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Snowbooks Interview

Posted on 01 May 2004. © Copyright 2004-2021 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to Emma Cahill, Managing Director of new fiction publisher Snowbooks- whose first titles will be out this summer.

Tell us all about Snowbooks

We are a small team, based on Old Street in Hackney, with about thirty years’ editorial and management experience between us. My background is actually business, rather than publishing- I was a retail buyer and later a management consultant. This meant I worked in a lot of diverse companies, but I saw the same problems occur again and again. One of the most frequent problems was lack of communication, something which afflicts publishing in particular. Publishers form a link in the chain between authors and readers. The only way a publisher can make a difference is to smooth this path, and if they don’t communicate effectively with their suppliers (authors) and buyers (retailers and readers), there’s not a lot of point in them getting involved! We wanted to be a publisher that recognizes its place as a conduit between the author and reader. We also wanted to be very efficient; our aim is to be our customers’ favourite suppliers because dealing with us is hassle-free! Starting up a publishing company is quite a gamble. It takes over a year to develop a list fit for publication; that’s a year without any revenue. We’re very lucky to have been supported by the London Digital Incubator in Hackney, which supports start-up businesses in all sorts of ways, including subsidised office space, training and mentoring. Without this sort of support we wouldn’t have got through the first year! Our first 5-title list comes out in May. We think each title is amongst the best in its class. I won’t describe them here; check them out at www.snowbooks.com (where you can also buy them, hint hint!)

Do you pay your authors an advance?

Not in the first few years; we simply don’t have the funds. However, we offer higher royalties than most publishers pay, and we hope that the way we deal with authors is sufficiently outstanding to make up for the lack of an advance.

What kind of submissions are you looking for?

Good writing! We’re casting our net wide at the moment – we’re interested in finding writing that we love, although we’re not expecting to find much romance, westerns, straight sci-fi or horror. The way we select authors is through passion. If one of us loves a piece of writing enough to champion it for the time it takes to get it to market and beyond, we’ll go with it. We’ve decided we don’t need to give each other a reason for rejecting work, other than “we simply don’t love it enough”.

Who are your favourite writers and why?

We all have very wide tastes. My personal favourite is Nabokov; however, I also have soft spots for authors ranging from Douglas Adams to Alain de Boton!

What excites you about a piece of writing-

There are a few basic rules that have to be covered first. It sounds dull, but spelling and grammar is critical to me. I think that if I have to read it, the author should have read it too! It’s not enough for an author to say that the basics will be cleaned up later – we’re only a tiny company and we have hundreds of submissions to read. Authors need to do everything they can to stand out. Apart from that, a cracking yarn with exceptional style is exciting. I tend to go for underwritten styles myself; others at Snowbooks like a more descriptive book.

How do you respond to unsolicited work?

We welcome all work and we try our damnedest to get back to authors quickly, honestly and constructively. Sometimes authors don’t appreciate our comments but for the most part we’ve got very good feedback (so far) with requests for proofreading and editing services!

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

tinyclanger at 20:50 on 01 May 2004  Report this post
This was interesting even though I don't write prose very much, and I'm sure if Snowbooks can live up to these ideals - loving and believing in what they take on, responding usefully and sincerely and being quick about it, they will be popular with WW authors.
But I'm interested in a contradiction I see when publishers are asked to give advice, (and I think there was a Thread about it on WW a few months ago. Not sure what it concluded.)

Some publishers 'say study the market, know what the trends are and follow them'. Others, as above, say 'develop your own voice, be original, love what you do and stand out'...OK, I know the place to be is probably somewhere in the middle of all that, perhaps veering more towards the latter, but it must be daunting for writers to know where to actually 'be'....

James Anthony at 22:50 on 03 May 2004  Report this post
I sent a chapter to them and, although they rejected it, Emma was very very nice and very helpful. I'm going to keep an eye on the sort of thing that they publish as well. After all, we're not just writers, we should be readers as well...

Elspeth at 14:57 on 04 May 2004  Report this post
Snowbooks are fantastic for a prompt reply - a blessing in this business, even if it's not one for them.

nudgy at 14:34 on 14 June 2004  Report this post
Interesting interview! Does anyone who has submitted work to Snowbooks know the submission procedure and address of the publisher? Would appreciate it very much if you could let me know. Thanks.

tinyclanger at 14:42 on 14 June 2004  Report this post
nudgy, there's an entry for Snowbooks in the WW Directory section which I think tells you all you wanted to know.

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