Following a couple of emails asking questions after yesterday’s post I realised that information about Blade Red Press would be helpful.

In the world of music there are hundreds of quality bands that have trouble getting noticed or signed by the major labels. It became quite common for bands to produce and market their own music and so the concept of Indie music was born – independently produced music. Indie bands soon led to indie labels and now it’s quite common for niche labels to have a handful of bands on their books and do really well without the backing of the majors.

The same thing is now starting to happen with publishing. The major “traditional” publishers are behemoths that operate like factories. They take in manuscripts at one end, push out a heavily marketed book at the other and promote it for a very short time (maybe six weeks), then move on to the next project. If your book isn’t standing on its own after six weeks, you’re done. Even with major publishers, authors have to do an enormous amount of self-marketing to keep their books selling. And that’s assuming you even managed to get your work through the slush pile and picked up for publication in the first place. Having a quality book to sell doesn’t mean you’re going to get it published. There are thousands of great books out there that can’t find a publisher and an equal number of truly awful books that get trad print runs in the tens of thousands. Such is the nature of publishing in the modern world.

That’s where indie publishing comes in. Self-publishing has a terrible stigma attached, and it’s understandable to some degree. There are some terrible self-published books out there; really badly written, full of errors, some simply not even making sense. But there are some true gems out there too. The same can be said of indie music – there are some woeful bands out there peddling their stuff, but indie music doesn’t have the same stigma as indie publishing. That’s simply because the music world is not as stuck up and elitist as the literary world.

So, there’s a very relevant place for indie publishing, if it’s done with professionalism and dedication, and now we’re getting to the stage where the technology is there to really make it happen. That’s what Blade Red Press is all about.

When I self-published RealmShift at the start of 2006 it got great reviews, was a hot product for a while and really showed potential. But retailing at Amazon for US$23.95 made it really hard to sell in larger numbers. Print On Demand technology (where a copy is made to order and shipped) means that writers don’t need to find huge sums of money for short print runs and then schlep them around local bookstores. They can produce a book for very little and let the internet be their global bookstore. But the retail price is a big problem because POD companies offer a lot of author services and charge large commissions. Coupled with industry discounts and so forth, prices become prohibitive.

So, I took everything I learned from the first release of RealmShift and I set up Blade Red Press, an independent publisher that doesn’t use the author service companies. Blade Red will specialise in fantasy, science fiction and horror, with an emphasis on dark fiction, and produce quality books using Print On Demand technology and online retailers like Amazon as a distribution and sales network. The books will also be available to order through brick and mortar bookstores using their ISBNs, are fully returnable and essentially indistinguishable from any other book on the shelf. All hail modern technology.

And as you can see from the description above, Blade Red is not just about publishing my own work. It’s going to be an outlet for emerging speculative and dark fiction writers to have a chance to get their work out there. We’ll have a small and select catalogue of quality work. We won’t just publish anything – it has to be good. And I plan to organise an annual anthology of short stories to give emerging writers another avenue to get their work out there. More on that in the future.

Authors with Blade Red will be encouraged to promote their own work. I’ll promote the catalogue as a whole, while pushing my own work, and authors can concentrate on their stuff. The books will never be out of print (another benefit of Print On Demand) and the more work we all put in, the better results we’ll have. There won’t be author advances, but there will be the large majority of sales profit going back to the authors. I haven’t set up Blade Red Press to make a fortune – indie publishing doesn’t work like that. Blade Red Press will simply pay for itself and the authors will make their money from their book sales after that. More reason to get out there and promote their work. That’s why I have to promote my own stuff as well. Blade Red is about giving writers opportunities.

As the press grows we’ll take on more authors, produce more anthologies and hopefully start to sell a lot of books. At least, that’s the idea. RealmShift and MageSign are the first two projects off the ranks, and both should be available very soon. The Amazon price will be US$15.95 – a considerable improvement on the US$23.95 that RealmShift is currently selling for. Next up will be Michael Fridman’s novel Maggots Of Heresy. After that the first anthology will get under way and we’ll see how we go from there. We will be looking for new authors, but not yet. Don’t send any queries now – watch the site here and there’ll be news of the Blade Red Press site when that’s up and subsequent calls for submissions then.

Wish us luck! And, as ever, feel free to ask any questions in comments or emails. Indie publishing, like indie music, succeeds or fails on two things: the quality of the product and the support of the fans. The more people talk about the books and the press, the more they convince their friends, family and colleagues to try it out, the more successful indie writers can be.

Let me finish by throwing a few names at you – John Milton, William Blake, Virginia Woolf, Walt Whitman, William Morris, James Joyce, Stephen Crane, E. E. Cummings, Deepak Chopra, Benjamin Franklin, Zane Grey, Rudyard Kipling, D. H. Lawrence, Thomas Paine, Edgar Allan Poe, Ezra Pound, Carl Sandburg, George Bernard Shaw, Upton Sinclair, Gertrude Stein, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain. Recognise some of those people? They all self-published and found success. It’s rare, but quality shines through. Here’s another interesting list:

* Spartacus by Howard Fast
* The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
* A Choice, Not An Echo by Phyllis Schlafly
* The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer
* What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles
* Poems by Oscar Wilde
* In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters
* Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
* The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
* Invisible Life by E. Lynn Harris
* The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte
* Contest by Matthew Reilly
* Eragon by Christopher Paolini

They all started out as self-published books. Now indie publishers add a level of quality control so you don’t have to rely on the word of the author and the author doesn’t have to struggle to get into the big major publishers. It’s a brave new world.