Friday, December 04, 2015

A Heartfelt 'Thank You' To My First Publisher

A few days ago I received an email telling me that Robert Hale Ltd, my first ever publisher, is closing. I was very sorry to hear this as I had a long and happy relationship with them, stretching back to 2000 when I submitted a Regency romance,  A Most Unusual Governess, and they sent me back a magical acceptance letter. I will never forget the kind final sentence, which said the book was so accomplished they wondered if I had written before.

In fact, I had been writing all my life but I had never been published before. Like most aspiring authors, I had had lots of rejections, so their remark meant a great deal to me. That kind of personal, encouraging touch was typical of Hale's dealings with their authors. They were renowned for their chivalrous behaviour, their prompt replies and their willingness to encourage new talent.
For those who don't know anything about the firm, Hale were a well-loved and well-respected UK publishing house, established in 1936. They were independent and family-owned, working from their own building in London's Clerkenwell district and publishing many famous names, amongst them one of my own favourite authors, Jean Plaidy,



It is a sobering thought, but without Robert Hale Ltd, I don't think my series of Jane Austen heroes' diaries would exist. I had no idea what they would make of Darcy's Diary when I sent it to them back in 2004. I was writing Regency romances for them at the time, and Darcy's Diary came out of the blue. Many publishers would have rejected it as it was not what they were expecting, but Hale were always flexible and luckily my editor, Gill Jackson, was a Janeite, so the book was accepted. This was a more adventurous publishing decision than it might seem today, since at that time Austenesque fiction was not the popular genre it is now.


Encouraged by their response, I embarked on further diaries and Hale continued to support the series, bringing out all the books in beautiful hardback editions. They are now read and loved by readers around the world, but I am certain that without Hale it would never have happened.

I am very sorry to see them close, but I want to wish them well and thank them for everything they have done for me and my books over the years. I know that a lot of other people are sorry to see them close, too, so if you have ever been published by Hale, or if you have ever enjoyed reading any of their books, and you would like to add your thanks, then please leave a comment below.


Amanda Grange

15 comments:

Jane Jackson said...

Like Mandy I owe a huge thank you to Robert Hale who published my first book, 'Deadly Feast' followed by eight historical romances, one of which 'Eye of the Wind' was shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award. John Hale and Gill Jackson led by example making everyone in the company a pleasure to deal with. John was the last of the gentleman publishers, and the closing of the company marks the end of an era. Wishing everyone at Robert Hale the very best with heartfelt gratitude.

Beth Elliott said...

As a reader, I could always be certain a Robert Hale book would contain a good story, and the actual book was a pleasure to handle: solid, traditionally set out and easy to use. As a writer, I associate them with the excitement and pride of having my first story published, in one of those solid, attractive books. They continued to publish my Regency tales, and were always available for consultation and advice. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. It is very sad to learn that they are closing. A heartfelt thank you to all the staff there and very best wishes for them in the future.

Helena said...

I'm a reader, and am very sorry to hear that Robert Hale is closing. I'm not sure how aware of publishers most readers are, but I gradually realised that many of the books I liked were published by Robert Hale, and I have deliberately looked to see what else they were publishing and found other excellent books that way. Many thanks to all who worked there and gave us so many good books.

Jacqueline Farrell said...

I too got my first novel published by Hale and as you say it was so lovely to finally get an acceptance letter after so many rejections. I wonder if they realised how many people they made feel good. I still have copies of the books they published and get a little money every year from the libraries. I will forever be grateful to them.

Anne Stenhouse said...

What a lovely, heartfelt and deserving tribute, Amanda. I'm not published by Hale, but like most romance authors I have read a host of their books over the years with the greatest of contentment. Sorry to see them go. Anne Stenhouse

Fenella J Miller said...

I sold my first book to John Hale - it was better than winning the lottery. I wrote 9 books for them before moving on and am really sorry to see them go -but must say I'm not surprised.

Wendy Soliman said...

I too started out with Hale. Ah, that magical acceptance letter! There's no feeling in the world to compare with it. I went on to sell my first five Regencies to Hale and learned a great deal about being a writer along the way. They were endlessly patient, polite and...well, helpful. It's the end of an era and the publishing world will be a poorer place without them. Thank you Robert Hale!

Victoria Lamb said...

My mother, the romantic novelist Charlotte Lamb, passed away in 2000. Despite having published more than 150 romances selling millions of copies worldwide, she often spoke with the deepest affection and warmth about her early days as a writer of numerous historical romances with Robert Hale. Back in the early 70s, Hale was her springboard to the world of global romance, but much more than that, it was a place of intelligent, likeminded souls where the story was always more important than any other consideration. I'm sure she would have been devastated to hear that the company was closing down after so many years of wonderful publishing.

All the best, Jane Holland (also writing as Victoria Lamb etc.)

Anonymous said...

When the rejection slips from literary agents began to mount up I tried submitting three chapters to Robert Hale, one of the few publishers who would consider authors who were not represented by an agent. I was absolutely bowled over when within a fortnight they had read the full MS and offered to publish The Sea Inside His Head.
They also accepted my second novel and I've been thrilled by the quality of their hardback books, their kindness and professionalism. Without Robert Hale I don't know if I would ever have kept my spirits up enough to keep trying for that wonderful dream of being published! Thank you to Gill Jackson and all the staff at Hale; I do wish you all the best for the future. Theresa Le Flem

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

I, too, have much to thank Robert Hale for. They published my first Elizabeth Hawksley Regency Romance, followed by nine others; they got me into large print both in the UK and in the States, they even got me translated into Polish, German and Estonian! And they were always a pleasure to deal with.

Monica Fairview said...

I can't help feeling a sense of loss at the closure of Robert Hale. Besides being an institution that survived the changes over so many years it was a wonderfully personal, supportive environment for its authors. Not only did Mr. Hale himself actually read my manuscript, but he read it and wrote to me within ten days, and I loved his gentlemanly style of correspondence. Then there was the incomparable Gill Jackson whose feedback and advice was invaluable. I owe it to Hale for not only publishing my first books but selling my Pride and Prejudice sequels to the USA and so catapulting me into the next stage of my career. My heartfelt thanks to everyone at Hale especially Nick Chaytor who was so very helpful in working out some rights issues.

Laurel Ann (Austenprose) said...

I can't tell you all how saddened I am by this news. I own several hardback editions of their books including Amanda Grange's Austen Diaries and Monica Fairview's UK edition of The Other Mr. Darcy which I reviewed before it's US publication. This is a tremendous loss to Regency romance. There is a sinking void in my heart, like the day Georgette Heyer died in 1974. I thank them for the many years of fabulous reading and wish them well.

Mags said...

This is sad news. I had a fun exchange with Hale over Mary Street's book, The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Back in the dark days of the early Oughts (that is, before print on demand and the rise of self-published JAFF), it was rightly considered one of the better Austen paraliterature titles, but unfortunately was out of print. Used copies were very rare and correspondingly expensive--over $200.

I had a little one-paragraph review on my website, and I had a continuous stream of people writing to me asking where they could find the book, or could they buy my copy? Because they HAD to have it. I couldn't help them, just give advice about finding used books on the Internet.

I decided that it was a shame that the author was missing out on all these sales, so I wrote to Hale. They had no Internet presence at the time, so I wrote a letter and printed it out and stood in line at the post office to buy an airmail stamp and sent it off.

A few weeks later, I received a very polite response saying they were aware of the interest and considering a reprint. So I went to the Derbyshire Writers Guild, the Austen fanfic site, and suggested that they, too, write to Hale and request the reprint. This idea was received with great enthusiasm, and the book was eventually reprinted--more than once!

I just hope my bright idea didn't overwhelm their resources! But I just remember how the whole exchange was so civilized and polite. There's not much of that in the world anymore. My copies of Amanda's Austen hero diaries, all hardbacks from Hale, have pride of place on my bookshelf. They are lovely editions, just nice solid well-made books.

Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory said...

All the above comments show the deep affection that writers (and readers) feel for Robert Hale Limited. They were my first publisher, too, and I learned a lot whilst writing for them. In an increasingly fast-paced world communications with Robert Hale were always prompt, courteous and business-like.

I am truly grateful that they were around when I needed them, I feel I served my apprenticeship with Robert Hale Limited.

Elizabeth Hanbury said...

Such sad news. I’d like to thank everyone at Robert Hale for being so supportive of me and many other writers, as the comments above show. Mr Hale accepted my first book and like Monica (Fairview) I very much appreciated his style of corresponding. Thereafter, Gill Jackson and her team were patient and understanding with a newbie author who didn’t understand the publishing process.

Queries were always replied to promptly in a friendly, professional way. It really was a pleasure to work with them and I learned a great deal. It feels like the end of an era.

I wish Gill and all the staff the very best for the future.