Eric Beebe is the publisher of Post Mortem Press, a relatively new and fast-growing small press company. To date, they've published anthologies featuring Clive Barker, Joe Hill, F. Paul Wilson and many others. Eric took some time out of his schedule to talk exclusively to FEARnet about anthologies and what it's like working with famous authors.
You started Post Mortem Press in 2010. It's pretty well-respected now. How did you go about doing that?
I don't know. I mean, I think it's because when we set out to do this, I was coming off of a corporate America job that didn't seem to have much respect for its employees and I thought, “You know, if I have a company I'm going to make sure I treat everybody how I would want to be treated.” Kind of a simple thing. But as we've all learned, just as recently as a few weeks ago, in the publishing industry treating authors with respect seems to be a rare thing.
So that's kind of how I approached it. And I treat everybody that way. I treat the bookstores, the people that print the books, the authors, the media… I just treat everybody the way I wanted to be treated. I don't tolerate prima donnas, I guess is part of the deal. And it seems to work out for us. It's like, “Hey, we're all in this together.”
Absolutely right. But more specifically, the independent publishing industry is not exactly where people would go to make money, or something for their livelihood when they've lost a job. So how is it you were able to navigate within that, given the economic downturn? Even some larger publishing companies are struggling.
Well, I knew upfront going into this that I wasn't going to make any money. I made pretty good money, now I make less than a tenth of that. But all of our children are adults now. And I have a very understanding wife. So between a not-so-silent partner and having a passion for this managed to make it work. We've grown. Our first year was okay. Our second year was more than double that. And now our third year is still seeing increases over the previous year.
So why the horror genre? You've mention before that you love the genre as a lot of people do. But why else did you go for that instead of maybe doing a catch-all?
Well, we do have a few mysteries and thrillers, but they tend to be dark. Some of it is because of what I like to read. But also the business part of this is doing what sells. Some authors write the academic “Great American Novel.” But people don't buy that; they buy Stephen King and James Patterson. So I want to publish things people want to read.
I read in an interview with Hellnotes that you've said horror will always be “the redheaded stepchild,” and I've heard that a lot. Horror seems to be hugely popular, but people always tend to disassociate themselves from it. Why do you think that is?
I'm not sure. Maybe it's like horror fiction is like when you're in college and there's that really cool band that only you and your friends like. And then they have a really big hit and become popular, and then you're like, “Oh, you're a bunch of sellouts.” So I think horror is that cool band that hasn't sold out yet, even though we all secretly want them to be successful. There's something about that, it's hard to describe. But that's how I see it. It's a very large group.
Stephen King sells more books than anyone I can think of, yet he's constantly considered a poor writer by supposedly “people in the know.” Well, maybe he's a bad writer – I don't think he's a bad writer – but he sells books and people are entertained. And that's important. It's like with movies. It doesn't have to be Citizen Kane to be good.
You also have a lot of anthologies out now, what is it 12 now?
I think 12 or 13. We did a lot our first year to give a lot of exposure to our authors, and last year we cut back to three.
Right, and you have a lot of heavy hitters involved, like Clive Barker and Joe Hill. So can you talk a bit about how those came together, and what it was like to do the first one when you had no experience putting together an anthology vs. now that you're on number 13?
Well, when we did the first one and it was kind of a lark. I'd just lost my job and couldn't find a new one, so I put a call on Duotrope and others. Spent a little money and got a real domain. I wanted it to be professional because I have a business background. And after putting the call out, I was flooded with stories. And a lot of them weren't very good, but that's okay. I read each and every one and gave feedback. And I gave acceptances to the ones that I liked. There were so many stories I was able to publish four anthologies out of that.
But as I got through the process, I discovered that like with everything sometimes your first attempt is not as good as your next attempt or your last attempt. And as it grew more, I thought, “How can I get more attention?” I have these authors, and they've become my friends. So to help them or reward them for supporting me, I put out a “best of” at the end of 2011, and I approached Jack Ketchum and F. Paul Wilson about reprinting stories and I didn't tell my authors about it. So when the book came out, the authors knew they were in the anthology, but had no idea they were sharing the pages with big-name authors. And it was like, I couldn't see people jumping up and down for joy because I was on the other end of the email, but I could see it in my mind. People had a good response to this.
The first one I approached was Clive Barker and was so surprised when he said yes. I was eating dinner and got the call. The next was Joe Hill, and I spoke with his agent. We also approached Harlan Ellison. And I can't explain it – they do respond. Maybe it's because our checks clear. [laughter]
So how do you make those arrangements, payment wise?
Well, our original anthologies we paid royalties only. And I was upfront with that. It's all about communicating. Being as transparent as I can be. With our latest anthologies, we pay pro-rates to pro writers and semi-pro to others not with bigger publishers. In some cases we pay royalties. Our books The Ghost is the Machine and Torn Realities – Joe Hill is Ghost and Torn Realities is Clive Barker. And with those authors I paid pro-rates and to the others in the anthologies I paid royalties. Most of the authors in Ghost ended up making more money than Joe Hill did. Which to me is amazing! And that book continues to sell well.
In our next interview with Eric Beebe, he talks more about short stories, festivals and more.
Nancy O. Greene started writing at the age of nine. Her short story collection, Portraits in the Dark, received a brief mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007. Other works have appeared or will appear in ChiZine; Lovecraft eZine; Cemetery Dance; Tales of Blood and Roses; Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror; Shroud Publishing's The Terror at Miskatonic Falls; Dark Recesses; Flames Rising; Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore!; and others. She has a BA in Cinema (Critical Studies) and a minor in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Southern California, and is a Fellow of Film Independent's Project: Involve.