“Who is Ben?” I asked.
“Ben is actually an acronym formed from the initials of the three people behind this.” I was told. “Think of us as a six-armed editing/ design/ marketing monster.
“We’re like-minded friends who are a bit disappointed that the eBook revolution has mainly resulted in an awful lot of dodgy, generic pap being e-published and not a huge amount else. eBooks should be heralding in a new literature, not 50 Shades Of Grey and a bottomless pit of 50 Shades Of Grey clones.”
So Ben has/have started a publishing entity called Illegal Characters.
“Our goal,” he/they told me last night, “is to build up Illegal Characters into a brand where readers know they’re getting something weird and original – and authors know they can fart around with creative ideas that would get them thrown out of any respectable publisher’s office.”
“So why,” I asked, “should Fred Bloggs publish with you?”
“It really depends on what kind of guy Fred is,” I was told. “If Fred’s written a standard scifi/romance/thriller/self-help book, then Fred should contact a standard scifi/romance/thriller/self-help publisher.
“But, if Fred’s written something that he thinks is really wonderful that doesn’t really fit anywhere else, he should come to us. We’re happy to take the time to work on a text that’s brilliant but flawed and, as long as we like the book itself, then we’ll get behind it.
“We’re not looking for the next JK Rowling, we’re looking for someone who’s going to be the first to do whatever the hell it is that they’re doing.”
“And your first book is…”
“Now Then by Colin Alexander.”
“The premise of which is…”
“Jimmy Savile steals a time machine… It’s a sci fi comedy about a nerdy professor and a pissed-off schoolgirl who are trying to wrestle the machine back from Savile before he rewrites human history to his own sickening ends. Featuring cameos from the Bronte Sisters, Shakespeare and A Time-Travelling Alien Who Cannot Be Named For Copyright Reasons. It also explains the true story of Jesus in a way that will probably have Dan Brown kicking himself for not thinking of it first.”
“And it has just been published this week,” I said, “which is why you’ve approached me?”
“Well,” I was told by Ben, “the plan was (and still is) to have a Spring launch for Illegal Characters with three full-length novels. But, when Colin told us about Now Then, we had to read it. And, once we’d read it, we thought it made a pretty good statement of intent for Illegal Characters.”
“It’s weird, it’s lots of fun and it would probably have been subjected to a lifetime of snippy rejection letters from other publishers.
“The fact that it’s a piece of fiction about something in the news right now was also really appealing because you don’t get a lot of rapid-reaction literature. You certainly don’t get a lot of rapid-reaction book publishing. So we took this on as a challenge to see how quickly we could produce it. Answer: very quickly.”
“And your deal is?”
“Illegal Characters is offering a financial deal that’s pretty hard to beat – no upfront costs, half of the profits.”
“Oh well,” I said. “I’ll blog about anything interesting and the film I saw today was shit.”
“Outstanding,” said Ben.
And then he/they went away.