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A Magazine for Sheffield

Bees Make Honey: A CALL TO ARMS

When I finished my Fine Art degree I was disillusioned and apathetic about the creative industries. It seemed that to get ahead you needed to be a part of the culture of schmoozing. Being overly nice to folk you hated. The elitism and self-serving nature of many put me off. I retreated back to the noble job of pulling pints and cracking jokes with real people. Several years on I realise this is the wrong attitude, yet a feeling shared by many. If we leave the creative industries to the schmoozers, to the people who were born into 'good networks', or the people willing to contort themselves to fit in better, then we're part of the problem. The creative world should be eclectic, transformative and constantly evolving. If we let it stay up its own arse, we all lose out. Beyond clinking wine glasses and proffered business cards there's a world thriving inside brains and bedsits. People doing exciting interesting things just because they're compelled to. This is how Bees Make Honey Creative Co-operative was born. At university I started writing a novel. Dogtooth Chronicals is an unusual bit of fiction. Set largely in Sheffield, the reader experiences at ground level the rapid crumbling of physical and social structures in the onslaught of endless storms. The story is driven chaotically by characters absorbed in their own dog days. This means the big reason behind the small apocalypse - the Thermohaline Circulation Shutdown - is barely mentioned. Preoccupied as ever with cynical jokes, quality booze and social anxieties, the friends are suddenly faced with the survivalist's fantasy of building fires from scratch and making meals out of pigeons and rodents. From the intentionally misspelled title to the unusual structure and epic transitions, Dogtooth Chronicals would've been a difficult sell to traditional publishers. Equally put off by their languid movement - a manuscript can take 18 months to get to market - I decided to brave self-publishing. I was already running Bees Make Honey Creative Co-operative, an information sharing blog for start-up creative business and individuals, so it made sense to create a publishing arm. In the spirit of the co-op it seemed only right that once I'd run myself ragged through the experience of taking a book to market, I should help others in doing the same. Publishing is a lot of work for small financial return, so it has to be a labour of love. 2012 was an unusual year in the book world, which is facing major climate change itself. A traditional industry used to operating at the speed of an enthusiastic sloth is experiencing major shifts month-on-month. The former goliaths of publishing are struggling to keep up. Penguin and Random House merged a few months ago. Last January e-books began massively outselling paperbacks on Amazon. The company that manufactured the story of the year (50 Shades outselling Harry Potter) has been very shrewd in its support of self-publishing. But with thousands of new titles published every month, many poorly edited and designed, success seems to be a matter of whatever floats to the top of the pond. Rather than creating a level playing field, the system is just enlarging the dung heap. Navigating the proverbial pile is an unenviable task. The internet holds the potential to reach precious niche markets for unusual fiction, but finding the right way to tap in to this potential is like trying to solve a Rubix cube. This is where a small, independent publisher can come in, establishing a platform and reputation for producing the good stuff. Bees Make Honey is committed to discovering new authors living outside the 'publishing bubble' of London and its immediate orbit. We aim to create a supportive environment where authors get a say in how their work is presented and walk away with decent royalties for their graft and dedication. We also aim to support creative freelancers by promoting and outsourcing to them. Authors who wish to go solo and self-publish will be able to source the same talented individuals we use for editing, cover design and illustration through our website. They will also be able to source photographers and short-film specialists for promotional activities. Gradually we plan to expand these services beyond the publishing world to form a kind of creative match-making service. In writing Dogtooth Chronicals, I fell out with most of the pigeon holes contemporary fiction is meant to favour. The publishing world seems to think my generation doesn't read much, let alone that it craves good stuff to read. Going through this taught me that you don't need to mould yourself to fit the format; you need to build the format that fits you. So make books, make films, make art, make stuff. If bees stop making honey, the whole world is doomed. )

Next article in issue 58

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