Category Archives: New Authors

Creating Black Mary Press

I first decided I wanted to be a writer when I was 16, but took me until my mid-thirties to commit to focusing on it wholeheartedly. Some would even say I still have too many other interests to class myself as a full-time dedicated author. Once the decision was made and I started to bring about the changes to my life to make it happen, I consulted the people I already knew were already successful writers. After years of thinking about it, I was finally going to do it: all I needed to do was find a publisher.

One of the authors I consulted about finding a publisher gave me some rather surprising advice. He is well into his career and a best-seller: he has sold literally hundreds of millions of copies of his books and he told me in complete sincerity that, if he was starting his career over in this new world of publishing – the electronic world – he would not choose to go with a traditional publisher.  Instead, he would keep control of his own material and set up his own publishing imprint. This conversation took place in 2005 and, six years later, his advice has proven to be right on the mark. In fairness, he said that being who he is (and I am not going to mention his name so as not to upset the apple cart), at this point in his career, he would hardly change.  He is one of the few authors who can literally demand pretty much anything he wants from his publisher and they will meet his needs without demur, but if he were to do it over again from scratch, he insisted he would go it on his own. This pretty much had the right amount of influence over me, and so I created Black Mary Press.

In April of this year, Black Mary Press published The Black Sea, the first in a series of book featuring lead character, Kate Allen. The novel was launched officially at the London Book Fair, where the imprint was also introduced to the publishing world. There are five books planned in the Kate Allen series. All of these will be developed into screenplays with the intention of creating a global franchise for the character in the cinema and/or including network and cable television. The screenplay of The Black Sea is already in development.

Black Mary Press does not conform to the traditional narrow view of an imprint. It is a company dedicated to developing creative talent across a wide variety of media to the best benefit of the content creator.  The objective of Black Mary Press is to find more creative properties that can be developed over a wide variety of formats in order to extract the greatest benefit for the artist and thereby drive revenues for the company. Black Mary Press, therefore, is more than just a publisher. It is a creative incubator that looks far beyond the limited parameters of traditional publishers.

Traditional publishers are desperately trying to hold on to classic paper-based distribution and are failing to adapt to new market demands. They are keeping their authors, like the friend I mentioned earlier, tied mainly to the paper-based distribution. Part of the reason he chooses to stay with his current publisher is that they are willing to pay him very well – perhaps above the market rate – because he is one of the few whose books people will buy on paper and pay the higher price. His publisher intentionally keeps the paper versions of his books close to the price of the electronic price of his books (even though the development and distribution costs of the e-version is next to nothing).

The traditional publishers are burdened with costs linked to how they have done business in the past. Realistically, for their survival, they need to write off a lot of their investment as sunk costs and come out fighting in what is the new publishing market; but kings fight to the death to protect their kingdoms, even after their time has passed. Andrew Wylie, a well-known agent, has taken over the electronic publishing of many of his big name clients, including Rushdie and Naipaul. These authors’ publishers simply weren’t doing the job for them, so the agent stepped in to do it.

New publishers need to be more flexible and less restricted in their approach to new media markets. They need to exploit all possible avenues of generating revenue for their clients and their clients’ work beyond mere book sales and rights sales. Black Mary Press was founded with a fresh perspective on traditional publishing and we are dedicated to taking this approach, not only with my own creative works, but with those of all of our talent.

We are currently looking at great projects from a number of highly talented fiction and non-fiction writers (including some world-class chefs) – but we are certainly not limiting ourselves creatively. Our goal is to bring a select group of authors to a global audience by targeting ideas that can be exploited across several media formats. We believe our authors offer strong, unique talent and we work with them to provide passionate readers from around the world with exceptional quality and engaging content.

Author VP Von Hoehen

Author VP Von Hoehen


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Filed under Black Mary Press, Book Launches, Bookselling, Kate Allen, New Authors, New James Bond, New Novels, Novelists, Novels, The Black Sea, VP Von Hoehen, Writing

Kate Allen? – Is She Really the New Bond? The Black Sea

Kate Allen is the protagonist in my novel, The Black Sea, and she is really a synthesis of a number of strong, intelligent women in my life – all of whom I adore. The original inspiration for Kate was Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. I wanted to create a female equivalent to Ryan, someone who would manage the situations in which Kate finds herself in the ways I’d expect the women I know to deal with them. Kate has no super powers.  She has no Lara Croft or Lisbeth Salander super skills and/or gadgets and, unlike James Bond, she’s not a killer in the “for Queen and country” model.



Too often woman in fiction are endowed with these unrealistic attributes and this is something that I really dislike, so I created a character that –  much like the women in my own life – is more than capable of looking after herself. Moreover, while Kate is romantic with men she never lets them distract her from her goals or what she is determined to do. While it is easier for a male protagonist to sleep with women and cast them away unapologetically, Kate’s character strikes a careful balance and is neither callous nor careless with her emotions.

Kate is a very savvy, ambitious journalist who is more capable than she knows. She uses her intuition and prefers to take action rather than doing nothing – I think it is indecision that keeps most people from realizing their true potential. Kate finds herself in endless dubious and dangerous situations, but she doesn’t get paralyzed with fear and do nothing. She makes decisions with the best information she can gather and then moves forward, for better or worse. At the same time she absorbs knowledge and events very quickly and critically adapts to the environment around her. That is part of what makes her such a great heroine.

Recently, I have been asked a lot about how I came up with the character of Kate Allen the heroine of The Black Sea. So I have decided to give a little background information about Kate and how she came into being:

For me, Kate always needed to have attributes that allowed her to resonate in the mind of the reader and, most importantly, I wanted her to be appealing to both men and women. I strove for men to like Kate as much as women do and, from the reviews and feedback I have had so far, I’ve succeeded:  men find her as appealing as female readers do.  In Kate, I hope that I have created a character who simply does what most women would do when confronted with circumstances in which she finds herself.  And I hope she’s a character who is capable of being convincing both in print and on the screen.

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Old World vs New World Publishing

Things have changed so quickly in the world of publishing. It wasn’t so long ago that the BIG publishers were willing to reward best selling authors with huge advances. Now the game has changed and the huge advances are about as likely to happen as winning the lottery. The days of Donna Tartt are over. The new e-world order for authors is publishing their own work via a number of different distribution methods but the one that seems to be working the best at the moment is e-publishing. A lot of writers, including some very big names, are setting themselves up to publish their own material. Thus, authors are taking control over the future of their writing back from the bigger publishers – and that in most cases is a win-win.

Publishers have a vested interest in selling paper. That is the main reason they often keep the price of the e-books so high relative to their hard and soft back editions – especially for their proven authors with large backlists. Traditional publishers only understand distribution of a paper product. They want you to choose the paper versions over the electronic version so they keep the prices close – therefore encouraging the purchase of paper based product. That they do so doesn’t serve the needs of either the author or the public. Moreover, that the traditional publishers have stuck to their guns on this issue, only helps to self-servingly prolong their crumbling empires and outmoded marketing models. They have been shortsighted, and much like the railroads that never realised that they were in the transportation business last century and so fought a futile fight to maintain market dominance, mainstream publishers are increasingly finding themselves irrelevant. Of course they won’t disappear entirely, but they are relegating themselves from the mass market to a niche market: paper based distribution.

Another industry was too involved in protecting its empires to learn and adapt to the needs of the marketplace. The music industry did not embrace the pace and tide of change – which was against them. They suffered the consequences at their own peril. Now they haven’t disappeared but they can be said to have been marginalized.

Now, authors can publish their own work quickly and cost effectively via electronic distribution allowing the author to achieve a higher return on their investment of time and energy and the public to pay prices that allow them to read more books. Paper books won’t disappear. People will still want to have paper-based cookbooks, art books and the like, but paper will just be one form of distribution among others. This is good news for authors who are increasingly ready and capable to publish their own content. This benefits both the writers and public who are increasingly buying new books by name authors under a threshold of £4.99 – something that seems to be able to happen only in the new e-world order of publishers. Even with lower prices for the public, authors end up much better off in almost every respect.

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Writing a Book is Only the Beginning: It Needs to Sell

Writing is Selling: Ideas

Writing is Selling: Ideas

Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realise it’s just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it. D. Sedaris

I have wanted to be a writer since I was in my English Lit class when I was, like, sixteen. As I have mentioned in an earlier blog it was in that class I received an F grade for the first time. It stung. Moreover, it still stings. Since then I have tried to improve my writing with a long and constant effort: not entirely successfully (so far), but mostly I would say it has been worth it. I give a lot of thought to what I write, but it does not always return an equal reward. The fact of the matter is that I am getting better and I have published my first novel. Now, that may seem like a triumph, and it is in a way, but what really counts is the book sales – and writing the next book, of course.

I find selling books a more difficult task than writing. I was advised early on with my writing ambitions that in the modern world of publishing it would be more effective to write and publish my own books – not as a “self-publisher” as such, but rather as a small independent publisher. The world of book publishing is changing. A leaner more focused and flexible approach would be needed if I wanted to find my books on the bestseller lists – never mind my personal goal of seeing what I write translated onto the big screen. Creating my own publishing company was about keeping control, being nimble and quick to respond to the demands and opportunities of the market place.

The Black Sea, my first novel, was a long time in the making. It took years of work – and not to create something anyone would want to call a literary masterpiece, quite the contrary, I consider myself an entertainer. I want to write books for the moment that allow people a moment of escapism – an easy read and a good story. I have not learned enough to even get close to writing a book that would be considered something literary: although it is my ambition to do so one day. That day, however, remains in the distant future as I focus my efforts on writing quality thrillers. Now, my first effort has had some earned some good comments from most people who have read it. And, no, I do not mean from those closest to me: quite the opposite really. Those closest to me have been the hardest on me and thankfully so. I am lucky enough to hear the good, the bad and ugly about my work from those closest to me and inevitably, that makes me want to be a better writer. The people around me have been amazingly supportive in my work but that doesn’t mean they’ve been easy on me.

For some would-be authors, their efforts to become a writer are mocked by those closest to them. Sometimes, because they do not really want to see others succeed or are dealing with their own demons, insecurities or financial pressures.  This type of person frequently tries to plant seeds of doubt that often plague, entrepreneurs, actors and other such “dreamers.” However, if you have the right people around you, it is more likely that they want to help – and that is what I have found. I am very lucky in that regard. Not everyone has constructive help and criticism to guide their progress. There are many naysayers out there who will try to hinder you, but the best practice is to listen and reflect on what they say. If you find their comments helpful, take the advice and improve yourself. If it is destructive, ignore it, much as you ignore a wasp or a bee hovering over the food on your table. Do not pay it attention: just allow it to pass through and avoid the sting.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. M. Gandhi

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