Sara Slack has taken Inspired Quill from a rarely- viewed blog to a registered, viable business in the space of a year and a half…so who knows what the future will bring
Inspired Quill is a unique publishing house focusing on indelible quality in upcoming publications from start to finish. We strive to showcase new writing talent and set a new standard in economically friendly, people-oriented publishing by providing a reliable platform for up-and-coming authors. Inspired Quill allows them to both publish their work and hone personal skills such as marketing and web commerce, with the added ability to gain knowledge of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ element of publishing. Inspired Quill also offers a way to achieve otherwise unobtainable work experience in the publishing sector for the next generation of editors and agents.
Tell us a little bit about your press and how you came to be?
I opened Inspired Quill (IQ for short) as a literature review and article blog in September 2009. The domain name had been sitting around doing nothing for about a year and a half beforehand and I really wanted to do something with it. I realised after a while of getting into the ‘publishing news’ side of things, that there was a real niche in the market for people-orientated, quality driven publishing…especially after some of the horror stories I heard about other publishing houses! September 2010 ended up with me winning an entrepreneurial award for IQ from my University, which meant a series of business classes and 1-on-1 mentor help. Needless to say these things have been invaluable, and after starting to network and really get to grips with my niche, I registered IQ with Companies House as a ‘proper business’ in April of 2011
Are you open to publishing a wide variety of writing styles, or is there a specific style/voice you are looking for?
We’re really keen to discover new talent and to help new authors get their ‘foot in the door’, so to speak. Since variety is the spice of life, we not looking for any particular ‘style’, per-say. What we are looking for however, are pieces of work which can really be honed into something great – we at IQ aren’t shy of putting the effort in when we see potential…just as long as the author is willing to do the same!
How do you discover new writers? Do you take recommendations from authors or contacts you are already friendly with, or do they tend to be blind submissions?
There’s an element of both in there, really. Every now and then one of the team members will post on Twitter or a Facebook group that we’re currently open for submissions…but we have also had some people referred to us. For a publishing house that doesn’t have any titles out yet (we launch at the end of September), this is a huge testament to the whole team, and our mission statement in general. We have worked hard to build the reputation we’re currently beginning to get, and we’ll continue to do so!
What is the most common mistake that authors make when querying that, in turn, causes you to lose interest in their work? (i.e., perhaps the way they wrote the query letter, a manuscript that is less than polished, etc.)
Not following the submission guidelines. I know some publishing houses really make authors jump through hoops, but we keep things at IQ very simple. All we require is a covering (query) letter, a synopsis, and two chapters of the work. If this is done incorrectly, I simply delete the email without reading it. This may sound harsh (and I suppose it is, in a way), but I don’t have the time to look at something in the incorrect format. If a manuscript isn’t polished, although I’d still give it a chance, it’s unlikely to be accepted. It all comes back to the dedication and attitude of the author. We want to sign someone we feel we can work with, without constantly wanting to hit our heads against a brick wall because something wasn’t done right, or quality was compromised in some way.
A lot of writers submit to multiple presses at a time and are naturally anxious to hear your thoughts on their work. What is the protocol for an author to follow-up with a press about the status of their query? Is it appropriate to follow-up, or is this something that is off-putting?
Our ‘waiting’ time is 4 weeks. We’ve said on the website that people are more than welcome to chase up a query as long as this amount of time has elapsed. Sometimes mistakes do happen, and the query gets ‘LITE’ (lost in the ether), or we’re simply running behind. At the moment, we’re pretty speedy with getting back to people.
What do you take into consideration when you’re thinking of publishing an author’s book/novel/whatever? Is it the writing alone, or is it more than that?
Obviously, the writing is the primary thing, but as I’ve said before, it also depends on the attitude of the author. We want someone who is enthusiastic, yes, but also down to earth. Oh, and a sense of humour really helps, too. The other primary thing we consider is how the author and their writing can develop. A static author is all very well and good if you’re the sort who can get away with writing the same story over and over and still have it sell thousands of copies, but you don’t get brilliant quality unless there’s some constant development.
Since so many authors are going the self-publishing route, why would an author go with you?
I’m probably going to get told off by my colleagues for saying this, but I actually think self-publishing is a great resource for certain people. (Shock! Horror!) The problem is that the DIY route to publication means that there is usually VERY little time for the author to do the thing they’re passionate about. Write. IQ – like other publishing houses – bears the primary burden for every other aspect of the process. What sets us apart however, is our dedication to development. We’re very passionate about teaching writers about the industry, as well as having them be there every step of the way in the creative process, from our editing style to book cover design, and even marketing strategies. In a way, it’s the best of both worlds. The author gets to be as involved as they want, whilst still having that pressure of ‘it’s all on me’ lifted. Plus, with a tagline of ‘Indelible Quality from Start to Finish’, we really do focus on the superiority of the work we publish.
How do you feel about self-publishing and where it is headed?
I think it still has a very long way to go. The main problem is that it’s so easy to do, and a lot of phenomenally great work is being swept up into the tide of mediocrity. There are some great aspects to it of course, and for a writer who has a solid, established platform and a real quality product, it’s probably just as beneficial to them as publishing traditionally…but it also gives a lot of people false hope. Not everyone can be Amanda Hocking, and not many people realise just how much work (not writing!) she put into everything. It’s also hard to be taken seriously if you’re self published. I know a lot of people get around this by setting up their own imprints and publishing under them…but believe me; it’s obvious when that happens. So to cut short a long tirade, I shall be keeping a very close eye on how it evolves…much like the rest of the industry.
And lastly, if you could publish any author in history (dead or still alive) who would you publish and why?
Difficult question! The obvious answer would be someone like King or Rowling or Tolkien, simply because of their monetary value…but I think overall, I’d love to publish something by Margaret Attwood. Simply because of her general attitude to the industry. I was fortunate enough to see her read a story excerpt inLondonearlier this year as part of ‘World Book Night’, and she was amazing. She also does a lot for charity, and since IQ is a Social Enterprise which wants – when established – to go on to providing subsidised literature workshops in disadvantaged areas, it’d be a great fit!
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