Matthew Keyes interviews Fahrenheit founder Chris McVeigh

Posted by Fahrenheit Press on

In February 2018 dozens of bloggers and hundreds of fans of Fahrenheit got together to run Fahrenbruary - a month long celebration of Fahrenheit Press & Fahrenheit13.

The main drivers behind it were two book-bloggers and fans of Fahrenheit Martin Gore & Matthew Keyes.  Martin interviewed Fahrenheit 13 supremo Chris Black over on his blog (you can read it here) and Matthew interviewed Fahrenheit Press head honcho Chris McVeigh over on his.

Matthew has decided to discontinue his blog (he will be sorely missed) but before he went he offered to let us re-produce the interview in full on our site so that it could be saved for posterity... 

So here it is, unedited and unexpurgated in all its *coughs* glory...


Today is the final day of #Fahrenbruary and we’re really fortunate to have Chris McVeigh, founding father of Fahrenheit, answering some questions to round out what has been a spectacular month.

Chris McVeigh, Founder, Fahrenheit Press


MK: So lets start with the really rather obvious question, how did Fahrenheit come about?

CMV: Fahrenheit was basically an intervention mounted by my friends. I was bored and driving everyone around me fucking nuts. Turns out there is a limit to how many times a 46 year-old man can polish his motorcycle (not a euphemism, mostly) without going crazy in the coconut. An author approached me for help publishing a book and once I dipped my toe back in the publishing pool I got a taste for it again. Within 3 months we’d published 6 books and Fahrenheit was born. 3 years later we’ve published 100+ books and my motorcycle has never looked so unpolished and unloved.

MK: You’ve been in publishing a very long time, how did you end up in the industry in the first place? Was it something you wanted to do from an early age? Or something you stumbled in to?

CMV: Ha. My career. Fucking hilarious. Settle down and get comfy, this could take a while.

Nah, I never wanted to be a publisher. As a working class boy from Glasgow I didn’t even know it was an option, and to be fair, even if I had, it probably wouldn’t have interested me. I wanted what all 16 year old boys with my looks and my swagger wanted – I wanted to be a rock star. I left Glasgow and got on the bus to London with a dream in my heart and £10 in my pocket just as soon as I could.

For years while I was waiting to be discovered I basically did any job I could lay my hands on. If it paid cash money I was on it. As a result my CV is eclectic to say the least.

If you ate potatoes in London in the mid-eighties then they almost certainly passed through my hands – one of my gigs was working as a potato catcher in New Covent Garden market. I stood at the bottom of a hole and big burly men dropped sacks of potatoes on me which I then stacked in the vast underground warehouse. Great workout, great people, decent money.

Similarly decent money was to be had working as a grave-robber – one of my regular gigs whenever I was in Paris. If you laid flowers on Jim Morrison’s grave in the late-eighties then me or one of my mates almost certainly stole them about 10 minutes after you left and sold them back to the florist at the gates of Pere Lechaise cemetery who in turn would re-sell them to the next bunch of hapless mugs who’d been taken in by the lizard king’s horseshit – in my defence I saw it more as an act of musical criticism than as theft.

Staying with the flower theme, I was a florist in Primrose Hill for a time, perhaps the job I was happiest in. When you’re a florist you meet people when something is happening in their life – when they’re in love, when they’ve fallen out of love, when someone has died, when someone is born – all the big hits. My City & Guilds certificate in floristry is still the highest academic qualification I’ve ever achieved. I’ve always promised myself I’d go back to it someday, and when I finally decide to burn Fahrenheit to the ground I just might.

At other times I was a busker (natch) and performed in cities all over Europe. Unlike my contemporaries who were in it for the love of the music, I was in it to be able to eat so I was a bit more calculating. I realised fairly early on that regardless of the city, it was the American tourists who were the ones with the cash and the poor grasp of exchange rates so I aimed my busking directly at them. I only ever performed 2 songs, We Are The World (yup, all the parts) and Miss American Pie.

To this day I know I can always clear 50 bucks in 15 minutes with those two songs in any city, anywhere in the world. #PensionPlan

Inevitably I was an Elvis impersonator for a while – with these lips and these hips of course I fucking was. Sadly my career ended in a club in South Shields when I improvised a version of There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis into my set. Turns out that like nuns, Elvis fans have no sense of humour. #Actual

So, no. Publishing wasn’t ever on my mind.

One evening I met a guy in a pub who was building a thing called a database – fucking witchcraft back then. Apparently databases and computers were going to revolutionise everything and he had decided (much like Bezos had 6000 miles away at almost the same time) that publishing was gonna be one of the easiest markets to leverage – an industry with lots of money floating around and run by old white men who knew more about tweed than computers. I understood fuck nothing about what he was saying but he was clearly loaded and he kept the drinks flowing – to be honest I assumed he was trying to sleep with me (at that point in my life I always assumed everyone was trying to sleep with me). As an aside, if your love-life is a bit barren give this a try – if you genuinely go through life assuming everyone is trying to sleep with you you’ll be amazed how many people pick up on that vibe and often surprise themselves by actually ending up wanting to sleep with you – oh and always say no the first couple of times they ask – ramps up the tension innit.

Oh, yeah, publishing, sorry …

– turned out this guy wasn’t trying to sleep with me but by the end of the night he liked me enough to offer me a job – £5 an hour doing something called ‘data-entry’ I jacked in my bar job and signed up. Against all the odds it turned out that I had an undiscovered talent and I very quickly went from data entry to coding. No-one was more surprised than me. I’d never touched a computer – almost no-one had back then – this was when disks were literally floppy and the highest spec PC had 1% of the diskspace and processing power than the average phone does now. Anyway the upshot was that I ended up making proper cash money, not fuck-tonnes, but certainly way beyond what anyone I knew was earning back then. I very much lived a double-life, coder by day – low-life camden barfly by night.

And gradually, like most people I guess – life got in the way of my dreams of rock-stardom. I found myself with responsibilities, bills to pay, people who depended on me – normal civilian stuff. I worked hard, made some cash and a bit of a rep and eventually one of the big publishing corps (Thomson) lured me to come and build them one of these marketing database things. So there I was unexpectedly working in the marketing department of a $5 Billion a year publishing corporation and more surprisingly moving up the ranks at speed – turned out I was even more suited to marketing than coding.

Then one summer in the early 90s EVERYONE I knew became a Rock Star. Well that’s how it felt at the time. Suddenly everyone seemed to get signed and people who’d been my mates for years were suddenly in magazines and on the TV. It was all pretty surreal. Still is to an extent. I guess that’s when I admitted to myself that I was never gonna be that Rock Star dude and honestly I was alright with that then and I still am now. I know a few, and honestly I wouldn’t trade their life for mine. Most of my mates were (and are) musicians but music became my hobby rather than my job – though I’ve always kept my hand in, managing bands, doing a bit of production, talent spotting etc. Music was (and is) my soul, but it turned out publishing was gonna be my bread and butter.

That said, throw a guitar at me and I’ll still happily jump up on the stage and shake my hips at you.

I stayed at the Thomson for 6 years and did well there – I was the first (probably only) person who ever entered their graduate training fast-track programme without being a graduate. – they liked me and moved me all around the corporation and all around the world – it was very much my publishing university. Eventually though I realised I wanted to be captain of my own ship so I left and set up on my own – 22 years later I’ve never regretted that decision. I’ve worked either directly or indirectly in publishing for all of that time. Even when I got distracted by a bunch of Californian tech money for a few years I kept my publishing consultancy running in the UK in case I ever needed a safety net. Luckily I never did.

MK: You’re known for a straight-talking approach to your business, has that gotten you in any trouble through your career?

CMV: Quite the opposite I think. I kinda made it my schtick. When I ran my publishing consultancy I used to engage with the industry directly and I was regularly invited to speak at all the conferences and networking events. I think in the end I probably became a parody of myself, ramping up the swearing, drinking bourbon on stage during presentations – my behaviour in those days wasn’t always the best – I was kinda full of myself, in a bad way. In my defence though it did seem that the more outrageous I got, the more they lapped it up. In many ways I became a kinda publishing dominatrix – hundreds of publishers would buy tickets to come to an event where I would rant at them from the pulpit telling them how shit they all were at their jobs. I remember one event on the Southbank in London where I ended my presentation with “Getting your metadata right is boring. Work is called work for a reason, it’s not meant to be fucking fun. Life sucks, get a fucking helmet.” – the CEO of one of the big corps hired me the next morning to come in and give that same speech to his staff. #Actual.

MK: Do you have any career highs or lows to share? The events that made you, that you’ve always remembered.

CMV: Career highs – yeah loads of them I expect but to be honest the things I’ve taken the most enjoyment and satisfaction in have been in my personal life.

I’m someone who worked hard to get money but only so I could live the life I wanted to live. I definitely work to live, not live to work. I’ve never chased success for success’ sake.

I guess though most of my career related satisfaction comes from Fahrenheit now. I’m really proud of what we’re building here. The first time I held a Fahrenheit book in my hand – that was pretty fucking special. Always is as it goes. I never get bored of holding our books and seeing our skull star logo on the cover – though to be fair since I got our logo tattooed I just need to look at my wrist.

Career lows – again fucking loads of them. Mostly self-inflicted – ego + confidence can take you a long way but they’ve also been the seeds of all my best disasters. The most spectacular example was probably when an American tech/media guy flew in to London on a buying spree and a publishing company I had an interest in was on his shopping list. We met in the bar of a swanky Mayfair hotel and this alpha male, quarter-back type fella offered us £1 million in cash and £4 million in paper (shares in his company). We figured that was just his opening offer, turned him down and asked for double. He smiled, shook our hands and walked away. Turned out he was well known for not bargaining. His company floated 6 years later with a market cap of $1.9 Billion – we calculated that our share of the ‘paper’ he offered that day would have been worth around £39 million quid. As a footnote though, the guy remembered me, and when our paths crossed again he liked me enough to offer me a job – he’s the reason I ended up in California.

MK: One of my favourite things to look out for on the Fahrenheit twitter is your occasional rants, do you have any that you’d started writing and stopped yourself from tweeting out?

CMV: Nah, I’m not that strategic, if something bugs me enough to start me off I just go with it and press send. That said, a few years ago I was prone to naming and shaming the people I was ranting about but frankly I realised I was being a bully and just throwing my weight around. There’s enough nasty shit on social media so I stopped that and now if I have a rant it’s never aimed at individuals. Life’s too short to hold grudges. These days I try to answer my critics by living the happiest version of my life that I can.

MK: Those rants are usually triggered by an e-mail or a comment, do you have any classics you haven’t yet shared? I bet you get some genuinely entertaining stuff taking over your inbox.

Publishing is an emotional business. Books mean a lot to people and none more so than to the people who write them. Writers often invest so much of themselves in their work that it’s easy for them to lose all perspective. That can lead to problems when they send their babies to be ripped apart by a bunch of evil cold-hearted publishers like us.

Some authors take rejection VERY badly. We never give reasons why we reject people – I learned early on that giving people feedback is just asking for trouble – all we ever say is along the lines of  ‘thanks very much for taking the time but this isn’t one for us.’ – you wouldn’t believe some of the abuse we get sent sometimes when we’ve rejected someone’s work.

The ones that make me laugh the most though are the writers who start their submission by rebuking us for not having ‘proper submission guidelines’ on our website and then telling us what the ‘industry standard’ is and how far short we fall before ending with a variation of ‘i look forward to hearing from you in due course’ – this happens more often than you can imagine. For the record we deliberately don’t have submission guidelines because we encourage free thinkers – if your writing is awesome I don’t give a flying fuck about how you structure your submission.

Although on that, there are a couple of things I do want to say about submissions.

I’ve noticed an upturn this year of writers sending submissions and then following up afterwards with another email telling us they’ve had an offer from another press but that they’d really prefer to publish with us. Don’t do this. It really pisses me off and I will always tell you to fuck off and take your manuscript with you.

Also, and this is a bit sadder – filling your submission email with a sob story about how hard your life is, the obstacles you’ve had to overcome, and how much you really really really want to be published – this is a huge red flag to me. The truth is I don’t know you, and while I may sympathise with your troubles, the amount of longing you have to be published is entirely irrelevant to our decision. I call these the Simon Cowell submissions. They too are usually binned.

We publish less than 1% of the submissions we receive. I’m afraid for better or worse it’s a buyer’s market and when you submit to Fahrenheit your putting yourself up against some pretty tough competition so be patient (we do read everything, eventually) and be polite if it doesn’t work out between us – publishing is a very small world and what goes around tends to come around.

Finally on submissions I reserve a special circle of hell for people who kiss my ass and are then rude or objectionable to someone else in the Fahrenheit family. Everyone connected with Fahrenheit (staff, authors, bloggers, readers, suppliers) is under standing orders to report any such behaviour to me and my wrath is fucking mighty.

MK: In my opening post for #Fahrenbruary, Anatomy of a Transatlantic Love Cult, I commented that Fahrenheit has fans and that I don’t think many, if any, other publishers could claim that. What do you attribute that too?

CMV: Mate, clearly it’s ALL down to me – if I wasn’t running a publishing house I’d probably be sitting on a massive throne being worshipped as a living god (or, y’know, in prison).

Nah, much as I’ve always quite fancied some hardcore adulation I think it’s because people pick up on the fact that everyone at Fahrenheit is an enthusiast and an evangelist for our books. We’re authentic in every way we can be. We fuck up, we have successes and we’re honest about both. We try and be straight up about everything we do.

I also think we’re great at spotting talent (massive nod to Chris Black at Fahrenheit 13) and after a while people recognised that if a book has a Fahrenheit stamp on it then at the very least it’s gonna be interesting. In turn that attracts authors who are interesting and I think we’ve built a bit of a virtuous circle in that respect.

We have people who buy every single book we publish because they trust our taste. In this way it’s very much like the record labels we wanted to emulate – Factory Records, Beggars Banquet, Mute, Rough Trade.

I think we also have genuine conversations with the people who buy and read our stuff – lots of companies pretend to do that but in reality I think it’s quite a rare thing and I think people react to that.

I also think being a Fahrenhista says something about the type of person you are. Something very very cool.

And there’s so much talent on our list. Sometimes when I stand back and look at the roster of authors we’ve built I’m in awe. I honestly believe we’ve got some of the most imaginative, edgy and important crime fiction authors in the world on our list. There are certainly names on there are headed for greatness in the future.

We’ve put together an awesome team, every single person that works with Fahrenheit from the editors, to the designers, to the promo-team, every single one of them works for the love of it. Their devotion to the cause humbles me every single day – if I sometimes come out swinging it’s usually on their behalf because I know what they’re all giving of themselves to make this happen.

I’m endlessly grateful for every single bit of support we get – I never take any of it for granted. When you see something like #Fahrenbruary being created spontaneously by people who want to support us – maaaan, i’d struggle to think of another brand in the world who could inspire that kinda support – in publishing i don’t think there’s anyone even close to that sort of engagement.

We joke sometimes that Fahrenheit is a love-cult but that’s not so very far from the truth – we run on love – we receive it and we give it back – our challenge is to be worthy of the love we get thrown our way every day, with every book we publish.

MK: Sticking with the theme of what makes Fahrenheit different, the notion of having merch has always struck me as very rock n roll, where did that idea come from? And how big a part has it played in Fahrenheits success?

CMV: For us merch was a no-brainer. My background in the music industry taught me the value of a good fucking T-shirt. It was always in our business plan to sell merch, but much like a band we had to build an audience and a brand that people wanted to be associated with. Since we launched our line of merch we’ve never looked back. Our t-shirts deliberately mimic band t-shirts cause that’s the sort of gang mentality we’re trying to grow. I’d estimate merch now makes up about 15% of our turnover and most months it’s what makes the difference between operating at a profit or a loss.

MK: We hear a lot in the press at the moment, in the UK at least, about how tough retail can be. How are Fahrenheit getting on, and just how important is the difference between direct sales and those through a third party?

CMV: Things are tough all over. For small presses like Fahrenheit things are really tough. Nobody is getting rich out of this. A good month is one where we just about break even.

The truth is that presses like ours wouldn’t exist without Amazon but the amount of cash we make from them wouldn’t keep us going on its own. The direct sales from our site are way more profitable for us and those are the sales that pay the bills every month. We have huge loyalty from our customers once they discover us and return business amounts to about 60% of our turnover every month. In a way we’ve managed to turn the conventional wisdom upside down and Amazon are very much our shop-window to the world. I can’t prove this but I’m pretty sure people find us on Amazon, buy one or two, hook into what we’re all about and then start buying direct.  To that end that’s why we take so much care about the way we send the books & merch out to people – when you buy something direct from Fahrenheit we want you to feel loved, like you’re getting a gift from a friend – I think people appreciate that.

MK: Fahrenheit is fiercely independent and often tweets support for other indies, going so far as to bring Thirteen Press into the fold as Fahrenheit 13 when they got into some difficulty. Can you talk about how that came about?

CMV: Just to be clear on that. Number 13 Press were NEVER in trouble. No.13 was a project dreamt up, organised and implemented by Chris Black. The concept was to publish 13 novellas in total, on the 13th of the month, for 13 months. A mission that was accomplished magnificently and with a great deal of well-deserved critical acclaim for Chris and his authors.

Our orbits collided because we had an author in common. The author had self-published his first book, No.13 published the 2nd in the series and we published 3, and 4. We took over the publishing of book 1 and I approached Chris Black to suggest that we pool our resources and promote all the books in the series together. He was amenable to that idea and our designers provided him a new cover for book 2 that fitted into the series design and made them all look like they had come from the same publisher. Our rationale was that readers don’t give a fuck about who published which book in the series and if we sell more, by presenting a united brand, Number 13 Press would sell more too, and the author would earn more.

It was definitely the first and only time two publishers had joined forces like this and I’m pretty sure that no-one other than Chris Black would have had the vision, the balls or the confidence to say yes to my proposal.

I kinda knew then that I’d found the Sundance to my Butch Cassidy.

We kept talking in the back-channel and I told him I thought his taste in picking books was awesome and that it was a pity he’d stopped at 13. Eventually I took him out and entirely took advantage of him by getting him roaringly drunk and persuading him to re-launch No.13 under the Fahrenheit banner.

We shifted some books from the main Fahrenheit list over, added them to the No.13 list and Fahrenheit 13 was born.

Chris Black runs the list entirely independently from me – he makes all the decisions on commissioning and editorial and we provide the sales, marketing, design and distribution. Occasionally we meet up when I’m in London, shoot the shit and get drunk together. It’s a unique set-up but I think the results speak for themselves.

MK: I’m not going to ask if you have a favourite Fahrenheit book, that would essentially be sadism in Q&A form – but do you have any memorable moments to share, books that really caught you out and defied expectations?

CMV: You didn’t ask but imma tell you anyway. I do have a favourite Fahrenheit book – it’s Dead Is Better by Jo Perry.

I can remember when I read the manuscript for the first time and thinking ‘Maaaaan this is FUCKED UP WEIRD… imma really like it.’

I’d never read anything quite like it and I just thought if Fahrenheit is gonna stand for anything, it’s gonna stand for this. Dead Is Better was a pivotal moment for Fahrenheit – it felt like a line in the sand. It still does.

I’ve also got a soft spot for Derek Farrell’s books – partly because he’s become a dear friend but also because he’s a much better writer than he thinks he is and imma looking forward to the day he finally realises how much his books mean to people.

Then there’s Duncan MacMaster – Jesus he’s good. Like really, really good. His books are difficult to pigeon-hole though and I really wish more people would open up to them.

Ha! Imma about to go through them all one by one ain’t I? Fuck. Okay. Imma stop. Suffice to say we don’t publish any books under the Fahrenheit imprint unless I love them – it’s that simple – I love them all. Full. Stop.

MK: What do you look for in a submission? I have no ambitions to being an author, so I’m not looking for advice here! Just a sense of what makes something stand out from the pack to you.

CMV: Honestly I have no idea. Earlier in this interview I covered some of the stuff that winds me up with submissions – it’s harder to pinpoint what makes something click. It’s like if you’re in a bar and it’s heaving with people. You don’t know you’re looking to meet anyone, and even if you were, you wouldn’t know what that person would be like, and then a song starts and you sip your bourbon and someone looks at you, and you look at them and you both smile and then you both know..  pretty much my experience with every book we’ve ever signed.

MK: How has that changed over the years? I would imagine in part to do with who you were working for at the time, but also in terms of fashion, do trends impact readers as much as we maybe think?

CMV: I mentioned earlier that the moment Fahrenheit changed for me was when I read Dead Is Better – up until then the plan was to publish ruthlessly commercial crime fiction, sell fuck tonnes of generic psychological thrillers and sell the business to one of the corporates for a big fat cheque within 5 years. When I realised I really didn’t want to do that everything changed. We still publish very commercial crime fiction but they have to be cool, and different, with a unique voice – and fuck me we’ve found some belters. In common with most publishers, about 20% of our titles make up 80% of our revenue and those are the ones that pay for everything else. Sure we need to turn a profit where we can but at the same time we’ve set about trying to build a list that makes our souls sing – a list that reflects us and our values. We publish awesome books by awesome authors, some of whom I know for a fact wouldn’t get published anywhere else. I’m proud of that. It feels good to feel proud about that.

MK: On a related note, Derek Farrell asked – and this is a direct quote: “What the fuck were you thinking when you signed a borderline alcoholic Irishman with a proposed series of deranged Queer Crime Novels that have been described as “Flann O Brien as directed by Jarman on Acid”?”

CMV: I question the entire premise of his question – ‘borderline’ is not a word I’d ever use to describe Derek Farrell but I’ve heard his books are ‘quite fun’.

MK: Lets talk music a little! Fahrenheit describes itself as a punk noir publisher. How large an influence has music, and punk in particular, had in your life?

CMV: Punk to me essentially means doing it yourself. Not waiting for some self-appointed gate-keepers to invite you inside. Being the captain of your own ship. You don’t need technique, you don’t need contacts, you don’t even really need a plan. The only thing you need is an idea and enough passion, self-belief and resilience to knuckle down and work like fuck to make your idea a reality.

It’s like when I go and see a band live, I like it quick and dirty – I don’t really get off on watching musicians twiddle about showing off their technique on stage – bit like the first time you watch someone have a wank – interesting for the first couple of minutes but then you just wish they’d get it over with so you can get back to the party.

I can be as nostalgic as the next fella when it comes to the albums I’ve played to death, the gigs I’ve been to and why Mark E Smith and Johnny Thunders should be canonised immediately – get me at 1am with a bottle of bourbon and I’ll happily swap rock-n-roll war stories with you till the sun comes up.

That said, what I really love to do is go and see a bunch of youngsters thrashing the fuck out of their instruments in front of 40 people in a sweaty filthy little club. That moment just before a band break, and everyone around them can feel the buzz building – that moment never gets old for me. Thinking about it as I write this, it’s probably that moment I’ve unconsciously been trying to replicate with Fahrenheit and our authors.

MK: What are you listening to most at the moment?

CMV: The album I’ve had on repeat for the last 6 months is Pastoral by Gazelle Twin – not my usual style frankly but she’s got under my skin and I can’t shake it. I’ve also got a lot of time for a band called Surfing Magazines. And frankly if you go and see Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs and they don’t make you want to be 18 again – imma not sure we can be friends. If you listen to Marc Riley or Iggy pop on @BBC6Music you’ll pretty much have my playlist nailed.

MK: And what album do you adore that might surprise people?

CMV: Not so much an album but people always seem to be surprised when they discover I’m a bit of an opera buff. I never expected it to be one of my things at all but the first time someone took me to an opera I had an entirely visceral experience – the first time I went to Verona to see La Traviata is a memory I’ll take to the grave. It’s probably just a frequency thing but the tears often run freely and strong – thinking about it now, Gazelle Twin probably tap into something similar for me.

In other news I firmly believe that Crazy Horses by the Osmonds is the greatest rock song ever written – just perhaps recorded by the wrong band. I’ve been waging a very serious 20 year back-channel campaign to persuade a very famous band to have a crack at – so far the furthest they’ve gone is the soundcheck, but I live in hope – I know where the bodies are buried and I’m not above blackmail.

MK: And as Rock N Roll has a bit of relationship with alcohol, and rumour has it you are partial to a scotch, Tony Cox asked which is your favourite? I’d be interested to know too, my personal favourite in my collection at the moment is the Bruichladdich 2016 Fes Ile bottling. That or one of the Ardbeg’s…

CMV: Yeah i used to be a single malt fella – I like them peaty and strong – so Islay basically. I’ve got a very good friend who occasionally indulges me and gifts me a bottle of those experimental limited editions that Lagavullin have been releasing over the years – those are always a special treat. To be honest though I’m a bourbon man these days. And not fancy bourbon either. Give me a bottle of Jack and I’ll be a very happy man. I’m a man of appetite, and when I drink, I like to drink properly without getting caught up in the nuance or subtlety of the connoisseur.

MK: I’m a bit of a number nerd at heart, so lets return to #Fahrenebruary a moment, as you no doubt remember there was a little controversy late last year about the efficacy of bloggers, do you have any latest statistics to share about the impact this crazy little project Martin and I pieced together has had? And anything around the impact bloggers in general can have on a books success?

CMV: Okay we’ll run the numbers and publish them separately once #Fahrenbruary is over.

So, as far as that ‘controversary’

As it goes I have a certain amount of sympathy for the publisher we’re not mentioning – I think he handled a tricky situation badly but frankly I think we’ve all been there done that in our lives, right?

A market place has built up where some prominent book-bloggers are charging publishers to organise blog tours. Nothing wrong with that, more power to them. To my mind though it’s inevitable that once you start charging for a service it’s legitimate to be questioned about the value you bring to the table.

Full disclosure – Fahrenheit very happily pay 3rd parties to organise blog tours for us and a great job they do for us too.

The truth is (and I suspect this is what the publisher in question was very clumsily trying to articulate) is that blog tours (on the whole) don’t lead to a measurable sales spike. At least not in the short term.

The reason Fahrenheit are happy to pay for blog tours is that we believe they have a cumulative effect – they magnify our own promotional efforts – the results are very hard to measure in pounds, shillings and pence but in terms of brand and author visibility we think they’re a very useful tool in our publicity armoury.

We get huge support from book-bloggers and we believe it increases sales but can I absolutely prove it – no, honestly I cant – but the sales are coming from somewhere and our analytics can only ever trace a percentage of them. Back in my tech days we called this phenomena Dark Social.

Interestingly #Fahrenbruary has been a very different beast. Perhaps it’s because it was authentically a reader/blogger generated event, perhaps it’s because it’s had a broad focus over our whole list but we did notice an instant and sustained sales spike almost immediately.

Honestly though this is uncharted territory so it might take a while for us to have numbers we can interpret and make sense of. One thing we can say for sure is that it’s attracted a whole bunch of new readers who we can see are dipping their toes in the Fahrenheit water by downloading an eBook or two directly from our site. If those new readers follow the pattern of our existing customers hopefully they’ll stick around and join the party on a regular basis.

MK: I’ve found #Fahrenbruary to be a lot of fun, if somewhat chaotic at times! How has the experience been from your point of view?

CMV: Mate, I’m beyond blown away. This has become one of the biggest, most effective and most sustained promotional projects I think ANY indie publisher has ever had and it was all done not by us but by people who like us enough to want to support us.

It’s a total mind-fuck if I’m honest.

I’ve had emails from senior figures in the industry asking what the ‘real story’  is – no-one quite seems to believe that we haven’t orchestrated the entire month.

I won’t lie, part of me wishes we had organised the whole fucking thing and pretended we hadn’t – it’d be tres Bill Drummond, right?

MK: And before we wrap this up, any chance at all you’ll tell us who Linden Chase really is?

CMV: Nah mate, book 3 will be out next month – and that could be the last you’ll ever hear from Linden Chase – if she wants to tell you who she is, that’s up to her – if you’re a very good boy she might even do it on your blog.


*This interview first appeared in February 2018 on It's An Indie Book Blog and is reproduced here with the kind permission of Matthew Keyes.


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