Sunday, 25 January 2009

Interview: Hale - publishers of Black Horse Westerns

Helen Ogden of Hale - publishers of the Black Horse Westerns - kindly agreed to talk to Western Fiction Review. For those who've never seen a BHW, they are hardback books that measure 7.5 inches by 5. They come in at around 160 pages, making for action packed, fast moving reads. The covers are printed onto the book with a high gloss finish. At the moment 6 new books are published every month. Their books are aimed at the library market although they can be found to buy through various internet sites including their own

How long has Hale been publishing westerns.

Hale has been publishing Westerns since around 1938.

After a manuscript has been accepted what are the stages the book has to go through before it is published and how long does this take?

The manuscript goes to the Submissions department and if we choose to accept it, it then takes about a year before it is published. During this time, it will be scheduled, copy-edited and proof-read and the jacket image will also be decided on. The book is finally sent through to the production department and the printers!

How do you decide which cover goes on what book, and where do you get these paintings from?

We use a few different artists who work out of house but the ultimate decision on the cover is Mr. Hales.

Do you prefer to publish stand-alone stories or series books?

We publish both stand-alone and series books depending on the ideas and what the author and editor feel happy with. …

Many Black Horse Westerns have a few blank pages at the back, is there any reason you don’t use these to advertise your other westerns?

The reason we have blank pages is to do with formatting and it could certainly be an idea to advertise westerns on these pages

Have you ever considered publishing your books in an electronic format?

As yet, we are not publishing electronically and I don’t think this will happen in the near future. Westerns have a huge library following which is fantastic and we don’t want this to be ruined by technology! I personally think there will always be a place for the traditional book so electronic publishing may be beginning to grow, but we will continue to sell our books despite this. I also believe the whole Western genre is such an old tradition of writing that it is best suited and loved in its traditional format.

How do the books end up as large print editions and who decides which books are selected for this?

Books end up as large-print editions if the Rights Manger feels that the book will benefit from this. She will look at the demand for the book and consider whether it is worth printing large print editions.

You’ve published many books by well-known western writers, how does this come about – are you approached by the author themselves or their agent?

We are mainly approached by the authors regarding potential books but occasionally by agents.

Lauran Paine has had many, many books published by you under many pseudonyms. Would you say he’s been your most prolific author?

I would certainly say that Lauran Paine has been one our most prolific authors.

What are the reasons behind the use of pseudonyms?

Authors tend to use pseudonyms because they want to conceal their identity or print as many books as possible! An author has to have a gap of a couple of months between their books but if they use lots of different names then they can be scheduled in all together!

Do libraries ask for more by particular authors or do they just ask for a specific number of new books per month?

Some libraries do ask for particular books and some authors have quite a following! Others just ask for general titles.

Do you get feedback from the libraries on which books/authors are being borrowed the most?

We can keep an eye on who is ordering what from our distributors by using an online database.

Finally, do you see Hale publishing westerns for many years to come?

I certainly think Hale will be publishing Westerns for many years to come! It is an institution! I would like to push a bit more publicity wise for the Westerns which might encourage bookshop sales but we should not underestimate libraries or feel disheartened by library sales.



Steve thanks for this interview and for plugging the cover of my effort. It's great to see that Helen is so receptive to the western and is looking at ways to increase the publicity. Hopefully the regular Wild West Monday will increase demand in the bookshops. And it's great that Hale are still doing westerns after so long in the business - I for one am proud to be a part of the imprint.

Matthew P. Mayo said...

Hi Steve,
Yes, thanks for the interview. I'm proud to be part of the grand Hale tradition. And I'm pleased to hear it will continue. I wish there was a way we could get BHWs distributed in the States, but the numbers just aren't there ... yet.

And thanks for including one of my covers!


David Cranmer said...

Steve, Thanks to you and Helen for an informative interview. It's reassuring to know the western is alive and well and will be for years to come. I'm looking forward to reading the upcoming books from Chap O' Keefe and Jack Martin.

Charles Gramlich said...

Great looking titles and covers. Thank you for keeping the western front and center in your publishing.

Ray said...

This certainly is a boost to know that the BHW is here to stay. Helen made some excellent responses that are very morale boosting. Congrats Steve on a job well done.

Howard said...

Steve, many thanks for this look into Hale Publishing. I have been publishing westerns with them for years and still knew too little about them. It's nice to get some insight!

Chap O'Keefe said...

Helen joined Hale in September, taking over from Katy Williams. You will find a Hoofprint on the changeover in the next Black Horse Extra (March), which will go online as the "home" page at in February.

It will be accompanied not by a photo of Helen (alas, for sure), but of the Hale building. This was once attempted by another site, but unfortunately they got the wrong Clerkenwell House! Fingers crossed this time.

The edition also carries a prominent viewpoint on pseudonyms, their pros and cons, which could provide more food for thought. One US BHW writer, who has previewed the piece, says, "I agree with the article about pseudonyms. I want readers to expect a certain quality, style and grittiness in my work and wouldn’t want to confuse or dilute their interest by using another name. But then I’m fortunate as I don’t need the money at this time. If you’re trying to pay the rent from westerns, one might get a different slant on 'what’s in a name?' "

It was good to read here that the libraries outlook is rosy. From other quarters, reports had been filtering in of further cutbacks to library budgets as the recession bites.


Chap O'Keefe said...

A PS . . . . Mention here of Lauran Paine, who is recorded elsewhere ( ) as having been among the world's very top users of pen-names with 68, reminded me that David Whitehead (Ben Bridges) wrote a fine article on Paine for the December 2006 Extra. This can still be accessed as

Loren Teague said...

A really insightful interview that tells us more about the publishing side of things. I'm keen on reading a western by Hale but would like a love interest in the story. If anyone can suggest that type of western novel I'd be grateful. (I am also a Hale author and write romantic suspense.)Thanks.


Loren - it almost emarresses me to say but there's a strong love interest in my tarnished star out June from HALE.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Since 1992, I've written more than a score of BHWs. In each book, two of the principal characters are women and there is always romantic interest. For example, in A Gunfight Too Many -- currently reprinting by Hale and scheduled for a large-print edition, too -- it is mostly between plucky rancher's daughter Sarah Snyder and tongue-tied deputy Clint Freeman. I don't think it spoils things to say their relationship provides a happy ending to what might otherwise have been a very grim story!


And of course Chap always produces strong female characters. No shrinking violets in his books.

margaret blake said...

A very interesting interview with Helen, and lots of useful information on the western. I know these novels are popular. In my local library they have their own dedicated shelves and there is always someone going through the selection.

I have not read a western with a "romance" in it, I guess I have to look more closely to what I am taking out of the library!

Margaret Blake