At The X, our business is our reputation, and we feel it’s important to share with writers and agents how Hamilton Springs Press came to be, and how Xchyler Publishing became a part of it.
The Dreamers and Doers
In early 2012, Mary Duke and her partner determined to start a publishing company. Carrie Beeson, Mary’s mother, decided to invest in her daughter’s enterprise and became the official managing partner. They set out to do things right, hired a lawyer, drew up papers, developed a plan of operations. They started recruiting writers, created a website, developed relationships with support staff, and came up with some great ideas to promote the company. Xchyler Publishing was born. (Reportedly Skyler in Greek).
At the time Penny Freeman came to XP as the Editor-in-Chief, several properties had been acquired and initial steps had been taken to develop them. XP had also completed our first short story competition, a fantasy/dragon anthology. That was in July, 2012. Her first task: assemble an editorial staff willing to work with our extremely unconventional business model.
She got very lucky. Three writers/editors decided to take a chance on XP: McKenna Gardner, Elizabeth Gilliland, and Terri Wagner. Caitlin McColl, one of the original editors, remained on staff. The talented and patient-to-a-fault Dale R. Pease continued as our staff graphic artist/typesetter. Mary tackled marketing with the zeal of a believer. Along with the writers already under contract, we became a community.
We acquired more properties, turned many more away, and began to develop our sense of self. We added Jessica Shen and Heidi Birch to our editorial staff. We worked hard. Our reputation grew. We were proud of what we were doing.
Time to Panic
Then, in March of 2013, shortly before the scheduled release of three separate titles, life happened to Mary. Her private concerns demanded the lion’s share of her attention and all of her energies, as happens with all of us at one time or another. She saw only one solution: either she find someone to assume ownership, or Xchyler Publishing had to close its virtual doors.
Penny is not a numbers person. She has seen the rigors demanded of those keeping the books of a small business, and that headache simply is not something she aspires to. She is a weaver of words, not a conjurer of numbers. She told Mary as much when she approached Penny with her predicament.
More to the point, Penny attempted to persuade her to continue in a less involved role, that the stress would be relieved as soon as we released the next batch of titles, and that things would look better on the other side of that particular metaphorical hill. Unfortunately, for Mary, something had to give. Now. She felt unable to proceed under any circumstances, and the future of XP looked dire.
Fortunately, unbeknownst to us at the time she first arrived, we had acquired our savior in the form of Heidi Birch.
As anyone interested can see on our staff page, Heidi is an experienced, proven businesswoman. Where Penny’s strengths lie in flinging red ink, hers lie in keeping it black. Penny populate spreadsheets with imaginary characters. Heidi fills them with very real numbers.
We found Heidi through our senior editor, McKenna Gardner. McKenna’s mother, she was away from home on an extended consulting assignment, with nothing but her cat and her plants to keep her company after work. She started editing for us as a sort of lark—or a favor to McKenna—or both—but, very quickly, we found in her a wealth of information and advice in how to properly manage our business affairs.
She became Mary’s mentor, of sorts. Therefore, after Penny declined Mary’s offer of the company, Mary turned to Heidi. It felt like a long shot, but was our last-ditch effort to save XP.
Perhaps the reader may well feel our dismay at the prospect of XP closing its doors. The people associated with it truly believe in its mission: to develop talented writers, and to make quality works of fiction available to discriminating readers—to be perpetrators of dreams.
We had worked very hard to build its reputation, cultivate talent, and establish ourselves as a bona fide publishing company. To see all our months of hard work go up in a puff of smoke, especially only one or two weeks before three major releases, made us heartsick.
Then came the call from Heidi. Did Penny truly believe in what we were doing? Could we make it viable? Would Penny be willing to join her in this new business venture if, after all due diligence, Xchyler Publishing proved amenable to acquisition? Heidi received from Penny a resounding “yes”! (And an even more heartfelt thank you.)
A Tale of Two Cities
And thus, Hamilton Springs Press was born: Hamilton, after Heidi’s hometown in Montana, Spring after Penny’s in Texas. We are cross-continental business partners, living on the Gulf and West Coasts, joined by a belief in possibilities, in our writers, editors, and graphic designer, and in the vibrant, thriving health of the publishing industry.
What about The X?
But, what to do with Xchyler Publishing? Keep it, of course, but as our paranormal and Steampunk imprint of HSP. Despite everything, Xchyler Publishing is something we are proud of. We cling to the association, but in this new incarnation, we adopted the moniker of The X, a name first tagged by writer Eric White in our writers group. (A person can only answer the “how do you say that?” question so many times.)
We have added new faces in our marketing department, Amanda Elliott and Rachel Vasquez. Additional editorial support comes from Laurisa Reyes and Farida Mirza. We’ve even added a couple of talented interns in Shauntel Simper and Victoria (Tori) Elliott. Heidi now manages all financial and legal aspects of the company, although she still pitches in with the proofreading now and again.
And our three near orphans whose existence was severely in question back at the end of March? Despite the turnover in management and the ongoing legal maneuvering that went on behind the scenes for all of April and most of May, all three—Vanguard Legacy: Foretold by Joanne Kershaw, Vivatera by Candace J. Thomas, and Mechanized Masterpieces: a Steampunk Anthology—released without a hitch, on schedule, with full marketing support, to good sales and even better reviews.
Our short story competitions proceed apace, with anthologies being released every quarter. Under the HSP umbrella, The X is stronger and more successful than ever.
Our Crystal Ball
And what about the future of The X? The catch phrase of that old Timbuk3 song pops into mind. “The future’s so bright, [we] have to wear shades.”
Including all our anthology authors currently and previously, we now have almost forty authors in our stable. Our business model is firmly established. After only a short time of better marketing and stronger author support, our sales have increased manifold.
We have over twenty titles currently under various stages of development, to be released within the next eighteen months. We continue to recruit the bright, articulate authors full of promise. We have had to close our submissions process due to our current workload. And that’s just at the X.
At Hamilton Springs Press, we have been so busy, we haven’t completed our website.
Our first titles for our as-yet-to-be-named historical fiction/romance imprint are already under production. We anticipate expanding our repertoire and library of imprints gradually, as we engage authors whose works demand specific homes of their own. However, our same commitment to quality work and author support will thrive under every banner.
The X Team
We at HSP/The X are always on the look-out for new talent, both in authors and editors. However, we have found our most effective way of determining if authors are a good fit to our particular manner of doing this is to offer them “trial runs,” as it were. If you are interested, try submitting a short story to one of our competitions.
After our editors have worked with the winners of these short story contests and have found it to be a mutually rewarding experience, something that we can believe in, we then approach the writers about other works they may have under development.
On the other hand, if, perchance, our contests fail to suit, we have open submissions for three months, from October through December, at which time authors may submit full, completed manuscripts. See our submissions guidelines for more details.
Come join us. Dare to dream.