DISCLAIMER: As always, my opinion pieces reflect only my own personal opinions, and do not necessarily reflect those of Ranting Dragon or any other staff member.
As you’ve probably guessed from the title of this piece, I’m here to talk to you today about the publishing house Angry Robot and why, in my opinion, they are the best speculative fiction publishing house currently active. There are three main things they are doing that seem, if not unique, then certainly very rare, and they definitely combine into a fantastic whole at Angry Robot.
For those who aren’t familiar with Angry Robot, they are a UK publishing house that operates out of Nottingham. They were created in 2008 as a new imprint of HarperCollins UK to test out a more indie-style social-media concentrated approach to publishing sci-fi and fantasy. It was created by Marc Gascoigne of Black Library, which published primarily in the Warhammer and Warhammer 40k settings. Gascoigne would then, in association with Osprey, a military history publishing company, buy the imprint away from HarperCollins UK and continue publishing what are now dozens of novels.
Enough background, on to the gushing!
An indie, risky publishing house
One of the things that Angry Robot does that is unique is it actually takes chances. So many authors in the Angry Robot family debuted there, and so much of what they are publishing seems a little bit “odd-ball” compared to the more traditional epic fantasy and hard SF. I’ve found more surprises with Angry Robot in only a couple years than from larger publishers in decades as a reader. They don’t just reluctantly accept random submissions, they openly solicit them. They’re giving new authors chances that often come at the end of dozens if not hundreds of rejections and manuscripts vanishing into a void.
This has also led to a lot of risk taking in content. I’ve found that Angry Robot authors are a little more edgy and push the envelope a little more. They deal with more extreme themes and situations, they curse like sailors on Twitter and Facebook, they are present and involved in their reader communities in ways you rarely see with more traditional or established authors. Some of that might have to do with a lot of their authors being new, and thus working harder to get and keep fans and readers, but I’ve always felt that my experiences online with Angry Robot authors are less with “Authors” and more with “Cool people who happen to write books.”
All hail the robot army
Speaking of interactions online, another thing Angry Robot does phenomenally well is leverage the web community. Through the Robot Army, they’ve set up a situation where genre reviewers, bloggers, and other professional readers can get in touch with them and basically agree to let them know any time they write something about the company. In exchange, they get early access ARCs and review copies, invitations to release parties, and other perks. They’ve basically set up a situation where they are proactively generating buzz and actually getting people to want to write about them and to keep them on top of everything being said about them, good or bad.
And don’t get me wrong, they state multiple times in their Robot Army literature that they absolutely don’t mind if what you have to say is bad. I believe it, too. What they want is noise, chatter, just to know people are talking about them no matter what they’re saying. It’s a very modern approach to making full use of the internet and social media in a way that a lot of more hidebound companies are still lagging behind.
Mass-appeal for mass-markets
Anybody who follows my writing on the site has probably seen reference at least once to the volume at which I read. 51,000 pages last year, across 92 books. I really just can’t afford to buy more than one or two hardcovers per year. That means I’ve traditionally lagged about a year behind everybody else for getting to new books. This is more than a little frustrating. It didn’t used to be that way, but one of the very few negative consequences that have come out of SFF being accepted as a genre on equal footing with everything else (on the backs of the success of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings) is that SFF is also spending more time in the traditional hardcover->trade->mass-market publishing cycle.
Angry Robot, conversely, publishes directly into mass-market paperback. The ability for me to get a brand-new book for nine or ten dollars was part of the reason why I started picking up Angry Robot in the first place. The shift from “I need a new book, oh this looks neat, it’s by some company called Angry Robot” to “I need a new book, let’s get something from Angry Robot, I know I’ll like it” happened quite quickly, and no small part of it is their ability to most efficiently feed my reading addiction.
Well, there you have it, a bit of a love letter to Angry Robot, in my opinion the best SFF publishing house going right now. Have you had any experiences with Angry Robot? Do you like them? Hate them? Fight always on against robot oppression? Please comment on the thread below and let me know what you think.
Thank you, and remember, hug a robot. They have been programmed to kill and to love.
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