Q&A with Tom Ashton, Northodox Press
Welcome to our new feature, where we will be reporting on the exciting world of independent publishing!
In this issue we chat to Tom Ashton, who is the editor at Northodox Press: a newly established northern independent with a focus on crime fiction. The publisher’s name is inspired by the team’s unorthodox approach to publishing, which prioritises northern-focused narratives and is primarily interested in the digital-first market. Their mission is “to raise the profile of northern writers, offering unrepresented and diverse voices a platform to demonstrate their writing”.
What was it that made you decide to specialise in crime fiction?
The team are avid readers of crime fiction, some of us have worked for crime fiction imprints, and some are even crime fiction authors. Crime fiction is a mainstay of the commercial fiction market and this is no less so in the digital market. We want to offer our authors and readers a product and a brand which understands our corner of the market. We could have taken the scattergun approach of requesting general submissions, but it would be disingenuous for a new publisher to successfully publish across multiple genres with the same consistency of care and quality.
What are the main qualities that you look for in your submissions?
Authors with a strong sense of identity, regional voices that sit atop the narrative, and locations which are characters in their own right. How many novels have you read in the past decade which decant their characters into the same default locations, where identity is a prop for the narrative, and dialogue is copy and pasted from a blockbuster? Modern readers crave originality, diversity of character, and immersive world building. They know when they’re been patronised or fed the same stories. We want Cumbrian cosy crime, Darlington detectives, and Pontefract procedurals.
You mention on your website that you are looking to publish narratives with “strong regional accents”. Can you tell us more about why this is so important to promote?
When you read a novel by an American author, their voice is unashamedly present, it drives the narrative, it’s at the forefront of every line of dialogue, they’re vocal, and you know who they are. English fiction tends to be sedate in comparison, characters are often passive and location is generally secondary, if relevant. Culturally we don’t talk about regionalism in the way that other countries do, yet almost a third of the British population lives north of the Watford Gap.
It’s important to see representation in the media, to hear voices that sound like your own, read experiences you’ve lived, characters that could be your next-door neighbour or your own flesh and blood. British publishing looks outward from London traditionally and historically opportunities have landed within that sphere of influence, so regional publishers like ourselves need to reshape the map and cast our nets from other shorelines.
The events of this year have had a huge impact on the ways in which we market and consume books. How have you found starting up as an independent publisher during this time? Does remote working provide any new opportunities for presses based in the North?
The pandemic has been testing for independent publishers, those who relied heavily on high street retailers and traditional models have had to re-double their digital efforts. Equally, the soul searching of the nation has resulted in a wealth of submissions from returning or first-time writers who have had time to work on other projects.
Remote working can only be beneficial for publishers and freelancers who can’t sustainably continue to commute or afford to live within the London bubble. Moreover, this should allow publishers to look further afield for talent, while not worrying about overheads and the fragilities of corporate structure. It’s our hope that when the industry recovers from the pandemic that we don’t fall back into the same old modes of work and business. What 2020 should have taught publishers is that the old models can and will falter under pressure. Publishers will rely more heavily on their digital offerings and their supply chains to offer readers a straighter path to their products.
Finally, do you have any upcoming releases that you can tell us a bit about?
In November we signed our first author, Jack Bryne with Liverpool Literary Agency. His debut novel, Under the Bridge, is due to publish in February 2021. The novel follows Anne and student Vinny, as they become involved in a story of unions, crime, and police corruption after human remains are discovered at a construction site.
We’re in talks with several literary agencies for 2021 releases – the number and quality of submissions have been overwhelming. We can only hope they continue into the New Year.
Where to find Northodox Press:
Twitter – twitter.com/northodoxpress
Facebook – facebook.com/northodoxpress
Instagram - instagram.com/northodoxpress