Being a fan of all things Whovian it seemed it was only a matter of time before I approached Telos Publishing in order to ask for a cheeky interview. Low and behold, to my glee they accepted, and WHO answered, well David J Howe of course, a fellow Doctor Who fanatic, who not only enjoys the show, fandom, memorabilia, but publishes it too. You may remember me mentioning Telos Publishing in my earlier post here, in which I list a number of Independent UK publishers that are friendly towards debut authors.
I was extremely excited to conduct this particular Q&A, not only due to the fact this will be my first ever interview, but also because of my relation to the material the company publishes.
Please introduce yourself to our reader, what is your background and career journey?
Hi there. I’m David J Howe, and I run Telos Publishing, with Stephen James Walker. I’ve been a WHO fan all my life. I joined The Doctor Who Appreciation Society (DWAS) in 1977 and produced my first fanzine (ORACLE) in 1977 . After that I ran the DWAS’ Reference Department from 1979 until the end of the 80s, during this time I also wrote for STARBURST magazine from 1984 onwards and produced second fanzine (THE FRAME) from 1989 – 1993. After that, I wrote books for Virgin Publishing and the BBC in the 1990s. until finally starting Telos Publishing in 2000 – and I’m still doing that to this day.
Can you tell us a little about how Telos Publishing came about?
A slightly involved story … I had been publishing books and publications for the British Fantasy Society in the 1990s, as well as publishing my own fanzine (along with Stephen James Walker and Mark Stammers), and in addition had always had a love of Doctor Who Merchandise, and wanted to see a book published dealing with that subject. however after years and years of not being able to interest anyone through the 80s, eventually I decided to include merchandise sections in the books that we eventually did for Virgin in the 90s (THE SIXTIES/THE SEVENTIES/THE EIGHTIES). However I still wanted to see a complete guide published. And then Arnold T Blumberg got in touch, out of the blue – I didn’t know him at the time – and asked if I wanted to collaborate on a collectibles guide … which of course I did! So we did this, but again could find no publisher who wanted to publish it. So we decided to do it ourselves!
Flick back to 1996, when the Internet was just starting, and getting your own domain names was popular … and I bought my own domain (www.howeswho.co.uk) which I still have and use, and at the same time decided to see what other Doctor Who names might be available … Daleks, Skaro, Gallifrey and so on had all been taken, but to my pleasure, being a big fan of the Cybermen, Telos was available, so I bought www.telos.co.uk with no thought as to what it might be used for other than it was short and memorable.
So when Arnold and I decided to publish the merchandise guide ourselves, we decided to use the Telos domain to promote it, and thus put ‘Telos’ on the spine.
Then, two things happened at roughly the same time. I was a fan of a TV show called URBAN GOTHIC, and had got in touch with the producers to see if I could do a book based on the stories they were presenting there for the British Fantasy Society. They were agreeable, but the contracts were complicated and had implications for the BFS – as it had no legal standing. At the same time, I had thought it would be nice to do some DOCTOR WHO Novella length stories, and so had approached the BBC to see if they would license me to do them. They agreed, but explained that they could only license a limited company and not an individual … so I would have to set up a company to do the Novellas. So I approached Stephen James Walker, who I knew had a sound background in small business legislation and asked if he would help run the company with me. He agreed, and so we went about setting up a company … but what to call it? Well as I already had the Telos domain name, that seemed like a good idea, and so we called the company Telos Publishing and I then could publish the Novellas, and the Urban Gothic book through the company, which solved a lot of issues. As it happened, the first book we actually published as Telos Publishing was the Urban Gothic horror collection.
As you are both a writer and a publisher. Does it help you that have been part of both sides of the publishing process? Or does it make anything more difficult?
I think it adds an appreciation to what you’re doing. We understand writers at Telos as we are all writers ourselves, and so try not to offer contracts that we, ourselves, would not be happy with. We also understand the publishing process, covers, internal layouts and so on. This all helps with getting everything together and at the best quality that our budgets and print runs can sustain.
What are the main challenges have you faced as a company?
I suppose it’s selling books! The market has changed a lot over the years, with the appearance of Amazon, and the whole digital boom, and production processes and technology have changed a lot too. Just keeping good books coming out is a challenge, not letting your standards drop . This means being aware that people want good quality books, well written, nice covers and production, and of course a good level of writing and integrity in the works themselves also.
Obviously your company embraces all things digital, hence launching Telos Moonrise Digital in March 2013. Do you see this as the extinction of the hard copy book, or merely an extension of it ?
It’s an extension. Technology brings you many new avenues to explore, and as long as there are people who want to buy product in those avenues, then it makes sense to embrace them. But I think there’s still a place for the physical book format, and there are things you can do with that which don’t easily lend themselves to a digital format.
We started Telos Moonrise as a logical extension of the fiction publishing which we had already done. We had published a number of novellas and longer works by a variety of authors – some well known, some new – and had found limited success. Bookselling is an imprecise art, and it can be very hard to find an audience for titles when there are so many other books out there. Because of this, we had to make the hard decision to scale back on the fiction publishing in the mid 2000s as it was costing us too much money. But then digital came along, and offered us the opportunity to continue to publish some great fiction, but without the financial risk and outlay that producing physical copies demanded … so this is what Moonrise is all about … trying to find great fiction, and then making it available primarily in digital, but also as a physical format too, if people wish to buy in that format. So far we have published some great titles, with many more to come.
Has any kind of genre stood out as the most popular so far, and has there been a difference in trend between hard copy and digital?
Not really … we still and hopefully always will do well with the main line of film and television guide books – they are still our best sellers and are what we hope we do well, and that people want to buy. But we have found success with all the various strands that we have explored, in differing ways.
This year we were so pleased to be able to work with the fantasy author Tanith Lee before her untimely death, and the book we published, BLOOD 20, turned out to be the final original work she published. We also have a reprint crime novel from Tanith called DEATH OF THE DAY, again, something that we’re really pleased to have published.
And finally, what are you the other staff reading at the moment?
We tend not to have much time to read to be honest! I am working my way through the new Clive Barker novel, THE SCARLET GOSPELS which is a book I have been looking forward to for some time. I’m also reading Sam Stone’s new novel – JINX MAGIC – which is the sequel to JINX TOWN that Telos published early this year. We hope to have that published later this year.
If you wish to find out more about David and Telos Publishing, Follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and have a look at both the Telos Official website, and David Howe’s personal site, all of which are listed below.
Until next time, read more books…