Sunday, February 9, 2014

EDITOR INTERVIEW: Grey Matter Press is Giving Away 400 Books this Week and Anthony Rivera Gives Us Tips on the Submission Process

Grey Matter Press is going buck wild in celebration of Valentine's Day by giving away 400 books! Well, that's not true. The Chicago-based book publisher is celebrating the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. What's that? It's Capone. It's the gritty streets of prohibition-era Chicago. It's a brutal slice of Americana. Check it out.

Oh, but the part about the giveaway is true. Between February 9th and the 15th, they're showing readers the love by giving away books (print & digital) in contests, sweepstakes, and online giveaways. Not only that, but they're allowing winners to select their prize from one of four anthologies published in the last year. (Including Dark Visions 2 which features my story 'Last Call')

With 400 books to hand out, I'd say everyone's odds are pretty good. Get the details here: St. Valentine's Week Massacre

I decided to mention this event for a couple of reasons:

Grey Matter Press is a new publisher--first opened to submissions in 2012--and already they're proving a great resource for promoting new and established authors in dark fiction. Their first release, Dark Visions 1, has made the Stoker preliminary ballot. With dozens of horror-themed anthologies being released every year (month?), that's no small accomplishment for an opening publication. If you follow them on Facebook or Twitter, you know they spend day-in and day-out promoting their authors. Not just the books, but the names. With national distribution through Barnes and Noble bookstores coming soon and a growing following of readers, Grey Matter Press makes good on their promise to ". . . help each and every one of our authors succeed by delivering your groundbreaking work to an all-new audience that is, right now, clamoring for exceptional independent dark fiction."

I also thought this would be a good time to feature an interview with the acquisitions editor of Grey Matter, Anthony Rivera. Anthony was kind enough to answer some questions about the press, their submission process, and what they look for in a manuscript.


What sets Grey Matter Press apart from other emerging publishers?

That’s a very good question, and one that can perhaps be better answered by our readers and authors that we’ve had the pleasure to work with.

Obviously, there are a whole host of very good publishers out there; we’re just the new kids on the block. But I like to think that we’re focused on producing products that are, without question, worth the horror readers’ money.

We aim to create an imprint whose attention to detail and exceptional manuscript selection translates into the expectation that the purchase of any Grey Matter Press title is something that will be a captivating read containing well-crafted fiction and, ultimately, is considered money well spent.

Having done so myself, there’s nothing worse than purchasing a book that doesn’t meet one’s expectations for what’s considered a professional piece of work that you’ve plunked down your hard-earned dollars to buy. We are focusing on the areas of quality storytelling, well-crafted tales, expert characterization and plot development, accurate editing and exemplary production values. It’s our job to respect the work of both our authors and our readers, and you can’t accomplish that without those things.

On your website, you say that ". . . we are experienced editors, horror writers and dark-minded enthusiasts who know firsthand what it takes to develop a compelling manuscript that is capable of scaring the Hell out of you, the readers." Could you elaborate on Grey Matter's definition of a 'compelling manuscript'?

When we review a manuscript we want to see evidence of a number of critical elements. These include, first and foremost, a well-written tale that grabs hold of us quickly and doesn’t let go.

Manuscripts that have ultimately been selected for inclusion in our anthologies often include a unique approach to the subject matter. Other times they’re a crafty retelling of an established theme.

Depending on our concept for a given anthology, we’re drawn to stories that often take a subtle, immersive approach to horror or that have an underlying tension, or pervasive and insidious dread. Other times, we’re completely drawn to a bang-out thrill ride that gets the heart racing.  It’s always a great experience to read a story that leaves you breathless at its conclusion.

Every new business, no matter how well planned, hits unexpected speed bumps along the way. What unseen challenges did you face when starting a new press?

We thought long and hard for many months about what we envisioned for Grey Matter Press prior to launching and opening up our first calls in September of 2012. However, when we announced for DARK VISIONS and SPLATTERLANDS on the same date back then, we thought it’d be ‘cute’ to tie in the submission deadline with the alleged Mayan end of the world date of December 21.

Well, the submission windows for both anthologies ran concurrently for a little more than three months. That likely wouldn’t have been a problem, had we better anticipated the number of submissions we would receive. (Something that probably can’t be anticipated.) But we miscalculated and received an avalanche of great stories.  And we didn’t feel it proper to end the calls early, in case there were authors working on pieces specifically to meet the published deadline, so then we found ourselves way behind in our review schedule.

I think this, rightfully so, annoyed a number of authors who thought our response times for those two anthologies were a bit too long. But as we stepped up our communication via social media over those months, I think we were able to smooth most of the ruffled feathers.

That was most definitely an experience we learned from and have taken steps not to repeat again as we very much value our relationships with all authors.

You receive a lot of submissions. What kind of attention do you give each manuscript before deciding to accept or decline?

We actually pride ourselves in the amount of time we spend reading submissions.  Using a multi-tiered process, manuscripts are reviewed in stages, ultimately proceeding to final selection.

When we announce an anthology, we have a general idea of the type of stories we’re hoping to include, but oftentimes that concept is modified by the submissions themselves. The stories often take on a life of their own, arranging themselves into a cohesive collection before our eyes.

In order to get to a point where we can finally select those to be included, the vast majority of all submissions for a given anthology have been read multiple times by the multiple people.

A 400-book giveaway seems . . . awesome . . . extreme . . . awesomely extreme. What motivated you to do this and what kind of response do you expect to see?

I honestly have no idea what to expect, other than a week of madness! The idea for the St. Valentine’s Week Massacre came from the fact that we wanted to do something different. We wanted to develop a promotion that will ultimately reward all those folks who’ve stood by us from Day One, who’ve followed our insanity on Twitter and Facebook and who’ve subscribed to our website. I very much believe in loyalty and that it should be rewarded.

Our St. Valentine’s Week Massacre was created in part to show our appreciation to current fans, expose our authors to new fans and also let people know that the new kids on the block are very passionate about what we’re doing. Some might call it crazy. Some might call US crazy. And, who knows, when it’s all over next Saturday we may be in straightjackets.

What's in store for 2014?

We’ve got a lot of exciting things coming in 2014!

Our first release for the year will be EQUILIBRIUM OVERTURNED: SHINING A LIGHT INTO THE DARKNESS. We’ll be announcing the T.O.C. and publication details for that anthology shortly.  Our submission call for DEATH’S REALM just ended. It’ll be our first loosely ghost-themed anthology. And already having read a number of the submissions to that, it looks to be shaping up to be a great release.

Later in the year we’ll be announcing calls for a few new anthologies.  We’re also going to be expanding into novels. We are reading a number of manuscripts at the moment.

And there’s something very exciting on the horizon that I’d like to share with you, but am unable to do so at the moment. Sorry for that little tease.  But that bit of secret information will hopefully be revealed in the next month or so. 

Overall, I think that 2014 is going to be another great year for Grey Matter Press and, most of all, for readers of dark fiction.

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