When psychologist Kate Kaynak and her husband, Osman, started YA publisher Spencer Hill Press in 2010 out of their home in Hopkinton, N.H., they wanted to begin small, and published two books on their first list. Kaynak would handle the editorial side; Osman the financials and backend operations. Their plan was to do six books the second year, then double their output of science fiction, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance annually until the publishing program reached 24 books a year in 2014. But just over two years after their launch, the Kaynaks are already adding two new imprints – one for adults and a second for contemporary YA novels.
“We decided we would build [the press] slowly,” Kaynak explains, “because our mission is to build authors and careers.” She thinks of Spencer Hill as the “Saturday Night Live of publishing,” helping new writers launch their careers. As an author who had difficulty getting her trade books published, her vision for the press is decidedly author-centric, including letting authors have final say on their cover art.
In fact, for the press’s first book, Minder (June 2010), the first volume in Kaynak’s own Ganzfield series, she chose an image of the Gestalt psychological test: a white vase that also looks like the silhouettes of two faces. For Kaynak, who holds a Ph.D. in psychology and taught at the University of Maryland, it’s an image that’s familiar to her, and one that speaks to the idea that there is more to the people of Ganzfield than is immediately apparent.
Kaynak has published five Ganzfield novels and edited a collection of paranormal tales with Tricia Wooldridge, UnConventional, through the press, and is one of a roster of close to two dozen authors. Although she and her husband initially handled distribution, a little over a year ago the press signed with Midpoint Trade Books for distribution. It has received so many submissions that it isn’t accepting more manuscripts until December.
Without question Jennifer L. Armentrout is the biggest star in Spencer Hill’s firmament. Her stand-alone novel Cursed (Sept.) will be Spencer Hill’s first hardcover (its books are typically published as paperback originals). At this summer’s ALA conference, Midpoint ran out of ARCs for Cursed three hours into the show. To build sales for Armentrout’s Covenant series, Spencer Hill offered free downloads of Armentrout’s novella, Daimon. It was so popular that 20,000 people accepted the offer, and several thousand more purchased it as a paperback. The press is planning a similar promotion with the novella Elixir just before Deity releases in November.
Spencer Hill was founded to publish YA; by the end of the year it will add the Spence City imprint, to publish urban fantasy for the adult market. Then in January, it will launch Spencer Hill Contemporary, for YA contemporary without the paranormal elements. Both imprints will publish their first books in May in time for BEA. Kaynak will continue to oversee the Spencer Hill imprint and the press overall. Spence City will be headed by Vikki Ciaffone, an editor of spec-fic who joined the press as an UnCONtributor; Spencer Hill Contemporary by Patricia Riley, an associate editor at the press who blogs at Tangled Up in Words. Each imprint will follow the same publishing pattern as Spencer Hill: two books a year to start with, and 24 books a year in four years. In addition, Spencer Hill is stretching its own imprint boundaries and will publish its first middle-grade novel in March.
As the company continues to grow, with sales up five times what they were last year, Kaynak says that she isn’t taking any shortcuts on production or editorial to keep pace. But she does have her eye on a larger house for her family – and their press.