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Guest Post by Karen Sullivan

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Last year Karen Sullivan decided to start her own publishing company, a very brave thing to do.  You can read the guest post which Karen wrote for my blog at the beginning of her new venture:-

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/orenda-books/

This lady is truly amazing and in the past year has come such a long way.  I thought it would be nice if Karen could write another post about what she has achieved and what is in store for the next year.  Prepare to be amazed.

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Orenda Books … one year on

Karen Sullivan, Publisher

Just about a year ago, I wrote my first blog post for Sonya Alford, explaining the reasons why I’d decided to start my own independent publishing company, and outlining my expectations (dreams, really) for the future. It has been an exceptional year, full of drama and excitement, and every one of my authors has provided magical moments and experienced wonderful successes!

From Paul Hardisty appearing on the shortlist for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger, and amassing over 150 five-star reviews online for The Abrupt Physics of Dying to Louise Beech bringing readers to tears and already appearing on countless ‘Books of the Year’ lists, just a couple of months after publication, my wonderful debut authors have created waves in a market that is flooded with books and great writing.

Another marvellous debut, David F. Ross achieved critical heaven with The Last Days of Disco, being hailed as the finest new Scottish voice, and compared to Irvine Welsh and John Niven (his heroes, and mine). And then there was the phenomenon that is Snowblind. Ragnar Jonasson’s debut crime thriller, set in the northernmost town of Iceland and lovingly translated by Quentin Bates, has been an international bestseller, prompting three reprints and an ongoing and welcome stream of excellent reviews! With the sequel, Nightblind, just out, it looks like the Dark Iceland series will continue to top the charts and wow readers with its wonderful amalgamation of the classic British mystery and some stunning Iceland noir!

It has been an honour to publish Gunnar Staalesen’s We Shall Inherit the Wind, translated by the inimitable Don Bartlett, and to see the wealth of serious and glowing review coverage it has received. Staalesen’s fame outside of the English language looks set to be repeated here, and at the beginning of at least three Varg Veum thrillers published by Orenda, and with a TV series in the making, this is astoundingly good news!

The incredible Kati Hiekkapelto has established herself as one of the foremost proponents of Nordic Noir, and The Defenceless, translated by David Hackston not only won Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2014, but it’s up for the Glass Key (previous winners include Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo, among others) next year, with the third of the Anna Fekete series to follow in Autumn 2016.

Each of these authors has books to look forward to next year. Claymore Straker returns in The Evolution of Fear, which finds Hardisty at his most thrilling best. The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas carries on David Ross’s heartwarming, hilarious Disco Days series, and Where Roses Never Die is, by all accounts, Staalesen’s finest EVER book. We’ve got more Ragnar Jonasson and Kati Hiekkapelto, and Louise Beech’s beautiful The Mountain in My Shoe will undoubtedly secure her place in the bestseller lists.

And there is more! Amanda Jennings’ exquisite In Her Wake has been tipped as Book of the Year already (!), and we’ve got two wonderful Detective Kubu thrillers by the South African crime-writing duo Michael Stanley: Deadly Harvest and A Death in the Family, both of which have received critical acclaim in the USA and South Africa. Ex-Met Police officer Matt Johnson brings us the nail-biting Wicked Game, and debut novelist Michael Grothaus’s Epiphany Jones will raise eyebrows, shock, entertain and move in one of the most staggering books I’ve read in some time. An important book, a timely, intelligent thriller, Jihadi: A Love Story is published in February, and Yusuf Toropov’s debut has already been called ‘Searing’ by Publishers Weekly. Watch that space! We’ve got Norwegian bestselling author Agnes Ravatn with her melancholic, dizzyingly wonderful The Bird Tribunal, translated by Rosie Hedger, and Michael J. Malone’s timely and page-turning thriller A Suitable Lie. It’s lucky 13 for Orenda next year, with even more great authors lined up for 2017, including Norwegian supremo Thomas Enger, a beautiful retelling of the Selkie legend by Su Bristow and a few more stunners that have yet to be announced.

So what has this year been like? It’s been full of joy! We are building authors at Orenda, and every little success en route has been the most satisfying and rewarding experience ever! Seeing the pure pleasure on an author’s face when he/she holds a first or a new book in their hands is just magical. Talk about mystical energy …

It’s also been nailbiting! I’ve had to learn how to promote books with zero experience, present to sales teams around the world, pitch to festival directors and the press, run a busy website, juggle cash flow, work closely with authors to make sure their books are absolutely perfect, and arrange author tours and events!

There is at present only one member of staff at Orenda, but none of this could have been possible without the help of West Camel – my second reader and editorial support team in one! – Liz Wilkins, who has worked tirelessly to create some of the most amazing blog tours ever, my husband Max, who is usually to be found buried under a pile of invoices and contracts, Mark Swan and James Nunn, who have created simply brilliant jackets, and the most exceptional group of supportive bloggers and reviewers in the entire world! We’ve also had so much help and support from non-Orenda authors, without which most of this would have been impossible. Most importantly, though, I have to thank my absolutely amazing authors. Not once has anyone ever complained about working round the clock to meet crazy deadlines, or write another guest blog, answer a Q&A, attend another event or festival, or make yet another series of changes to their books. This year of highlights has been constructed by pure enthusiasm and determination on the part of everyone associated with Orenda Books, and we take off our hats to you all!

Many, many people warned me that starting an independent publishing company would be a mistake, and a risk not worth taking. While we are only at the initial stages of what I hope will be a long and successful journey, and despite the fact that there are many hurdles ahead, with more to emerge, I wouldn’t change my decision for anything. It’s been magic! Indescribably elating. Blooming exhausting. But, more than anything, one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. To remind you, the word Orenda can be loosely translated as ‘The mystical power that drives human accomplishment’. There’s just got to be something in that …

Guest Post – Karen Sullivan about Orenda Books

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Karen Sullivan recently left Arcadia Books and took the very big step of starting her own publishing business.  Karen has written a guest post for my blog in which she explains what led her to make this decision and what she has already achieved.

 

That mystical energy …

Karen Sullivan – Publisher and founder of Orenda Books

Sometimes the best decisions are made on the hoof, without really contemplating the logistics or the practicalities. And sometimes things fall into place so perfectly, you know that a decision was right – something that was simply meant to happen.

Eight weeks ago, I got news that Arcadia Books, where I worked as Managing Editor, would be postponing the vast majority of the 2015 publishing programme in a restructuring programme. My job would no longer exist in its original incarnation, and I would no longer be doing what I love – acting as a midwife for wonderful authors, producing fabulous, beautiful books. Within the space of 24 hours, I made a decision to go it on my own – start a little independent publishing company, which would allow me to do what I like doing best, and help to bring some extraordinary books to the marketplace.

I’ve always had a passion for translated literature, so I instantly decided that half of my six titles per year would be in translation. I’d just spent a fabulous few days at Bloody Scotland festival, where my enthusiasm for crime and thrillers hit an all-time high, so that seemed the right genre on which to focus. But I also knew that I’d love the opportunity to publish books outside these genres – fiction that resonated with me, and deserved to be recognised.

Then came the issue of funding, but my extremely supportive ex-FD husband managed to secure enough to support the publishing programme for the first year or so. Domestic and international print and ebook sales and distribution were soon negotiated, and then it was time to get some ‘talent’ on board.

When I was at Arcadia, I’d stumbled across David F. Ross’s self-published The Last Days of Disco – a brilliantly authentic, funny and moving story set in 1980s Ayrshire. Contracts hadn’t been signed, and I was fortunate enough that David was keen to join my new venture. That book has been edited, partially rewritten, polished to perfection, typeset and proofread, and is now ‘queuing’ to go live on ebook on 15 December, with the print version following early in the New Year. The amazing jacket has had Twitter ablaze with comments, and some very special people provided glowing quotes! David is a tremendous writer, and I feel honoured to grab him at the beginning of what is bound to be a long and successful career.

Next up was Ragnar Jonasson, an Icelandic crime writer who I’d met at CrimeFest last May. I watched with surprise as dozens of avid fans lined up to buy his book after a successful panel – a book that didn’t actually exist! This scenario was repeated at Bloody Scotland, and I thought to myself: Someone is missing a trick! Crime author Quentin Bates had produced a sample translation for each of the five books in the Dark Iceland series, and having worked with Quentin before, he was an obvious choice to translate the lot. I marched down to DHH Literary Agency, where I had to persuade David Headley that this talented author would be in safe hands in a brand-new venture. Fortunately, he agreed, a deal was done for two titles – Snowblind and Nightblind – and I had my second, marvellous author on the team! The first title is currently being translated, and we’ll be launching at CrimeFest in May, with books available for Newcastle Noir. Watch this space! The crime community definitely swung into action when the news broke, and this is one series that is bound to soar!

On the same day, a second pitch was made to the lovely Broo Doherty, of the same agency. When I was at Arcadia, my colleague Gary Pulsifer had raved about Paul E. Hardisty’s Yemen-set eco-thriller The Abrupt Physics of Dying. I’d read enough of it to know that it would not only fit perfectly on my list, but give me a chance to ‘grow’ an incredibly talented debut author. The deal was sealed, and to my complete astonishment, its announcement brought interest from literary scouts, agents and film-makers both here, in the US and in Europe. Not just for this title, but my others as well. While I was completely confident about this signing, nothing prepared me for the utter brilliance of this author – who had produced an exquisitely written, fast-paced page-turner with a perfectly rendered setting and a protagonist who was crying out for a series. Was there a sequel? I asked Broo. There was indeed, and I purchased it – The Evolution of Fear – sight unseen. Already ebooked and about to go live on 15 December, with a print publication date in early March, The Abrupt Physics of Dying is receiving loads of early rave reviews, and the Canadian/Australian author will be flying over for publication day.

Next up was one of my all-time favourite Norwegian writers, Gunnar Staalesen, ‘the Norwegian Chandler’. He’s sold millions of books around the world and the time was clearly ripe to place him firmly on the crime-writing map in English. Only four of his 20-something Varg Veum titles have been published in English (at Arcadia), and rumour had it that his latest three, We Shall Inherit the Wind, Where Roses Never Die and No One Is So Safe in Danger, were the best yet. To my delight, Gunnar and his agent Henrik Francke at Gyldendal Agency in Norway were keen to be involved, and a three-book deal for World English rights was negotiated. Just as exciting was the fact that Don Bartlett, who has translated some of the finest Norwegian literature around, including Nesbo, Knausgaard and Pettersen, was keen to be involved, and he’s been signed up to translate all three! We Shall Inherit the Wind will be published officially in June 2015, but launched at CrimeFest alongside Ragnar Jonasson’s gorgeous Nightblind!

One of my favourite books at Arcadia, was Finnish debut author Kati Hiekkapelto’s The Hummingbird, translated by David Hackston. Not only is Kati herself the most extraordinary woman (a performance artist and punk singer, as well as an immensely talented writer), but the sequel, The Defenceless, was also up for grabs and I did not even think twice about purchasing the rights from Otava Agency in Finland. The same translator is available, and he’ll start working on this gritty, gorgeously written novel, which sees the return of police detective Anna Fekete and her partner Esko, on the trail of another murderer in a Northern Finnish town. Published in September, we’ll hopefully launch her at a rather wonderful Scottish crime festival!

Since then, submissions have been flying in and I can hardly keep up with the reading – a wealth of undiscovered talent certainly exists, and the most difficult thing is going to be sticking to a six-title limit!

In May, every one of my authors will be attending CrimeFest (including David F. Ross, who will be my honorary guest), where Orenda Books will be officially launched. It’s unlikely that I’ll get authors from Iceland, Finland, Norway, Scotland and Australia in one place at the same time, so it’s an obvious moment to celebrate a venture that has filled me with more excitement and enthusiasm than I can ever remember. I hope you can all join us!

Ragnar and Kati will also appear at Newcastle Noir earlier in May, and we’ve had a clutch of invites for the Edinburgh Book Festival too, with Bloody Scotland still to come.

Things have come together in such a way that it feels as though it was meant to happen. That’s not too say that it’s all been easy. The admin is threatening to drown me, and there are many, many fiddly, ongoing negotiations to be undertaken, problems to be ironed out. I’ve got some great editors helping out, some interns supporting the marketing and PR plans, some seasoned experts giving lots of advice and helping to fill the (sometimes seemingly vast) holes in my experience and knowledge. But every moment of it has been gratifying and positive. That split-second decision was undoubtedly the right one. And it has all come together in eight short weeks.

As for the name – this was an obvious choice. Not only is Canadian author Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda one of my all-time favourite novels, but the word itself – which loosely translates as ‘the mystical power that drives human accomplishment’ – is a nod to my Canadian heritage and a First Nations word whose provenance is a tribe that settled in a part of Ontario where I’ve spent every summer of my life. It often seems that there is a ‘mystical power’ afoot here, and an almost surreal energy pulling together events in such an extraordinary way. I’m humbled and thrilled by the support we’ve received, and in just over a week, you’ll see what we’re doing and why!

Our website www.orendabooks.co.uk will be launched just before Christmas, with a beautiful short story from every Orenda author. That’s our treat for you, and it comes with a big thank-you to everyone who has helped to get Orenda Books on the right path.

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