, M. Sean Coleman—yes, that’s me—and just one book ready to publish. The Cuckoo Wood was the first in a series, and the second, A Hollow Sky, was already written and almost ready to go. As you may already know, the original publisher dropped the series shortly after The Cuckoo Wood was published, for many complicated reasons that we now probably understand just a little better.
The point was I—we—believed in the books, and the responses of the early readers. Something needed to happen for that series to get in front of readers where it belonged, and we realised that we had to be that something. Ultimately, I’m grateful that publisher gave up on the English version of the book because it gave me fire, and, if you want to be an Indie Publisher, it turns out you need fire.
So, with a lot to learn and no money to work with, we set about cracking the nut of publishing, and, though we’re not saying we’ve cracked it, we’re on the right track, for sure. We’ve stayed small. We’re growing slowly. No one else has given us anything—we haven’t asked. And yet, here we are—still building, still growing, getting better every day.
Like all good publishers, we’ve already got our ‘one that got away’. That accolade must go to Neil Lancaster, whose glorious novel Going Dark was an early submission to us. We lost that battle—we were too slow to get our offer in. We just weren’t ready if I’m honest. We hadn’t earned enough yet, and we hadn’t sorted out our contracts or offers. It’s a bloody good book, though, so you should read it anyway. And this is another joyful part of being a small Indie—celebrating the successes of others and learning from them.
By the time T.S. Hunter submitted the first book in the Soho Noir series, we were ready. We snapped that series up straight away. Tainted Love was right up our street, and the rest of the series looked perfect too. Who wouldn’t want to publish noirish murder mysteries set in London’s Soho in the 1980s? It turns out that we love crime, mystery and thriller (we knew that, anyway) but we only like them with a strange or different take on the standards of the genre.
This opens us up to criticism that our books are not mainstream enough, but we can argue our corner on this. I think it is one of the unique things Indie publishers can do well—offer a platform to voices that would be overlooked by the bigger houses because they don’t fit the mould. And readers seem to love it.
It turns out that not everyone just automatically buys the next Richard and Judy recommendation. Which is a good job, ‘cause there’s no way we can afford to submit any of our books to that little club!
We’ve noticed that, while we don’t have the kinds of marketing budgets that the big houses can offer to their chosen authors, we do have a genuine passion for seeing our books succeed, and building a real and on-going relationship with our readers. This would absolutely not be possible without our book bloggers. We owe them everything, and, when we’re big enough, we’re going to throw them all a party!
So where are we now? We now have three signed authors—M.Sean Coleman, T.S. Hunter and Claire Sheldon. We have six books out (if you include the two in pre-order) and another four set to be out before Christmas comes around.
In very exciting news, we are about to announce the signing of two new authors, writing as a pair, who are absolutely wonderful both as storytellers and as people, and they will be adding their fantastic take on crime to our pile with another three books before the end of the year. Look out for that announcement this week sometime.
Our submissions pile grows daily, and the quality we’re seeing there is also improving. Our sales grow month by month, our followers grow month on month, and we have all got a lot more grey hairs in the past year.
The grey is not surprising when you realise that everything from cover design, typesetting and formatting, to marketing, accounting, contracts and rights negotiation is all done in house, by a small handful of us. That’s not to mention website management, online shops and social media campaigning. (We made the decision early on to pay professional editors, though, as this was the only part of the job none of us had ever done before.)
What next? From one author to five in a year, means we should be up to fifteen authors this time next year. From one book to six, means we should have at least twenty by this time next year. We’ll keep growing slowly, keep plugging away, and keep finding unique voices with a different light to shine on the crime and mystery world.
Of course awards would be nice, a sustained list of bestsellers, you know? But actually, what we really want is for our authors to get their words in front of readers, where they belong. And for those readers to tell their friends, and their friends’ friends that Red Dog books are great. That’s all we want. That, and more time to walk the dogs. Oh, and I still have to write another few books this year! I’m off.