When I joined the writing site AgentQuery Connect years ago, it changed the way I thought about the publishing process. Before I became active there, I thought talent was all it took and homework was for the less adventurous. That’s probably why it took me ten years to finally get an agent. A lot of the people I met there are now good friends, as well as fellow published MG and YA authors like RC Lewis and MarcyKate Connolly. But there have been other successes too, not the least being our friend Matt Sinclair establishing his own independent press, Elephant’s Bookshelf Press.
EBP has given some much-deserved exposure to unpublished writers, and I’ve found it to be a wonderful outlet for my short stories. As Matt discusses below, short story anthologies from relative unknowns are pretty hard to come by because they’re a risk for the publisher. Thanks to EBP, I’ve been able to see some of my shorts in print – “First Kiss” was the anchor story in SPRING FEVERS, my one-act play “Disconnect” was featured in THE FALL: TALES FROM THE APOCALYPSE, and if you care for a bit more Mindy you can find it in EBP’s newest release, SUMMER’S DOUBLE EDGE, under the title “Anesthetic.”
To celebrate the new release of a dual-anthology, I thought I’d invite Matt onto the blog to talk about taking the big step into establishing his own press.
Starting your own independent press is a huge step to take. How long had you been considering doing so before you made the leap, and what factored into your decision to try your hand in the first place?
It’s kind of a chicken/egg situation. The first anthology from EBP, SPRING FEVERS, came about from discussions I’d had with Cat Woods, who is one of the many writing friends I’ve met at AgentQuery Connect, which honestly has changed my writing life. Cat and I developed the idea of an anthology. I’d long been toying with the idea of starting a literary journal or a publishing company but it seemed like an overly daunting task. After Cat and I bandied the anthology idea about, however, I realized this was my opportunity to launch a publishing company. She was supportive and I knew that there were other helpful ambitious writers at AQC, so I felt I had the type of support system I needed.
What’s the process like for starting your own press?
Well, I established Elephant’s Bookshelf Press as an LLC. It’s not necessary, but it seemed like a smart way to go about it. But while I am the one who takes the financial risk, I knew it wouldn’t work without a team of talented people who can help me. We had access to talented writers starting with people we knew at AQC, but as we all learned, talented writers are only part of the process. We also needed talented editors and book and cover designers. We are fortunate to have the multitalented Calista Taylor to help design the covers, and R.C. Lewis has done wonders with the book design. We’ve had a different copy editor with each anthology so far, with Robb Grindstaff, Jean Oram, and now Laura Carlson all serving in that role. Cat and I have each copy-edited some stories by the copy editors, since they’re also writers themselves.
You’re currently publishing a series of anthologies based on the seasons, with the newest dual release of SUMMER’S EDGE and SUMMER’S DOUBLE EDGE. Did anything in particular draw you to short stories as your first gig?
Shorts were the genesis of my company, and I always loved them reading them when I was in high school and college. Personally, I think they should be even more popular these days with so little time to get anything done. But they’re a tough sell, so it’s really a labor of love and not due to any one thing in particular. As we’ve developed, EBP has evolved into a cultivator of new and unknown writers. I should stop and count, but I think we have easily close to a dozen writers who’d never had any fiction published before they became EBP writers. These are talented people, including several who have agents and writing deals for their novels. So, I’m very proud to have been the initial publisher for several writers I believe will have wonderful success in this field.
You’re a writer yourself. You know what it’s like to get rejections. Is it hard to now be the person sending those out?
Yes, but it also can be gratifying. I’ve tried to be informative in our rejections to help the writers improve. These are people who take their writing seriously, and they deserve some feedback. That said, we discovered during the summer anthology submissions that it’s possible to have too many strong submissions. I hadn’t intended to publish two anthologies this summer. We made decisions on a rolling basis and perhaps we’ll need to revisit that for the winter anthology. Ultimately, we want the best stories out there. And as we become a more popular publisher for emerging writers, we’re going to have to send out a lot more rejection letters than we already do.
And lastly, what can we look for in the future from Elephant’s Bookshelf Press?
I think we have a bright, exciting future. In the fall, we’re going to launch our first novel,WHISPERING MINDS, by A.T. O’Connor. There’s a preview of it in the summer anthologies, and it’s a huge thrill to me, because I always envisioned EBP as a publisher of novels Eventually nonfiction books, too, though that’s probably at least two years off. We’ll still publish anthologies. In fact, I need to get moving on the winter anthology almost as soon as the summer books are out. It might seem far away, but with a January or early February publication date, there’s really not much time.
Then in the early spring, we’re going to publish our next novel, which will be a YA baseball book by Steven Carman called BATTERY BROTHERS. We intend to publish that around spring training or opening day of the 2014 baseball season. We also have a third novel in the offing, probably for May or June of 2014. That hasn’t been finalized yet, but I think it’s a go. It’s a fun middle grade mystery. Then starting either in late 2014 or early 2015, we will publish our first of a new series of anthologies. I’m holding off on some of the detail on that, but it’s a seven-anthology series that’ll be genre-specific, by which I mean, each anthology will be all one specific genre. At some point, I hope to also get my novels in shape, but I’ve been fairly focused on publishing over the past year and it’s been hard to do more than write short stories!
Thank you Matt for coming onto the blog today, and don’t forget to check out SUMMER’S EDGE and SUMMER’S DOUBLE EDGE to get in some quick, summer reads before the season is out!