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Snow Books 2 Interview

Posted on 09 June 2006. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to Emma Barnes, publisher, about the huge success of Snow Books- we interviewed them when they started up and now we've gone back for an update

Tell us all about the recent Snowbooks history, ethos, list

Well, we’ve been going three years now. We set out to do pretty much the exact opposite to the received wisdom we learned from our previous corporate roles [Emma was a multiple retail buyer and later management consultant; Rob was a business analyst and strategic management consultant], which says you have to be aggressive, politically adept, work insane hours and give your soul to some faceless corporation. So instead we set ourselves two values – we want to be happy and proud. ‘Happiness’ means enjoying our work, liking the working environment and achieving balance with our own lives – and earning enough money to be comfortable. ‘Pride’ means getting that delicious surge of love when you see a stack of your books in store selling like hot cakes. It also means that we’re as proud of the way our business runs as the books we publish. We’ve structured the business around these values – instead of having separate specialisms, we are project managers. James, for example, likes edgy writing and is at liberty to buy any book he finds, and then he does the cover design, works with the author on edits, typesets it, creates and does the marketing and PR plan – effectively everything to do with the book. It means there’s a greater sense of ownership, plus James has an enjoyable job and things are so much more efficient – I used to hate the endless long meetings and debates between different departments of the same company. And of course we’re delighted that this approach has worked so well. It’s one of the reasons we’ve just won the Small Publisher of the Year award at the Nibbies this month.

How does the award affect Snowbooks?

If people in the industry hadn’t heard about Snowbooks before, they certainly know about us now, so it’s a great boost to our profile. Having said that, we need to do more to reach authors directly, so we need to find better ways to tell people that we’re here, successful and looking for manuscripts!

Plans for the future?

We’re going to take it steady. We’re planning on about 25 titles a year, but we also want to work harder with the books we already have – it’s not a good idea to become obsessed with the ‘new’. We’re finding new routes to market in exports and in rights sales all the time, so the next year or so will be about building slowly and steadily on this great solid base we’ve built.

How do you find writers?

We get all our submissions through our website. We actively encourage manuscript submissions in any genre, except for children’s and poetry – rather than limiting our choice we will read anything, because it’s only in the writing that we can tell if it’s a book we love. I hate synopses – they ruin the plot and, regardless of how good your idea is, if your writing is sub-standard the idea is not enough.

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

rogernmorris at 16:28 on 09 June 2006  Report this post
Very fresh approach - congratulations on the award. I went to the website and read the open rejection letter. That was very interesting and, again, refreshing. There's a real honesty that comes through in it, particularly in the way that you warn authors not to trust publishers!

EmmaD at 17:53 on 09 June 2006  Report this post
Yes, many congratulations on the award, and on having got so solidly established so quickly. I'm very interested that Snowbooks were buying titles in for want of good enough new work arriving. Aspiring writers have this image of hundreds of their masterworks being ignored by the trade, and it isn't that simple: most submissions just aren't good enough.

You, me or a marketing team won’t be on hand in store to say to every reader ‘the first chapter is deliberately slow because I’m building the mood / reflecting the protagonist’s depressed state / chapter 2 is better’.

So true!

Writing is a professional activity, a craft which has rules and standards, so for me it’s unforgivable if there are typos or spelling errors.


If there’s evidence that the author treats this as a serious profession and has gone out of their way to start the marketing process (by getting endorsements from local papers or established authors, for example)...

I can see why this is useful if an author wants to do it, but to my mind an author's main professionalism lies in how they write. That's what we're good at. PR and marketing are what publishers are good at. I'd hate to see the day that MS are being rejected because the author hasn't done this sort of thing.

A very interesting interview. Thank you.


Dee at 17:55 on 09 June 2006  Report this post
I've been banging on recently about agents and mainstream publishers who seem to be doing their best to construct a barrier between authors and readers. How refreshing to find a small publisher working just as hard to pull it down.

Many, many congratulations on the award, and best wishes for the future.


Shika at 21:10 on 10 June 2006  Report this post
Hi Emma

Congratulations on your award which I know is very well deserved. S

Account Closed at 18:14 on 18 June 2006  Report this post
What a friendly, informative interview and in this day and age, how refreshing to hear of a work ethos which values happiness and pride, instead of thw sole aim of making money.

Congratulations on the award.


Snowbooks at 17:11 on 24 June 2006  Report this post
Hiya - thanks so much for all the kind words. It might seem, from the sharp end of writing, that there are too few opportunities to get your book published. However, from my point of view, there are too few submissions that really make me sit up. Can I say again that we're always on the look-out for new writing so please don't hesitate to send it in (guidelines at www.snowbooks.com/authors.html). We have no upper limit on the number of books we will publish - it's all down to the quality. Think of it as a challenge - if your book is good enough we will definitely publish it! There's a thought.

EmmaD - thanks for the comments and I wholly agree with you. If a manuscript sparkles and delights us but the author had not even started to think about its marketing, of course we, and I hope any publisher, would snap it up. Quality of writing is the most important thing but, as I've said, the likelihood of being able to sell the book has got to be my overriding concern. After all, if we publish books that lose money, Snowbooks will go bust and who will pay our authors then? The first obligation of any publisher must be to stay in business. So we will always have an eye on how we'd market the book and if we know that an author is on the same page as us from the start it just makes life that bit easier. And to tie that in with our other chief concerns, happiness and pride, it is punishing and dreary to have to work with an author who is antagonistic, difficult and a bit prima donnaish, so if authors come to us refusing to acknowledge the need for that nasty sordid need to sell, then even if they have the most wonderful book in the world we're not the right publisher for them. Life is too short to spend your days arguing!

Thanks again for the kind words and all the best with your writing. Look forward to seeing it someday.

MarkT at 13:08 on 20 July 2006  Report this post
What a excellent interview.

Snowbooks sound a great bunch.

See ya!


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