I have looked back and gone over the interview I did with you last NZ Book Month – wow things have changed! How well did the launch of Mansfield with Monsters and Tropic of Skorpeo books go?
The launches of Mansfield with Monsters and Tropic of Skorpeo both went really well. Mansfield with Monsters, in particular, turned out to be surprisingly well received – I had been terrified about what everyone’s response would be, given that Mansfield is held in such high regard and people might not appreciate a mash-up of her work regardless of how well or respectfully it was done. In the end, people took the book the right way and the response was really positive. It definitely made a difference that Matt and Debbie Cowens are such talented writers, and they really took the time to choose the right stories, match them with the right monsters, and work hard to ensure that the joins don’t show between the original text and their additions.
What is involved in the publishing business, its not all about liking a book and publishing it, is it?
I’m sure others have a far more rigorous process of selecting what they’re doing to publish, but for me that’s pretty much it! Since I started Steam Press I’ve been determined to simply publish what I’d like to read, and I think that makes my job much easier as I’m not having to worry about whether a book will have commercial potential (which is spitting distance from impossible to predict) and whether it will appeal to others (which, again, is tricky). If I like it I’ll want to publish it, and if I don’t that’s no reflection of the quality of the story or the writing, just an indication that it doesn’t float my boat – and there are plenty of bestsellers that don’t float my boat.
After selecting the stories to publish, we go through a few rounds of edits, starting with big-picture stuff like whether characters and scenes are pulling their weight, whether it all makes sense, that the characters’ motivations are coherent, or if there are places where the story starts to sag. Once those higher-level issues are taken care of we move on to more detailed things, fixing typos, tidying up the grammar, making sure each character has their own voice, doing line-by-line work to make it read as well as it can. Inevitably you also start noticing a whole raft of other things as you do this as well, and the more times you read a novel the more things you’ll pick up. Generally we’ve done five or six rounds of edits, but for one book we did nine and were still finding the occasional thing that needed fixing after all that.
Then we typeset the novel, laying it out how it’ll look in print, and get a cover designed. Once that’s done we print half a dozen copies and give it a thorough proofread, and I always bring in an external proofreader for this step as well. Once those last typos are fixed and everyone is happy with the book, we get it printed and I do a conversion into an ebook as well. Then we launch it, send out review copies, and hope for the best…
Looking back over the year, what has been your highlight, and has there been any disappointments?
My highlight has to be seeing that all three books Steam Press released have been nominated for Sir Julius Vogel awards, which are New Zealand’s annual science fiction awards. This is absolutely brilliant, and helps to justify the work these authors have put in. Other highlights have been each and every review of the three books we’ve released – most of these have been positive, which is always a thrill, but even those that have been negative have still been great as it shows that these books are out there and are being taken seriously. Being able to sell the rights of The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse to German and Czech publishers has also been great, and shows (as others have done before us) that New Zealand speculative fiction is as good as any, and can make waves internationally.
As far as disappointments go, I think the only one is that it’s a hell of a tough market to make any money in. I’m happy to keep putting my own money into Steam Press because I think it’s really worthwhile, but the gradual decline in book sales around the world and loss of shops around New Zealand is concerning. Chin up, though, and I reckon in a few more years we’ll have cracked it 😀
What other books have you got lined up for this year? Any new exciting writers?
Steam Press has three books lined up for 2013 – The Factory World by Wellington author Joseph Ryan, DownMind by American expat VO Blum, and The Wind City by Hamiltonian Summer Wigmore.
The Factory World will come out in July and is a dark cross between The Wizard of Oz and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It’s all about a boy who wakes up to find himself on a strange planet with a cowboy who can’t remember his name as his only companion. They travel together, trying to survive and work out how to get home. It’s a great read, and has already had considerable interest from publishers in the US.
DownMind is a novella looking at what would happen if it was discovered that one person could control the mood of everyone on Earth. This is by VO Blum, who’s an American who now lives in Tonga and New Zealand, and this story was the best placed novella in the 2012 SpecFicNZ / Steam Press manuscript contest.
The Wind City will be out in November and it’s all about Māori gods and monsters appearing on the streets of Wellington. The book’s author is Summer Wigmore, who is originally from Hamilton but she’s now studying in Wellington, and this is her first novel. The story is great fun and is really different from anything else I’ve been sent in the past two years.
Are you looking for submissions – where can people find details?
Unfortunately I’m not currently looking for submissions, but I think we’ll be opening up again in the second half of 2013… People can keep an eye on the Steam Press website, or just fire me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to catch up.
NZ Book Month – A Year On with Steam Press NZ