Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bryon Quertermous in Conversation with Holly West (Part 2)

In last week's post, I published part one of a conversation I had with Bryon Quertermous, commissioning editor at Exhibit A Books. This week, we finish up with a candid discussion about digital publishing and other titillating topics.
BQ: You're on a digital-only publisher and for some people that represents a failure. I remain bullish on digital publishing and think places like Carina Press can provide some opportunities for stories that might not be a good fit for print or mass market publishing. Do you feel like you failed by not getting a print deal?
HW: It’s a complicated thing. Yes, there is a part of me that feels that failure. I can’t sit here and lie and say I didn’t want a print deal. However, I’ve been happy with Carina Press and am currently working with them on my second novel, Mistress of Lies.
BQ: I think it's okay to admit those feelings. But you did choose to go with them over self-publishing or a micro press and I'm curious about that reasoning. (Look at me going all Barbara Walters with the hard questions).
HW: My reasons for going with Carina over self-publish are that I didn’t want to self-pub, not for my first book. I’m not a publisher. I wanted a real publisher behind me, digital or not.
BQ: People get so attached to the idea of print that they'll choose a crappy print publisher over a solid digital publisher.
HW: Oh, good point. I didn’t want to go with a very small print publisher for precisely that reason. Carina has a track record and they’ve got Harlequin behind them.
BQ: Okay, lets get back to talking about me.
HW: Are there any authors you’re hoping to work with in the future? Besides me, of course.
BQ: Well, of course I don't want to hurt any feelings by leaving some people out I might forget, but I will say that I've already been shocked at the quality of authors and submissions I've been getting for Exhibit A. There a a couple of people I'd really like to work with who aren't big names, but I feel deserve a chance to be published and, for whatever reasons, haven't had that chance yet. I don't see Exhibit A doing a Hard Case Crime and getting Stephen King to write a book for us. There are other established authors out there writing very mainstream stuff that I would be interested in getting to write something a little off for me, but we'll see how all of that works out.
HW: This is all very exciting. I say that sincerely, by the way. It must feel a little surreal to think you’ll be shaping the future (not sure how to say this) of the imprint. Defining it, for lack of a better word, mapping it’s direction. That’s a lot of power, BQ. Think you can handle it?
BQ: Not at all. It is surreal and a little freaky at times. But I'm lucky to have friends like yourself to keep me grounded. I also look to people like Ben LeRoy from Tyrus books and Terri Bischoff from Midnight Ink who have done a great job of building publishers in the mystery community without tearing down other companies or other authors.
HW: I’m intrigued by Polis Books, Jason Pinter’s new venture. I think projects like that help to elevate digital publishing. What say you?
BQ: I agree. It's like the early days of webzine publishing where there were ton of outfits out there but most of them were garbage. The ones that elevated the form and helped it gain respectability treated it professionally and either had a big name on board as publisher or editor or had big names within their pages. Jason has both with Polis. I also think it helps that Jason has the cache of a print background as well. He's not some tech upstart or one of these goobers who forms their company with a mission statement that denigrates every other kind of publisher. I'm very interested to see where he goes with it. I'm also really intrigued by and Open Road Media that are combining the digital only stuff with trade print editions that still have some of the respectability (and advances) of the major print operations. It's a very exciting time and I wish more people saw it that way.
HW: I certainly see it that way, for all of the reasons you’ve mentioned. And I didn’t say this before but digital is the way publishing is heading. It might not be all there yet but 99% of the books I read are eBooks. I rarely pick up a print book anymore. That was another major reason I went with Carina--if all I read are eBooks, why isn’t a digital deal good enough for me as an author?
Is there anything else you’d like to say about Exhibit A?
BQ: I think I've said plenty, but I'm curious what else everyone would like to know about Exhibit A. We're still so new that a lot of people don't know anything about us. Most people know Angry Robot but don't know we're associated with them. So is there anything else YOU'D like to know?
HW: Right now you only accept agented submissions, but your website mentions an open submission period coming up. Any idea when that might be?
BQ: Not yet. It's such a huge undertaking and they just finished up the latest Angry Robot Open Door so it probably won't be until later this year. But that doesn't mean unagented authors are out in the cold with me. While I won't take unagented submissions blindly, I will be on the lookout for good work. I've already reached out to a couple of unagented writers I know about novels they've written and I'll be traveling to a number of conferences that have pitch sessions to hear about the books that are out there. I know the submissions I get from agents will also be sent to the big New York houses where I won't always be able to compete for them, but I can leverage my editorial input and personal involvement by finding the great books before they get to that stage.
HW: Everything in publishing takes FOREVER. Is that the case with Exhibit A or does the fact that you’re a smaller house make things a bit more expedient?
BQ: To a certain extent we can be more flexible and get books out quicker, but the biggest problem is the huge lead times the distributors need for getting these books into the stores.
HW: I was mainly talking about submission turn-around times, at that sort of thing. It makes sense that you’d have a little flexibility there.
BQ: Unfortunately, with a smaller operation the response times tend to be even longer because none of us have assistants to take care of a lot of the busy work. The day-to-day operations of the publisher consume most of the official work day so submission reading and manuscript editing come on nights and weekends.
HW: I feel sorry for anybody employed as your assistant. (I had to end this with some snark, of course).
My thanks to Bryon for taking the time to chat with me. And be sure to check out Exhibit A's releases, it's a great list. I'm definitely looking forward what's in store for this publisher.

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