An Interview With Eric Beebe, Publisher of Post Mortem Pressposted by Dave
With over 50 books in print since opening in late 2010, Post Mortem Press has grown from a distraction against the worries of a corporate career gone awry to a successful independent publishing concern. Post Mortem Press apparently did something unusual; they combined business acumen with a love of the written word and respect for the authors who create them.
They have earned the respect of many luminaries in the world of dark fiction … Clive Barker, Joe Hill, Harlan Ellison, Johnathan Maberry, F Paul Wilson, Jack Ketchum, and many more have graced the pages of Post Mortem Press anthologies.
Today’s technology provides endless opportunity for talented writers outside the mainstream to find their voice. The singular goal of Post Mortem Press is to answer opportunity’s call by providing an outlet for new and established writers of short fiction.
Their business model allows them to consider publishing works that may be overlooked by the mainstream. Unlike many other publishing concerns out there, they don’t want anything from their authors other than their support in promoting their books. This process provides for a payoff for the author’s creative sweat equity.
HN: Post Mortem Press has released over 50 books since late 2010. That’s quite an accomplishment for a new publisher.
EB: We have a pretty diverse group of books. We have some straight horror, straight mystery, and several thrillers, and many that simply don’t easily fit into any specific genre. We even have a romance and what I would call a rural fantasy book. It’s a basic tenant of business that diversity is key to success. We found a formula that seems to work for us. We stick with dark and do our best to do it well.
HN: You focus on more than short fiction, though. Correct?
EB: We started with a small anthology and as we have grown we haven’t forgotten our roots. The short story is making a comeback in no small part thanks to small press, digital publishing, and the print-on-demand model. However, while there is a market for short stories our vision of diversity demands we showcase the long form fiction of our authors as well. In our first year we released ten anthologies along with a three single author collections. During our second year we cut back to three anthologies and two single author collections. For 2013 I envision no more than two anthologies. It’s not because we have given up on the short story. Quite the contrary actually, we want to move from semi-pro to professional rates. This demands we find the absolute best in short fiction. We also decided at the end of 2011 to change up our anthology philosophy. We have fewer books, but we include well know authors, either in reprint or original form, to gain attention. Names like Clive Barker, Joe Hill, Jonathan Maberry, Jack Ketchum, and Harlan Ellison, will get a potential reader’s attention. While the lesser known author’s get great exposure. We will continue this model in 2013. In fact, we have a few tricks left up our sleeve.
HN: And for the most part, you provide trade paperback and digital editions?
EB: Every book we release gets both trade paperback and eBook editions. We tried an eBook only novella release in 2011. While it wasn’t a failure, our marketing is really based on face-to-face, personal interaction, and that is hard to do with a digital product alone.
HN: Where do you see Post Mortem Press going in the next five years?
EB: We kind of came out of nowhere and managed to gain a good reputation and decent sales numbers pretty quickly. While I don’t have a specific five year plan, it is my goal for Post Mortem Press to continue with a measured growth. Measured in the sense that I don’t want to be a book mill. I also want to be able to provide each book the attention it deserves. We experienced some growing pains in 2012 and as a result, 2013 will intentionally be less hectic. So, back to your question, in five years I want Post Mortem Press to continue to demonstrate a respect for authors and their place within the equation while making enough money to cover all expenses and maybe even get paid myself.
HN: What’s your take on the current state of publishing in general?
EB: Publishing today is in a state of constant flux. The dynamic nature of technology has removed a lot of mystery behind the process. We have already seen some massive changes in the past 18 months or so. The Big Six is now the Big Five. One of the Big Five has gone into the self-pub business, and the explosion of self-published authors in the eBook market is something no one can ignore. At some point, hopefully in the not so distant future, the folks that cling to the old publishing model are going to have to let go. There is a bias against small press and anyone who uses print-on-demand. This bias limits what books make it into traditional bookstores. However, as I am sure most folks have noticed, brick and mortar bookstores are dying a slow painful death due to a resistance to change. The print-on-demand model allows small publishers, such as Post Mortem Press, to focus on the quality of the product and not worry about how we can move a warehouse full of books. Honestly, I am surprised at the resistance to the POD model from the Big Five. I also suspect they use it as well, but won’t admit it. Why spend the money to print books that may not sell? I have used the restaurant analogy in the past to explain how this works. The food you order isn’t made until you order it. Makes sense, right? A restaurant would be crazy to make dozens of meals in hopes they will sell. Sure there’s some prep that has to happen. But the meal isn’t created until it is needed. The same goes for print-on-demand. The auto industry imploded on making too many cars and maybe, just maybe, the publishing industry will learn as well.
HN: And what’s your take on the current state of the horror genre?
EB: Like anything else, genre focus moves like the tide. Right now, the horror tide is out, but it’s making its way back to shore. I think horror fiction will always be the red-headed stepchild of literature. But to me, that’s okay. It’s okay because the genre, at its heart, is about being an outsider.
Stephen King dragged horror into mainstream / legitimate publishing in the ’70s and he is still reviled in many literary communities. But the truth lies with what sells. Many of us read the “greats” in school because we had to. But in reality, who sells more books, Thomas Pynchon or Jonathan Maberry?
HN: If there was one thing you wish you could do over with Port Mortem Press, what would it be?
EB: That’s a tough one. I think the path we’ve taken is the right one. There were some ideas that never quite panned out. With hindsight I would probably ignore those ideas. I would also have changed my initial expectations. After a string of early misfires in the marketing arena I almost gave up on Post Mortem Press. But a small taste of success, the enthusiasm of my new Post Mortem Press family, and the encouragement of my wife showed me that I could make this work.
HN: What do you recommend for new writers wanting to break in?
EB: Have reasonable expectations and don’t give up. There are a lot of people out there peddling the secret to success. I would recommend reading their advice, but do so with a skeptic’s eye. There is no easy road to success. Learn from others but also learn from your own experience. I am happy for our successes, but I learned more from our failures. Don’t be afraid to fail.
HN: What makes Post Mortem Press unique?
EB: We try to take a personal approach to the whole process. Authors are involved in every aspect of the publishing process. We attend countless events to spread the word about Post Mortem Press and more importantly, our authors. The horror section of most bookstores is small. Why, because many horror fans either don’t go to bookstores, or shop on-line. We know our audience and we go to them. From giant horror conventions with A-list celebrities to indie press festivals in small college towns, book fairs and comic book conventions in big cities to writer/reader dedicated events in small towns across the country, you’ll find Post Mortem Press, telling you about how we can provide you with some of the best genre writing available today.
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