Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Jon Bassoff interview: New Pulp Press

Jon Bassoff is the founder and publisher of New Pulp Press. He was born in New York City but currently resides in Colorado with his wife and two children. In addition to his work as a publisher, Jon teaches high school English and writes disturbing novels under various pen names. Email him at editor@newpulppress.com.

Can you provide an overview of your publishing company?

New Pulp Press was founded in 2008. We’re a small publisher of crime fiction, and we usually release somewhere between four and six books a year depending on our collective mood. We avoid overly sympathetic protagonists, instead focusing on con-men, losers, and sociopaths. Raw and desperate tales drenched with nihilism and loathing. 'Feel-bad' books, is what I call them.

How do you decide which titles to publish?

We’re bored and cynical, just like everybody else. Although we dig Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, we’re tired of all the knock-offs. We’re fricking obsessed with Jim Thompson, but there’s only one Jim Thompson. We’re looking for . . . something. And maybe we’re not always completely clear what that something is. But to paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart: We know it when we see it.

I will say that we usually publish novels driven by interesting (often psychotic) characters, as opposed to those with highly complex plots. And we’re suckers for  unreliable narrators (see Thompson, Patrick McCabe, Patrick McGrath etc.) Psycho-noir is the subgenre our books are often placed in.  

What's your bestselling crime title and why do you think that is?

Our two biggest sellers are Nate Flexer’s THE DISASSEMBLED MAN and Jonathan Woods’ BAD JUJU. Flexer’s success is a bit of a mystery—his audience seems to be exclusively bored housewives and the criminally insane. Meanwhile, Woods is just a flat-out remarkable writer as well as a tireless promoter. And it didn’t hurt matters that his book was featured in New York Magazine.

How important is digital in relation to paper?

I’m still trying to figure that. There’s no question that digital will continue to take up a larger and larger portion of the market. How large of a portion, and who will ultimately control that medium, is still anybody’s guess. I’d like to think that there will always be a place for that physical book, but I know some folks younger and wiser than me who disagree. I do think many publishers are still in denial of the ebook revolution. They had a business model that worked and now they’re getting a little anxious. But those that remain in denial will be left behind. And here’s the reality: we’re going to see the gradual loss of bookstores until they will one day be extinct or nearly extinct. And with ebooks and print-on-demand technology, we’ll also see traditional publishers becoming less relevant. Is that a good thing? The hell if I know.  

How much difference does a good cover make?

Damn straight it makes a difference. Maybe you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you sure as hell can buy a book based on its cover. We take a lot of pride in our covers and have been fortunate to have employed several talented artists including Kenney Mencher, Lou Beach, and Richie Fahey. Of course, due to New Pulp Press’s limited funds, these guys have basically been doing charity work for us. Beats saving the earth and feeding the hungry, that’s what I always say.

What's your favourite aspect of being a publisher?

I like providing a sort of immortality for our authors—long after they’re worm food, their words will still exist in an attic or landfill somewhere. Call it a God complex.

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a publisher?

I think we’re willing to take chances on material that others wouldn’t. Books that don’t fit neatly into a particular genre. I’d like to think that New Pulp Press treats their authors well, that we respect them as writers and not just commodities. Biggest weakness: we don’t pay our authors and artists as much as we’d like for the simple reason that we don’t sell as many books as we’d like. 

As a reader, how would you describe your taste in crime fiction?

I like it dark and sick. I like protagonists with major weaknesses. I like moody atmospheres. I like seedy/creepy settings. In other words, my crime fiction should be just like Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law’s house.

I’m not a big fan of crime fiction series. I don’t like knowing when I pick up the book that the protagonist will be there for another volume. I don’t like that certainty. I’m tired of most detective or police procedural books. I’m not a big fan of serial killers, although I do like psychopaths and spree killers.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading Dirty Snow by Simenon. Moody, moody, moody. The guy published 200 or so novels and every one I read is high quality. In fact, it makes me a little resentful to know that an author could be so prolific.

Who's your favourite living writer?

I don’t know if I could pick a favourite, but Patrick McCabe is right there near the top. The Butcher Boy and Winterwood were two of the most chilling novels I’ve ever read. McCabe is a master at creating compelling and unreliable narrators. A few of his books have been disappointments, but the ones that are good are damn good.

What are the biggest problems facing publishers these days?

The fact that people don’t want to pay for creative content anymore. I’m guilty of it just like anybody else. You want to hear a song—go on YouTube. Want to see a movie—download it. Why would books be any different? People aren’t so moralistic that they will choose to buy something if it’s available for free. So how do publishers stay ahead of that technology curve?

What are the greatest opportunities facing publishers these days?

In some ways there has never been a better time for breaking into publishing. Ten years ago, I never would have been able to start up this company. Without major capital, the business was completely closed off. To realize that we have been able to put out 13 or so books in just a couple of years, 13 great books that never would have seen the light of day, well that’s pretty exhilarating. Without all of the technological changes that publishers grumble about, New Pulp Press wouldn’t exist.

2 comments:

  1. Fantastic interview. New Pulp Press are Le Bolloque Du Chien!

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  2. Great interview. Jon Bassoff is a man among men.

    ReplyDelete