Interview Conducted by Dave Silva
Hellnotes: Tell us about the birth of Necro Publications.
David Barnett: I had gotten back into reading in 1988 after my mom got WEAVEWORLD by Clive Barker from the book club and let me read it. Loved it and then a friend gave me her copy of BOOKS OF BLOOD 1 and from there I was hooked on reading horror: McCammon, Lansdale, Straub, Skipp & Spector. Couldn’t get enough.
By 1992 I already had a BA in Communications: Radio/TV and after some internships I realized I didn’t want to work in that industry. So I stayed in school to work toward a second degree in creative writing. I had discovered the small press from picking up CEMETERY DANCE at the Barnes & Noble and dove into it heavily. My dad had moved to Denver and when I went to visit I checked out Little Bookshop of Horrors and went nuts buying up small press titles.
There were a lot of great magazines out there and I figured I could do it too. Sitting in class I started developing the idea for my own magazine that had a harder, more hardcore slant to the content. That’s where INTO THE DARKNESS came from. Did five issues of it before I killed it and moved to books. Magazines just didn’t make money. They serve as a good marketing tool for your own products but trying to make a living from one is pointless without a staff to get ads.
Hellnotes: Define hardcore horror for us.
David Barnett: At the time it was simply “splatterpunk” with a different name. Horror fiction with more sex, violence, blood, taboo topics, grossout. Splatterpunk had a bad stigma attached to it so hardcore horror was just another way of saying it. Marketing.
Hellnotes: Why and when did you start the Bedlam Press imprint?
David Barnett: The first Bedlam title came out in 2001. I had a book from Doc Solammon titled TANGY BONANZA I wanted to publish, but it didn’t fit into what I was doing with Necro so I came up with the imprint as a catch all for everything else I wanted to publish: science fiction, urban fantasy, humorous fiction. I also publish milder horror like LETTERS FROM HADES by Jeffrey Thomas and BANG BANG by Patrick Malloy.
Hellnotes: What’s been your biggest publishing headache?
David Barnett: Getting people to take a chance on reading new authors. I’m really into finding new authors and putting out great new fiction but getting people to read these new books is exhausting. Because of the glut of self-publishing and authors giving their work away, readers seem to think new writers material should always be free. When we do get reviews they’re always great, but getting reviews is grueling. Review sites don’t seem to actually want to review books unless it’s a title from a huge publishing house. But my favorite are the “reviewers” that request review copies of an anthology that we sold out of 10 years ago or Edward Lee reprints that don’t need reviews. It’s all very frustrating.
Hellnotes: What’s your favorite part of the publishing process?
David Barnett: Discovering new authors. Starting a manuscript and getting sucked into it and wanting to keep reading even though I have to stop.
Hellnotes: If you could change anything about Necro Publications or Bedlam Press, what would it be?
David Barnett: I would have come up with a better name at the beginning and not pigeonholed Necro as just hardcore horror so I could publish everything under one name. Multiple press names seem to confuse people.
Hellnotes: What do you see as the future of Necro Publications and similar small press publishers?
David Barnett: I had lost my advertising gig after 15 years back in 2008 and I was forced to shut down Necro for a little bit while I reevaluated everything. I realized ebooks and POD was the way to go—no huge investment and going into debt to print up copies you may not sell. Collectible hardcovers just weren’t a factor anymore. Luckily, I also developed a great relationship with Edward Lee that is going on 20 years now. Ed is the backbone of Necro. Success with his work allows me to publish new writers. I published six novels from six new authors last year and they’re all excellent. And I’ve been able to resurrect INTO THE DARKNESS (edited by C. Dennis Moore) as an anthology with all new stories and almost all new writers.
I published 15 titles last year, new and reprints. Busiest year yet and I’m proud of everything that was released.
Hellnotes: Will the market grow or shrink? How will the e-book trend affect what you’re doing?
David Barnett: It’s all about ebooks. They saved Necro. They’re so convenient. I myself only read ebooks. A book is connected to my Kindle, iPhone and iPad so I can pick up and read wherever I am. I like the convenience and it’s apparent the world does too. My only issue with ebooks now is how much the major houses charge for new books. I do still like getting a new hard copy of a Necro book and seeing it as a whole package, and I will always make a print version available for those who prefer the format, but the world has gone digital.
Hellnotes: What’s the greatest reward for a small press publisher?
David Barnett: Seeing your writers succeed.
Hellnotes: How are sales?
David Barnett: Great. Enough that I can do this full-time—mixed with a lot of other things I do—which is something I had always hoped I could do. Increasing sales is an uphill battle, though. I’m currently trying to increase my knowledge of SEO and become more successful at marketing. That’s a whole full-time job of its own.
Hellnotes: Anything you’d like to add?
David Barnett: Yeah…buy Necro/Bedlam books. Take a chance and discover new authors.