Tuesday, September 30, 2014

With the Accent on Xcitement

Today we are pleased to welcome Hazel Cushion, founder of Accent Press and Xcite Books, to answer our questions about her well known publishing company.

Can you tell our readers how Accent Press began?
It all started in my front bedroom when I was a single mother to 6 year old triplets. I did an MA in Creative Writing intending to be an author but, when putting together our anthology, I learnt how to make a book and I was hooked! I realised that making books had become very easy with the advent of desk top publishing software but selling them would still be hard. I’d worked a lot in the charity sector before and came up with the idea of combining sex and charity in short story collections – the first was called Sexy Shorts for Christmas and raised money for a Breast Cancer charity. Katie Fforde was amongst the authors that kindly donated a story and her name helped sell it into WH Smiths. We still do at least one charity book a year but these days our main focus is on contemporary women’s fiction and crime.

You kindly undertook one2ones at the RNA Conference. Did you enjoy the experience?

Yes, I did, very much. I have a great deal of empathy with authors as I’d planned to be one myself and know well the disappointment of rejections and the joy of an acceptance or positive feedback. Without a doubt digital publishing has opened up new opportunities for writers and enables us to offer a wider and more interesting range of titles. I think it’s an exciting time to be an author as you can now reach a truly global readership and there aren’t the rigid genre restrictions that finding the right place, on the right shelf, in a bookshop used to impose.

What are you looking for from authors? The winner of the RNA's Joan Hessayon Award, Jo Thomas, was published by Accent Press. How important are competitions and awards to your company?

Yes, we were very lucky to be the launch pad for Jo Thomas who was then sold on to Hodder Headline and is continuing to win awards for The Oyster Catcher. Last year I had a very proud moment when we were shortlisted for Independent Publisher of the Year alongside Bloomsbury, Faber and Faber and Constable and Robinson. For a small and relatively new publishing company to be up against those three established London companies was simply incredible. We didn’t win, Bloomsbury did, but it was a huge endorsement and boost for me.
I do think awards are really important to both us and our authors.

Our erotic imprint Xcite Books has won the ETO Best Erotic Book Brand for the last five years and gives us some serious international marketing clout and credibility. I would always encourage people to enter awards because even if you don’t win there are often other benefits and recognition for being shortlisted.

We understand you will shortly be running your own competition, closing date 30th November 2014. Can you give us details?

We are currently running a novel writing competition with Woman magazine and I really hope your readers will participate in that as they can win a writing holiday in France and a publishing contract. Here’s the link to the full details: http://www.accentpress.co.uk/woman-writing-comp.html

Accent Press has grown to become well known in the publishing world. Are there plans to move in other directions in years to come?

This last year has seen a great deal of very positive growth for the company and I have been able to establish a wonderful new team which includes four full-time editors. That has enabled us to take on a lot of new authors – these include debut writers, self-published ones or those, like Christina Jones, who had a strong backlist.  Without a doubt our strength lies in our digital marketing where, due to the way the Amazon algorithms work, authors benefit from being part of a stable of authors that includes top 100 Kindle bestsellers.

One new innovation is our Accent Hub which we are developing as a meeting http://accenthub.com/
place for readers, authors and reviewers – anyone can join so I do hope your readers will as it’s a great place to connect.

Have you ever considered writing a novel?

Yes, and I have two outlined but I have so much fun publishing other peoples that I doubt they’ll ever get written. My triplets are now 18 and have all left for university this September so just maybe, I’ll get around to it. I doubt it though as I have the attention span of a teabag and lack the self-discipline required. I’m genuinely in awe of authors who do ever managed to get to write The End – the dissertation for my MA was 20,000 words and I ran out of things to say at 17,000 so I really don’t think there’s much chance of me bashing out a 70,000 word bestseller any time soon!

Hazel, thank you for finding time in your very busy life to join us today

This blog is brought to you by Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman. If you would like to write about the craft of writing or perhaps be interviewed about your writing life please contact us at elaineeverest@aol.com


Carol McGrath said...

What a lovely interview and I especially enjoyed hearing how Accent started up. I hope it goes from strength to strength and what I really like is the variety of books that Accent publishes. I am sure that contributes to Accent's success and the fact that Hazel loves her work and is so on top of everything. Well Done, Accent and Hazel.

Kay Jaybee said...

This is a great interview- I am so proud to have worked for Hazel, for both Xcite and Accent, for so long. Great stuff. May you go from strength to strength. Jenny Kane (aka Kay Jaybee) x

Laura Wilkinson said...

Interesting post and well done to Hazel and her team for innovation and chutzpah.

Jane Jackson said...

A fascinating interview. I'm proud and thrilled to be part of the Accent family. It took courage and vision to challenge the established order. Hazel has bucketfuls of both. I wish her and her fantastic team continued success and many more awards.

Georgina Troy said...

An insightful interview with an inspiring lady. I'm lucky enough to have recently signed with Accent Press and it's been an incredible experience working with Hazel's hard-working and supportive team.

Jan Jones said...

Good interview all round. One of my stories was in that very first Sexy Shorts for Christmas. Just look at us all now!