Of new books and e-books…

It’s been a busy couple of weeks since my last post. For starters, there have been some interesting new titles announced…

  • Screaming Dreams Press announced they’ll be releasing three titles at FantasyCon (September 18): Different Skins, a double novella from Gary McMahon, “told in completely different styles and contrasting voices”; Against The Darkness by John L. Probert, a collection of eleven stories featuring supernatural detective couple Mr Henderson and Samantha Jephcott; and the re-launch of David A. Sutton’s Clinically Dead, which was originally published in a 250-copy edition by the now-defunct Humdrumming. I’m fortunate to have a copy of the Humdrumming edition of Sutton’s collection, but am hoping to pick up a copy of the McMahon novella collection for review.
  • Bad Moon Books also announced three titles: Gene O’Neill’s Doc Good’s Traveling Show, a coming-of-age story about two boys with very special abilities who join a traveling show; Lisa Morton’s The Lucid Dreaming, about a violent paranoid schizophrenic who escapes confinement and discovers that she’s the sanest person left alive; and a new edition of Gord Rollo’s Crimson, which was originally published by Prime Books in 2002. I’ll definitely be reviewing the Morton title.
  • Cemetery Dance Publications announced two massive new collections: Tim Lebbon’s Last Exit for the Lost, which collects the best of Lebbon’s output from 2000 to the present day, and Tom Piccirilli’s Futile Efforts, which includes an impressive list of guest contributors that reads like a “who’s who in horror,” authoring introductions for every piece in the collection.
  • Golden Gryphon announced the publication of Are You There? by Jack Skillingstead, a collection of twenty-six stories offering “a wealth of fantastical and horrifying settings.”

Beyond these new book announcements, an0ther interesting development came in the form of an announcement from Shane Ryan Staley, founder of Delirium Books. The full posts — the initial one and a follow-up  — can be found here: Delirium Books Changing Focus and Focusing Your Perspective, but I’ve included some excerpts below.

Delirium’s trade paperback and book club will end this month with the final featured title: David Jack Bell’s The Girl In The Woods. My focus has shifted significantly over the past few years and digital editions will replace the trade paperback line in Delirium’s production schedule.

This will no doubt become a hot topic, but I’ve come to the conclusion over the past few years that the digital medium is a necessary step for the survival of not only the genre in literature, but the entire book industry.

The only thing I can say at this point is this: it’s no longer become a matter of whether you like or dislike the digital medium; it’s the point that the business of publishing needs to change in order for it to survive.

In a subsequent post, Staley goes on to say the following:

In 24 hours, rumors and debate have surfaced all over the web about my last post about the focus change.

“All over the web” seems a little aggrandizing, given that only two customers bothered to comment on the post on Delirium’s own site, but here’s the more important bits from the post:

Delirium changed the way small press pubishing was done in this genre. Low print runs gave newer authors a home to grow.  Delirium launched many new careers.

Today, I’d like to officially thank those who supported me and those who doubted me back in 1999.  It was because of both groups that I’ve succeeded today.

And today, we are once again divided, arguing amongst one another on message boards.  Saying that my new focus will never work.

Debate is good, but let’s not lose our perspective.  What I plan to do is good for the genre.  Much like when Delirium started off and everyone doubted I could succeed, it took years of my life committing to the vision and I will now do the same with promoting digital.  This won’t happen overnight, but the writing is on the wall that we NEED digital to thrive.  Authors need digital and publishers do as well.

<snip!>

You may have doubts with the new direction I’m taking Delirium.  But before you close off your mind, please note that you’ll only be standing in the shadows of those who doubted my vision back in 1999.

I’ll ignore the bombast and focus on a more interesting topic — an examination of the soundness of Staley’s basic business decision. Personally, I think he’s too far ahead of the curve. The point that he’s talking about will indeed come (no huge shock there), but I don’t think we’ve reached that milestone yet. That said, I’ll be perfectly willing to admit I was wrong in a couple years if Delirium is doing bang-up e-book business–but it would be useful to define, now, just what “bang-up” constitutes. Delirium’s history has largely been one of producing what I like to call “micro-editions” — very small prints runs, sometimes as few as 150 or 250. Delirium added a trade paperback line a few years ago, but I think you can guess how well that’s done, given that Staley is now discontinuing the line.  If Staley defines success for his digital editions as selling in the same numbers as his micro-editions, that unfortunately won’t match my definition.

The other interesting topic is that of formats. Staley is choosing to publish his digital editions in three format: pdf, mobi (for the Kindle and mobipocket), and epub (which is viewable on a variety of devices,  including the iPhone and the Sony Reader).  That’s a good selection.  There are a number of other hardware devices either announced or rumored, but it’ s obviously best to see what shakes out before investing any time in converting to those formats.  Microsoft’s .lit format, which is viewable on PCs with a free downloadable reader, perhaps should have been considered, but the format is known for having easily-crackable Digital Rights Management (DRM)… and the same is rumored to be true of epub.  Delirium clearly wants to maintain DRM control over its digital editions (i.e., no Creative Commons Licenses here).  I’m not clear on what their policy is on viewing a purchased digital edition on different devices, and/or in  different formats (say, pdf on a PC and mobi on a Kindle), but I’ll be interested to find out.

Some respected industry-watchers believe that e-books won’t really take off until the hardware price for handheld readers sinks below $100 and the digital books cost less than a mass-market paperback.  I’m on board with those beliefs.  We’ll see what happens.

In my next post, I’ll talk about some recent titles I’ve reviewed — on a recent trip to Austin, I managed to fit in Axelle Carolyn’s It Lives Again! and David Dunwoody’s Dark Entities, and made considerable progress on George Zebrowski’s Empties.  More on those next time…


Launching the Online version of Spotlight on Publishing

Welcome to the online version of Spotlight on Publishing. I’ll use this site to maintain the “official”list of small press publishers, to archive my recent columns from Cemetery Dance magazine, and to  offer some extra news, views, and reviews that won’t make it into it print in my column in the magazine.

As I write this, CD #61 is out, #62 is at the printer and, due to the lead times necessary to layout and proof the magazine, I’ve already turned in my column for #63.

In my column for #62, I interview Bloodletting Books, and review two titles from Gray Friar Press: The Catacombs of Fear by John Llewellyn Probert and Passport to Purgatory by Tony Richards. In my column for #63, I interview PS Publishing, and review the following titles:

  • Joel Lane, The Witnesses Are Gone
  • Adam Golaski, Worse Than Myself
  • Brian Evenson, Last Days
  • Steven Warren Hill, Silver Scream: 40 Classic Horror Movies; Volume One: 1920-1941
  • Robert Dunbar, Martyrs & Monsters
  • Black Static magazine, issue #10
  • Scott Edelman, The Hunger of Empty Vessels

Finally, my column for #64, which I’ve only just started to outline, will include an interview with Dark Regions Press, and reviews of the following titles:

  • Axelle Carolyn, It Lives Again!: Horror Movies in the New Millenium
  • George Zebrowski, Empties
  • Darren Speegle, A Rhapsody for the Eternal
  • A.R. Morlan, Smothered Dolls
  • Scott Nicholson, Scattered Ashes
  • David Dunwoody, Dark Entities

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