So much has been said recently about how the publishing industry, faced with a double-dip recession, closing bookshops and competition from ebooks, is struggling. Edge member Savita Kalhan was recently impacted when her publisher closed down not long after she had signed a contract with them.
Yet, despite what at first glance appears to be an inhospitable environment, in the latter half of this year not one, but two imprints are launching. Hot Key Books is Bonnier's children's publisher and their first books are in shops today. Strange Chemistry is a global imprint dedicated to the best in modern young adult science fiction, fantasy and everything in between, they are related to Angry Robot and will be launching their first titles on the 4th September.
Knowing that two publishing houses are launching imprints into the choppy seas we all face right now, is, frankly, inspiring, especially as the confidence they are showing is in the genre and age group focused on by the Edge. We were really excited then, to have Amanda Rutter, the Strange Chemistry editor, do a guest post for the Edge on the subject of setting up a new imprint.
Over to you, Amanda ...
The process of setting up Strange Chemistry was a mix of old and new, of experienced and naïve. I say this because I (that would be Amanda Rutter, editor of Strange Chemistry) was completely brand new to publishing, having been a qualified accountant for the last ten years, while Marc Gascoigne (my publishing director and head honcho of Angry Robot Books, the SF/F adult imprint) has years and years of publishing experience. I think it’s a mix that has worked pretty much perfectly, despite some circumstances where I found myself whinging ‘Why can’t I do it like that?’ and ALWAYS complaining about the length of time that anything took in publishing!
One of those things that took a LOOOONG time was the naming of Strange Chemistry. I found out that I had the job in early October, but we didn’t hit on the best possible name for the imprint until just before I was announced in November 2011. I wrote a whole blog post about how we came about the name and some of the ones discarded: http://strangechemistrybooks.com/2011/11/21/whats-in-a-name/ I never dreamt how important it could be to find the right name – and how deathly difficult it would be!
According to Marc, the principal parts of setting up an imprint are the importance of the name and deciding on the way in which you want to brand your novels. For Strange Chemistry, the branding is to create timeless stories, to twist old and new into something very special. This is captured by the tagline of the imprint: “Experimenting with your Imagination.” YA is known for being fairly trend-driven, with both paranormal and dystopian enjoying great success. With Strange Chemistry I’ve been deliberately pursuing novels that don’t follow trends particularly, and I’m hoping that the buying public support these fresh and unique choices!
In terms of the practical part of setting up Strange Chemistry, the first few weeks involved a LOT of emails and phone calls. I had to field queries from agents about what kind of manuscripts I was looking for; I made contact with prominent bloggers to see whether they wanted to be part of the new Strange Chemistry mailing list; I talked an immense amount about books. And I loved EVERY minute!
We also had to sort out a logo that would fit both onto websites and onto the book covers, and we had to establish a website/online presence. When it came to this I decided early on that I would like to embrace as many facets of YA as possible, rather than just focusing on selling the Strange Chemistry books. I wanted to create a dialogue and a community who enjoyed being involved and seeing this imprint being built from the ground up. As such, the website has featured blog posts that highlight YA people should be picking up as a matter of interest (http://strangechemistrybooks.com/category/you-should-be-reading/) and also posts from YA bloggers about why we should be reading particular series (http://strangechemistrybooks.com/2012/07/19/introducing-the-iron-fey-series/) We’ve also tried to generate an active Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Pinterest presence – we know just how important it is to be in touch with the readers. With so many books available to buy every month, if readers don’t even know about our books, then we’re not doing the job right!
I think what has been the very strangest part of launching Strange Chemistry (and probably any imprint!) is that we are still a month away from our first books being released. It’s been eight months of hard work – finding new authors and contracting with their agents; editing the novels that are coming out this year; art briefing the covers and making sure they are introduced to the wider world in an effective manner; talking to reviewers and securing possible reviews – and yet we haven’t seen any of the books out in the wild yet! Not long now, though, and I know everyone involved in Strange Chemistry is keeping their fingers crossed that we’ll make a splash.
With thanks to Amanda - I am confident that Strange Chemistry will make a splash - all the titles are already on my reading list (in fact I've already read two of them, sneaky I know) and on a personal note, the website is excellent, I think Strange Chemistry have really hit on the atmosphere of the YA industry - mutually supportive, educational and interesting.
If you would like to follow Strange Chemistry their Twitter is @strangechem
And their Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/strangechemistry