And here in the ring tonight, we have with us a small press publisher in the red boxing gloves ready to take on all contenders, including the big guys like Random House, or Harper Collins. Okay, maybe not, because small presses are different from those multi-million dollar businesses, and not just in the bank account department. Sure, they’d like to make money; after all, they are human (at least from what I’ve heard). But, there is something almost spiritual or quest-like in their mission to publish those books that might not have an audience except for the efforts of the small press.
According to Publishers Weekly, there are over 7,000 small press startups every year, and their motivation is to publish what THEY want and not just go along with trend-of-the-moment books. As you can imagine, not many of these small publishers survive even for the year, but there are some that struggle along and have successfully developed their own customer base.
Among these hardy survivors is Yard Dog Press, based in Arkansas, who has been publishing since 1995. Here is what their mission statement says on their website:
- To bring to the attention of the reading public the talent of authors who haven’t earned the “big numbers” yet, so therefore get little or no attention from the corporate giants. These are great story tellers with equally great stories to share. We think it is shameful that there is no forum for their work
- To provide a press for those mid-length novels that the big houses won’t touch.
- To bring to the reading public stories that they will enjoy.
- To provide a home for the bastard literary children of some well-known authors in the field.
- To never forget that we are in the business of ENTERTAINMENT!
That says a mouthful, doesn’t it? The people behind Yard Dog Press are Selina Rosen and Lynn Stranathan, who are not only a couple, but the driving force behind YDP. Selina, herself is an avid writer in many genres: Fantasy, S/F, Horror, Humor, Mystery, Suspense, Action Thrillers, and do on… The woman has a definite addiction to writing. Her latest book is Black Rage, a very-nearly-paranormal romance.
YDP publishes dark humor, s/f, fantasy, gay/lesbian, mysteries and anthologies (You should check out their Bubba anthologies!). They have some great authors on their list, such as Beverly Hale and Laura J. Underwood among others.
Below is an interview with Selina Rosen.
Tell us how YDP got started in 1995, and what has kept up your enthusiasm for a small press?
Yard Dog Press started as the brain fart of myself and artist Brand Whitlock. Through the convention circuit we had meet many talented authors and artists that for what ever reason couldn’t make their voice heard. A lot of that was location. Southern and Midwestern writers and artists still have trouble getting representation and being taken seriously. There is this idea that if we really wanted to make it we’d move closer to New York or at the very least get an agent from there. But the cost of living there is insane so unless you’ve made it as a writer or artist you can’t afford to live there and as for getting a New York agent that can be almost as financially unattainable. You need to be the places they are to get their attention.
At the same time readers were complaining that they were getting tired of reading the same book over and over…that they wanted to see something different.
We saw a need and we tried and are still trying to fill that need. We started with a small comic book that featured at least one short story a month and from those humble beginnings sprang Yard Dog Press.
I don’t know that you could say I’ve kept my enthusiasm as much I feel like I have a responsibility to the community of writers and artists we’ve worked with and the readers who count on us to give them exactly what they’re looking for in a good read.
YDP is entering the e-book field in the near future. How do you see this move as changing your view of the publishing world? Tell us where the e-books will be available, and how difficult or easy has the transition been technically for you?
YDP already has several e-books up they are at Amazon and Smashwords. Frankly I’m doing the e-books because it’s where the readers are going. I like to read a book something I can hold in my hands and most of our titles will continue to get a print run. Some like our recent book I DIDN’T QUITE MAKE IT TO OZ will be released as an e-book only, but that will be rare and it’s really sort of a test.
I’m not happy with the speed the titles are being put up at, but I can’t do it so I’m at other people’s mercy.
In my opinion the e-book market will either save publishing or be the final nail in the coffin. Jury is still out, of course I’m hoping for the saving but after 12 years of the worst economy of my life I’m not going to hold my breath or sell the farm.
What advantages do you feel a small press has over the more commercial companies? What disadvantages/problems?
The advantage is not having to go through a process that rapes your work and leaves you feeling like you owe the publishing house a big ass favor because they took your book. Simply put I like a well-told story, I’m not looking to tear a writer apart or rebuild them in my image. I don’t want to put them into a box and tell them how to write. I’ll know when I read their work if they can write and if they can I will gently edit their work so that it’s still their work.
Disadvantage is always going to be small press doesn’t have the deep pockets. Money and the right push can make a book huge. Mass distribution can make a fist full of people rich. No small press can get your book the kind of distribution one of the bigger houses can get you. You’ll never make really good money; you’ll never be a household name.
However we will let you keep your soul. It really all comes down to what a writer ultimately wants their work to do for them.
What attracts your attention when you read a mss submission for YDP?
Good old fashion story telling. A robot can put out grammatically correct, work all day, no typos, no spelling errors and no heart. Now I don’t want something that’s a G-d awful mess, but I’d rather see something that has a few problems that has heart then some perfectly written meaningless, heart less, drivel.
A writer’s words need to take me someplace I haven’t gone before make me feel something I might have never felt, or what’s the point? For me a good story still has a beginning, a middle and an end that is conclusive. I don’t want to be sucked into a story and find out the book has no real ending or worse yet I have to wait for the next 50 books to get to the ending.
I despise descriptive narrative masquerading as story.
What ways do you try to attract attention to the books printed under YDP cover? What can you recommend an author to do to help their book become more visible to the public?
We have given away hundreds of books as well as other promotional items. We are probably best known for the “Coupons of Great Value,” which our writers hand out at each convention we attend.
I do between 10 and 15 shows a year with the company where the books are prominently displayed in the dealer’s room. We have a web-site, we run sales, we send our books out for review sometimes we run adds. We encourage all of our writers to get on the Internet and work the social networks.
YDP is also known for its humorous, offbeat anthologies, like the Bubbas’ series or the I Should Have Stayed in Oz anthology. What do you have in store for the your anthology readers for the future?
Something really campy, playing with Alice in Wonder Land. Maybe titled, Waiter There’s A Hare in my Soup. I say maybe ’cause I’m sure that if that one’s good enough someone else has already snagged it.
You’ve had many books published and a number of short fictions in magazines. What keeps you fresh as a writer? How has your writing changed through out the years?
In fact I just sold a short story today to a Joe and Kasey Lansdale anthology that comes out next year titled IMPOSSIBLE MONSTERS.
My life is constantly changing so my work is bound to change. But honestly what keeps my work fresh is that I just write exactly what I want to write and I jump around from one genre to another. I learned a long time ago that writing for “The Man,” didn’t work for me. Writing just exactly what the big houses say they want is no guarantee you will sell to them in fact odds are you won’t. There are too many good jobs out there that pay better there is no sense in writing if you don’t write what you want to write.
I’ve been told my writing is darker and less hopeful. I don’t know that I’d say that’s really true I know it is more realistic.
How do you balance being a writer and an editor?
Damn! You’re supposed to do that?!
The editing eats my writing time. Devours it in fact. There is nothing creative about editing and there shouldn’t be, the editor isn’t there to make the work sound like them. They are there to make the book easy to read and understand for as many people as possible while hopefully leaving the writer’s voice in tact.
I actually hate editing. Hate it like pulling teeth. No doubt this is why I’m good at it. You’re always better at the things you hate, which means you have to keep doing them.
Who are your favorite authors?
Me, Joe Lansdale, Connie Willis, CJ Cherryh, Robert Howard, Lee Killough and of course everyone who writes for YDP.
Yes I said me if a writer wouldn’t rather read their own work than anyone else’s then they aren’t where they need to be as a writer. A writer should always be writing the book they’d most want to read. Like the guy with the tiny pecker at the whore house… if you can’t please yourself you can’t please anyone else.
Give us an eight-word description of your life.
Brutal, sad, hard, painful, futile, tiring, frustrating, brilliant.
Check out these links for Yard Dog Press.