David Niall Wilson Talks Crossroad Press and More
DC: You run Crossroad Press and Macabre Ink, which distribute eBooks and audiobooks. How did you make the jump from writer to publisher and what were the motivations behind that decision?
DNW: I resisted electronic publishing for a very long time. In the day, it was mostly a place where people went who failed to find traditional publishers, and I was not then, nor am I now, ready to relegate myself to that group. Things have changed though, as is their nature, and so – being the sort of guy who will catch a passing car rather than have to walk a hundred miles later on, I jumped into the fray. All I intended at first was to get my own fiction into eBook formats. I started with collections and short stories, and started branching into my own out of print novels and novellas soon after. It took a lot of study, work, frustration, and time to start getting it right, and I managed to do that just as things were really taking off for Amazon and the Kindle. Some of my friends noticed, and I said I could do their books too. From that, it blossomed. I set up my business model, taking as little as I felt I could without doing the work for free. Next was the audio. I love audiobooks, and I've always wished some of my titles could make it to that format, but it's a rough business. They mostly produce audiobooks for titles they feel have huge marketing potential, or that come from best-selling authors. Narrators got paid up front, authors got an advance that probably never earned out, but if it did, were given only about ten percent beyond that point.
Enter the home studio, and Crossroad Press. After paying to have my first book done – ROLL THEM BONES – it occurred to me that, just like the changes in eBooks and print editions, audio was due to be turned on its ear. Too much of the work was being done by authors and narrators, and too much of the money was ending up in the accounts of the big publishers. I created a new, revenue and risk sharing model, and started knocking on virtual doors. We now have more than twenty titles in Audio with another small mountain in production. We have major distribution, have garnered some great reviews and attracted some amazing narration talent, and are on the verge of making something big and wonderful from my small dream. In the process, I've gotten several of my own titles into audio as well, which has been fun, gratifying, and inspiring. I have learned a great deal from my partner, Jeffrey Kafer of Springbrook Digital and from each of the authors and narrators I've had the privilege to work with.
To finish answering your actual question…the motivation started as a need to get my own work into digital formats to meet the challenges of this new, downloadable world we live in. It ended up as that same motivation, only directed at a number of authors instead of just myself. Whatever anyone may believe, my entire focus is on helping each author and each narrator get the most they can get for their work, while maintaining control. I am not out to get rich unless it happens, but I do love to help people.
DC: Where are the Crossroad Press and Macabre Ink releases available?
DNW: Our books can be found at all the normal outlets, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, as well as at Overdrive.com – a library and school distributor. We are always adding new outlets, though of course we prefer it when people buy direct at The Crossroad Press Store.
DC: How do you go about choosing what titles Crossroad Press and Macabre Ink represent?
DNW: At first, as I said, it was my own titles, and those of friends. What I quickly came to realize was that there is a huge mountain of books out there that have been out of print a long time, and have great reviews and generations of readers who've been denied them. That's what I started with. I went after (and still go after) out of print paperback books in all genres…I started with guys like Bill Crider who wrote horror as Jack MacLane back in the day, and added in Ronald Kelly and Sid Williams, T. M. Wright and Elizabeth Massie – names that are known – books that are available only in difficult to find out of print paperbacks or hardcovers. Now the same principle is opening bigger doors. As you know, John Skipp and Craig Spector's novels, starting with the already available THE LIGHT AT THE END, will all be coming to digital life through us. We have the audiobook of Poppy Z. Brite's LOST SOULS about to hit – all from that same Splatterpunk time-frame. These books are as timeless as horror fiction gets – they still speak to readers after decades have passed – and readers want them. Now, through the wonders of eReaders and MP3 players, they can have them. As well as the Skipp and Spector novels, we've published Craig's first solo novel, "A QUESTION OF WILL," and his musical debut as well, an MP3 released titled – aptly – SO LO.
Along with those old books, we're getting a lot of new collections of fiction out by our authors, and even branching into some original fiction. We have published a couple of my own novels that never made it to traditional print, as well as the recently released NIGHTJACK by Tom Picirrilli and the the sci-fi—horror thriller THE SUFFERER’S SONG by Steven Savile. Every day we get something new from one source or another. For instance, it was Craig Spector who sent me the e-mail that said "You've got to read this" and led me to you, and your novel, NO FLESH SHALL BE SPARED. This is the kind of book that excites me the most because it is new – it is, in my opinion, the most original 'zombie' novel I've encountered in years, and I think it has a chance of making a huge splash. We'll be in at the beginning of that with the electronic edition, and hopefully following up with the audiobook – when the rest of the world catches on, I'll be able to say we were part of something new and cool. In the end, that's what it's all about in marketing, and in life. You need to stay relevant. You need to be part of what's going on around you, or it goes on without you, so I try to keep myself "living" and not just sliding from day to day. New music – new books – new people.
DC: Obviously you’re banking on the continued success of eReaders. Can you talk a bit about what you think the impact of things like The Kindle and The Nook will have on the fiction market. Do you think they will ever replace books in the public’s mind?
DNW: There are distinct boundaries, and then some blurred ones. I live in both worlds. I grew up with cheap paperbacks and comic books. I quit buying books on impulse when they started costing (about) $5.99 and became much pickier, and I think it was about that time that the decline of books as a constant form of cheap entertainment started to wane. I have shelf after shelf of books. I have so many there have been arguments and fights over the shelving, and I don't see myself giving them up. On the other hand, I love my Kindle, and when I need something quick and cheap to entertain me, that's where I turn. Now I buy books that I can see myself wanting to keep in print editions, and the rest I read electronically, or listen to on my MP3 player. This new generation will soon reach the point where they believe there have always been eBooks, Kindles, Nooks, whatever. They will grow up reading on their iPods and hiding under the sheets to do it. It's not important (at least not to me) how the stories reach the readers, as long as they do. As long as I get the chance to use my words to help people launch to some other, better place, or scare the crap out of them, or make they cry and wish for something that I created to be true, damn it, and REAL…as long as it's like that? I'm good. I don’t' think any time soon print books will disappear, but the acceptance of the electronic is simply inevitable. Try and find a kid who remembers a VHS now, or who doesn't think there have always been cell phones – or even one who remembers what an actual cellular phone WAS (since they are all digital now). It's the present, and it's the future. It's a digital revolution, and I intend to ride the wave.
DC: What’s upcoming for you as a writer and for Crossroad Press and Macabre Ink as a publisher?
DNW: As a writer, I have a ton of things in progress. A lot depends (as usual) on the fickle tastes of editors. I have a number of books out being considered for publication. I am working on several more projects. I mentioned a few upstream in this interview, TATTERED REMNANTS is one, the DECHANCE CHRONICLES, my urban fantasy series – if I manage to get the rights to the first book back from the hands of the bunglers who mis-marketed it and only sold 60 copies – will be marketed again as a series. I have a historical zombie novel titled GIDEON’S CURSE that needs to be finished, and on the science fiction front I'm working on a huge multi-world space-opera style project with some other authors titled THE SCATTERED EARTH. I also have a book of short stories written with Neil Gaiman due sometime in the future. We're waiting on one last story from Neil, and then the publisher and artist Lisa Snellings have to finalize the presentation and details. All the stories in that book are inspired by Lisa's art and written by myself, or Neil.
Crossroad Press has so much coming up I hesitate to even try and encompass it in a short answer. For starters, we have the rest of the Skipp & Spector novels to get out, starting with the next release in a week or two – their last novel, ANIMALS. We have started to gather the works of Al Sarrantonio, and we are in negotiations for works by a number of other bigger name authors, each of whom add credibility and marketing power to the company. We have launched The Digital Drive-in – a review site where we will be featuring regular podcasts, video commercials, audiobook excerpts, readings by authors, and a lot more over the months to come. You can see what we have so far at The Digital Drive-in site. You can also keep up with the Skipp & Spector news at here. We are branching out tentatively into music publishing, starting with Craig Spector's SO LO and we are investigating some avenues for print-on-demand copies of our original novels. We have audio coming up from world-famous narrator Dick Hill, who will be narrating T. M. Wright's bestseller A MANHATTAN GHOST STORY, and the haunting performance of Mr. Chris Patton of Poppy Z. Brite's LOST SOULS. I can't say from day to day what I'll be doing, or where I'll be doing it, but one thing is certain. I'll be busy. I'll leave you with a quote from my work-in-progress TATTERED REMNANTS, which I suspect will be the best thing I've done to date. The quote if from an old librarian named Mortimer who has been teaching my protagonist, Lucien, how to repair and bind books. It's spoken on the occasion of Lucien's first solo-creation – a book made up of the tattered remnants of many old, ruined books… “Never forget,” the old man said. “Your work defines you. That book will be a thing of beauty when you are no more than a whisper of dust in the wind. Most of the words inside were written long before I was born. It’s not as important what you are working on as it is how you go about that work. Never halfway. Never without thought and planning. Never without a vision in your mind of what it should be in the end.”
DC: Where can people get in contact with you?
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