TThe dawning of a New Year is always a time for reflection as well as looking ahead, and here at Burning Chair we’re no different. So our plan was for our first blog of 2020 to be a nice little look back at the year just gone, and some thoughts on the year to come.
So far, so uncontroversial, right?
But then we realised something.
Something pretty bad.
You see, we’ve got a little confession to make. In 2019 a little something passed by without us remarking on it: over the summer Burning Chair turned one year old.
And we completely neglected to mark the occasion (Pete: I blame Simon, he’s always been useless at remembering anniversaries, birthdays, etc…).
Not with a blog post, or a celebratory tipple. Not even a brief nod as we passed each other in the corridor.
How could we commit such an oversight, we hear you ask?
The thing is, we completely forgot to say Happy First Birthday to this lovable little toddler of a publishing company of ours because we were so busy focusing on other stuff…like producing and publishing great books, signing up amazing authors, and generally going about the business of growing Burning Chair.
Which, when we think about it, is a pretty darned good excuse, don’t you agree?
So this first blog post of 2020 has a little extra bonus baked in: we’re not only going to look back on 2019, but also the first full year of Burning Chair.
We’re typing this over a long-delayed glass of beer in the very pub in which the Burning Chair concept was originally born, kicking and screaming. Like a couple of misty-eyed parents, we’re reminiscing about that day, how young and naive we seemed……(Pete: Simon, were you ever young????)
And now we need to stop as we’re getting strange looks from across the bar.
Ahem. So, please join us as we very briefly cast our eyes over a great first year-and-a-half, and look forward to many more to come.
The Birth of Burning Chair
Burning Chair Publishing was officially born on 4 June 2018, with the website going live a few weeks later.
It’s been an eighteen months unlike any other for us, with loads of ups, the occasional down, plenty of laughs and thankfully not too many tears (Simon: Except when you receive feedback you don’t like, right Pete? Pete? Pete…).
Like most businesses we started with a dream, backed up with copious amounts of business plans and research. We were prepared but there was one thing which no one ever knows until they actually get started: would anyone believe in our dream enough to join us on this journey?
The answer came not long after we opened our doors to submissions. In fact, the very first submission which pinged up in our inbox turned out to be better than our wildest dreams. A debut author named Georgia Springate pitched us a novel called Beyond and, from the very first page, we were hooked. Everything about the story screamed out for publication, an important story which was as readable and compelling as it was gut-wrenchingly tear-inducing and uplifting, all at the same time.
We were amazed that it had not been snapped up yet for publication, and it was an easy decision for us to make.
Yes, we were so, so proud to make Georgia the first author signing for Burning Chair, and the rave reviews Beyond continues to reel in just goes to prove how right we were. It’s not just a great read, but it’s an important book which has helped loads of people who are struggling with grief and loss, and for that Georgia should be hugely proud.
While we were prepping Beyond for publication, we decided to put out a call for submissions for an anthology, and twelve incredibly talented authors came forth with some phenomenally good, original short stories. Along with two stories of our own, Burning: An Anthology of Thriller Shorts was the first proper Burning Chair release and was an incredible learning experience for us: challenging at times, but again a book which we’re all rightly proud of.
We Didn’t Just Stop There…
A new hero, Tom Novak, saw the light of day in April in Neil Lancaster’s debut novel Going Dark. For those who haven’t come across him yet, we can’t top the description of the one-and-only Tony Parsons, who described Novak as a character who “makes Jason Bourne look like a vegan Pilates teacher”. Genius!
We were then immensely proud to publish Haven Wakes, the first in an outstanding new YA fantasy series from debut author Fi Phillips, in October. Haven Wakes mashes up some of our guilty pleasures – robots and magic – in a Skullduggery Pleasant / Harry Potteresque setting, with some of the most uniquely compelling characters we’ve ever come across.
And then there was the second Novak novel, Going Rogue, in November. Rogue continues where Dark set off, with Neil showing us once again why so many people have fallen in love with Tom Novak and his colleagues. With honourable mention for our favourite loveable Cockney rogue, Pete “Buster” Rhymes.
All in all, a pretty successful year!
Is That All???
In a word, no.
The books and authors we mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg. We have plenty of other irons in the fire, which you’ll be hearing more about as the year goes on. That includes our own stuff as well as plenty of exciting new authors, and some familiar (but still extremely thrilling) names.
All of this has been fed by a stream of submissions which has far outweighed our wildest expectations. Not only in numbers but also the sheer quality of the stories sent to us.
There have been so many other exceptional authors we’ve interacted with over these past eighteen months. If we could, we’d publish each and every one; but we need to decide what’s right for us and also what’s right for the authors. That means that—as with most publishers and agents—we can publish only a small percentage of what comes to us. If you’re one of the ones we’ve not been able to publish, please don’t be downhearted. Just because your story wasn’t right for us doesn’t mean the book doesn’t have potential, and our view isn’t a reflection on you as an author. Keep heart, keep plugging away, and know that we wish you every success.
Likewise, if you’ve submitted and not heard from us yet, please be patient. In common with all other publishers and agents, we receive so many submissions. Because we pride ourselves in reading and (where possible) giving constructive feedback on each one, it can take us some time to read through them and get back to you. But trust us: we will get back to you.
Given the huge amounts of submissions and our boundless enthusiasm to get as many great stories out into the world, there was a massive temptation in 2019 for us to publish as many things as we possibly could. However, there are only so many hours in the day, and the danger of publishing in volume if you’re a smaller press like us is that something has to give.
We’re not a huge London or New York publishing house with hundreds or thousands of employees. We don’t have limitless resources to throw at marketing and promotion and production.
We pride ourselves in maintaining a personalised, laser-focus on each one of our authors. After all, we’re building a brand that we hope is not just known for quality but is trusted by authors and readers alike, and will continue to grow for years and years to come.
So if we tried to chase volume, publishing as much as we possibly could before we were really ready to do so, chances are something would give: probably the quality, definitely our sanity (Simon: I’ll be honest mine went shortly after meeting you, Pete).
So in 2019 we made a difficult decision. While our innate enthusiasm and can-do attitudes screamed at us to publish loads and loads, we instead decided to initially focus on a small number of authors and titles. That way we could put all our energies in not only making sure our processes and systems worked (remember: we were a start-up – run before you can walk, people…!), but also to ensure that we gave our entire focus to our small but perfectly formed group of authors, making sure that we did the best we possibly could in terms of producing and promoting their stories.
Things We’ve Learnt
In no particular order…
- That coming up with a name and concept for a new company isn’t as easy as it sounds. And involves a lot more mood boards and PowerPoint presentations than anyone should ever have to tolerate. Ever.
- That Pete’s tolerance for mood boards and PowerPoint presentations is significantly lower than Simon’s.
- That the hardest part of being a publisher is deciding which authors and stories to turn down. We try so hard to provide feedback to all those who submit to us, and pride ourselves on reading each and every submission. Which unfortunately takes a lot more time than we’d like. So if you ever submit to us, please do be patient: we want to give every story the attention it deserves.
- That you should have a plan but not be afraid to change it. We originally intended to shy away from young adult as a genre, and focus a lot more of our attention on thrillers. But then the first book we signed up was… young adult. Beyond was love-at-first-read for us, and the same goes for Haven Wakes. We’ve not looked back, because our core mission is… A fair deal for our authors, great books for our readers.
- The world of indie publishing is awesome, vibrant – and here to stay. You’ll regularly see stories in the press bemoaning / celebrating the death of the ebook, claiming that no one wants to read anything anymore, that only the biggest publishers know what should be put on the shelves. Don’t believe the hype. There are loads of amazing authors and publishers out there doing great stuff, sending out to the world the sort of stories that certain “experts” say would never sell. And guess what? Readers love them. Indie publishing, in all its forms, is at the vanguard of a movement to give readers the stories and books which they want, rather than what a small number of “experts” say will sell. And we’re immensely proud to be a part of that movement.
- That, if all else fails… keep writing. Yes, we’re publishers but we’re also writers and, as well as bringing other authors’ stories to the world, we don’t feel complete unless we’re also doing our own writing. And we truly believe that it’s that perspective — as not only publishers but also active writers — that gives us that extra Burning Chair factor.
What’s in Store for 2020…?
We’ve learnt a lot and refined so much of what we do over these past 18 months, and we have a very clear idea of where Burning Chair will be going in 2020 and beyond. So you’re going to see a lot more activity from us over the coming year.
What will that look like? More thrillers, some sci-fi/fantasy, a decent smattering of YA, a good helping of historical, to name but four genres…
Basically we will continue to be nimble and fast on our feet, with our one defining criteria being good stories written by great authors.
We will also continue to ride the cutting edge of indie promotion and advertising to get our books in front of the readers who will adore them. And that starts from finding the right books, through the editing and cover art, and all the way to the adverts, metadata and other good stuff which puts the finished books right in front of the readers who want – no, need – to read them.
2020 will see us growing our team across all of these areas, and so if you’re interested in working with us, then drop us a line – at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include an outline of which areas you’d like to work with us on, details of your relevant experience and why you think you’d fit in with us and what we do. Please note that we are looking at this stage for part time or contracted people only – not full time. And although we’re mainly based in the UK we don’t care where in the world you are, as long as you bring with you the right skill-set and that insanely awesome Burning Chair enthusiasm and ethos*!
That’s it for now. We’re genuinely excited about what 2020 will bring – and we hope you’ll enjoy the ride with us!
Pete and Simon
*You must be able to put up with Simon’s jokes and Pete’s love of grammar…
Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash