- Antho: Best New Werewolf Tales Volume One
- Publisher: Books of the Dead
- Editor(s): James Roy Daley
- Pay Rate: 1¢ a word/reprints
- Response Time: I respond to everyone after all the stories have been submitted and read.
- Reading Period: Ends March 31/2011
- Description: This interview applies to both the anthology and the press itself. For the anthology, Books of the Dead Press is seeking reprints of werewolf stories. More in guidelines.
- Submission Guidelines: booksofthedead.blogspot.com
NOTE: Author D.L. Snell conducted the following interview to give writers a better idea of what the editors of this specific market are seeking; however, most editors are open to ideas outside of the preferences discussed here, as long as they fit the basic submission guidelines.
1) What authors do you enjoy, and why does their writing captivate you?
I’m a meat-and-potatoes reader, meaning: I get turned on by a fantastic story and turned off by literature-gymnastics. Sometimes my younger brother Derek and I will laugh about Anne Rice and the way she puts a story together, saying things like, “Yes, yes. The night was dark, the willows were flowing in the air, which was cold—the moon was full, the taste in your mouth was bitter, the grass was long, your heart was broken, there was a longing in your loins, and the mist was rolling across the hills like a blanket of apprehension... but what the hell, lady!? Make your character step into the goddamn castle or I’m throwing the book across the room.”
When I’m not reading through the endless pile of submission that I’ve been receiving, I find that 90% of everything I consume comes from the big boys. In the past year or so I’ve read books by: Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, F. Paul Wilson, Peter Straub, Gary Brandner, David Morrell, Ray Garton, and Robert McCammon. When I look at that list of writers, the one thing they all have in common is the ability to write a plot driven story with characters you can understand. A writer like the late Michael Crichton, on the other hand, was a master at plot, but had no sense of character. If he wrote a conversation between a ninety-year-old scientist and a five-year-old girl, who said what would be interchangeable.
2) What are your favorite genres? Which genres would you like to see incorporated into submissions to this market?
I like lots of genres, but what I’m looking for is horror. Remember horror? I know there are a million writers out there writing about zombies, vampires, werewolves, the apocalypse, and whatever else falls into the horror category, but the amount of books that I’ve read that have actually scared me could be counted on one hand. If you submit to Books of the Dead, I want you to scare the shit out of me. Make me nervous. If I’m reading your story and the phone rings, I want to be startled.
3) What settings most intrigue you? Ordinary or exotic locales? Real or fantasy? Past, present, or future?
Settings are backdrops, and consequently, not important to me. The movie Alien wasn’t awesome because it was a futuristic story told on a spaceship. You could have taken those same characters, plunked them in 1800s, stuck them on a boat, and when they came across the alien . . . that story would still rock. Plot and character. It’s all about plot and character.
4) Explain the type of pacing you enjoy, e.g. slow building to fast, fast throughout, etc.
Lets look at Stephen King—
Eyes of the Dragon was told at an easy pace, much like The Body (Stand by Me), Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, and the Dark Tower series, and those are all great books. They’re fantastic. But sometimes, especially with King’s early work, he tells a story at breakneck speed: The Running Man, Rage, most of the stories in the Night Shift collection. And those stories are great too. Slow building to fast? Look at Thinner, or ‘Salem’s Lot.
Bottom line: I like all types of pacing, as long as I’m reading a well-told story. For me, pacing is just a detail.
5) What types of characters appeal to you the most? Any examples?
Sarah Langan is good at creating characters. So is Robert McCammon. In fact, if you want to read a book that is just loaded with amazing characters, a fantastic plot, and great pacing, read McCammon’s Boy’s Life. It’s one of the best books ever written.
Simple as it sounds, I just want to believe in the character. In the story "Pop Art," Joe Hill’s opening line is: My best friend when I was twelve was inflatable. Then he made me believe it. That’s what I call skill.
6) What is your policy for vulgarity, violence, and sexual content? Any taboos?
I’m not into racism, and I like to keep my porno and my horror separate, but aside from that, anything goes. It can never be too violent, or too vulgar. The problem with violent stories is never the violence, nor is it the ‘bad’ words. It’s a lack of talent. If a writer is writing for the sake of creating the most hardcore story ever, chances are the story will be terrible. If a skilled writer attempts to write the most fascinating story ever, and it happens to become really nasty and mean, like Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, or William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, chances are the final product will be something special.
7) What kind of themes are you seeking most in submissions to this market? In general, what themes interest you?
A theme is a main idea, moral, or a message; the message may be about life, society, or human nature. Themes often explore timeless and universal ideas and are almost always implied rather than stated explicitly. I don’t care about theme. Plot and character; it’s all about plot and character.
8) Overall, do you prefer downbeat or upbeat endings?
As long as it’s a good ending, it doesn’t matter.
9) Any last advice for submitters to this market? Any critical do's or do not's?
A while ago I wrote a ‘writing advice’ list. I also wrote a piece called: What does a Publisher Want. I’ll reprint them here:
What does a publisher want?
That’s a big question, and because every publisher is different, nobody can give you a perfect response, encompassing every possible answer. I can, however, explain what Books of the Dead is looking for in a story, and I do think it’s safe to assume there are a lot of editors and publishers that might feel the same way.
There are a few things that publishers DON'T want, and I’ll just get 'em out of the way for the sake of stating the obvious: terrible spelling, ridiculous storylines, careless formatting, inappropriate submissions, an abundance of needless words, half-witted suggestions and/or demands regarding the business...
Actually, I’m going to stop on that one. It’s not the reason I’ve decided to write this post, but it’s worth a comment or two.
I’ve had several authors tell me about all the problems they’ve had with publishers, and before I’ve even had a chance to read their story they tell me what they expect in a contract—including, but not being limited to—demands, and things that would force me to restructure my entire business model. So far, 100% of the time, these suggestions are coming from writers that nobody knows, with no real fan-base, and no worthy writing credits. On a few occasions I’ve been sent a multitude of emails that that monopolize my time, making me hope the story is a piece of shit before I’ve even had a chance to read it. And for the record, so far, all the people that have decided to scrutinize how I do things have submitted stories that have been well below my publishing standards. The point is: there isn’t a company in the world that wants to develop a working relationship with someone that nitpicks. To recapitulate, if you, the writer, are thinking about discussing the finer points of a contract before it’s been offered, stop what you’re doing, stick your empty head into the nearest toilet, and flush.
Now... here’s the thing I wanted to talk about: stories, and why most of them get turned down.
The most common thing that forces me to plunk a submission into the ‘NO’ pile, is what I like to call, painting a story with a wide brush.
If you've decided to write a story that is as complex as the entire Star Trek universe, and you plan on doing it inside of 4,000 words, you have failed. There are probably a bunch of people reading this that will say, “Well . . . that’s not me,” so I’m going to put it another way.
Captain Kirk was sitting inside a bar. He had both elbows on the table and a pint of Romulan ale in his hand. On his left, his best friend Spock was trying to reason with him.
Spock said, “It is highly illogical for you to get so inebriated, Captain.”
Kirk grunted, mumbling something about being trapped inside the worst story ever told and feeling the need to drink his troubles away.
This is good. The writing itself isn’t great—well, frankly it’s pretty bad—but this is how you tell a story. If you want to dress it up, put some fancy words in there, add some deep thoughts and some poetry flare, great! This is all good stuff. It works. And sure, there’s more to writing than this. But within a few words this little Star Trek tale has already established who, what, where, why, and how. You know who your characters are, where they are, what they’re doing, how they are doing it, and why. This is basic storytelling 101. This is what Books of the Dead is looking for.
And often times, this is what I find:
Some would allege that a misinterpretation of the Romulans, who were an illustrious many people from the incalculable solar system known as the second sun from the third dominion, and the creator of Romulan ale, was something that only the dimmest and the slowest from the race known as the Vulcans, of the Vulcan empire, would ever succumb to. Vulcans—a species with elongated, pointy ears, and a comprehensive lack of comedic ethics—had a genetic hereditary that was thought to be among some of the most gifted of the known universe, which was incessantly being explored and investigated by Captain Kirk and the rest of his crew aboard to S. S. Enterprise. Spock, a Vulcan, and colleague to Kirk—
Awful. The reader might know who, but the where, why, when, how—these things are missing. Complex words don’t make a story enjoyable. The right words do. And when a story starts out like this one does, it never ends well.
Story is character.
Story is plot.
Don’t try to force a universe of ideas into a few convoluted paragraphs. Know what your story is about, and explain what happens to your character. Once you’re done, make it pretty.
In film they called it the KISS system.
KISS stands for ‘Keep It Simple Stupid.’ And it applies to writing as well.
- Read everything you can. If you don’t have time to read you don’t have the necessary skills to write.
- Edit everything 10 times.
- Omit needless words. This means that a sentence such as: ‘The man that was holding the gun in his hand was getting ready to fire off a shot.’ Becomes something like: ‘The man with the gun was ready to fire.’
- Read Stephen King’s book On Writing, whether you like his work or not.
- Don’t trust the editor to edit your work properly. Assume they’ll fuck it up, meaning: try to find your own editor.
- Ten-time all-star goalie Martin Brodeur says (and I quote): “Any time I see something that will be good for my game I steal it. Hey, fair game.” I have this quote beside my writing station and I figure it applies to literature as well.
- 80,000 words sitting pointlessly together is not a novel. It’s shit.
- It’s not about getting noticed. It’s about writing something worth noticing.
- Writing is like painting a picture. Make sure you put in enough details to do it right. So, in your story, if you have a man walking across the street, make sure the reader knows what the man is like AND what the street is like.
- Write what you know; fill in the blanks.
- Don't use the same word repeatedly. Example: The guy was likeable enough, like that guy I like in that television show Like Father, Like Son.
For more scoops, go to marketscoops.blogspot.com.
D.L. Snell writes with Permuted Press. He edited Dr. Kim Paffenroth twice, John Dies at the End once, and provided a constructive critique to Joe McKinney on his next major novel after Dead City. You can shoot D.L. Snell in the head at www.exit66.net.
To reprint this article, please contact D.L. Snell.