There is an indie publisher that is helping local authors realise their dreams. Over the last year or so I have come across several books that have been published right here on Teesside by Sixth Element Publishing. The Billingham Green based business produce books with a professional finish, the recent We Are Premier League being a real case in point. They are also responsible for bringing some great new talent to our book shelves, such as Will Net and author of the Middlesbrough Holmes stories, Mel Small.
I met up with Gillie Hatton of Sixth Element recently and talked to her about all the various services and support they offer aspiring authors. We started by Gillie telling me about one of their Self Publishing Workshops. They are proving very popular and extremely useful.
Q: You had a recent event with Sixth Element.
Gillie: It was a self publishing workshop. It is aimed at people who are writing or have written a book and who have made the decision that they want to do something with it. So whether that is getting it ready to send out to an agent or publisher to go down the traditional route or whether they want to actually want to self publish it themselves.
It is a friendly, informal get together where we can go so some of the process. What it takes to go from a written manuscript through the editing process. The revising, editing and proof reading and getting the story and the book actually right. Then taking people through what it takes to turn that into a book on the shelf. So it is things like typesetting. Some of the tips and hints from the trade that make it look like a real book from any of the big publishers, to little things that you can do that make it look right as opposed to looking self published and home made. Things like getting the cover designed right, writing the blurb. Getting an ISBN Number. How to get it on Amazon. How to get your online platform with twitter and facebook and Amazon. Get it all set up.
We could take for hours or even days but we squash it into one or two hours. On Saturday 25th June we had just one hour. The way we do it is to see who is there and what they are interested in and we go through the process and then if people have specific questions we are happy to wing it and see if we can help people. As a writer you are quite isolated. Even if you have a big publisher a lot of the sales and marketing is left to you on your own.
What we try to do is take you by the hand and give a bit of support and confidence to do it. That could mean a book is published as opposed to not being published.
Q: You are speaking from experience of having been in publishing for several years.
G: Yes we have been doing this for six years now. We do non fiction and non fiction. We do through the whole range from science fiction, crime, thrillers, we have done erotic books. Non fiction, we have done humorous, football, local interest. We have had some brilliant writers from the local area that have written about the local area. Some have been fictionalised like Mel Small and his Holmes volumes. Based in Middlesbrough with fictional characters. My Only Boro is one of ours with Will Net, which is non fiction and is a walk through the town’s history and the football club but with such an edge of humour it is so dry. It has been constantly in print for the last 5 years and it is still popular.
We can help people by taking what they’ve got if it is a bit raw and polish it up or give them the knowledge that they can go and do it themselves confidently to end up with a really good book.
We can go right from mentoring to one to one sessions. We can help people get their story right. Even things like point of view, structure, plot. Then down to the nitty gritty of how to format dialogue and how to set up your word document with the indents and getting the line spacing right. Right the way through to helping them make sales, do book signings, write press releases. Get a website up and running.
Q: A great service there that you are delivering to people here locally.
G: We don’t just work with local writers, for instance we have worked with a writer down in Cornwall over the phone. We like actually talking to people and finding out exactly what they want to do with their book and where they want to go with it and how they want it to be. So we do like working face to face. Meeting up and talking about someone’s book is fantastic.
Q: Have you found that there are a lot of writers out there and a lot of talent?
G: Yes, we were surprised. We did the self publishing day last summer for Crossing The Tees and we did one at Storytellers pub in Stockton with Drake’s bookshop in Stockton. It is fantastic to have a bookshop in Stockton. We have been really chuffed with the number of people that have come up and said I am writing a book. It is really encouraging that there are people in this area that want to do it and actually get their books out there.
Q: You have got this brand new publication We Are Premier League photographs from the final game of the season, Boro v Brighton. The promotion cliff hanger. Tell us about it please.
G: What we wanted to do was capture the emotion of the crowd; it is all about the fans and the people of Middlesbrough on that day. It was lunch time kick off, a really cold, misty day and it was the crowds going to the game and then everyone coming out of the game afterwards. Whether we had a book or not hinged on the final whistle. It had be promotion, it was no good dropping down to the play offs, it had to be guaranteed clinched promotion. The whole future of the town seemed to rest on those nine minutes of extra time and just whether Middlesbrough were going to do it. When they did it was amazing. Everybody going in was so excited and up for it. The atmosphere inside the ground was incredible. Afterwards it was just as if people were almost stunned, so emotional.
There were people outside crying just willing those minutes to go and the referee to blow his whistle. The whole town was waiting for the moment to see whether it was going to be OK or not. And it was and it was brilliant. Actually taking pictures of everyone coming out.
Q: So there are photos of people before and after and you see the emotions written across peoples faces, of tension and delight.
G: Yes, everybody going in was up for it, come on lets do it. Coming out it was just such an emotional.. I think people were stunned. People sent us pictures from inside, the reactions after the game where people were so amazed and it was such good feeling that it actually happened. To think that the Premier League is coming to Middlesbrough next season is awesome.
Q: It is a Premier quality publication because the photos are so good and have been so well reproduced.
G: Thank you.
Q: It has been printed in Middlesbrough as well, hasn’t it?
G: Yes it is printed in Middlesbrough with a really fast turn around. We are very grateful for the printers for working with us on it. The pictures are a mixture of digital and film. So those taken on film we didn’t know for a week afterwards whether we had any pictures or not. You take digital pictures you can see straight away. As for the Film it was just amazing and magical for it to come back.
Q: You have got the contrast in techniques as well.
G: Yes. And the black and white and the red. A lot of people have said that the black and white images are just incredible.
Q: There will be a lot of people unaware that they have been photographed in this book.
G: Yes, we have people now saying look there is so and so etc.
Q: It is on sale at WH SMITHS, Teesside Park and where else.
G: Middlesbrough Cleveland Centre WH SMITHS have got it now as well. And at MFC Retail (Boro shop). And you can get it direct from the website too.