|Dan Andriacco, left, and Steve Emecz at the Sherlock Holmes Pub, 2012|
My publisher, Steve Emecz of London-based MX Publishing, is one of the most remarkable individuals I have ever known -- always full of energy and excitement for the next project. As a writer, I've found him a dream to work with since he published my Baker Street Beat almost three years ago, followed by five novels. He often answers my e-mails during what is the middle of the night for him. Although he's been ailing recently with an eye problem, Steve characteristically found a way to answer a few questions for me in a more-than-timely fashion.
Let’s start with the numbers. How many Sherlock Holmes books have you published and by how many authors?
We are up to about 150 titles now with a group of authors of about 65. The authors are spread all over the world, though there are a lot in the UK and USA.
And yet you are essentially a one-man band – and publishing isn’t even your day job. How is this possible?
It’s nearly impossible to survive in specialist publishing (as a full-time publisher) these days with all the disruptions and changes in the industry – online to e-books, print on demand to self-publishing. So many small publishers go out of business. By having a day job – outsourcing as much as possible and having some wonderful active authors – we are able to publish the books we want to.
How did you become a publisher?
I started as a writer in the mid-1990s with a bestselling novel (which was bad, but popular) and a sequel (which was good, but not popular) and set up the publishing company when my publisher went bankrupt. It was the early 2000s and the industry had started to hit its big decade of consolidation. I set up the publishing company to enable me to continue to produce books. It really took off in 2006 when we published a groundbreaking book on learning difficulties – Seeing Spells Achieving – which has helped tens of thousands of children. We expanded into several dozen additional NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) titles.
Why did you decide to specialize in Sherlock Holmes and a few other niches?
We are pretty much 100 percent Sherlock Holmes today, and it all started in 2008 with a controversial book by Holmes historian Alistair Duncan – Eliminate The impossible. This review of the Canon and the actors that had played the roles pulled no punches and was very well received. We continued to produce non-fiction, including Brian Pugh’s amazing Chronology of Arthur Conan Doyle, and several biographies, then started on Holmes fiction – which is when things really took off.
What’s in store for publishing in general and MX in particular?
Publishing continues in the West to drive towards e-books and more interactive titles, so at the moment we are focusing on new titles and licensing into regions where “real books” still exist. We’ve launched fifteen titles in Russian, half a dozen in Italian, and we’re working on several deals in India at the moment. In those countries physical print is still dominant. We have some very exciting new book series this year, including adaptations of the originals – graphic novels of some Canon stories and also illustrated versions of the stories using Lego. Fans can keep up to date with the latest Holmes books on our huge fan page on Facebook, www.facebook.com/BooksSherlockHolmes, to which many of our authors contribute.
You’ve been very involved with Save Undershaw and other philanthropic projects. Is it very important for you that you support charities with your business?
It’s critical for us that MX Publishing continues to be our passion, and not a day job. As such, we use the business to enable us to support some key campaigns.
Tell us about your latest project in Africa.
Our project in Africa is our most important to date. Happy Life is a program with two orphanages in Kenya and a new school being built to help with the children’s education. The first orphanage is in Kasarani in the city of Nairobi. They rescue abandoned babies, mainly from the two huge slums in the city. There are millions of orphans in Kenya, and Happy Life has about sixty children at the Kasarani location. That’s where we spent last Christmas and New Year, working with the kids. My wife had previously spent a month there earlier in 2013 and convinced me to join her. It was a life changing-experience. We have already booked the flights back for this Christmas. The holidays is the toughest time for the orphanage as there are few volunteers able to spend the holidays there due to family commitments. We have no children of our own, so spending Christmas with fifty-eight kids is really special.
The second orphanage is located in Juja Farm, about 30 minutes outside Nairobi. It’s the location for the new school. In the next couple of years they hope to provide education for several hundred children.
The special thing about Happy Life is that they have pioneered an adoption program in a country where adoption is rare and relatively new. The more babies who get adopted, the fewer who need long-term accommodation and schooling. With more than 150 children adopted so far, it’s a brilliant program that really needs more awareness. That’s where we think we can add real value. We have helped the Happy Life team with their social media (see https://www.facebook.com/happylifechildrenshome and http://www.pinterest.com/happylifekenya/) and our most ambitious project is to write a book about the program to generate more adoptive parent enquiries.
By sharing the wonderful adoption stories, we hope to encourage more people to adopt from Happy Life as each adoption frees up another place for an abandoned baby. We’ve begun interviewing parents. It’s fascinating and very humbling. What we are doing is a very small part. The staff at Happy Life and the adoptive parents are truly making a massive difference in these children’s lives.