Thursday, 25 August 2011

Brian Lindenmuth interview: Snubnose Press

Brian Lindenmuth is the editor of Snubnose press and the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler Magazine. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree Magazine and at Galleycat and the Mulholland Books websites.

Can you provide an overview of Snubnose Press?

Snubnose Press is the newly formed ebook imprint of Spinetingler Magazine. Spinetingler has been around since 2005. We have a long history of publishing short fiction from new, established and emerging writers. Spinetingler is also a paying short story market. Snubnose will be an ebook extension of that ethos focusing on longer works of fiction.

Why become a publisher?

Why not?

Because it's the next logical step for us and we've wanted to for years now. Years ago, when Spinetingler was under different ownership for a bit, we had wanted to get into publishing and had many discussions. Around that time we had talked about getting into the limited editions market for example. Start-up costs were always an issue and e-publishing has lowered the bar of monetary start-up costs enough to enable us to seriously move forward with what we wanted to do all along.

Plus, because of our involvement with the community and we have friends who are writers we know that there are a lot of really great writers out there and a lot of great manuscripts.

Who's involved?

Jack Getze, Sandra Ruttan and myself. Our logo and the cover for Keith Rawson's upcoming short story collection were designed by Ben Springer (aka Poker Ben). Boden Steiner, who did the cover for Speedloader, is our Art Director.

Who chose the name?

I did and pitched it to the others. Everyone liked it so we took the ball and ran with it. It felt right once it was there.

How do you decide which titles to publish?

We use some of the minor thaumaturgical methods outlined in Agrippa's De Occulta Philosophia libri III combined with a workforce that includes the friends of our children.

How many titles are you planning on publishing?

For the rest of 2011 we will be publishing about a book a month. We would like to maintain the same pace in 2012 but obviously that will be determined by the submissions we receive.

How did you decide on your contract terms (which are incredibly generous!)?

The core group of owners of Spinetingler and Snubnose are Jack, Sandra and myself. Two of that group are writers who have had various ... interesting ... adventures with traditional publishers. So we wanted to be generous to writers. Also, there is a practical side to generosity that I would be remiss in not mentioning. It is very easy for authors to self-publish their work these days. So we put together what we think is a good package: generous contract, an art director, an editorial staff (that have reps for being tough) and an established marketing platform.

How much editorial input do you have in your titles?

Mo the one-eyed cat makes all the tough decisions.

What are your marketing strengths?

We are established within the mystery and crime fiction community. The Spinetingler name carries with it some level of quality assurance. We have well established ties and friendships within the business. That's just to start. That's just the folks we know. We want to move beyond the groups and circles that get created over time (and can calcify) and find new groups of readers. The internet has created a new tribalism that we sometimes aren't aware of. It's of the utmost importance to work your base AND find new people to connect with.

Tell us about your launch title, Speedloader.

Speedloader is an anthology of six short stories that can be classified as dark crime fiction by new and emerging writers. One of the stories, Plastic Soldiers by WD County is one of the darkest stories I've ever read. Nik Korpon's story about drug addicts in Baltimore uses an economy of words to get to the heart of a personal and moral dilemma. Nigel Birds story shows what small crimes can be lost in larger ones. Richard Thomas's story explores the heart of an alcoholic's slide. Matthew Funk's story takes the reader and his everyman protagonist on a nighttime hell ride. Jonathan Wood's story is a revenge epic written in miniature.

All of the writing in Speedloader is top shelf and our goal is to have future Speedloader installments.

What else do you have coming up that you can tell us about?

Our lineup for the rest of the year includes the short story collections Monkey Justice by Patti Abbott, The Chaos we Know by Keith Rawson and Gumbo Ya-Ya by Les Edgerton. The novel Harvest of Ruins by Sandra Ruttan. And the revenge novella Dig Two Graves by Eric Beetner. We are actively negotiating on a few other titles, one of which is so experimental that it probably proves the need for small presses.

How important is digital in relation to paper?

Well, it's a game changer. As a reader I love my Kindle and do a lot of my reading on it. As an editor I love being able to send submissions to my Kindle and make motes on a manuscript. As the husband of an author I've seen the benefit of being able to e-publish out of print back list titles. I've also seen the success that others that I know have had.

There has also been a huge rise this year in e-publishers.

Like all transitional periods though I don't wish to speculate too much because I can't predict the future. I'm enjoying the ride though.

What are your thoughts on eBook pricing?

They have been all over the place. As a reader I've bought my fair share of cheap ebooks, some of which still remain unread, and I've bought higher priced ebooks from traditional publishers. I used to think that ultra cheap was the way to go but now I'm not so sure.

In general (for right now) here is my pricing philosophy.

Something like Speedloader (6 stories) is good at .99c.

A short story collection or a larger anthology should be $2.99

Novellas should be $2.99

Novels should be in the $2.99-$4.99 range.

I don't think a universal sweet spot has been found yet because where the rubber meets the road for a title varies for each book so the most important thing that this whole epublishing enterprise has allowed is flexibility. We can release at one price and play around until we find the right one. It's a great theoretical argument but ultimately it's going to be like that old saying that all politics is local. We’re going to work hard to find the right price that fills the most potholes on as many streets as possible.

How much difference does a good cover make?

People say don't judge a book by its cover and, broadly speaking, that may be true. If we are being honest this proves to be a falsehood, especially at the extremes. A terrible cover immediately sounds a false note, repelling the reader, and a great cover may not guarantee a sale or a great read but it will make a reader stop and take notice. That's nothing to take lightly. And when the content of the book is as great as the cover, that's special.

Boden worked his ass off and gave us a great and special cover for Speedloader. The designs and variations that hit the cutting room floor would make great covers in their own right. He worked tirelessly to make the cover as great as possible and the final result speaks for itself.

It seems to me that in the e-book age cover artists aren't getting the props they deserve. To fix this we want to make sure that everyone knows who does our covers because we are proud to show off his work and we want to make sure his name rings as loud as it should.

Clearly the cover game is changing and it is one of the many interesting facets of this whole evolution to watch. Just a couple of examples. How important are cover blurbs on an ebook? With the reduced size, how much emphasis should be put on font size?

You've been getting some reader feedback already, in relation to the cover for Sandra Ruttan's HARVEST OF RUINS. Is this kind of interaction something we're likely to see more of?

In some form. We want to make sure the reader is involved because...why not. The Harvest cover thing actually evolved. There were a few cover choices and both Sandra and I were debating which one we liked best. I then decided to show the cover selections to some co-workers of mine. Some people who are readers and book buyers but aren't a part of the online community. They all chose the same cover and it was different than the one that I liked. So the idea of soliciting feedback from readers in the community came from there.

How important is a good title?

As an editor one of the things that I realize I am thinking about when I'm reading submissions is the length of the title. If ebook covers are generally viewed at a thumbnail size then a title with seven or eight words isn't going to work as well as a title with three words. Speedloader is one word and ties in thematically with the Snubnose name and the amount of stories.

What aspects of marketing do you enjoy?

Meeting new people and being introduced to new blogs and sites. There also is some joy to be had in seeing something you had a hand in making being recognized and talked about. I love talking books.

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

I prefer darker types of fiction. I want to be gutted, it is a rare emotion but an attainable one.

As a publisher, how would you describe your ideal reader's taste in crime fiction?

Someone with an open mind. Someone willing to say ‘yeah, that sounds interesting’.

What was the last good eBook you read?

The great thing about these evolving times is that that question can mean so many things. Fuck a good book. How about great ones?

How about a book that was self-published by the author - Angela Choi's debut novel, Hello Kitty Must Die, came out last year from Tyrus and she self-published her second novel earlier this year. It's called Apologies Not Included and is dark and twisted in the best possible way. I think that female writers are writing some of the best psycho-noirs out there and are really pushing the boundaries of what that form can be and do.

How about a backlist title from an established author - I finally had a chance to read Hoodtown by Christa Faust, which is a great example of a mid-list writer being able to bring out an older title. It's probably one of the best books I've read all year.

How about an ebook by an epublisher - Frank Sinatra in a Blender by Matthew McBride from Concord ePress is a darkly funny book that a traditional publisher may not have been interested in.

How about a novella that was released online serially - Pablo D'Stair's novella This letter to Norman Court was serialized over community blogs and sites and is now available in its entirety for free from Smashwords.

Or a novel (I’m assuming) released serially by an established crime writer – Ken Bruen’s Black Lens has been coming out in weekly installments over at the Mulholland Books website.

What are you reading now?

I've always got my fingers in multiple pies so: manuscripts; Pulp Ink; The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey; Just Like That by Les Edgerton; Wild at Heart by Barry Gifford; God's War by Kameron Hurley; 99 Days by Matteo Casali & Kristian Donaldson and finally Novahead by Steve Aylett

If you had to re-read a crime novel right now, what would you choose?

The death of Newton Thornburg in May really struck me. For such a great writer to die in relative obscurity and for his death to go unnoticed was a tragedy. His novel Cutter & Bone remains a favorite (and the movie, Cutter's Way that was based on it) and with his death I feel a strong urge to read it again.

Who's your favourite living writer?

Will my wife kill me if I don't say her :) So the question becomes who is my second favorite writer which as you know is a very tough question. James Sallis maybe.

What makes you keep reading a book?

Short chapters. Kidding. Kind of.

Years ago I tried to quantify what constitutes a great book for me and the best that I could do was to imagine a three circle Venn diagram with the three circles representing character, writing and story and my favorites resting somewhere in the intersection of the three.

What makes a book sell?

Word of mouth and coverage. Then sales beget more sales and eventually, at some point sales can become a kind of self-sustaining feedback loop.

How do you create 'word of mouth'?

Get the book into readers hands. People can’t talk about it if they haven’t heard of it and read it. For Speedloader that meant putting it in the hands of the best online writers, our friends and people we have developed relationships with over the years. Also, no gun. What I mean is that when I sent the books out I didn't pressure anyone for a review or coverage in a timely manner. I've been a reviewer for too long to understand that increased publicist pressure doesn't work and can be a turn off. So put the book in folks hands and let it go from there. You also need to make a diligent effort to reach blogs and sites that may be interested and that are outside your normal community. Find new people, put the book in their hands, let them tell their people.

You’ve been telling people for awhile now about not preaching to the choir. That is in my DNA. For years I was the mystery and crime reviewer at a SF/F site. I’ve had people say to me why would you do that. Because it was the best place to be and I probably sold more books for authors than anybody else because the audience I was writing for wasn’t aware of the authors I was writing about.

Years ago Richard Pryor infamously set himself on fire in a drug-induced psychosis and ran down a California street in what is now known as the "freebasing incident". The police officer who finally subdued him said that Pryor was lucid and kept saying "if I stop I'll die". That's a phrase that has always stuck with me. You cannot rest on laurels and past accomplishments and what happened yesterday has no bearing on what will happen tomorrow. Keep working the shit out of it, in other words.

How do you feel about writers self-publishing?

On one hand you have my wife who has self-published a back list title. You have found success with it and friends have found success as well. I think the stigma that once was there isn't there in the same way. On the other hand you have The Greek Seaman.

Which author should be much better known?

There are a lot but I don’t like wishy-washy answers that evade the question so I’ll say… Lynn Kostoff, and hopefully that happened last year and the increased coverage of Late Rain (as compared to his previous novels).

If someone's reading this who has a project that might be a good fit for you, how would you prefer them to go about submitting it?

Our guidelines can be found here. Bottom line is to send us an email to snubnosepress@gmail.com

10 comments:

  1. Really enjoyed that Brian, and learned a few things. Best of luck with the new venture!

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  2. This reads like a short course in ebook publishing. Thanks, Brian and Allan. Great stuff.

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  3. The two titles I've read from Snubnose have both been top notch. Keep up the great work!

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  4. Good insight. A hat trick from Snubnose Press so far and I'm sure it'll continue.

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  5. Forget the delineation between mystery, noir, crime, sci-fi: Fiction that guts the reader should be the only genre read. Very insightful interview.

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  6. Brian. Great interview man. And I'm loving your books dude. Right now you are setting the standard for all e-book publishers putting out original crime/noir titles. Rooting for your big success.

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  7. Thanks for the FSIAB shout out, sir. I love the shit out of Spinetingler & appreciate the support you've given me.

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  8. Any publisher guided by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa's illuminating opus and the friends of your children is aces in my book!

    Besides being a tremendously informative interview, it made me laugh. A lot!

    Brian and Allan--you guys rock and roll!

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  9. I can't wait to discuss Agrippa with Mo the Cat.

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  10. This interview is superb. It's a great guide to everyone thinking about putting out e-books.
    The quality of the work put out so far by these guys is amazing and I think it's likely to become a publishing institution.
    Those covers are excellent, by the way.
    Very informative.
    'If I stop I'll die' - it's my mum's attitude to smoking and my to all the things I enjoy doing; perfectly summed up.
    thanks.

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