It’s the last day of Orentober, the month has flown and both Kelly and I have enjoyed every single second of it. It’s not been completely hands on, with everyone’s lives up in the air! Today, I’m thrilled to welcome THE Karen Sullivan, Mama Orenda and the founder of Orenda Books. Not only do we, Team Orenda support her, her authors and their books but she is hugely supportive of readers and bloggers alike!
Publishing during a pandemic hasn’t be easy, here’s what Karen Sullivan has to say about Pandemic Publishing and Beyond!
It’s been quite a year (and nine months), and as anyone in this industry will tell you, none of us has even drawn breath. Pandemic publishing is hard. We have so few opportunities to meet readers, book community friends, booksellers and librarians; so few opportunities to engage in full-energy discussions without a screen between us. Everything has been driven online, and although we love the accessibility benefits of this, it somehow lacks the same personal feel … a conversation or an event taking off in unscripted directions because we can see and feel reactions, take the time to chat and listen. It feels, sometimes, like publishing into a void. Some 70 percent of sales are now online, too, which means we have had to up our game considerably on social media and in advertising and promoting, and that’s expensive. When we’re competing with big companies who have tens of thousands of pounds to throw behind an author or a book, publishers who have the resources to create the most noise, we are at an immediate disadvantage, and that’s beyond frustrating … and frightening.
We have an awesome team, who have worked eighty, ninety hours a week to keep things going, and I, personally, have been a victim of the Long Covid phenomenon, which has been cripping on many levels. This is all very challenging, and to put this into context, Brexit, supply-chain issues, higher discounting, rising costs of transport, paper, printing, advertising and everything else, mean that independents like Orenda Books will struggle unless there is a shift in buying habits, and understanding that small publishers – those who are prepared to publish books that are different, who will take risks, introduce new, fabulous voices, genre-defying reads that open eyes and horizons, take the reader on journeys they will not forget – will not survive without support.
It’s really important for readers to understand that the books with the biggest buzz, the ones with the ‘hype’, are almost exclusively books behind which a publisher has chosen to throw a lot of money. That doesn’t make a book better or special; it just means you’re seeing it everywhere, including in the shops and in the press, because a publisher has chosen to focus their efforts and a large percentage of their marketing budget on that title. Are we being ‘told’ what to read? Maybe.
How can small publishers compete? Well, on many levels we can’t. We can rely on savvy readers and booksellers, on the blogging community and press who are genuinely interested in seeking out and reviewing great-quality, truly unforgettable books … people who understand that readers do not have cookie-cutter tastes and interests. We can spend hours (and as much money as we can afford) on social media and advertising. We can win awards (and do) for our excellent books, and we can help to draw attention to our brilliant authors.
So far, so negative, right?
Well, not at all. First and foremost, when I choose a book for our list, I do so with a reader’s hat on … would I LOVE to read this book? Will it stay with me? Did I think differently or learn something or feel something special after reading it? Is it beautifully written (you know, the kind of book you want to deface by underlining phrases and whole passages) and did it keep my attention from beginning to end? Was I transported to the author’s world or country? If those boxes are ticked, we’re off to a great start. I want to publish books that are truly unforgettable, and to know that anyone who picks up one of our books will know that they are getting something special. We don’t jump onto trends, we don’t do copycat, but we do ensure quality and originality and, most importantly, readability. I am SO proud to publish the books we do, and we stick with our authors because they are all genuinely awesome … every single book better than the last.
We have been incredibly lucky to have the support of our amazingly engaged #TeamOrenda readers and bloggers and reviewers and booksellers, who are unafraid to read/review/stock/recommend books that aren’t hyped by big budgets, but selected, curated, edited, marketed and published with passion and love … books that become hits because they are recommended by the people in this industry that matter the most: readers. Books that sell because they are honestly fantastic, written by authors with undeniable originality and talent.
We are honoured to have carved a little niche in this welcoming, wonderful community, and we are determined to stay here … to hang on, despite the considerable challenges and competition. We are so grateful for everyone who has supported us and stood behind and beside us, allowing us to do what we do so well. I guess the ‘use it or lose it’ idiom applies to everyone at the smaller end of this spectrum these days, and as we all find our way through this pandemic, use every ounce of creativity we have to create, market and sell our books, to discover new ways to engage with readers, and ensure that we continue to publish to the highest standards, we rely more than ever on the support of anyone who has ever read an Orenda book, met an Orenda author, feels compelled to encourage the diversity of our publishing landscape or, really, just wants to read a book that does something special. That’s all of you. And we can’t thank you enough.
Nobody knows what the future holds in terms of viruses and economic disruption, but what we can do is continue to do what we do best, and just hope that you’re all along for the ride, and ready to pick up that next book, turn the next page, and, of course, enjoy being part of #TeamOrenda!
Such a lovely post to end Orentober isn’t it? I, as a reader am looking forward to what Orenda Books and their authors have up their book sleeves for the future. All I know is that I had better get some more shelving up and running! Here’s a look at what books I have recently added to my Orenda shelves:
First up, The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen, which was published in hardback on the 28th of October this year!
You can buy a signed, first edition from Goldsboro books HERE!
Just one spreadsheet away from chaos…
What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal.
And then, for the first time, Henri is faced with the incalculable. After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother – its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from criminal quarters … and some dangerous men are very keen to get their money back.
But what Henri really can’t compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, an artist with a chequered past, and a joie de vivre and erratic lifestyle that bewilders him. As the criminals go to extreme lengths to collect their debts and as Henri’s relationship with Laura deepens, he finds himself faced with situations and emotions that simply cannot be pinned down on his spreadsheets…
Warmly funny, rich with quirky characters and absurd situations, The Rabbit Factor is a triumph of a dark thriller, its tension matched only by its ability to make us rejoice in the beauty and random nature of life.
Next up…… Cold As Hell by Lilja Sigurdardottir, published in paperback on the 28th of October 2021.
Icelandic sisters Áróra and Ísafold live in different countries and aren‘t on speaking terms, but when their mother loses
contact with Ísafold, Áróra reluctantly returns to Iceland to find her sister. But she soon realizes that her sister isn’t avoiding her … she has disappeared, without trace.
As she confronts Ísafold’s abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend Björn, and begins to probe her sister’s reclusive neighbours – who have their own reasons for staying out of sight – Áróra is led into an ever-darker web of intrigue and manipulation.
Baffled by the conflicting details of her sister’s life, and blinded by the shiveringly bright midnight sun of the Icelandic summer, Áróra enlists the help of police officer Daníel, as she tries to track her sister’s movements, and begins to tail Björn – but she isn’t the only one watching…
Slick, tense, atmospheric and superbly plotted, Cold as Hell marks the start of a riveting, addictive new series from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers.
Then we have Fall by West Camel publishing in paperback on the 9th of October 2021.
You can find it here!
Twins Aaron and Clive have been estranged for forty years. Aaron still lives in the empty, crumbling tower block on the riverside in Deptford where they grew up. Clive is a successful property developer, determined to turn the tower into luxury flats.
But Aaron is blocking the plan and their petty squabble becomes something much greater when two ghosts from the past – twins Annette and Christine – appear in the tower. At once, the desolate estate becomes a stage on which the events of one scorching summer are relived – a summer that shattered their lives, and changed everything forever…
Grim, evocative and exquisitely rendered, Fall is a story of friendship and family – of perception, fear and prejudice, the events that punctuate our journeys into adulthood, and the indelible scars they leave – a triumph of a novel that will affect you long after the final page has been turned.
The Quiet People by Paul Cleave is one of the newer books on the Orenda Books shelf, which is publishing in
paperback on the 25th of November. You can find it here.
Cameron and Lisa Murdoch are successful New Zealand crime writers, happily married and topping bestseller lists worldwide. They have been on the promotional circuit for years, joking that no one knows how to get away with crime like they do. After all, they write about it for a living.
So when their challenging seven-year-old son Zach disappears, the police and the public naturally wonder if they have finally decided to prove what they have been saying all this time…
Are they trying to show how they can commit the perfect crime?
Electrifying, taut and immaculately plotted, The Quiet People is a chilling, tantalisingly twisted thriller that will keep you gripped and guessing to the last explosive page.
My last book recommendations for today, I have loads but who wants to be here all day??
Psychopaths Anonymous by Will Carver is due to be published by Orenda Books on the 25th of November, the fourth book in the Detective Pace series – although can absolutely be read independently of the first three.
You can pre-order here.
Maeve has everything. A high-powered job, a beautiful home, a string of uncomplicated one-night encounters. She’s also an addict: A functioning alcoholic with a dependence on sex and an insatiable appetite for killing men.
When she can’t find a support group to share her obsession, she creates her own. And Psychopaths Anonymous is born. Friends of Maeve.
Now in a serious relationship, Maeve wants to keep the group a secret. But not everyone in the group adheres to the rules, and when a reckless member raises suspicions with the police, Maeve’s drinking spirals out of control.
She needs to stop killing. She needs to close the group.
But Maeve can’t seem to quit the things that are bad for her, including her new man…
A scathing, violent and darkly funny book about love, connection, obsessions and sex – and the aspects of human nature we’d prefer to hide – Psychopaths Anonymous is also an electrifyingly original, unpredictable thriller that challenges virtually everything.