Dark & Sinister: an Interview with Barry Hutchison

Hi Barry, I hear you have launched an independent publishing company named Dark & Sinister – would you care to tell us a bit more about it?

Dark & Sinister is a new type of publishing company specialising in digital horror. We’re looking at finding new ways of taking advantage of digital technology to bring our readers into the worlds of our stories. So rather than bring out a 60,000 ebook and wait to see if it sells, we’ll be bringing out ongoing weekly installments of 8,000 – 10,000 words each, backed up by web content, audio, video and even apps.
To give you one example of what I mean by that, let’s say you’re reading an episode of our first series – THE BUG – and are interested in a minor character who appears for a few paragraphs. You’ll be able to go online and follow that character’s story leading up to the point they appear in the main story, and then follow them afterwards, too. So you’ll be able to see scenes from a different perspective, and learn things about the main ongoing story you may not have picked up on otherwise.

As I say, that’s just one example. Many of the ideas we have for how else to enhance the stories are quite “out there”, and need to be refined a bit before we unleash them on the world. We have big plans, though, and digital provides the opportunity to put those plans into action.

I see that you are going down the crowd-sourced funding route via Indiegogo – for those that are not aware of crowd-funding would you be able to explain how it all works?

Essentially creators or whoever post up an idea they want to develop and need to raise finance for. In that past they’d take that idea to a bank manager or whoever, but thanks to the internet anyone in the world can contribute funds and help make projects happen. In return, the creator usually offers a range of perks which contributors get in return for putting in some cash. Our perks include a severed foot, a manuscript critique, and a kiss on the lips. Oh and badges. Lots and lots of badges.

Why did you make the decision to go the indie route?

I love print books, and I love the work publishers do. Print books are pretty much my favourite things in the world, and my house is filled to bursting with them. That said, there are certain things that digital is better suited for, and I think the major publishers have their hands tied at the moment with regards how much they can take advantage of that. They produce print books first and foremost, with the ebook edition playing an increasingly large part.

So a large publisher has to put out electronic versions of their print books, and there are certain lengths and formats print books tend to have to stick to. By skipping out the print book stuff, we’re suddenly not bound to stick to those templates. THE BUG, for example, is following the comic book publishing model with six “episodes” or “issues” and then a collected edition at the end of that run. It’s not just a case of serialising a single story, either. These episodes are written almost like episodes of a big budget TV show like LOST or 24. There’s a hook at the start, and a cliffhanger at the end, with each six episode series tying some of the strands of the story arc, but leaving others to run on to series two.
And so… er… in answer to your question, the indie route allows much more flexibility and gives us the freedom to experiment in a way that larger publishers often can’t.

Will you still be writing for other publishers or will you stay with the creator-owned publishing model?

I still have a number of books to be published by HarperCollins, and I have no plans to stop writing for other publishers as long as they’ll continue to publish me! As I say, I think what Dark & Sinister is aiming to do is quite a different thing to what print publishers are doing, so it’s the equivalent of a newspaper journalist who also runs a news blog – there’s some crossover, of course, but they’re two disparate things for potentially very different markets. The stuff I’m personally writing for Dark & Sinister is for adult readers, too, whereas I’m very happy continuing to write for children and teens with my other publishers.

How will the money raised via Indiegogo be used?

The money will be used in a number of ways. Firstly, I want to build a solid website with which to run the whole venture from. So this would act as the central hub for the books, their spin-off sites, the community stuff we have planned, etc, etc. That, as I’ve discovered, doesn’t come cheap.
Because quality control is so important in indie publishing, some of the money will go towards professional services like editing, proof-reading, cover design, etc. For the audio stuff we’ll also need to pay voice talent and recording expenses, then there are fees for the writers who will be developing stories with us, marketing costs, the cost of the perks themselves, etc, etc. We’re also looking into doing the occasional one-off print version of some of our titles, with a run of around 100 copies, so some of the money may go towards that, too. I’m trying to raise $10,000 (Indiegogo is a US-based site and works in dollars) but with all the costs involved we’ll have to monitor every penny of that.

What can we expect from Dark & Sinister?

A finely-balanced combination of high-tech innovation, and good old fashioned scares. To me, horror is the most interactive of all the genres, sucking you in like Al Pacino in the Godfather III. It’s the perfect genre for a lot of the things we’re trying to do. Plus horror fans are some of the most hardcore passionate fans in the world!

How can readers, fans and librarians get involved?

The obvious answer is by donating money at http://www.indiegogo.com/darkandsinister but obviously in these times of austerity not everyone has cash to spare. You can help by going along to that page and using the buttons to share it on Twitter, Facebook or to your friends on email. Spreading the word, talking about the project, reading the free previews I’m posting and discussing them with other people – all these things help raise awareness of the campaign, and of what we’re trying to do. There’s a newsletter on our website – www.darkandsinister.com. Just signing up to that is another way of helping, so there’s lots you can do without it costing you a penny.

Although, that said, you can donate as little as $2 (about £1.40) and get my eternal thanks and a potential kiss on the lips in return…


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