Spectral’s first year: a retrospective review

The above picture, as unassuming as it will look to most, represents a personal triumph. Why? Well, wearing heart on sleeve for a moment, at the beginning of 2010, I wasn’t in a very good place – I’d just had to shut the doors on a project I’d put my heart and soul into for the previous 2 1/4 years, FracturedSpacesRecords. It had been a dream of mine a couple of decades earlier to set up my own record label (a follow-on from the successful music ‘zine, Fractured, that I’d published back in 1990) and, towards the end of 2007, I decided that I was actually going to go ahead and do it, releasing the very first CD in May 2008. But, even though the label received praise across the board for the quality of its products, the sales just didn’t happen – exacerbated by being right smack dab in the middle of a global recession.

Naturally, I was extremely disappointed that nothing had come out of the project, despite all that I had put into it. For the first few months of 2010 I felt very low, but, in the September, something came along which was eventually to turn everything on its head. That something was FantasyCon2010. I’d been getting into writing that year and it had helped enormously to focus my mind on other things. Through social networking sites, I was also connecting with other writers and those involved in the publishing industry. And at FCon, I met many of those who I’d befriended online. But the defining moment came when Nicholas Royle handed me two of his Nightjar Press chapbooks (at the insistence of Johnny Mains) – and thus was planted the tiniest seeds of Spectral Press.

So, wind forward some months to January of the following year, to a scene of me sitting at a desk with an unopened box before me upon it. Inside that box were freshly printed copies of the first ever Spectral Press chapbook, Gary McMahon’s What They Hear in the Dark. To me, it was a thing of beauty, an object that unconsciously embodied all my hopes and ambitions. It was a dream made reality – something that I had been talking about incessantly for the previous few months had been actualised.

And now, I am in the process of sending out Volume IV in the Spectral chapbook series, Paul Finch’s King Death, meaning in essence that the imprint has now cleared its first year of existence. And what a year it’s been. 2011 has seen Spectral go from strength to strength, garnering praise and (dare I say it) critical acclaim for its output. The reactions and the reviews have been beyond anything that I could have envisaged on that day in January when I opened that box on my desk. To cap it all, What They Hear in the Dark has been recommended for next year’s Stoker Awards in the Short Fiction category. If I were seeking validation for my decision to go ahead with the project, then this first year has been it – and validated in buckets at that.

And now, onward to the future, specifically, the next year or two. 2012 will see the debut of Spectral Visions (a line of novellas), the Musiks & Mythos series of Lovecraft stories and music CDs in collaboration with Temple ov Azathoth Records, and in December, the first annual Christmas Ghost story anthology. Beyond that, in 2013, will be the launch of the Spectral Signature Editions of single-author story collections, starting with Simon Kurt Unsworth. And, of course, there will be more, as yet unknown, goodies coming your way.

In the immediate future, there is going to be a restructuring of the subscriptions. First, due to circumstances beyond my control, from January there will be a slight increase in the yearly rate (TBA) BUT there will be a greater choice of how long you want to subscribe for: as well as the 1 year option, there will also be the opportunity to purchase subscriptions for 3 or 5 years, along with a Lifetime Subscription option should you feel particularly flush. With the latter, there will be incentives to make it worthwhile, like discounts on future publications and maybe even a free book thrown in for good measure. A lot has still to be worked out, but all will be in place by January 2012. There will be a blog outlining the changes published at that time.

So, that’s the first year done – but I feel that the best is still yet to come for Spectral. I sincerely hope you’ll come along with me as the imprint grows – so, in the words of the poet:

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!! =)

(I would like to thank Neil Williams [graphics and layout] and Mark West [book trailers] for helping to realise the vision I had for Spectral, Rebecca at Business World MK for being an amazing printer, knowing EXACTLY what I wanted and then delivering beyond expectations, to all the authors who have trusted me to do what I said I would, the readers and subscribers for buying, and finally thanks to my wife Liz for just being there and believing.)

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