The Future of Clarendon House
With the release of the fiftieth issue of the Inner Circle Writers' Magazine, this is perhaps a good moment to look back over the story of Clarendon House and see what we have achieved together in the last few years. 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 Inner Circle Writers' Group as a whole, even though that didn’t convert to cash. I decided to continue with the model regardless of commercial concerns.
In January 2018, I released some materials on marketing, 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 materials and that many writers were producing books easily enough but then didn’t have a clue what to do next. The materials were 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 have had any success in the field, isn’t really about numbers, though that may still seem counter-intuitive to you. (The marketing materials were incorporated in 2022 into the book Become a Professional Author, and the course that goes with that.)
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. The collection 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.
By the first week of March 2018, I already had enough submissions to put together Flashpoint: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group Flash Fiction Anthology 2018. Flashpoint 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 in 2017, 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.
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 2018: 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 the first in a series, Galaxy: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group Science Fiction Anthology 2018, which is still going strong. I’d managed by this point to release a book every week since the last week in February 2018, 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.
A book (or booklet) each week for seven weeks. The momentum continued after that, too.
During the same time period, the Inner Circle Writers’ Group on Facebook had 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 10,000 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 50% 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 over 100 books published since then, the next phase includes all kinds of wonderful things, incorporating a number of individual collections from award-winning authors, as you will soon see.
Anyway, here we are, 2023. 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, and I’d like to see me make it too. But you come first - that’s the only way anything works. Someone once said something very clever, along the lines of 'If you want to achieve your goals, help others achieve theirs', and I have always found that to be true. 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.