Tag Archives: publishing

Hickey of the Beast

A couple years back, I posted about a really fun zombie story by Isabel Kunkle, who I’ve since had the pleasure of meeting. I’ve just discovered that Izzy’s new book, Hickey of the Beast, is being serialized by Candlemark and Gleam, an intriguing e-book publisher.

Here’s the description:

Bad dreams? No big deal. After all, Connie Perez is starting her first year in the prep school her mom runs. Anyone would be a little stressed, right? When she starts dreaming about strange creatures and places that don’t make sense, she doesn’t think much about it: there’s other stuff on her mind. Then she starts noticing that the people she dreams about get sick right afterwards.

Then everything gets weird.

There’s something bad on the campus of Springden Academy. Something that feeds on students and warps their minds. And, as Connie and her friends try to figure out what’s going on, it starts to look like she’s the only one who can stop it.

Freshman year was hard enough without having to fight evil after class.


You can sample the first chapter here.

I enjoy Izzy’s writing, but I’m also interested in Candlemark and Gleam’s approach. They’re selling a basic subscription to the serial for $5, but then they offer a variety of bonus packages. Many of them include bonus stories, but the Plutonium package takes the cake: for $25, you get the subscription to the book, the bonus stories, an iron-on patch, and a custom one-shot tabletop RPG scenario written by Izzy. You can choose whatever RPG system you want.

I bought the Plutonium package just to make Izzy work 😉 — but seriously, I am not sure how sustainable that is. I love the concept of subscriptions with bonus features. I think that’s very clever, and probably the way you have to do things these days. On the other hand, I hope the custom RPG has some sort of formula that makes it easy to put together. It seems underpriced to me.

Authors already have to work very hard for very little money, unless they’re JK Rowling. I am a little worried about setting a precedent for that degree of personalized attention for the price of your average hardback.

As far as logistics of distribution go, I found Candlemark’s system a little confusing. They’re linked to PayPal, which is good, but require you to make your own account for their site, which I don’t love doing. If I didn’t know Izzy, I might not have gone through with that. After I bought the book, I received a confirmation e-mail right away, but it actually took me a while to figure out where to read chapter one, and I’m not sure how or when I’ll get the rest of my stuff.

My verdict on Candlemark’s approach is that I’m totally intrigued, but I think it needs more polish. I love the idea of bonus material, but I worry about placing too much burden on the author.

But enough geeking about e-book distribution! Go read the first chapter!


On Publishers’ Catalogs

I love to make lists, cross things off methodically, and emerge at the end with a feeling of accomplishment and thoroughness. I find that this translates to my reading in the following way: when I like a publisher, I want to read through that publisher’s entire catalog.

I haven’t met a lot of people who read this way. Most people, if they’re inclined toward lists, will focus on authors (i.e. read everything Neil Gaiman ever wrote), or compilation lists (50 science fiction books that shaped the world of today). But a publisher’s list is often a lovely package of interesting titles, reflecting the tastes of particular editors.

I’ve loved fiction magazines for as long as I can recall, starting with copies of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction that I bought on the newsstand when I was a kid, and progressing from there. One of the things I love about them is that they also reflect an editor’s vision of which stories (based on length, subject matter, or any number of considerations) work together well. Editors think of the mix of stories in terms of a particular issue, as well as from the perspective of what other stories the magazine has published recently, and what other magazines are publishing. I love the moment when I know a magazine well enough to hear its voice, by which I mean, to get some understanding of how that magazine is steering itself through the sea of words out there.

I see a publisher’s catalog as the same phenomenon on a larger scale, and it recently occurred to me that others may not. I think one reason for this is that larger publishers don’t speak with as clear a voice as a smaller publisher. To get the same sense I’m describing from a larger publisher, you have to pay attention to imprints, or to the acquisitions made by a particular editor.

Lately, I’ve been intrigued by the role editors play. It probably stems from the fall editors’ note in Narrative Magazine, which got me thinking about the ways an editor’s presence can be felt. Of course, as a writer, I benefit from editors on a daily basis, but I’m interested in exploring how editors affect me as a reader.

So, I plan to do a series of indeterminate length on lines of books I love. The criteria will be subjective, but important: to qualify for the series, I have to want to read literally every book the publisher has printed. I have to look at it, and, based on some factor, decide that I trust the editors’ judgment so much that I’ll open my mind to any book they’ve acquired. There are catalogs that make me start calculating (how quickly can I read a book, how many are there, how many months would it take to read them all?). Those are the lines I’m going to talk about here.

I’m not coming to this as any kind of insider, and I’m not going to play to any particular genre or type of book. Just things that I like as a reader.