Black Spot Books is gearing up for a big year. Named after the literary device used in Treasure Island, the small-press publisher specializes in speculative fiction, including titles in dark humor, fantasy, paranormal, and horror.
We spoke to owner Lindy Ryan about how to become a book publisher and choose a niche you’re passionate about.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and have had an intrinsic yearning to be part of the literary world, so I think the inspiration was always there.
Choosing speculative fiction and diving into genres like fantasy, dark humor, and science fiction was a pretty natural decision. From authors like Orwell and Adams to Tolkien, King, and everywhere in between, these are the types of books I’ve always loved to read, so they were exactly the types of titles I wanted to publish.
Did you have previous publishing experience before launching Black Spot Books?
As both a traditionally published and indie author, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the largest publishing houses and some of the most boutique, as well as brilliant folks in the industry — agents, editors, artists, and many phenomenal writers.
This incredible experience and network helped to solidify the vision for Black Spot Books when we launched in late 2017. Now, going into 2018, we have several titles already in production and can’t wait until they hit shelves this summer.
How did you determine your niche and the types of authors you wanted to work with?
I think this has been something of a natural evolution after having been involved so intimately in the publishing community in various ways. You begin to put together what works and what doesn’t, what you’d like to see done differently, and where you can bring something new and unique to the market.
Our primary principles are passion, creativity, and investment in the long-term success of our publications and our authors. We look for authors that share that vision, and who have great stories to tell.
What were your biggest startup costs and considerations?
Believe it or not, there a lot of costs that go into books — from editing and copyediting, cover and layout design, copyright and other fees, marketing, and so on.
The biggest startup cost for Black Spot Books was making sure we had the financial “nest egg” to go into business sustainably and deliver on our promise to bring quality content into the market, to support our authors, and to guarantee that we could keep a publication schedule of one release per month for the foreseeable future.
This nest egg wasn’t formal funding, but years of savings — I never wanted to start in a position of debt or where I had to compromise Black Spot’s vision.
Working with companies like Logojoy that helped funnel our brand vision into brand guidelines was an amazing and efficient process!
How did you find your first authors to work with?
It’s like that famous line from the film Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”
We reached out to our author network — our friends and peers in the writing community — and hit up social media and a few strategic advertising places, and were lucky enough to receive a great response to our initial call for submissions.
What online tools do you use to run your business?
As analytics people, we’re fans of powerful, intuitive tools with strong data backends. We use several Zoho products, as well as some cool disrupter tools like Airtable and Canva, and analytical tools like Tableau.
What company values does your logo represent?
Bold. Creative. Dark.
What advice would you have for people who want to become book publishers?
The best tip I can give to be successful in the publishing world is to read — read everything you can get your hands on. Get involved in the right communities online. Spend copious amounts of time perusing bookstores.
The more you know, and the better you know your market, the more successful you will be.