How long have you been publishing and what made you decide to enter this business?
I have been involved in publishing since about 2011, when my friend and I began writing a book together. We were researching the fighting methods of Johannes Liechtenauer, a 14th or 15th century German fencing master who left a record of his martial art. We were trying to understand these historical documents and learn how to train it as an effective martial art today. Since we were amassing quite a lot of research material in our efforts, we decided to turn it into a study guide for other people with the same interests, and so we decided to create the AHA German Longsword Study Guide.
However, the publishers we approached with our proposal did not even respond to our emails, so, along with a third colleague, we decided to set up our own publishing house to deal with these kinds of books ourselves. Thus we set up Fallen Rook Publishing, and published our first book in 2013. Since then we have brought out several more titles, and I am very happy that we decided to take the step to set up our own publishing company!
The main reason why I became a publisher was most probably that there were very few other publishers working in our subject area, and those we approached with our proposal did not seem particularly good at communicating with us, so it was a relatively simple step for us to decide to do it ourselves.
What genres do you publish?
We mainly publish two genres, both of which are quite closely interlinked. Our main focus is the subject of historical European martial arts (often abbreviated to HEMA) and historical fencing. Our secondary focus is publishing transcriptions, translations and facsimiles of pertinent source material and historical documents, such as memoirs or scholarship from the 18th century.
Who are your customers?
There is a growing community practising HEMA across the world; mainly in Europe and North America, but there are clubs and schools in South America, in Australia and New Zealand, in China and Japan and other countries in Asia. People tend to become interested at first because, to be perfectly honest, swords are cool! Then they find out that there are actually historical methods for fencing with these different swords, according to books and manuscripts written by fencing masters throughout the centuries. Once people start training, they usually become more interested in finding out about the source material that describes the martial art they train, and so there is quite a healthy demand for books on this subject.
Why did you decide to use the Lulu platform for your publishing needs?
In the beginning, we decided to use Lulu because it was simple enough for me to learn how to use it relatively quickly and easily. Then we kept using it because it was simple and produced a satisfactory quality of results, and also because the customer service is excellent. If there is ever a problem with one of our orders, I know that Lulu will go to great lengths to sort the problem and make it work out well in the end. This has been the greatest factor in our decision to continue working with Lulu rather than investigating other printing options.
Lulu has been described as a platform and community which provides the tools to allow publishing and distribution – are you using all of the Lulu services for a complete end to end or only some of them?
I would say that we are utilising most of the services, although not all. There’s no need for us to use Lulu’s services to help with editing, for example, because we already have people who can do that well. There are some other services we may want to begin using at some point, but mainly I haven’t had enough time to play with them and become familiar enough to make a proper decision.
As a small publisher have you found that using one publishing platform helps reduce your overheads, provides better time management with handling less suppliers, less staff needed, allows you to concentrate on the process of author acquisition v logistics and production focus?
Yes, definitely. This way, I just focus on bringing each book up the quality of writing and content that I want to see from our titles, and then I can buy in whatever stock is needed for our upcoming events and for our online shop. Lulu is probably our slowest sales channel, but that is mainly since the customers in our market tend to prefer buying books in person at the national and international events where they gather to train, spar, and exchange ideas.
Do you use both print and ebook services from Lulu?
Just print, for the moment. We may begin to use the ebook services more in the future.
Do you supply your own isbn’s or use Lulu allocated ones?
We use our own ISBNs.
Do you use Lulu marketing services?
No, we do all of our own marketing. Again, because our market is exceptionally niche, and personal relationships are so important in our subject area, we can deliver much more effective marketing ourselves.