What led you to set up your own press?
Lots of negatives and one big positive really. Firstly, there are few independent small presses in the UK but conversely lots of great writing out there, so this was a starting point (although we do accept submissions from anybody worldwide). I was frustrated with the lack of outlets for good quality books from new writers and frustrated in general with the way mainstream publishing is going -- it just seems that the biggest just get bigger, whilst at the same time overwhelming all the small independents. I love literature and creativity in general, so I thought, why not just go for it!
What sets Flame Books apart from other small presses?
I think our ethical dimension makes us different. We are using the Internet to create a new relationship between author and reader: instead of the chain author-agent-publisher-distributor-shop floor etc, we are establishing author-Flame Books-reader. This helps us channel money from day-one into projects (not giving after we have sold a million books!), helping us support some great organisations.
We offer fair contracts and high royalties to authors and are committed to creating a fair application process. We will also seek to be 100% professional although we have few resources. For example, each cover of our books will be commissioned especially for the novel by a new artist. I am not saying that other small presses do not do these things, we just really want to make a point of it. We promise that the more books we sell, the lower the books will become for the customer, the higher the royalties will be for the author and the more we push into the projects side of the organization -- not into creating a plush office and a costly administrative machine!
Stylistically speaking, what sorts of manuscripts would Flame Books like to receive?
Original and exciting scripts with a distinctive literary quality. We give preference to those with a social and philosophical dimension, those that approach the broader issues yet still deal with human emotions at the individual level.
Do you think that being a "virtual company," operating exclusively on-line, will make it easier or more difficult for you to get the word out about the books you will publish?
Well, if we were looking to sell through shops only I think it would be very difficult to get noticed as the mainstream market is dominated by large groups with even larger advertising budgets -- we simply couldn't compete. Realistically and honestly, it would also be hard for us to match the discounts that larger publishers offer -- again we simply cannot afford to publish thousands of books in order to bring the price down.
But online it is very different. There are a lot of really fantastic sites out there, review sites, online writing forums etc. which are run by exactly the kind of people we want to work together with. They only have to write about what they are interested in, with no commitments to investors, and I do hope what we are doing is interesting to them! I have spoken to so many great people who genuinely want to help us and we are always willing to listen to any proposals about working together or helping out in anyway we can. We also hope to attract the attentions of the mainstream media; I have my fingers crossed!
Sites will also be able to sign up to an affiliate scheme. This means if a site has a link to us on they can earn a commission from any resulting sales.
How many books are you ideally looking to publish per year?
Our plan, for next year, is to publish 6 books, one every two months.
What do you have in mind in terms of the books' physical dimensions/aesthetics? What say will the author have in this?
The books will be a standard size but with an unconventional look. All three of our first titles have had artwork created especially by talented new artists, and they look very eye-catching! The authors haven't had a great deal of say apart from yes or no at this stage due to time constraints, but authors in the future will have more input.
How did you choose the projects that Flame Books will be supporting?
They were projects I had already heard about and respected highly, previous to the start of Flame Books. So I personally chose the first projects, but authors will also have greater say in the future. An example of this is The Living Rights project where Marisa (the editor of the book) chose Free the Children as the project to support.
On your website you say that you "hope to create your own projects in the future." What are you envisioning?
The main reason I set up the company in this way was two-fold: so that talented writers would have a platform for their work, but also, through the projects, anybody of any ability would be encouraged to express themselves creatively. So it is a commitment to all, not just a small elite. The projects I envision will be small local initiatives, such as writing, arts projects and small competitions, for particular groups of people. We will always look to work with already existing organizations as they have a greater knowledge of the issues involved, but we will look at running the creative side of the project.
What advice do you have for writers preparing to mail you a manuscript?
I would always recommend that all the guidelines are read carefully, as it saves everybody a lot of time! I am always discouraged by a non-personal letter of introduction, one that has been copy and pasted a hundred times over! I would also say, just take 2 minutes to read about us, our goals, our guidelines -- just to understand us first and that we are what they want.
A synopsis is always good but I always read the first chapters before even looking at this. So, with this in mind, a good opening is always recommended. I do not care too much about presentation, more about the content -- so general writing errors are more frowned upon than the layout.