|Absolute Literary Hoodlums|
Almost two years ago, I discovered the Booked Podcast. They were talking about a story that was soon to be released in one of the early MDP anthologies, Midnight Movie Creature Feature. The story is titled Revenge of the Zombie Pussy Eaters. To be honest, the story almost did not make the anthology based on title alone...and then I read it. It is brilliant! There is some supreme humor couched in that tale along with a very well thought out story that fit the motif of the anthology to a 'T'.
Since then, I tune in at totally random times just to hear what these guys talk about in the world of books. When they mentioned that they were going to produce an "invitation only" anthology and that the proceeds were going to be slated for literacy based charities...I waited and hoped. When my invitation came, I was thrilled. When my story, Faces on a Milk Carton, got accepted, I was honored.
This interview is a short story in itself, so I have decided to divide it up into two parts. So come back tomorrow for the rest. Also, over the coming weeks, I will be inviting several of my fellow contributors to stop in and yammer about what ever random stuff comes to mind.
Without further delay...the award winning (seriously, these two yahoos actually won an award!) hosts of the only podcast you ever need. Robb Olson and Livius Nedin.
So, you are better known for talking about books. How did putting together your first anthology feel?
Livius: Daunting. There are so many elements you can’t anticipate until you’ve gone through it. To be honest, at one point I thought there would just be a lot of copying and pasting. There, book = done. It turns out that what publishers do is a lot of work. It’s like working on one of those 1,000 piece puzzles. Not the one that’s a nice scene of people in a park, more like those weird patternless ones masochistic puzzle people do. The reward, though, that part is pretty awesome. Getting to touch that bad boy for the first time and to realize that there’s a physical product that was born of the work that you put in, that’s pretty awesome.
Robb: Exciting. I’ve always had a publishing bug, so I’ve been wanting to do something at this level for years. It also feels like a lot of work, and I’m very thankful Pela Via agreed to work with us. I don’t know if we could have found a better fit. Our styles are very similar, and she is an editing genius. She never ceases to amaze me.
What are some of the lessons you have learned that caught you off guard?
Livius: The stuff I expected to be difficult wasn’t and vice-versa. There are a lot of small things that require great consideration and those things can hold up the project more than the selection process, more than the editing, more than the things you’d expect.
Oh, and the fact that between Lightening Source and Amazon, your book can go up 12 days early and that you’ll only find out about it when someone sends you a Facebook message. I’m not sure how big publishers can make sure their books go out on Tuesday and we can barely get it narrowed down to under 14 days.
Robb: 1) No matter how polished someone thinks their story is, there are always problems. Lots of them. 2) Deadlines are universally meaningless. Nobody respects them, and most don’t even acknowledge their existence. 3) It’s possible to be in love with a book.
What can you share about your selection process?
|Livius not on the set of Twilight|
Livius: In some ways I think this part was easier than what many go through because we were working through an invitation process and no genre structure. There was no slush pile of submissions, no real “does this fit” issues. We sent out invites to talented folks and they responded with great stories. I can’t imagine having open submissions and having to go through the process of selecting that way.
|Robb not on the set of Cocktail|
Robb: Our submission criteria took care of most of the screening. We only accepted submissions from authors that have been guests on the podcast, so we knew we were going to feel pretty good about the stories we were receiving. We also required the stories to not be previously published, which I think helped as well. That removed an entire conversation about how many new vs. previously published stories we could take, etc. So most of the hard work was done well before we started actually reading stories.
Any ambitions to write your own?
Livius: There’s a story that’s been kicking around in my head for almost two years now. The idea presented itself during a road trip we took with Richard Thomas and Chris Deal. Working through this anthology did nothing to enhance my desire to get it written. This writing stuff is hard work and not all of us are cut out for it. I do continue to say that I’ll write it one day, but that’s mostly so Richard Thomas can’t lay claim to it.
Robb: I’ve got a handful of short stories under my belt. One you may see sooner than you may have guessed. But really I use the podcast and all the work that goes into it as an excuse to not have time for writing. So far, it’s the most successful excuse of my life.
What could traditional publishing learn from the Indies? And how about the other way around?
Livius: I think that they don’t take enough chances. Most of them seem to play it pretty straight. Sometimes I’m convinced that they would pass on the greatest story ever written if there wasn’t a specific audience to mark it to. I’ve read plenty of books that if put on enough shelves and promoted properly would be best-sellers, but there was no specific demographic to market to. The Big Six should spend more time with story and prose and not how likely an 18-34-year-old female is to pick this up from the shelf at Walmart.
Indies, well, they need to figure out how to usurp one of The Big Six. It would be interesting to see what would happen if a small press published one great novel and put all of their efforts behind marketing that for a significant period of time, say one year. I say novel specifically because it’s a rarity to see a collection on the best-seller list. Short story readers are a very devoted, but rather small demographic. I’m going to feel terrible if any one takes that advice and has to close down shop.
Robb: In a broad sense, I see the big six (ahem, five) as risk averse and formulaic. Because that’s how they make tons of money. The indies, on the other hand, often do the exact opposite in order to make money - they’re experimental and eager to strike new ground. Sadly, the big five don’t really need to learn from indies because they can just find a method that works from an indie source and either ape it or buy it outright. I can’t imagine that business practice will change much.
We’re living in a time where success is measured by when your startup can sell to a major corporation for a hundred million dollars. So any indie press that is worth a damn will eventually become an imprint of one of the big five. What I think could cause a shift in the power dynamic between the bigs and the indies is when the indies focus on quality editing, production and marketing and fair compensation of their authors and remain a small (or become a medium), independent press. Is it viable? I’d love to see it. You don’t hear much about medium-sized publishing companies, right?
The writing community can be its own worst enemy at times. What are some of the issues you see cropping up? Solutions?
Livius: The writing community for the most part seems to be very supportive of its members and I have to say that they’ve been terrific to our podcast. I have seen some pettiness and ugly fights, but the thing that’s the most disturbing is how fragile some writers can be. I know this is true of all types of people, but it seems worse when it happens to someone who has an art form to share with others. Facebook didn’t teach people how to show their asses to the world, it just gave them a bigger stage.
Robb: I think Authors themselves can be their own worst enemies at times. Making The Booked. Anthology has taught me that publishing should not be a one person operation. We had four main staff, and a dozen other people on call to proofread and do minor edit work. It took us ten months to come out with a finished product because we wanted the fewest possible mistakes to slip past us. It’s hard work.
So when I see people have written and published their own work, I’m happy that they’re getting themselves out there, but I worry that they are doing themselves a disservice. Editing isn’t a luxury - it’s a necessity.
As far as the community goes, I see some inspirational collaboration happening. But writers are people of very large and very delicate egos. So there are the occasional petty squabbles. But to be completely honest, I see far more good coming from the writing community than bad.
Come back tomorrow for the rest...and until then, grab a copy of the eclectic Booked. Anthology!