The launch titles are: All The Young Warriors by Anthony Neil Smith, Dead Money by Ray Banks, Phase Four by Gary Carson, The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson by Douglas Lindsay, and The Man in the Seventh Row by Brian Pendreigh.
Guthrie brings his own ebook success to bear on the project. His self-published digital edition of the novella Bye Bye Baby outsold his entire print backlist in four months.
Alongside digital downloads, Blasted Heath is launching with the Blasted Boxset, a physical product for the gift market that offers readers the five launch novels on a branded USB stick in a presentation pack. All Blasted Heath ebooks are supplied in three file formats to ensure compatibility with all current ebook readers: PRC (for the Kindle), EPUB (for virtually all other ebook readers, including the Nook, Kobo, Sony etc), and PDF (compatible with virtually all smartphones and computers).
Check back closer to Nov. 1 for news about a special offer for GRIFT readers.
Guthrie answered a few questions about the new company:
GRIFT: How did you and Kyle connect, and what is it that each brings to the partnership that made this pairing the right way to go? Were you each independently thinking about something like this?
AG: It was the last thing on my mind, to be honest. It’s a fact that you have to be mad to be a publisher (yes it is) and I was under the illusion that I was perfectly sane until Kyle taught me otherwise. As to how we met: via Twitter to begin with. I think I said something nice about a book trailer Kyle had made, and we started chatting and realised fairly quickly that we shared similar ideas about authors and marketing and where the publishing industry was heading. Kyle had some great ideas about how authors could promote their work, and since I’m forever regurgitating that old chestnut about an author’s biggest problem being obscurity, I was keen to hear what he had to say. I listened, and realised that with his help, I would sell a hell of a lot more books than on my own.
If that was true of me, then it was also true of other authors. Not all authors, of course; some are natural marketers. But it’s certainly the hope that it’ll be true of our Blasted Heath authors. Our skillsets are quite different but definitely complementary when it comes to publishing. Kyle’s a social media and marketing expert. My area of expertise is in editorial.
To what do you attribute the success of Bye Bye Baby? How will you bring that to bear with Blasted Heath?
I got lucky with Bye Bye Baby, no question. It’s a book in a popular sub-genre that came out at a time when one in seven adults in the UK received a Kindle for Christmas. And there wasn’t so much competition back then either. I flogged the arse off that wee book, mind you, and I’m sure that helped a bit. It’s a lot harder to get that kind of traction now. It sold so well partly because it’s an impulse purchase, I’m sure. I know thousands of other low-priced titles don’t do that well, but the trick is to get some momentum going and a lot of writers give up before that happens. It takes time and patience. Selling ebooks is not like selling physical books where it’s normal to see a huge explosion of sales in the first couple of weeks followed by a rapid slowdown tapering away to a couple of sales per month after three or four months. Ebook sales tend to grow as more people discover you. Sure, there’s a peak you’ll hit at some point and sales will slow down after that. But the shelf-life of an ebook is potentially a very long time indeed. You can even have more than one peak.
Pricing’s also important. My approach with Bye Bye Baby was very much based on the idea that I wanted to prioritise finding new readers and make it as easy as I could for them to buy my books. At Blasted Heath we’ve kept the prices of the books nice and low, and you’ll find we’ll be doing lots of giveaways too. Sign up for our newsletter right now and thanks to our author, Douglas Lindsay, you’ll get an excellent free novella (The End of Days) when we launch. But price promotions aside, we’re always going to be looking for new and exciting ways to reach more readers. That means innovating where we can. The first of those innovations is The Blasted Boxset – our five launch books on a branded USB stick inside a handsome presentation tin along with a fold-out pamphlet about the books; a perfect gift for someone who enjoys ebooks.
You’ve said this won’t be exclusively crime fiction, and your first titles bear this out. What are you looking for in a Blasted Heath title?
If we can assume that the writing’s excellent, there’s a strong voice and the book’s well plotted, then it probably boils down to this: I’m looking for books about interesting people doing interesting things in an interesting environment.
Despite the rapid growth in ebooks, people still love print books. Seeing no mention of print in your materials I wonder what place you see for print in the future, not just for Blasted Heath, but in general.
For Blasted Heath, that’s easy: there’s no place for print. The print rights for our books are the property of the authors to do with as they please. We’re digital only. That does not mean there’s no place for bookstores, incidentally. We very much see our Blasted Boxset as a superb way to sell ebooks in bookstores and we’ll be looking to explore that area further. But book sales are no longer restricted to bookstores, either in the high street or online. The beauty of digital over print is immediacy: you can download an ebook to your ereader or smartphone in seconds, any time, anywhere. So we’re looking at all manner of ways of making ebooks available and accessible to people, sometimes even when they least expect it.
In terms of predicting the future for the rest of the world (thanks for asking such an easy question!): in 10-15 years, I expect that ebooks will have the same relationship to hardcovers that hardcovers currently have to paperbacks. It may well be that traditional publishers will launch new authors in ebook format and only the successful ones will get a subsequent print edition – which will very likely be a high-end product, a proper fetish object, maybe even a limited edition. A lot of people will think that’s ass-backwards, that ebooks should follow print publication. But it makes sense to me that ebooks will be used to trial the market for new titles. Keeps the costs down and minimises risk, and if the ebook is successful, there’s a solid springboard from which to launch the print edition. But predicting the future of digital publishing is well-nigh impossible. As FutureBook reported recently from the Frankfurt Book Festival: “Everything will change as soon as you leave this room.”