In 2012, Cali Dawson and Gordon Ross, a pair of expats living in Bangkok, made plans to start a new publishing company in Thailand. The venture started, according to Ross, with “an idea to be different,” born out of his conversations with Dawson, a writer hailing from the Midwest, about how difficult it is to get published in today’s marketplace. “The idea of taking on an old, established industry and changing it for the better would be a test of character, and I wanted to see if I could do it,” said Ross, who was born and raised on the outskirts of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Ross, who has worked in the oil and gas industry and in “corporate operations, management, and restructuring,” is new to publishing. “I don’t come from a literary background,” he said. “I did my due diligence on the publishing industry, and it seems ready for something new, for some healthy disruption.”
The company, Bleeding Heart Publications, officially launched in November 2014 with the aim of seeking out fresh, untapped talent from submissions that may not necessarily come through traditional channels. “While we’re certainly open to hearing from agents and previously published writers, we’re particularly interested in new, unrepresented writers,” said Dawson. “With traditional publishers merging and some small presses going out of business, it’s almost impossible to get your work even read by an editor at a publishing house. A lot of good work is going unpublished.” According to Ross, the company also believes in the “opportunity for success in the midrange,” with authors who can sell between 10,000 and 40,000 copies of a book.
Bleeding Heart is releasing its first books this spring. The Job Pirate, by Brandon Christopher, about the author’s “journey in the American job market,” goes on sale February 19. Aida Zilelian’s novel The Legacy of Lost Things, which chronicles the story of an Armenian family, is set to publish on March 3. As of now, Bleeding Heart has four books slated for next year (including its two launch titles), but, according to Dawson, the press envisions “ramping up from there” as the company grows. The books will be available in bookstores across the U.S. and online in both print and digital, with Greenleaf Books in Austin, Tex. providing book and cover design, production, distribution, and marketing services.
Dawson and Ross, alongside senior editor Kyle Orten, are using a variety of PR and marketing strategies to solicit submissions, according to Dawson, who said that “social media has been a great help in this quest.” Ross noted that the publisher’s full-page ad in the New York Times Book Review on November 30, seeking submissions, is having a “very positive impact.”
“Many people are intrigued by the idea of having an English-language press in Thailand—and maybe a little skeptical,” acknowledged Dawson, adding that while the connectivity of the world has made it possible for small independent presses like Bleeding Heart to set up shop, she doesn’t think “New York and London are in any danger of losing their leadership status in the publishing world.”
“We felt like we had to seize the day,” Dawson noted. “New writers want publishers and editors who understand that they’ve poured their hearts and souls into their work, who care about them personally, who can offer editorial guidance and are transparent about the business side of publishing.”