Friday, 20 January 2012

fiction studio books

Fiction Studio Books celebrates its first anniversary today. As part of the festivities, we’re offering the e-book version of Jeremy Burns’s new novel From the Ashes free, and our entire 2011 e-book catalog for either $.99 or $1.99 at several online booksellers. Just click on the links on any of our book pages to seek out the deal at the bookseller of your choice.

A year ago, I published my novel Blue under my newly created imprint. To tell you the truth, the only thing I had in mind when I created this imprint was providing a home for Blue. Having spent my entire adult life in book publishing, I had a clear idea of how I wanted to publish that novel, so I didn't feel the need to approach anyone else about doing it for me. All I needed was an infrastructure, something my friends at National Book Network were willing to provide. I decided to call the imprint Fiction Studio Books because I'd been running a company called The Fiction Studio for ten years.

That was really as far as my initial thoughts went. That phase lasted about four hours. Then my imagination caught up. I knew plenty of very good writers who felt either disenfranchised by or disenchanted over traditional book publishing. What if I opened Fiction Studio Books up to them as well? What if I let a trusted handful of colleagues know that I was open to writers they knew who might feel the same way? What if, instead of a vertically structured publishing house, I instead set this thing up as a horizontally structured writers collective?

Fiction Studio Books began to take form at that point. I would be its curator. I had to love every book on the list, but that certainly left a great deal of room, because I have ridiculously broad tastes. I would also be its publisher, lending my thirty-plus years of study about the book publishing world to the process. And the other authors on the list would be my collaborators. We were at a true inflection point in the industry, and it made far more sense to have many keen minds working through this stage than just mine (especially since mine was often so far from keen).

In 2011, Fiction Studio Books published fourteen titles, and I think we have much to celebrate as we come upon our first anniversary. We can celebrate our commercial success: three of those books were national bestsellers and a fourth reached the top 100 on the Kindle bestseller list. We can celebrate our critical success – our books regularly receive acclaim from reviewers, bloggers, literary luminaries, and New York Times bestselling authors. We can celebrate our range: among those fourteen titles were literary novels, thrillers, fantasy stories, and historical fiction. We published a book set in a psychiatric facility, another at LAX, one in a small town in Canada, and another in a small town in Italy – 14th Century Italy, a novel of the near future, and one that involves the distant past. We can celebrate our characters, which have included a hunted serial killer, a haunted artist, and a haunting seer. I'd certainly like to celebrate the collegiality between Fiction Studio's authors, evident publicly in their lusty participation in this blog and the way they cheer each other on from our Facebook page.

I have no idea how many books we'll publish in 2012. One of the benefits of the new publishing paradigm is that publishers don't need nearly as much prep time as they once did, so the list can stay unformed much longer. We've published three titles in the first three weeks of the year, again reflecting the range of the program: Jessica Keener's gorgeous, lyrical Night Swim; Jeremy Burns' complex and chilling From the Ashes; and Thérèse’s funny and wise India's Summer. I can promise you that this doesn't mean that we're going to publish fifty-two books this year – I invest a great deal of myself in every book, and there's only so much of me to go around – but I think there's a very good chance we'll wind up with more than fourteen. There are several very fine books in the pipeline (including new titles from some of our 2011 authors), and just today I read another that I think is simply beautiful. There will even be another one from me.

While I can't be clear on the specifics, I can tell you that every book on this list will be here because it touched me in some way and I therefore think it might touch you. I've been offered the opportunity grow the list quickly by acquiring large collections of books, and I've resisted this, choosing instead to let the list grow organically. This publishing program might never be huge, but I think our books will continue to carry a great deal of weight.

Anniversaries are arbitrary events. The first anniversary of Fiction Studio Books is no less arbitrary than any other. Anniversaries do, however, allow for reflection. And when I reflect on what we've done in our first year, I come away feeling very satisfied.

* The title of this post, by the way is from the Little River Band’s “Happy Anniversary.”