1 What's your company called?
2 What do you publish?
We publish literary fiction, with a heavy emphasis on crime and thrillers, and half of it in translation. The nice thing about running your own company is that you can ultimately publish anything that resonates.
3 What's the story of the company?
Orenda Books started up in October 2014, so we are still the new kids on the block. I [Karen Sullivan] worked as managing editor at Arcadia Books, and when a rethink of the programme led to the list being scaled back, it seemed the right time to fulfil a lifelong dream and start up on my own. Since then, everything has come together as if by magic! The provenance of the name is a native Canadian word that loosely translates to ‘The mystical power that drives human accomplishment’, and it seems increasingly appropriate. Our first titles came out as ebooks in December and will be in print in March, with six titles per year in total.
4 How's business?
It’s early days, but everything is heading in the right direction, with plenty of trade interest and support, and authors booked into festivals and events. The amount of admin is staggering, and there are countless opportunities we have probably missed completely, but working with such brilliant authors is a joy and makes everything worthwhile.
5 What do you enjoy about being independent?
I enjoy being the ‘midwife’ for some wonderful books, making all of the decisions and being engaged every step of the way. Handing over a much-loved book to someone else to market or publicise is painful! I also enjoy being able to publish books that I absolutely love, and work closely with authors to build their careers and make the most of their books. I think there is a lot of support for indies in this industry, and our books tend to fill the gaps left by the conglomerates. It is deeply satisfying to do such a rewarding job—hard work and challenges are never as daunting when we ultimately realise the benefits.
6 What is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?
That’s a very good question, and it would be hard to narrow it down. I think discoverability is an issue, with so many books being published, fewer and fewer print reviews and big companies with massive marketing budgets, meaning that the little guys don’t always have the opportunity even to make people aware that their books are out there. I’m sad about the preponderance of celebrity-driven titles. I also think it’s difficult to get print runs right, without the big orders coming in from a variety of bookshops. Overall, however, I have a strong feeling that after a period of flux—in which the uneasy relationship between ebooks and other formats is stabilising, and a more flexible approach to publishing is being adopted by most companies—things are looking very positive.
7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?
Ask for and take advice. While it’s nice to be able to make our own decisions, there are bound to be holes in knowledge and other ways of doing things. Use every platform imaginable to increase that all-important discoverability! Look for a niche market and build a little community there. Small publishers can rarely compete with the big companies in the overall scheme of things, but knowing and catering to a market you know well can make all the difference.
8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?
I love being part of a community—getting invaluable support, advice, information etc—and the whole concept of sharing. Individually we may be small, but there is a collective might when joined together and the IPG harnesses that, giving us opportunities that might otherwise be impossible. The events are a magnificent chance to network, and I’ve built relationships and fabulous contacts, many of whom I speak to regularly for advice and even just to share ideas. I devour the newsletter and make use of everything that could be helpful. This type of resource is, quite simply, priceless!
Visit the Orenda Books website