Archive for books

Writing vs. Music: Labels and Publishers

Posted in Rumination with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2010 by scottsplatter

Since making writing a serious focus, I have tried to find parallels between small press publishers and underground record labels. Chances are if you’re reading this it’s because you found the site via my own music or because of something I released on Crionic Mind. I understand underground music and labels pretty well I think, so I keep hoping that familiarity will assist in finding a foothold in the publishing world.

There are similarities in the spirit of both worlds, but the machinations really are pretty different. This will be the first of a couple posts looking at those differences. The more I look into it the greater the differences become.  The soul of the participants share common ground but the approach and relationships are unique.

#

Underground music for this discussion refers to experimental music, dark ambient, lesser known metal, punk, industrial etc. Music that is released by small labels that operate out of the corner of the labels owners house. Limited edition releases that end up somewhere near the high/low mark of 1,000 copies,  There are publishing companies that fit this description as well, good ones.

Underground music functions more or less on a barter economy. Labels and distributors trade merchandise more often than not rather than buying from each other at wholesale rates. This allows each to diversify their mail orders while being able to put any real money into releasing new product. Bands or projects are usually paid in product that they can then sell. There are exceptions, but much of the music is obscure enough, and the pressings small enough, that a royalty arrangement is essentially agreeing to do it for free.

If you aren’t familiar with my music and found this through a tag search, there is a discography in the side bar. I never signed a contract, never received a check for any of it. I received product. This worked for me because with running the label I was able to convert my releases into other releases and build a nice mail order catalog (that I will get online again at some point). The bands I did releases for –  I would take care of the artwork and mastering if they wanted, but I paid them in product. No one even raised the issue of money because we all knew how it worked.

I’ve been releasing music since 1995, and recording it longer than that. What did I get out of this model? Reviews, contacts, interviews and friends on every continent but Antarctica. It helped me build a record label that  garnered some amount of respect, had an identity and supported itself. It put me in touch with people who remain friends and inspirations and people who I think might say the same about me. Those things have a value,  but none of them pay my bills. For what I do soundtracks are perhaps the one area that could be lucrative, even then there are a lot of variables.

#

I’ve not yet published anything, in fact I have not yet submitted anything, though that time is near.  These impressions are based on the extensive research, market reports, submission guidelines, classes and the advice and comments of those who have.

With publishing, the battle cry is that the money flows to the author. If you publish something you aren’t paid for it’s seen as an invalid writing credit by many. If you self publish, it’s viewed with scorn and can work against you when you submit through the established channels. The editors and publishing houses have determined the chain of worth. It counts if they say it counts.

Print on demand services and e-publishing  have made it easier than ever to self publish, just as affordable home recording software, mp3’s and cdr’s made it easier to make and spread music. The distaste for self publishing comes from the amount of sub par writing that surfaces there. There is so much garbage that the gems are not worth the energy it takes to find them. However, I’ve read books published by reputable houses that contained work I’d have been embarrassed to show anyone. It’s not that published work is better, just that it is more likely to be better.

There is a saying, the hardest book to sell is your second book. Publishers will take a chance on new writers, but once you are published your track record is established. If you aren’t able to sell through your first pressing, your opportunities become more limited. Other publishers have access to the sales numbers for books published by other houses. Not only are your chances diminished with your original publisher if you don’t sell through, they are hurt with prospective publishers. This is with marketing budgets nearly non-existent in the small press world and the responsibility falling to the writer to hustle their work.

Joe Konrath, has a blog called A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing that makes a case for ignoring some of this conventional wisdom and ways to get the money flowing to the author without filtering it through the publishing houses. Paul Jessup had a nice bit of musing on the state of publishing recently on his blog as well. The model is going to change because the tools exist now in such a way that it will have no choice. There will always be garbage on the market, but the time will come when it is the market that determines what is garbage and what is not.

R. Thomas Riley has a post on the Apex Books blog regarding the differences between writing and publishing which I think is a good place to wind this down. This is incomplete, and maybe even ignorant. I wrote it for myself as much as anyone else. Having had success, at least as I measure it, with music and exploring this new parallel underground is an odd thing. There are more rules and more divides. Right now my goal is to write well. I will try to publish. Whether I am successful at that end of it or not I will still try to write well.

To be continued…

settling in and books aplenty

Posted in Rumination with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2009 by scottsplatter

We are getting settled into the new place and making pretty good headway against the walls of cardboard boxes. I’m finding stuff I haven’t seen in years. There has been a lot of moving in the last 5 years and it’s good to finally be someplace that I don’t feel unpacking will be a waste of time. As I mentioned before this will be the first time I’ll have my full studio set up since I finished recording “The Aberrant Laboratory” in 2006. There will no doubt be some new music in the works before too long. Whether it’s Gruntsplatter or something else I don’t know yet.

It has been a beautiful thing setting up the new bookshelves and loading them up. I went on a bit of a bender and picked up several new titles to get me through the looming Oregon winter.

Omens by Richard Gavin
The Everlasting by Tim Lebbon
The Book Of Days by Steve Rasnic Tem
Poe’s Progengy Anthology edited by Gary Fry
Tales Of Terror by Guy De Maupassant
Stories from A Lost Anthology by Rhys Hughes
Sesta & Other Strange Stories by Edward Lucas White
Edgeworks I: Over The Edge, An Edge In My Voice by Harlan Ellison
The Complete Stories of JG Ballard by JG Ballard
Writers Workshop Of Horror edited by Michael Knost

Most of those were acquired from The Horror Mall, everything except the Ballard book I think… It will be a long, gray winter of weird tales around here.

Thomas Ligotti

Posted in Recommendation with tags , , , , , , , on May 20, 2009 by scottsplatter

teatroI was going to wait to post something on Thomas Ligotti until I had read more of his work, but what the hell. I’d heard his name  for a few years and had always been sort of curious, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to give it a chance.  I picked up a copy of the short story collection  Teatro Grottesco and devoured it. The other day  I found a copy of the out of print The Shadow At The Bottom Of The World  that I will probably dig into over the long weekend.

Ligotti  most often gets compared to Poe and Lovecraft, but from the shadowstories I have read thus far it is a tonal comparison more than a stylistic one. Within his body of work he has  visited the Lovecraft Mythos a bit from what I understand, but it is by no means is a focal point. His prose is tight and descriptive with out being overwhelming and superfluous. Ligotti’s stories evoke a vivid environment of apocalyptic dread, anxiety and madness that is truly potent.

His work is one of the very few that I have read that produced a “where have you been all my life” epiphany. The stories in Teatro, particularly “The Red Tower” and “In A Foreign Town, In A Foreign Land,”  capture so much of what I have tried to do in Gruntsplatter that seeing it on the page was striking. It was encouraging as well to see that those kind of stories have an audience.

Ligotti has also contributed to Current 93, on the albums “In A Foreign Town, In A Foreign Land”, “I Have a Special Plan For This World” and “This Degenerate Little Town.” I haven’t heard any of those releases. I’m not the biggest of Current 93 fans (David Tibet’s voice is annoying, sue me) but I am interested in seeing how his words play against their style of music.

I’m sure this won’t be the last time you see Ligotti’s name mentioned here, particularly since I have an unopened book of his work waiting for me.  Here is an interview from 2004 with Ligotti that is definitely worth reading. If you like dark fiction, short stories or any of the music I have done, I can’t recommend him enough. A lot of the stuff is out of print now sadly, but Virgin Books issued Teatro Grottesco and a collection of three novellas called My Work Is Not Yet Done that which I still need to get, and those shouldn’t be too hard to find. Fox Atomic comics has also issued two graphic novels called The Nightmare Factory based on Ligotti’s stories.