Welcome to Chronos Books: Seeking History Writers

Monday, August 12, 2013
Can you name all of Henry VII's wives? Do you throw facts about World War II into your everyday conversation? If you could meet one author would it be Stephen Ambrose? In other words, are you a history geek? If so, you'll be thrilled to learn that John Hunt Publishing is introducing a new history imprint, Chronos Books. I had the chance to ask Sarah-Beth Watkins, the commissioning editor, a few questions about the new imprint. Hopefully this insider information will help one of the WOW family and their book find a home with Chronos Books.

WOW: How long has John Hunt Publishing been in business and why did they decide to add their new history imprint?

Sarah-Beth: John Hunt Publishing Ltd has been going in various guises (starting as a partnership, Hunt & Thorpe) since 1988). The early and middle years were spent as a packager of childrens' colour books for the international market, sold under other publishers' imprint names around the world. In 2004 it started publishing paperbacks under the O Books imprint, directly into the North American, UK and related markets. Beginning with fairly academic titles on world religions, it soon spread into more popular areas of self-help, mind/body/spirit and other categories. In 2009 a separate imprint, Zero Books, was established for popular philosophy, politics and aesthetics.

That has now been followed by a number of different imprints: O Books, Zero Books, Circle Books, Iff Books, Compass Books, Ayni Books, Earth Books, Dodona Books, Roundfire Books, Business Books, Soul Rocks Books, 6th Books, Moon Books, Our Street Books, Axis Mundi Books, etc., and now Chronos Books. The priorities of the business are dictated by the authors. There are no full time staff, no central overhead. From proof readers to publicists to publishers, the large majority are authors who have shown the willingness and ability to get more involved with the business of publishing, whether that's in editorial or promotion.

History is immensely popular and so it was decided to add a non-fiction imprint to the stable - JHP already has an historical fiction imprint, Top Hat, so they complement each other and give writers double the opportunity to write for them. We are hoping to see our first books go into production early next year.

WOW: What type of history are you interested in . . . is there a special topic, time period or other niche or are you open to all? Are you open to proposals of a history series (such as The American President Series by Times Books)?

Sarah-Beth: We are interested in history from ancient times up until the Second World War. We want books that bring history alive to readers so we are open to any ideas that will illuminate times in history from a new perspective. We don't have plans for any series at the moment but we would look at proposals for such.

The types of books we are looking for are written by authors who are passionate about history and have done their research so can show a good understanding of the times they are writing about. You don't need to have a Masters degree in History but you do need to show that you know your subject. We are definitely looking for fun books that look at historical eras in a new light and make history accessible to a new generation of readers.

WOW: Will you be offering print books, e-books or a combination of the two?

Sarah-Beth: All our books are produced as print and e-book versions.

WOW: In your first email you mentioned that Chronos Books is actively seeking women writers. Many male writers also frequent The Muffin. Are you looking solely for female writers?

Sarah-Beth: We welcome both writers but as an avid female historian and history nut myself, I would love to include books on our lists that give a female perspective, you know, herstory. There are some fascinating women out there that have been overlooked by historians and I'd love to include books that examine the lives of extraordinary women too; you don't have to be female to write them but if you've come across someone who you think would merit researching and writing about in detail, then we want to hear about them.

WOW: Should our writers have a completed manuscript for consideration or are you also open to book proposals? Are you working directly with writers or only agents?

Sarah-Beth: We work directly with authors through our website. Initially we just ask for an idea which is sent in through our Author Inquiry section. If we like the idea, we will ask you to submit a full proposal; chapter list, first three chapters, details of marketing ideas, what makes your book unique and what sales you think you can achieve. It’s completely electronic so you will be inputting all the book details into our system and then your proposal will go out to the relevant people for reader’s reports. Based on those, we will make a contract or no contract decision.

WOW: Are you interested in working with writers without any other book credits or must they already have another author credit? Are you looking for writers with degrees in history or related fields?

Sarah-Beth: We are looking for writers who can show that they know and love their subject and have the research to write a full length book about it. Authors don't have to be previously published or have degrees but we will look to see if they have any previous writing experience or contacts and experience in the area that they are writing about. For instance, if you've been a fan of Tudor history and have written a blog or a few articles and have a fantastic idea, we will give that as much consideration as someone with a armful of qualifications. The merit is in the proposal and the strength of your starting chapters.

WOW: What word count are you looking for?

Sarah-Beth: Ideally around 50,000 words but we will consider higher and lower word counts if they are appropriate to the book.

WOW: Will there be advances involved with your books?

Sarah-Beth: Unfortunately there are no advances given. We do however operate on a royalty system, usually 10% on books, 50% on e-books. We currently have four different levels of contract so it all depends on the reader reports and what level of contract you are offered.

WOW: Can you tell us a little more about your submission process? What should we send, who should we send it to, when can we expect to hear from you?

Sarah-Beth: At the moment, proposals for Chronos are sent in through O-books (www.o-books.com) using the author inquiry form. If your initial idea is accepted - which should only take a few days for a decision - you will be asked to send in more details. We have a standard form but the more you can add about your book, the more it will give our members of staff to consider when making a contract decision. We do need to see a full chapter list with information on what each chapter will contain and your first three chapters. All this information is sent out to the relevant personnel and a decision is usually made within two weeks. We know how hard it is when waiting for a reply so we like to get back to our prospective authors as quickly as possible.

WOW: Do you have a dream book (or proposal) you're hoping will find its way to your desk?

Sarah-Beth: Personally, I love Tudor history so would love to find something that hasn't been done a million times before or about a person that hasn't been done to death. For example, there are hundreds of books about Anne Boleyn but not many about George or his wife, Jane. I'd like to find a biography about someone that history has overlooked but whose story will make fascinating reading. That also goes for places as well as people.

WOW: How many history books are you hoping to release your first year?

Sarah-Beth: I'd like to say lots! Ideally we'd like to start the list as soon as possible so we need your proposals!

WOW: We'll do our best to keep you busy!


Margo Dill said...

Thanks for this interesting interview! :)

Angela Mackintosh said...

Insightful interview! Thank you, Sarah-Beth, for sharing what you're seeking in submissions. Congratulations on the new imprint!

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