JournalStone Publishing has become something of a show-off in horror publishing since their inception. Signing up some big names and purchasing one of the dominant literary magazines in the genre has put them in the spotlight. But where did they come from? What is the background of this company? I sat down with owner Christopher C. Payne recently at Dark Delicacies to talk about the new kid on the horror block.
FEARnet: How did you get into the whole publishing end of things?
CHRISTOPHER C. PAYNE: It's a long story. It started out as a mid-life crisis. I went through a divorce and I got into writing. I don't think I was that good as a writer.
Short Stories? Books?
Books. Just went straight into books. Then went into self-publishing and thought that it was more of a scam than anything. I decided I could figure out a way to do it myself (publish, not scam). So I started looking into the process of what it took to publish and what it took to get a cover artist.
Had you been published in your writing?
Self-published. I spent a fortune as it happens with self-publishing as there are a lot of scam companies out there. I spent a few thousand dollars and thought, "God, this is ridiculous." I ended up with a poorly edited, poorly presented book. So I thought there has to be a better way to do it. So I looked into doing it originally for my own stuff.
This was how long ago?
This was 2010. So we published our first book from an author other than myself.
Who was "we"?
This was under the name of JournalStone. So when I say "we," I actually mean me in April 2011. So we've been going a little more than two years at this point.
How did you choose that first author and who was it?
We did a short story contest to kind of get to meet authors. We put together an anthology. Out of that anthology I got to know a couple of those authors and I published one in April. That was Anastasia Savage. It was a good book.
How did you market it?
I didn't. So it's like everything I've done in this entire trip is that I was learning as I went. I didn't know a lot about marketing. I didn't know a lot about reviews. I didn't know anything about the Horror Writer's Association. I went to my first HWA event in 2011 and that was the one in New York. Didn't know anybody. Just kind of fell into it. I went there and it was a great group. I met a lot of good people and they were very helpful. It's just been a getting-to-know-people thing, figuring things out. I have to say that the thing that people have said to me is that they like the passion and excitement I bring because I love books, in general. I just love this whole industry. The feedback I get is that they want to see me succeed.
Well, if you succeed it helps the writers succeed because it gives them another outlet.
But these are the people like the people at Publishers Weekly and the publisher of Library Journal, Ian Singer. I tried to figure out how to get reviews and looked into doing some advertising with Library Journal and Publishers Weekly and got to know some people there. I went out to dinner one time with a salesperson from Library Journal and met the publisher. I went to an event in Seattle for the American Library Association and met the publisher for Publishers Weekly. It's just through things like that. Like the covers. When I looked at the cover stock we used to have and kind of the direction we were going it was the publisher for Publishers Weekly who took me over to a large publishing house to meet their marketing team. They were sitting around a table and we threw down a couple of my books as examples. So I got to know some people there. It kind of snowballs. You get to meet this person and then you meet like a Jonathan Maberry and you pitch him and idea. He says, "That's great. Who are you?" He's such a nice guy anyway. So he talks to anybody and everyone.
Have you changed your idea of what you want to publish since you've started this?
Not the type, necessarily, but it is definitely slanted more towards horror than I would have thought. I originally thought it would be much more of a mix with science fiction and fantasy. I love horror and probably lean towards that anyway.
Is that what you wrote when you wrote?
Yes. I had anticipated that the publishing though would be much more evenly mixed. I think part of it is the HWA being so open and me getting to meet so many people.
Have you gone to a World Fantasy convention?
I haven't, but I plan on it.
That may end up making your mix change again?
It could. But the thing with the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association. They are very much like... you can't be a recognized publisher unless you give your writers a minimum $2000 advance for their book. You can't.... Well, they have these rules that I personally disagree with. I like giving authors who haven't had an opportunity to be published an opportunity to be published as well. But in the end that might not be an author I can give a $2000 advance to.
Exactly, because it is still a business.
It's still a business. You've got to have a mix. So it is interesting when you look at 2011, every author was brand new and nobody had ever heard of them. Nobody had ever heard of us. Then you look at 2012 and what we did. We had a couple of authors that were a little more well-known, but still a lot of new authors.
In the 2nd half of our interview, we'll discuss both Hellnotes and Dark Discoveries Magazine.
Del Howison is a journalist, writer and Bram Stoker Award-winning editor. He is also the co-founder and owner of Dark Delicacies, “The Home of Horror,” in Burbank, CA. He can be reached at Del@darkdel.com.