Oops. Guess I'm in trouble in the independent publisher world...
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.