Indie Spotlights give us a chance to peek behind the curtain and learn about some of the amazing small presses producing amazing fiction. Today, we talk with Antonia Rachel Ward, founder of Ghost Orchid Press.
Sandra: Let’s start with introductions. Tell us a little about the team at Ghost Orchid Press.
Antonia: Hi! I’m Antonia. I run Ghost Orchid Press, and I do basically everything at the moment,
from website design to editing to marketing and accounts. It gives me a chance to utilise
skills I’ve learned over my previous careers as a bookseller and as a finance director with
another small business.
Sandra: What inspired you to get into publishing?
Antonia: I used to work as a bookseller in Cambridge, and despite being surrounded by books, I would often find myself struggling to find something I wanted to read. I was frustrated by the sight of stacks of celebrity biographies while interesting, creative work struggled to get noticed or even published. I used to dream of starting my own publisher, but it took many years and a lot more business experience before that started to look like a possible reality. The rise of self-publishing definitely helped to level the playing field and make it more accessible, too.
Sandra: How did you decide on a name? What does it mean to you?
Antonia: I wanted a name that was unique, that conveyed gothic elegance and a certain amount of spookiness. A plant seemed like a good choice, and the ghost orchid came to mind because I’d recently researched rare flowers for a scene in a novel I was writing.
Sandra: What and who have you published so far?
Antonia: We’ve published a number of anthologies, including Blood & Bone, an anthology of body horror by women and non-binary writers, as well as Palimpsest, a collection of horror short stories by Caitlin Marceau. This year we’ve also begun publishing novellas, among them The Devil’s Gift, a mix of folk horror, coming-of-age and romance by Joshua Robinson, and Sair Back, Sair Banes, a darkly magical folk horror tale by Anthology Engebretson, set in remote Scotland.
Sandra: What work out there do you wish you’d published? What would you hold up as the benchmark of the kind of work you’d like to put your name on?
Antonia: In the indie horror world, I’m a particular fan of Hailey Piper and V. Castro as authors who combine genres with flair and energy. I also love the elegant historical folk horror of Catherine McCarthy’s Immortelle. In traditional publishing, my favourite book of the year so far has been Ally Wilkes’ All the White Spaces, a historical survival horror with a trans main character. For me, that book ticked every single box.
Sandra: What do you wish you’d known about publishing before you got started?
Antonia: I can’t say I didn’t expect this, but anyone thinking of getting into publishing should be aware that the returns are low, especially on anthologies, and it can be a hard slog to get a book to gain traction. It is a dream job, and a lot of fun, but you also need to be in a position to work long hours for no pay.
Sandra: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered from publishing?
Antonia: The sheer level of support and kindness from the horror community has been a wonderful surprise. From day one I felt lifted up, and like people had my back and wanted Ghost Orchid Press to succeed. That has been a huge factor in keeping me going through the last year and a half!
Sandra: What can you tell us about your most recent releases?
Antonia: In July we’re releasing Skin Grows Over by Lucy Elizabeth Allan, which is a quietly unnerving story about grief, centred around a funeral for a centuries-old bog mummy. Lucy’s writing is beautiful, and the story speaks to a universal human experience of trying to cope with loss when it just seems unforgivably unfair.
Sandra: What will you be releasing in the next few months?
Antonia: Our August release will be Ashthorne, a novella by April Yates which is perfect for fans of Sarah Waters and The Haunting of Bly Manor. The story is set in a WWI convalescence home, where something dark lurks beneath. Then in September we’re releasing REWIRED, our anthology of horror by neurodiverse writers. Finally, in the run up to Christmas we’ll have a little anthology of seasonal ghost stories coming out, filled with the winners and runners up from a Christmas contest we ran last year.
Sandra: Do you have any current open submission calls?
Antonia: Through July and August we’re looking for stories to fill our Les Petites Morts anthology of erotic horror inspired by fairy tales, folklore and mythology. We’re particularly interested to hear from LGBTQ+, BIPOC and other marginalised voices from around the world as we’re looking to put together a diverse and inclusive anthology with some refreshing perspectives on the theme.
Sandra: What one tip would you give writers hoping to be published by you?
Antonia: Read the submission guidelines! Honestly, it can’t be said enough. We are not terribly picky about things like formatting (although it does make your story easier to read if you use a standard manuscript format), but it’s important to make sure the story you’re sending fits with the theme and word count limits we’re asking for. I have, in the past, had authors who wondered why their stories were not being accepted, and the reason was nothing to do with the quality of the story, but because they were sending work that was way over the word count or had nothing to do with the theme of the anthology. That said, don’t self-reject. If you’re not sure whether something fits the theme – send it anyway! As long as a story touches upon the theme in some way, we love to see unexpected takes.
Antonia Rachel Ward is the founder of the UK indie publishing house, Ghost Orchid Press. She launched the company in January 2021 and has published multiple anthologies and novellas since then. She’s also an author of horror and speculative fiction, and her own erotic horror novella, Marionette, is forthcoming from Brigid’s Gate Press in summer 2022.