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Oops. Guess I'm in trouble in the independent publisher world... - Tim Lieder [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Tim Lieder

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Oops. Guess I'm in trouble in the independent publisher world... [Dec. 8th, 2013|08:17 am]
Tim Lieder
Facebook has become the fount of wounded feelings and sad assholes trying to make themselves feel a little less pathetic. Which is great, because Livejournal feels so much nicer these days. But in the weird world of independent publishing, I seem to have hit a place where I know more than people. Didn't really intend that to happen. I just put out books that I like with writers that I think are cool (King David & the Spiders from Mars will be out in March - I am getting my review copies by Tuesday) and I try my hardest to put these books out in the best form possible.

Apparently, I've gotten both a reputation for being a guide and for being the guy that gets into fights. I didn't realize that until Thursday morning after 11 hours of working on papers and I found myself arguing about Kanye West at 5 in the morning (my position - he's a genius musician and as long as he doesn't reach the evil level of Chris Brown or Roman Polanski, I didn't give a flying fuck about his personal life. Mazel Tov on the marriage to Kim, but this piling on of spite at the eccentric celebrity is so fucking old. Didn't we all do this with Prince? Oh sure, Michael Jackson was a child molester so he deserved the crap - but other celebrities?) and someone did the "I heard about you. You pick fights." Which I don't really do, but hey, if you are stupid I tend to stay there.

The irony is that I was thinking about this when I saw my friend Anna's show. She's a dancer. Really cool. And actually getting some great jobs in dance, but she dismissed any celebrity status as being a celebrity in the post-modern dance world. I feel like a celebrity in the small press horror world - and seriously, that's way less cool.

Anyhow, this morning on FB, I see that Charles Day of Evil Jester Press called me out (ok TAGGED me!) for criticizing an ad campaign that another small press is running. That ad campaign says that the publishing company is going under - but if you keep reading, they say that they are going under your Xmas Tree! And then babble babble people should read more. So I commented that the cheesy advertising did make me look. So far so good. Then I said that the ugly ass books that they are putting out drove me away and then the fact that on the 'About us' section the founder says "We don't charge the authors money to publish their books" makes me doubt their professionalism.

And I'm not naming the publishing company because I don't remember them. I just stated that a publishing company is SUPPOSED to publish the authors without charging them. If it ADVERTISES that fact, it sounds like a dude telling his date that he promises not to slip a roofie in her drink.

But Charles Day of Evil Jester Press took umbrage at this - at least umbrage enough to post my quote in regards to a publishing company that he KNOWS is legit. And then told everyone to weigh in on it. He then LIKED his own post, because he totally wants thumbs up.

Now, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Evil Jester Press (which has a lot of ugly covers) wants to start a conversation about publicity, publishing and marketing. Maybe it's not a passive-aggressive attempt to shame me. Maybe me being the only response on the thing (and saying that if I am listened to I am happy and if I get passive aggressive whining, I'm amused) was not really productive.

So now as far as horror publishing (small press) is concerned, I feel like the prettiest Stooge (Curly, of course) because I am not just criticizing to be an asshole. I see these fucking books and these pathetic dudes advertising their self-published books or their non-pay books and I feel more professional than them. But I shouldn't be. I just come out with one book every couple years on average (and hell, there's a four year gap between She Nailed a Stake Through His Head and King David & the Spiders from Mars) and I got Teddy Bear Cannibal Massacre to keep me humble (it's not a bad book. It's just not a good one)

The thing is I look at the sites for these other publishers and I see their ugly books with their dumb covers and boring stories and I see what could have happened to Dybbuk Press if I didn't have any insight or desire to change - if I didn't think "holy fuck, I am asking people to spend money on this and it better be good" - and if I never paid any attention to feminism or racial politics or anything of the kind. These guys just churn out these books (sometimes for charity!) and act like they are doing the world a favor and none of them seem unique or interesting. They are just the same tired amateurish shit.

And really, how fucking hard is it to put out good books? Or at least books that you can be proud of? Pay attention to the cover (use a public domain image if you are stuck), edit, copy edit, offer money so you get writers who aspire to something besides self-publishing and only publish the stuff that makes you remember why you wanted to be in publishing in the first place.

For advance credit, put something in the submissions guidelines about wanting "strong female characters" or "characters who are either POC or outside the standard white guy rubric". You don't have to Expanded Horizons (a site that is a little too enamored with its commitment to multiculturalism and tends to crow about getting three stories by POC that month) but you can be sick of reading the same middle class white dude hero and want something a little different.

I'm not saying that horror publishing is all crap. I have been published in some excellent places. I quite like what Bill Olver is doing with Big Pulp. I have also been published in books that I couldn't finish reading because the stories at the beginning were so boring that I couldn't even bother to promote them (Usually these are the markets in the $10-$20 range - I don't even want to know what the lower pay markets accept as stories - oh wait - I know.)

And to think I spent all these years rubbernecking for the HWA fights.

[User Picture]From: trav28
2013-12-08 04:00 pm (UTC)
Ack, bugger the lot of them Tim. I just want to see you doing your own thing and sod the rest. BTW, thought for your next anthology - how about a retro scifi pulp horror collection with a Lovecraft-ian vibe to it alongside some stories inspired by EC and Wally Wood et al. Now, I think you could do that justice, old chap.
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[User Picture]From: marlowe1
2013-12-08 07:02 pm (UTC)
Maybe. I think that the next book I publish will be from one of the authors that I've worked with in the time honored tradition of sending everyone an email and going "You got anything you want published?"

I guess right now my issue seems to be the opposite as everyone is suddenly getting the vapors that I would dare say that their independent publishing houses are unprofessional. Obviously, there's a DIY charm to independent publishing houses but when they put out the same shit month after month, year after year, it's not doing anyone any favors.
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[User Picture]From: prose_lover
2013-12-08 06:47 pm (UTC)
I saw this post and refused to take part in it. Mostly because I don't think Charles made any sense, and he's my good friend so don't get me wrong. I wanted to weigh in but didn't, you know, because what damn company gloats about not charging writers? We should not be charged, ever! Anyone who thinks any different is a real tool, end of story.
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[User Picture]From: marlowe1
2013-12-08 06:59 pm (UTC)
I put my 2 cents in and just ignored it. I didn't even read the full post - just the part where he says that everyone should pile on and then my quote for the "completely legit publishing company." Apparently that Kas Alley Casserole woman weighed in - don't know what her issue is, but she was trying to start a fight with me over Kanye West too - and I blocked her because I don't want to encourage her fantasy of becoming Biggie to my Tupac.

I really got no problem with Charles either. I just find it strange that he has such a visceral reaction to criticism of another small press that he would try to publicly humiliate the critic. If a small press is operating with a particularly terrible business practice (rushing books to print, not paying the authors, bragging about doing things that every publishing company does, ugly covers, etc.) then it should be criticized - especially when it is posting long rambling publicity attempts.

The way I figure is that if you want to operate a small (independent) publishing house, you get one book where you learn how to do it - you can screw up the cover, forget to copy edit, pay the writers a royalty instead of upfront moneys, try to publish your friends on the basis that they are your friends and nothing else, etc. During this time, you learn how to make a professional anthology (or book - I do multi-author anthologies) that you can sell to the public instead of your friends that you meet at small horror conventions. If you don't learn from your experiences (or criticism) and you just keep doing the same crap book after book, then you should be criticized. We got more than enough terrible horror books on the market.

Of course, the other side of the coin is that I make sure to promote and push people that I think are awesome. Carlton Mellick III and Jonathan Edward Larson run cool independent publishing houses for example.
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[User Picture]From: marlowe1
2013-12-09 01:48 am (UTC)
Ok. I did chime in eventually. It became a hate fest, which I found really funny. Especially when RJ Cavendar decided to tell me that no one cared what I thought and I should just shut up shut up shut up (all the while finding links to my books and promoting them for me). The Gary Brandner brouhaha also got raised (apparently pointing out that he was a stupid racist shithead is bad form after he's dead - but of course, he is a symptom of the general racism and misogyny in the horror genre) and by the end two people just kept posting pictures at the end about not feeding the trolls.

I mostly ignored it except in the middle when I made fun of Cavendar and then checked in on my phone while I was reading in Starbucks. I ended by stating that this is an argument that has less to do with me and more to do with the little egos of the people involved who think that if they say enough shitty things to me that I will be proven wrong. And then I posted my favorite video -
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[User Picture]From: rinue
2013-12-08 07:47 pm (UTC)
Okay, I realize you probably don't want to name names or drive traffic to these sites, but I demand links to the ugliest of the ugly covers. Otherwise, this entry is like tuning in to an R-rated movie only to find the best scenes have been cut out for network television.
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[User Picture]From: marlowe1
2013-12-08 07:55 pm (UTC)
And Ozymandias said Look Upon my Ugly Ass Website and weep


I actually forgot the name of the publisher. Seriously - Black Bed Sheet books? Is the bed black? So you are putting sheets on it? Or are you pronouncing shit in a cute exaggerated Mexican Accent so you are going Sheet on the bed?

For more fun - https://downwarden.com/blackbedsheetstore/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=81_84 - I think that's the worst of the bunch. Poor author, that's why writers disguise themselves and don't take pictures.
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[User Picture]From: rinue
2013-12-08 08:05 pm (UTC)
Oh my. I actually like the covers for The Return of Spring-Heeled Jack and Morningstars, but Red Simon: Vampire Punk does seem impossibly evil, to the extent that it may wrap back around and be good.

That website is a hideous beast, though, and extremely difficult to navigate.
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[User Picture]From: marlowe1
2013-12-08 08:01 pm (UTC)
And now I posted that Vampire Punk cover on Facebook.

I'm blaming you. :)
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[User Picture]From: rinue
2013-12-08 08:08 pm (UTC)
Oh, I think everyone needs to see it. EVERYONE.
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[User Picture]From: marlowe1
2013-12-08 08:59 pm (UTC)
You can share it. I actually delved into that FB discussion that was calling me out. There were some people that were actually saying that I was right for judging a book by its cover, but there are a lot of wounded feelings. Apparently poor dead Gary Brandner shouldn't be called the racist sexist piece of shit that he was because now he's dead. And Kevin Lucia called me a tool (man, the originality of that insult really cuts to the heart of why he's a bestselling and respected author) and then there were people claiming that I look like a fool because I said that charity anthologies were bullshit.

And they have all agreed to ban me from their community of horror publishers/writers. Oh what ever will I do without the respect of my peers in the shitty horror publisher market. I will never be able to go to a convention and trade one of my books for a copy of Vampire Punk.
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[User Picture]From: bondo_ba
2013-12-09 01:30 pm (UTC)
Absolutely agreed. I've seen some good genre anthos, so I know it's possible. But I've also seen (and been included in) some very, very cringe-worthy ones...
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[User Picture]From: marlowe1
2013-12-09 04:38 pm (UTC)
Those are the worst too, because you can't exactly say "This is a piece of shit" because the editor just bought your story and you have to be nice about it. And of course, if you hate the other stories in the anthology, what does that say about your story?

My favorite bad sale still has to be when I sold "Mountain of God" to an anthology and realized that when I was reading the introduction that the editor bought it because he took the rambling conspiracy theories of the main character seriously. I later found a blog post by that guy with David Duke videos and verbiage about "maybe he is right."

I later re-sold Mountain of God to Bill.
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[User Picture]From: bondo_ba
2013-12-09 06:50 pm (UTC)
LOL. There should be a word for that feeling o: "uh,oh, this antho truly, deeply sucks, and I'm in it... That must mean that I truly, deeply suck..."

My favorite bad sale would have been to a guy who was a notorious disaster (the editor's grammar was like a bad joke) when I was just getting started. Fortunately - most would say inevitably - the thing tanked, and I was able to sell the tale somewhere else, and actually get paid for it.
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