The publishing industry has undergone many changes over the last few years, many of which can be attributed to the disruptions brought about by digital technologies. Alongside the rise of self-/ indie- publishing we are also seeing new types of publisher emerge, publishers who are turning traditional models and methods on their head and finding new ways of doing things. In our ‘New Publisher’ series we interview some of them about their approaches and what they hope to achieve by doing things differently.
We speak Lucy Chamberlain of Legend Press
1. Can you tell us a little about Legend Press and how your work differs from more traditional publishing models?
Legend Press was founded in 2005 by entrepreneur Tom Chalmers aged just 25. We are a traditional publisher, focused primarily on publishing mainstream literary and commercial fiction. We also run a newly re-launched non-fiction publisher Paperbooks and successful business book imprint Legend Business.
I think what sets us apart from other traditional publishers is the passion and drive we have to work differently and rebel against the sometimes stuffy nature of the book publishing industry.
We are a young, dynamic and committed team, who are passionate about creating fantastic and individual books that really stand out in the market. Our boss Tom has been shortlisted for UK Young Entrepreneur of the Year, UK Young Publishing Entrepreneur of the Year, UK Young Publisher of the Year and for the Enterprising Young Brit Awards. Myself and our Commissioning Editor Lauren Parsons have been working at the company since 2008 and it is the shared commitment to the company brand that really drives the company. We believe in our books and hopefully our passion is infectious!
2. What does Legend Press offer writers and readers that other traditional publishers don’t?
We are passionate about championing new and high-profile authors and ensuring that the book remains a product of beauty, enjoyment and fulfilment. Our list is varied, from strong commercial crime writers to literary authors who take risks and push boundaries.
We work very closely with our authors throughout the publishing process: through editing, design, publicity, events and sales. We publish a select list of novels each year, so unlike larger publishers every book really counts. We really get behind every novel we publish and approach each book individually according to their readership, to ensure maximum exposure and longevity. We are keen to develop the career of our authors and provide great author care to help our writers develop and evolve with each book.
3. Publishers have traditionally acted as cultural mediators. Self-publishing has challenged that role. What do you think is the main purpose of publishers now? And do you think that there is still a need for cultural mediators?
As a traditional publisher we may be biased, but I truly believe that publishers offer invaluable skills that many self-published authors do not recognise: from one-on-one editorial advice and direction, access to global sales channels, the knowledge to sell the book’s rights internationally and from my perspective, as a publicist, the ability to pitch the book and the author to national and global media. That being said, I think there is a lot traditional publishers can also learn from self-published authors, and sadly more traditional publishing houses are often too stubborn and self-congratulatory to recognise this. There are many talented self-published authors out there and that is why we have run projects in the past, including our recent competition with the Guardian to find the ‘Best Self-Published Novel of the Month’.
4. What do you see as the main opportunities and challenges for writers today?
I think many traditionally published authors can learn a great deal from the big-hitters in the self-publishing market. No longer can authors be reclusive and unwilling to interact with their readers, it is important for authors to be working closely with their publicist to maximise potential, not wait for literary editors to sing their praises from the get-go. There is so much potential to be gained from social media platforms including Twitter, blogging and Facebook, where authors can speak directly to their audience.
On the other hand online activity also presents major challenges for writers: in seems obvious to say but authors must actually remember to write, and juggling the time between the two can often be difficult. Readers will not wait forever for the second and third novels and this is what many authors need to be aware of.
5. What advice would you offer to writers weighing up their publishing options?
Research, research, research – if you would like to get your work traditionally published make sure you find a publisher that will be a great home for yourself and your book. We still accept unsolicited submissions and we often get approached by authors who submit with a scattergun approach, not knowing anything about what we publish or how we work. Ultimately you need to be happy where your book is placed, and you can only be happy if you research.
6. What’s next for your company? Are there any exciting developments that you can share with us?
We have an exciting and varied publishing list for 2015 and we are looking forward to sharing the books with our readers. Key highlights of the year include the return of our best-selling crime writer Ruth Dugdall. After a two year hiatus we are thrilled to be publishing two stunning new novels Humber Boy B and Nowhere Girl. In terms of our overall business we have lots of exciting new projects in the pipeline including: Books & Beans – a new initiative to work closely with businesses in our local area of Shoreditch. We are currently broadening our export channels to Central and Southern Europe, USA, Canada and India, and working with subscription companies on the digital side of the business. Last year we ran an project with Virgin Trains with an on-board giveaway of books, and we have lots more secret projects like this in the pipeline, so watch this space!
Other interviews in our ‘New Publisher Series’: