Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Small Press Profile: Atomic Fez, pt. 2

Yesterday I posted the first part of an interview with Ian Martin, the publisher of Atomic Fez, a new Canadian publishing company. Today Ian talks about what he wants to see in a submission, what it's like to work with Kobo, and what's coming up next for Atomic Fez!

Of course any potential author should read your submissions guidelines, but beyond what it says there, what really brings the Atomic Fez to critical mass?

This one's tough to answer. Do you mean 'what should a writer include in their pitch to ensure they get the best chance of being published?' If that's it, then the answer is "single malt whiskey is a damned good start; failing that, a case of wine."

If there's anything I won't publish, it's probably poetry, as I'm the wrong guy to be marketing it. There's huge chunks of Ray Bradbury's writing that's verging on prose poetry, especially in Something Wicked This Way Comes, and that very much affects me when I'm reading it. But 'actual poetry' is something that doesn't seem to move me. I can analyze it, or read it aloud, or recognize and respect the influences in it; but emotionally it doesn't do enough for me that I can be enthusiastic about it and sell it to people. Obviously I'm not the right person to be publishing someone's poetry if I can't get behind it enough to promote it. Put those words to music and I'm all over it! But Joe Jackson hasn't e-mailed me about doing a collection of his lyrics yet. Also, no teenage vampire romances. Please. No. Really, I mean it. Go away now or I will take a knife and stab you in the face. Don't make me come over there. . .

What three books would you have really liked to have published if you had been given the chance?

Golly. . .I could point to every book on my shelf and say it would have been great to publish it.
There are some specific authors' works I'd probably want to have had the initial release of, and none of them due to their sales figures.

Ray Bradbury's stuff is so very finely written and thought provoking, it would have been great to have been releasing that sort of material right at the start when it was so very 'edgy'.
Christopher Fowler's work is the same in some ways to Bradbury's, certainly with early titles like Roofworld, Psychoville, and Soho Black. Although they're far less political in nature, they certainly take the ordinary quality of every-day life and introduce an outside force, or foreign aspect to things, which really is effective. He's also a dear friend, so I'm likely biased as a result. He's got a wonderful handle on telling a story that mixes historical facts and legends into settings that are 'today' without being too specific to their year of release, so they have lasting appeal. It's like any good writing: it has to be about characters and human nature, and that is always something people can connect with.

Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days is a favourite of mine that would have been grand to have published, just due to its romantic presentation of travel in general, as well as the vast block of information it provides about world cultures as well as the attitudes of the west about 'foreigners'.

Ngaio Marsh's series of classic English mysteries would be nice as well, just so that I could have a complete set as a result. I'd also have been tempted to encourage a broader range of structure to her writing. There are a bunch of them which, if read in succession, demonstrate a sameness that almost makes things too predictable. I love them, and they're great reading, but they might have had a bit more variety than they did, and this may be why she's not quite as widely known than she is.

Terry Pratchett's 'Discworld' series is phenomenal as well, and the new Transworld / Corgi covers finally present the books with the class they deserve, especially as the images on the covers add an ominous frisson of what may occur inside the book. Just to work with someone writing stories as entertaining and intelligently funny as that would be awesome. They're also a great 'gateway drug' to get people to re-think their attitudes about what 'fantasy' is like, so that's attractive as well. Jasper Fforde's stuff is the same thing to my mind: although his alternate universes are considerably different in nature to Pratchett's, he's got the same knack for the satire and absurdity which life presents, and that's fantastic stuff.

You’re offering your books through Kobo. What’s it like working with the new kid on the block?

All of the books Atomic Fez publishes are released through Kobo, as well as in 'dead tree' format, and will continue to be so. Having signed up with them when they were called "Shortcovers", this is something I've approached thoughtfully. I've also set-up ZIP-files with multiple formats of e-book files for purchase on the web-site if people would rather manage their own e-books, instead of using the Kobo platform.

Don't get me wrong, I'm fully committed to both the traditional and 'space-age' versions of books, because there's no chance of paperback and hard-cover books disappearing anytime soon; there's far too much infrastructure invested in their distribution and ownership, for one thing. That said, there's no denying the convenience of e-books is much the same as the true 'pocket books' of the 1940s and '50s had, and who could deny the inherent ecological approach to having books without the killing of trees, wasteful packaging and shipping, and the ease of getting the authors' words into the brain-pans of readers?

Working with Kobo is great. Honestly, I've not got a single complaint. Their splitting away from Chapters/Indigo Books and Music so they can be their own, autonomous company was smart, and they did it in a very intelligent way: by making Indigo a parent company along with Borders in the USA, the antipodean REDgroup Retail, and Cheung Kong Holdings owned by Li Ka-shing. With those industry leaders behind them, they're getting doors opened that most companies wouldn't get near. Kobo's approach of making electronic books available on any device you happen to be using — smart-phone, Kindle, iPad, Sony Reader, Kooler Reader, Blackberry, Palm — and making it possible for you to switch between any of those you're using and not lose your place, is so very intelligent. Buy a book from the iBookstore, and you can read that on your iPad and that's about it. The Kindle is pretty-much the same again: buy the e-book from Amazon in Kindle format, read it on your Kindle, and you're stuck. With Kobo, you can mix and match to your heart's content, always syncing with the account, and now you can even add their wildly inexpensive e-reader to the mix.

Okay, I'm starting to sound like a commercial now, but honestly Kobo is the bomb! If they had been running about five years ago, people wouldn't be talking about the iPad being a 'Kindle killer', the Apple boys would be marketing it as the 'Kobo killer'. One of the basic needs anyone has with electronic books over paper books is "what happens to all of my books if I lose my reader?" If you invest hundreds of dollars in e-books, you don't want lose all of it just because your cat knocked the device onto the floor, shattering the screen. The way Kobo is set up, your device has a copy of the book's file, but you also have constant access to another copy on their site; so if you lose your device, that's all you're going to have to replace, not the content as well. Brilliant!

I predict really good things will happen for Kobo. They've got a smart approach to things, because they're making it easy for the readers to get what they want without any technological hassles, as well as keeping things fair for the authors and publishers. Other outfits will end up using Kobo as the model to shift to, I'm certain of it.

What’s coming up next for Atomic Fez?
Only the finest of experts' made-up stuff! Prepare yourselves for lots of really yummy book goodness! At the moment I'm working on a few things in the back room, but until things are set in stone, any specifics will remain there. It's important to get publishing dates, titles, and the rest of it fully locked-down before announcing any of it. I can safely say that there will be many more books to come over quite a long time, however. I'm working on a long schedule basis, and will not be disappearing for the foreseeable future.

Unless I get hit by a bus. That would probably be tough to overcome.

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Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

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