Friday, March 11, 2005


Different Hats

A busy week, taken up with issues largely personal shading somewhat into professional, and the first time I'm able to sit down and get any work done is Friday afternoon. I'm in the process of finishing the introductory material for my anthology ADVENTURE, not due in stores until November '05, but as the galleys are due at the printer in another week or two, I've got to cross and dot the appropriate t's and i's in the next few days.

Rereading in one sitting an anthology that took the better part of a year to assemble is a strange experience. This is my first trek down this particular road, and as enjoyable as I'm finding it, there are a few bumps and hiccups along the way. Most surprisingly, with myself.

I've heard from professional editors for years that one of their primary stumbling blocks in the publishing world can be the marketing department. Nearly every editor I know has at time or another passed on a book of some kind (novel, collection, anthology or other) because the marketing and sales department didn't think they could sell it. Whether the book was too strange, too difficult to categorize, too far off the beaten path, what have you, creative decisions often take a back seat to financial concerns. Publishing is a business, after all, and no one stays in business unless they keep an eye on the bottom line.

In the world of small press, often, there can be a little more freedom. With the smaller quantities involved, one usually operates much nearer the bottom line than larger houses would find comfortable, but smaller financial commitments can often allow small presses to take more risks, too.

I am one of those strange hyphenate beasts, the writer-editor-publisher. There are a few of us around (at the moment I can only think of Peter Crowther and Jay Lake, though there must be others), people who publish books, write stories and books other people publish, and edit books published by themselves and others. For ADVENTURE, I'm wearing all three of these hats: I'm publishing it through my MonkeyBrain Books imprint, I'm editing the anthology, and I'm including one of my stories in the lineup. And since I first decided to put together a cross-genre anthology--drawing together stories from new and established names in sf, fantasy, horror, mystery, and western--Chris the Editor and Chris the Publisher were in complete agreement. But now that I'm putting on yet another hat, that of Marketer, I'm finding dissension in the ranks.

Creatively, I couldn't be prouder of the anthology, and I'm eager to see what readers make of it. From a marketing standpoint, though, I'm beginning to think it would have been easier to make the book a little more easily categorized. These concerns are almost entirely geographical, depending upon the layout of most general interest bookstores. If a book shelved in the Mystery section has content that would be of interest to SF readers, would those readers know to seek it out, or pass by unawares? Vice versa, rinse, repeat with all other possible permutations of shelving taxonomy. Publishing categories are not immutable, but they can be extremely useful in helping the buying public locate the kinds of books they might like to purchase, and quickly. Even though my own reading tastes are extremely catholic, encompassing virtually all genres and categories imaginable (even romance, on rare occasion), when I walk into a book store I'll usually make a beeline to the SF/F section first, and hit comics, mystery, horror, and so on only if I've got the time. Most of what I write can be broadly classified as SF, though often using the vocabulary of other modes (historical, mystery, horror, etc).

I'm not sure what the answer is. At the moment, I'm happy focusing on my final functions while wearing my editorial hat, putting together the best anthology I can manage. I'll leave these questions for next month, when the galleys are in hand.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by 

Blogger. Isn't yours?