Redhook finds a groove in speculative fiction
In the eight years since Orbit, Hachette’s sci-fi and fantasy publishing division, launched Redhook, a lot has changed for print, but one thing remains constant: Redhook’s mission. to publish books with bestselling potential. “We were looking for an opportunity to build on the already present success of the Orbit division,” said Tim Holman, senior vice president and publisher of Orbit, of the origin of Redhook. The idea in launching Redhook, he continued, was to broaden Orbit’s reach by expanding into more general business fiction.
Redhook’s shift to Redhook’s current emphasis on speculative fiction has been gradual, although its seeds were planted in some of his early titles, including his debut book, Robert Lyndon’s Falcon Quest, a 672-page epic historical novel set in Norman England, released in 2013. This was the 2014 publication of Harry August’s first fifteen lives, about a man repeatedly reborn through time, by Claire North, a pseudonym for British author Catherine Webb, who acted as an initial pivot point in Redhook’s strategy.
“It had speculative elements related to a general audience,” Holman said of the title’s success. The novel, which sold over 200,000 copies in all formats, won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel by science fiction. The book helped Redhook “evolve into an imprint focused on publishing speculative fiction,” added Holman.
But it wasn’t a night shift. As with anything new, Redhook needed to build a relationship of trust with authors and agents. Even though the imprint has come to the forefront of the popularity of speculative fiction, Holman acknowledged that “it was useful but not something we planned.”
Redhook also took on marketing and advertising challenges with its general fiction approach. “We would often have a situation where each new book was a different book in a very different genre each month,” said Alex Lencicki, vice president and associate publisher of Orbit. “One month it might be a sci-fi thriller, and the next month it would be a romantic thriller. This meant that we were always trying to find new ways to market each book. “
When he opted for a more speculative focus on fiction, Redhook was better able to use Orbit’s marketing and advertising infrastructure to reach genre readers, especially those of science fiction and science fiction. fantasy. “This allows us to focus on promoting the uniqueness of each book, without always having to reinvent the wheel,” said Lencicki.
“Speculative fiction” was not a term widely used in the 2013/2014 editorial landscape to describe books existing between genres. “Anyone who publishes speculative fiction would have published it under the umbrella of science fiction or fantasy, with publishers like Tor or Orbit or Del Ray,” Holman said. In just under a decade, that all changed. Today, the term of speculative fiction is used to cover anything out of the ordinary.
“Redhook has followed a similar path,” said Holman. “We are now publishing in a world where sci-fi, fantasy or genre fiction is much more appealing to a wider range of readers. “
Another title that pushed Redhook down the path of speculative fiction was that of Alix E. Harrow. The ten thousand gates of January, a fantastic mystery about a sprawling mansion and a book that contains secrets from other worlds. “Harrow has created this whole ecosystem of books that shows how speculative fiction can combine magic, feminism and witchcraft while working with a general audience and this has helped broaden our speculative area of the market,” said Nivia Evans, editor. at Redhook.
If North’s novel helped guide the imprint’s mission in the world of speculative fiction, and Harrow’s mysterious book fantasy world doubled down on this path, it was Louisa Morgan A secret story of witches which cemented and redefined Redhook’s strategy. Morgan had published many fantastic novels before, and Redhook saw a book with crossover potential. “We thought this book could reach an audience outside of fantasy,” said Holman. The choice to promote the book as a speculative work of fiction “has shown us that Redhook can be a place where books spanning multiple categories can thrive,” he added.
Having positioned Redhook at the center of an emerging category, Holman believes “the future has never looked better. We are emerging into a world where there is a much broader and exciting engagement with speculative fiction.
The current strategy of the publishing house is to maintain its speculative orientation while increasing the number of books published per month. As part of its initial model, Redhook did not publish more than one to two titles per month, giving it an active backlist of around 60 titles. However, with the increase in the popularity of speculative fiction, Redhook editors have received more and more submissions. “We are confident that we can publish more,” said Holman.
The upcoming title list is one example of Redhook’s wide range. In September, he will release Andy Marino’s debut album, Sydney Burgess’ Seven Visits, about a woman suffering from trauma following a home invasion. by Lucy Holland sister song, a reinvention of an old British folk ballad, will follow in October. “The extent of what Redhook can do is just, well, fun,” Evans said.
In early 2022, Redhook plans to publish Francesca May’s Wild and wicked things, a post-war adventure about a woman drawn into an underground world of witchcraft, and the film by Alex Jennings The ballad of perilous tombs, a first novel set in the dark slums of New Orleans. Both titles were acquired by Evans (who was named Superstar in PWStar Watch 2020 program).
Redhook is committed to finding books that are out of the ordinary. But with its new approach, the label can release sci-fi, fantasy or horror books without having to rule out a promising title just because it doesn’t fit into a pre-existing category. “There will be more opportunities in the future for speculative fiction to be published in new and interesting ways,” said Holman.
A version of this article appeared in the 9/13/2021 issue of Editors Weekly under the title: Redhook finds a groove in speculative fiction