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The Future of Clarendon House

With the release of Storm: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group Fantasy Anthology 2018, the first phase of Clarendon House Publications programme for this year is concluded.

This is probably a good moment to look back over Phase One and see what we have achieved together in the last few months. And then to look ahead.

Towards the end of 2017, in the first week of December, Condor: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group Inaugural Anthology 2018 was launched, featuring eleven authors and a range of story lengths and genres. Condor was a ‘test run’ for this particular kind of anthology: I wanted to see how these things worked in practice, what the obstacles and lines of the thing might be, and to see for myself whether issuing a collection of short stories was beneficial to those concerned or had any income potential. Condor didn’t make its forecasted targets for income, but it did help me to iron out some production issues and it was satisfying to see the positive reception it got from its contributors and the group as a whole, even though that didn’t convert to cash. I decided to continue with the model regardless of commercial concerns.

Firstly, though, in January 2018, I released A Marketing Handbook for Writers, Part 1, based on my own experiences as a consultant, writer and publisher of my own books over a ten year period, including what I’d learned from studying marketing both theoretically and practically for about the same ten years. Various surveys I’d done within the group indicated that there was a great need for such a handbook and that many writers were producing books easily enough but then didn’t have a clue what to do next. The handbook is a guide to what real marketing is, as opposed to the ‘shouting from the rooftops’ model which I had engaged in myself in earlier years, to very little result. Real marketing, as you would know if you read the handbook, isn’t really about numbers, though that may still seem counter-intuitive to you even if you have read it.

I had announced a set of anthologies on the Condor model around this time and was busy taking in submissions for them. While this was going on, though, I was already talking with Steven Carr about putting together a collection of his short stories. It seemed to me that, with his prolific output and high profile, the next logical step in his career should be a collection of his stories so that anyone trying to follow him had a place to go. This was ready by the end of February and was released in that month’s last week to good sales. Since then, SAND has sold steadily and, perhaps more importantly, gained more and more five star reviews for Steven while enabling him to continue writing stories. It encouraged me to continue too, though again, it hasn’t (yet) made me or Steven a fortune.

By the first week of March, I already had enough submissions to put together Flashpoint: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group Flash Fiction Anthology 2018. Despite its initial formatting issues (which are still not totally resolved with Lulu and which were highly upsetting) Flashpoint has sold well since its launch. But this is probably a good point to let you know that when I say ‘sold well’, I don’t mean that I have made a lot of money out of it, or out of any of the publications so far: far from it.

The truth is that, like Condor last year, there has not been and is not a lot of money in this game - at least, it doesn’t pour in while books rocket to the top of best-selling lists, as I’m sure we have all wished for at one time or another in relation to our own books. Publishing, even with the big traditional publishing houses, is not a get-rich-quick scheme by any stretch of the imagination. The larger publishers make their money from a handful of successful stories which do strike the right note at the right time and go on to become best-sellers - but most of the publisher’s list of publications for any particular year make losses. For a tiny independent publisher like Clarendon House, the income from any publication is a trickle at best and never covers the costs of production.

Publishing, like marketing, is a slow game. So far, overall, there have been only losses.

I just wanted to reassure you, if you needed reassuring, that I am realistic about all of this and am not somehow raking in vast profits as a result of what I am doing. This is a long term, slow process. All of it is really about you, and will only actually work if it is about you. The idea of Clarendon House Publications is to give you windows of opportunity to be published, to be read by others, to have your work admired, and to add credibility and confidence to you and your work. I'd like to think I am achieving that to a degree.

The next publication off the ranks was in the second week of March: Gary Bonn’s anthology Through Another’s Eyes. I’d been discussing this with Gary and gathering in his work (there was rather a lot of it!) because I saw that he, like Steven Carr, had a following and an immense library of material which deserved to reach a wider audience. Through Another’s Eyes had good sales and a good reception too, keeping in mind what I’ve already said about ‘good sales’.

It was followed swiftly by another couple of pieces I’d been working on for a while, The G. P. Hudson Art Studio Collection Volume One, and my free booklet How to Draw the G. P. Hudson Way, and then, the following week, by Galaxy: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group Science Fiction Anthology 2018. If you hadn’t noticed, I’d managed by this point to release a book every week since the last week in February, and I kept this up again the following week with a free booklet, How to Blog Every day Possibly Forever, which was an accumulation of some blog articles I’d written. This was again was designed to fill a gap in the marketplace for those writers who were active in the ‘blogosphere’ as it’s called.

Then this week just gone I completed Phase One with Storm: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group Fantasy Anthology 2018.

A book (or booklet) each week for seven weeks.

During the same time period, the Inner Circle Writers’ Group on Facebook more than doubled in size. That doesn’t particularly affect you as far as what you see on the group page if you're a member, but it does mean more traffic for me, as I don’t just let anyone into the group (I do some rudimentary checks), nor do I post everything that is submitted (there are still a large number of attempts to post purely 'sales' type posts, which I don't approve for the most part). But what stands out about the group expansion is that, even though it has grown rapidly to above 2,000 members at this writing, it has also remained highly ‘active’: when I check the statistics for such things, I am always amazed and delighted that over 75% of the members are engaged in some way, either liking posts, commenting on threads, or actively participating in conversations. That’s a very high percentage for such a group, and it’s all healthy and bodes well for the future.

So what about the future?

Well, with eight publications so far this year and it being only the middle of April, I’ll have to see if I can keep up the pace. Phase Two includes Vortex: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group Literary Anthology 2018, Carrier Wave: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group Comedy Anthology 2018 and Window: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group Children’s Anthology 2018, plus some surprises in between, including some new anthologies, just announced.

Phase Three includes all kinds of wonderful things, incorporating a number of paid anthologies by the winning authors from all these other collections.

The route I'm offering to you which could lead you to writing as a professional career is, I think, pretty unique: winners of the best story in each of these unpaid anthologies get an offer of a paid anthology of their own. Why did I put that together? Two reasons: I felt that simply accepting your work and then making even a little bit of money from it without offering you anything other than exposure was unfair. Anthologies of short stories can't really pay royalties - there's just not enough money to divide up between all the authors. But there needed to be something, some opportunity for you to make a commercial gain somehow. And, looking over this entire game of writing and getting published, it seemed to me that getting paid for what you do as a writer would be a goal with which we could all identify. If I offered you a chance to score votes by writing a high quality tale of some kind, then the balance was to some extent redressed. Plus I don’t think any other publisher has such an offer.

Anyway, here we are, mid-April. It’s been tremendously hard work - exhausting in fact - but it’s been rewarding too. The main gain for me has been getting to know all of you and having the satisfaction of doing something significant for you by publishing your stories. I hope to be able to continue to do so.

You’ll need to keep buying the books, though. And/or getting others to do so.

In the meantime, in order to help fund all of this, I still offer a range of paid services to assist writers at different stages of their careers, from beta reading to editing and proofreading, all the way through to marketing consultancies and even a lifestyle consultancy to get you into the writer’s chair more.

I hope you’ll stick with me and this venture. I’d like to see you make it into Phase Three and beyond, and I’d like to see me make it too. But you come first - that’s the only way anything works. If we persevere, the opportunities will widen, the credibility and confidence will grow, and you may be able to shape a career as a professional writer. That's why I'm here.

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