The interesting things about these publishers is how well they operate within their space and how each seems to have carved out a little niche, from focus on electronic publishing to short fiction and monthly magazines.
The folks at Grey Matter Press have had a very busy year indeed, publishing four quality anthologies of horror and science fiction with such names as Jonathan Maberry, Eric DeCarlo, and Trent Zalazny.
I’ve had the chance to chat with head honcho Anthony Rivera at Grey Matter on a few occasions, and asked if he’d share his thoughts on the state of the publishing world today. This is what that request wrought!
Q: How has the publishing world changed over the past decade? How important is Small Press to today’s authors
A: Well, it goes without saying that Jeff Bezos and Amazon have had the single largest effect on publishing in the last decade, perhaps greater even than Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. Ask ten people what they think about this new technology enabling authors to publish their own work, and for small presses to more easily move into the marketplace, and you’re likely to get ten different answers, both positive and negative. I tend to believe the changes that have occurred are generally positive. I very much appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit, and any advancement that helps expand creativity and art, and the commerce to share it is, overall, a good thing in my opinion. While there are a number of issues that many critics point out as problematic with the new tech, in the end I’m hopeful that most of the current concerns will be resolved by the marketplace itself.
At Grey Matter Press we highly value and very much support the small publishing houses, ours as well as others working within the sphere. And the advances in digital delivery and POD printing have vastly increased our own ability to deliver exceptional products to consumers who deserve cost-effective and quality books. In addition, there are so many very talented authors whose work honestly deserves to be read. Without the ability for these authors to self-publish or to find a viable market within the publishing sphere, much of this creativity wouldn’t see the light of day. As readers, we’d all be worse off for that. And when it comes to the ever-present concerns shared by critics of the small press industry, including issues with manuscript quality, attention to detail in product development, and effective gatekeeping when it comes to editing, it really comes down to being the responsibility of the individual publisher. It’s up to each of us to ensure that our products meet professional standards. If independent publishers want these pervasive criticisms to end, it’s up to us to produce work that is of the highest quality in order to silence the critics.
Q: Grey Matter Press specializes in anthologies of short fiction. Do you think there is something about horror that lends itself to shorter works?
A: Until now we’ve been focused on publishing quality anthologies that include short stories from both the horror and science fiction genres. In late 2013, we released our first four volumes: Dark Visions – Volume One, Splatterlands, Ominous Realities and Dark Visions – Volume Two. Moving forward into 2014 and beyond, we have plans to expand our product offering to include single-author collections, novels and more.
When it comes to horror in general, I believe that truly effective storytelling can be handled in either format, short or long. I also believe that it’s far harder to be able to do that within the confines of a short story. So when you read a good short story, you know it immediately. Additionally, short stories have the advantage of permitting readers to transport themselves into other worlds in quick bursts. Our instant-gratification society where the demands of life, work, maintaining a home, running the kids here and there, etc., lends itself to readers consuming fiction in smaller bites. Most of the short stories we’ve published in our anthologies can be read in a half hour or less. This allows readers to escape from the other demands on their time. And who doesn’t want to take a break from the horrors of real life only to be transported into a fictional world of far greater terror? This often results in readers realizing that their own stress-filled lives aren’t so bad after all. At least they don’t have a sadistic killer chasing them around, ready to lop off their head with a machete.
Q: How many submissions do you typically receive with each call? What sort of things help a story “stand out?”
A: The number of submissions we receive varies depending upon the anthology and the length of time the call is open. For instance, for our first two anthologies, Dark Visions and Splatterlands, our calls ran concurrently and the windows for each were almost three months long. During that time we received a literal avalanche of great submissions, more than 700 manuscripts for the two planned volumes that would ultimately only contain about 14 stories each.
Due to this tremendous response, combined with the fact that we received so many fantastic pieces, it was important for us to find a place for a lot of the work we received. We appreciate the work of our submitting authors, so to accommodate their stories we made the decision to expand Dark Visions into a two-volume release, with the first volume publishing last September and the second releasing a few weeks ago in mid-December 2013. When we read a great piece of work, it’s in our nature to try and find, or even create, a place for that work. Contrary to what may be popular belief, we as publishers don’t like to disappoint submitting authors. So, as a result, Dark Visions Two was born.
To date, the author response to all of our calls has been massive, something we very much appreciate and are humbled by as a new publisher. As a result, our acceptance rate has been something in the range of five percent overall.
At Grey Matter Press we’re driven to publish exceptionally well-written, engaging books whose themes are unique and very strong on characterization. We like tales. We like stories that are both self-contained and transportive.
Earlier you asked about the ability of horror to fit neatly within the short story format. When we look for short stories we look for those that contain interesting, well-developed characters with which the reader can empathize, positively or negatively. We also feel strongly that horror can be considered fine literature. There are a number of well-known horror and dark fantasy authors who’ve proven this to be the case. As such, we carefully review our submissions to ensure the pieces are well-crafted, have a unique plot and contain some underlying intelligence, whether obvious or subtle. There’s a lot of senseless violence in the horror genre these days. Torture porn and the like is, in my opinion, far too prevalent. We like to think that a successful horror tale is far more than that.
Q: Your newest anthology, “Ominous Realities” came out on December 10th. What can you tell us about it?
A: Ominous Realities is the first of many planned collections of science fiction to be released by Grey Matter Press. But don’t get me wrong, horror is our main focus and Ominous Realities is most definitely horror. Think about it, doesn’t most sci-fi contain heavy doses of horror? Exploration of the strange and unknown, alien creatures breathing down your neck wanting to eat you, etc.? In my mind sci-fi is a sub-category of horror. And Ominous Realities is what we call an ‘Anthology of Speculative Horrors.’ It explores a number of alternative realities that may already have or could potentially face humanity.
The stories in this anthology are truly exceptional. They are exceedingly dark and horrific. It includes dystopian, post-apocalyptic themes; the struggle for humanity to survive destruction by its own hand or that of others; as well as stories that investigate a number of very realistic, politically charged terrors all of which portend dire consequences for our civilization. We’re exceptionally proud of this book, the contributors and their fantastic work, and we feel it’s most definitely a collection that crosses the boundaries of horror, sci-fi and speculative fiction. There’s something for everyone within its pages.
Q: And you’re not resting on your laurels…”Equilibrium Overturned” is coming out early next year. What is the concept?
A: Equilibrium Overturned is the working title for yet another anthology of horror that we’ll publish early this year. Like Ominous Realities, it blurs the boundaries of horror and speculative fiction with a number of both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial based terrors. While we haven’t yet released the contributor list, we’ve got a number of surprises in store for readers. Included again, as with our previous anthologies, will be the work of several well-known, award-winning authors with whom we’re very proud to be able to work. Also early this year, we’ll be publishing Death’s Realm which is an exploration of the afterlife. Submissions for Death’s Realm are still open and will be through January 31st. And based on the number of fantastic stories we’ve already read, this anthology is shaping up to be another that readers are really going to enjoy. And after that, we’ve got a whole host of exciting things planned.
Q: Your website is – to put simply – kickass, and you’re very active on Facebook and Twitter, how important is it for today’s writers, publishers, and agents to master social media?
A: Thank you, Jim, for your kind words about our site. We put a lot of hard work into that last summer and are glad to have it up and running. In the months to come we’re going to be doing a lot more on the site, allowing both readers and authors greater involvement with Grey Matter Press. Stay tuned for that info. J
Referring back to your first question about changes in the publishing industry, the explosive growth of Social Media is the most important thing to have changed marketing in the past decade. Having worked in the areas of advertising, branding and MarCom for many years, I can say that if an author, publisher or agent isn’t taking full advantage of Social Media they’re missing out on an immensely powerful avenue for personal communication with their audiences.
I’ve found that a number of authors still rely primarily on their personal blogs. And while a blog is a very important tool, it isn’t the end-all or be-all that it may once have been. Every individual or organization working in the publishing sphere today should truly consider operating and maintaining their own Social Media accounts. It’s often the maintaining that proves to be the most difficult. For most, the ongoing demands can prove to be very time consuming. But if you stick with it, it will pay off.
The good thing is that it isn’t necessary to be everywhere on Social Media. It’s far more important to determine where your audience is and then go wherever that may be. For some it might be Goodreads. For others it might be Reddit. We’ve found that, among other platforms, Facebook and Twitter have proven to be invaluable for Grey Matter Press, from disseminating news and information to communicating with our supportive community of readers and authors. In short, you gotta bite the bullet, take the leap and jump in. Find out what works and what doesn’t. Once you hit on the sweet spot, stick with it and your results will be dramatic. It’s really