Peter Coleborn, Publisher at The Alchemy Press

Peter ColebornWelcome, Peter. What made you go into publishing?

This is something I often ask myself … pause here for contemplation and a cup of coffee. I used to do a lot of work for The British Fantasy Society when I edited and produced, among other things, Winter Chills, Dark Horizons and the FantasyCon Programme Books. Then it occurred to me to do something I wanted rather than for the society (nothing against the BFS – I still work for them). And at that time the UK’s National Lottery was keen to give away money – so I obtained a grant and THE PALADIN MANDATES, a collection of stories about a ghost hunter, by Mike Chinn became our first book in 1998. Since then I’ve published a select few books (select because of time and financial constraints) – culminating in three anthologies launched at the World Fantasy Convention last month, and a book by Rod Rees: INVENT-10N due this month.

How do you decide to publish one book and not another? If some of the classics were subbed to you, would you have pubbed them or snubbed them?

Basically, I have to like the idea / book. I am a great fan of short stories and so the Press concentrates in that area – anthologies and collections. I also want to provide a place for up-and-coming writers to find a place to be published, as long as they are good enough. It’s nice that people are coming to me with ideas, but those constraints I mentioned above get in the way. As for the “classics”? Of course I’d’ve published most of them. It would be great if the current Alchemy titles become classics…

How has the eBook revolution affected your business?

Personally, I dislike eBooks. But I recognise that they are becoming more and more popular and so The Alchemy Press will produce both print and electronic versions. And if it brings in money to fund further projects then all power to the Kindle or Kobo or whatever. I have, in fact, published two novellas for the Kindle – no hard copies as yet.

Some people think that with more titles available today than at any other time in history, the novel as an art form is dying. Do you agree? Disagree?

If more titles are published then the novel isn’t a dying art. But what is occurring is that more books that are being published are not edited, or poorly edited, and that does lower the tone for all of us. Just because one can self-publish (or get shoddy work published elsewhere) it doesn’t mean that they should. Once the manuscript is written and self-edited, it should be edited by a person with good English and a sense for story before publication. That shouldn’t be a guideline – it should be the law (said with a smile on my face).

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Write, put it away for a few weeks, read it again with a dispassionate eye, edit/rewrite … get a second opinion/editor (not your best friend). Join a writers’ group. And read lots. I’m amazed at the number of want-to-be writers I meet who don’t read books.

Who are the authors you have published so far?

Back at the start of The Alchemy Press I published a collection of linked stories by Kim Newman, WHERE THE BODIES ARE BURIED, plus a collection of poems by Jo Fletcher, SHADOWS OF LIGHT AND DARK. Then in 2011 I published RUMOURS OF THE MARVELLOUS by Peter Atkins. All were signed limited editions – including Neil Gaiman for his introduction in the Fletcher collection.

Otherwise it’s mostly affordable anthologies: THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF ANCIENT WONDERS and THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF PULP HEROES in 2012; THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF URBAN MYTHIC, THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF PULP HEROES 2 (spot the theme) and ASTROLOGICA: STORIES OF THE ZODIAC this year. Also in 2013: DOORS TO ELSEWHERE, a fascinating collection of essays about fantasy and horror writers of the early 20th century, by Mike Barrett. And as mentioned earlier: INVENT-10N, a dystopian novella by Rod Rees.

For 2014 I have lined up two collections, three anthologies (including THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF PULP HEROES 3 and KNEELING IN THE SILVER LIGHT, stories commemorating the Great War) and another book of essays. Fingers crossed.

As you can see, these books are in the fantastic arena. I have published one non-fantasy novel; SEX, LIES AND FAMILY TIES by Sarah J Graham, a fascinating and moving account of a young woman coming of age in 1970 Britain.

What do you do to sell the books you publish, for example, where do you advertise? Can we find your books in stores or are they just online?

That is an excellent question and one that is difficult to answer – simply because I haven’t found a place yet that produces cost-effective results (cost of advertising versus increased income). Mostly I use forums, etc. I also send out many review copies but even a 5 star review doesn’t always cause a spike in sales. If anyone has the answer please share it. Alchemy Press books are available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble online, etc, and if bricks-and-mortar shops wish to sell them they are available via the usual sources – or via me.

Has the availability of POD and E-books made it easier for you to publish more client’s work since you no longer have to invest in large runs, shipping, etc?

Yes, definitely (and especially as far as POD is concerned). I have had boxes of unsold books in my garage for far too long (now given away since I grew sick of seeing all those lovely books just wasting away). Now I only need a small stock and the quality of the POD service I use is very high (not the cheapest, though).

How do you acquire your talent? Open Submissions? Recommendations? Reading Periods? Placing Ads?

I have never liked closed markets. It feels wrong. So the Press’s anthologies are open to all even though we might ask writers who we know if they wish to submit something. As for collections – if someone has an idea… (But the schedule for 2014 is full.)

Do you charge your authors for any services?

Most definitely not. In fact, I pay the writers but I only pay a nominal amount plus a copy of the book. If The Alchemy Press becomes mega-successful I will increase the payments accordingly. I am amazed and appalled by publishers that do not even supply a copy of the book to their writers. Although the small presses are not professionals it pays us to be as professional as possible.

Where can we learn more about you, your authors, and the books you publish?

The Alchemy Press website is here: http://alchemypress.wordpress.com/ (the website is still in development). Use the drop down menus to access our catalogue, submission details, contact details, etc. And you’ll also see that we try to do mini-interviews with our writers – all part of the community.

One Response to “Peter Coleborn, Publisher at The Alchemy Press”

  1. sheilaenglehart Says:

    I completely agree with his self publishing philosophy. We are swimming in a sea of self published sludge.


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