To celebrate the publication of AMBUSH AT SKYLINE RANCH, I contacted Crowood Press for an informal question & answer session with Christine Lee, Managing Editor, at The Crowood Press.
TM: Thank you for joining me for this on-line conversation! The first thing I want to discuss is the growing popularity of the BHW brand. Specifically, what is the best way for American readers to get these books? Can they order them direct from Crowood?
CL: Yes indeed. At present it’s best to order via the Black Horse Western website CLICK HERE! The books can be bought either as hardcover or as e-book downloads. But we’re currently working with the US distributor IPG to make the BHW series directly available to the US market.
TM: Do you accept PayPal payments from the public?
CL: Unfortunately we can’t accept PayPal because of the currency conversion fees, but payment by card is fine.
TM: I mentioned in an e-mail the fact that many BHW writers, including myself, like to brag about the cover art. The BHW titles offer pulp fiction style covers that are colorful and exciting. What can you tell me about the cover art process?
CL: This is the fun part of my job! We have three artists who regularly send in artwork for us to choose from. They each have very distinctive styles – Michael Thomas’s work is ‘soft focus’ and has a period feel to it; Andre Leonard’s work is reminiscent of movie posters; Dave McAllister’s work is more dark and gritty. And we also have a stock of artwork from Western comic strips of the 1950s and 60s. Each month I go through the books we are publishing and match up titles and covers, taking into consideration the physical appearance of the lead characters and the location of the story.
TM: How many Westerns did Crowood publish last year and what is the projected number next year?
CL: We publish 72 BHW titles a year, i.e. six per month.
TM: Can you tell me your view on e-book sales? Are all BHW eventually published as e-books, too, or only select titles?
CL: All of the more recent BHW titles are available as e-book downloads. We bought the BHW list about three years ago from Robert Hale Publishers, and have been publishing simultaneously in e-book and print ever since. Robert Hale didn’t publish e-books, so we are slowly converting the backlist into e-books as well. However, some of the authors of the older books have retained the e-book rights to their work. So there are one or two which aren’t available from us as e-books.
TM: Crowood also publishes many other titles. What’s an average work week like at Crowood Press?
CL: As well as the BHW list, we publish a vast range of non-fiction titles, mainly leisure-related. To list every topic we cover would take too long, but for example we publish books on gardening, sport, military history, needlework, photography, motoring and horses, to name but a few. This means that our work is very varied. For example, this morning I’m working on Westerns, but this afternoon I’m going to be working on architecture and theatrical wig-making!
TM: Does Crowood have any plans of creating a Mystery Brand in the same vein as the Black Horse Westerns?
CL: We have no plans for creating a parallel mystery series to run alongside the Westerns. This is because when we bought the Robert Hale list, this included their successful crime fiction books.
TM: Many of the BHW authors use a pseudonym which are as colorful as the characters they write about! What are the best ingredients for a successful BHW?
CL: Each BHW generally has one central character (occasionally two), who is usually a man, often with a troubled past – for example a retired gunfighter, a reformed outlaw or a disillusioned Civil War veteran (of either side). Occasionally the central character will be a woman, often a young widow struggling to survive or maybe a schoolteacher tackling a corrupt local official. Danger will ensue, sometimes courted directly by the hero or heroine in a quest for vengeance, or else by being forced to take a stand against the villain(s). There will inevitably be conflict at some point, most usually involving a gunfight, but the hero or heroine will always be triumphant. There may well be some romantic involvement along the way, with the hero and heroine finding happiness and true love at the end of their tribulations, in true old Hollywood fashion.
TM: What’s the best advice you can offer a young writer submitting their first book to Crowood?
CL: The first step would be to have a close look through the BHW website, and in particular at our guidelines for submission, which can be found here: https://bhwesterns.com/submissions/ Try to keep your work historically accurate as nothing annoys our readership more than anachronisms. The word count needs to be 35,000 to 45,000 words, so avoid lengthy descriptions, focusing more on a fast-paced plot. The storyline needs to be fast-moving and exciting, but also plausible. And please do go through your book before submitting it to check for consistency and to make sure that your plot works. Above all, do check for spelling and grammar – in the past we have had to reject manuscripts because they have been too sloppily presented.
TM: AMBUSH AT SKYLINE RANCH is my sixth Black Horse Western, but I’m also excited about some of the other titles being released this month. Tell me about the latest releases!
CL: Ambush at Skyline Ranch won’t be available until December, but our October Westerns will be out at the end of September. These include three stirring (but all very different) tales of vengeance from K.S. Stanley, Michael Stewart and Derek Rutherford; Will DuRey has a story in which a ranch hand has to make a tough moral choice when his boss expects him to turn killer; violence and corruption in a small gold mining settlement is the backdrop for John NcNally’s book; and Bill Grant’s hero is a disillusioned and embittered Union Army deserter facing his demons. So look out for The Line Rider, Tanner’s Revenge, Dead Man’s Return, Remarque’s Law, A Gift from Crick and Gold Rush – six fast-paced and exciting tales of the Old West.
TM: Thank you!