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Stephen Gallagher
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2003 - 12:15 pm:   

Given that the majors are screwing up ever more expensively and the small presses are getting more professional, I reckon we're going to need some new terminology.

As far as the majors are concerned, their product increasingly reminds me of the newly-recruited soldiers' uniforms in BILL, THE GALACTIC HERO... stuff that appeals from a distance and falls apart by the time the column's passing the edge of town. Just like the latest hyped Bright New Voice in Fiction... the excitement lasts until about midway through the second chapter.

Meanwhile, the small presses are getting less deserving of a diminutive name.

How about "post-corporate publishing"?
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JeffV
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2003 - 12:18 pm:   

I like "independent publishers" because it brings up images of "independent movies" and the "indie music scene," all of which are considered legitimate and established artistic and economic entities.

Jeff V.
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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2003 - 11:53 pm:   

I've always referred to Night Shade as an "independent publisher", rather than a "small press publisher", or some such variation. Its not that I'm trying to overcompensate for being small... :-) It's just that, at Night Shade, we don't think small...
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Jonathan Strahan
Posted on Friday, February 28, 2003 - 07:40 am:   

I'm not sure of the appropriate terminology, but I do think that there is a great difference from a small, often one-person outfit that occasionally produces books (however good), and organised, more professional outfits that publish to a regular schedule and in some quantity like Night Shade, Golden Gryphon, Sub Press et al.

Jonathan
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Mark PL
Posted on Saturday, March 01, 2003 - 04:53 am:   

Even publishers we thought of as independents over here in the UK have fallen into the same trap as the big boys. Piatkus, for example, are now publishing little more than true life crime biogs and chic lit. I dunno what the future is as far as the small press expanding is concerned. Although PS's paperbacks are reasonably priced at a tenner plus P&P, the hardcover costs are relatively steep. I'll no doubt be saving my pennies for Steve's collection, and who knows? Maybe PS's editions of THE SPIRIT BOX and THE PAINTED BRIDE (which I'm guessing is either about a prostitute, a boat, or maybe an art gallery). But I'm loathe to spend big pennies on a writer unknown to me at the top prices . . .
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Stephen Gallagher
Posted on Sunday, March 02, 2003 - 05:00 am:   

I suppose the term 'independent publisher' is coloured at the UK end by exactly the kind of association you suggest -- the picture it conjures in my head is of some senior figure leaving an established publishing house to set up his/her own outfit with venture-capitalist backing, whereupon he/she plays exactly the same game as before on a reduced scale.

But I think the next evolutionary leap will come when a small press/indie title breaks through and takes a chunk of the mass market and no-one either cares or notices much where it came from in the first instance, but then starts to learn where to look for more of the same.

We need a healthy situation like that in the music industry, with corporate giants crapping themselves because the music's flowing in ways they could easily control and profit from, if only they would provide what users want instead of demanding they take what they're given. You get the feeling that these are people who'd design a canal system where the water's instructed to run uphill.
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Stephen Gallagher
Posted on Sunday, March 02, 2003 - 05:50 am:   

>>Maybe PS's editions of THE SPIRIT BOX and THE PAINTED BRIDE<<

Sorry to tell you that neither's been planned or even discussed... between BIZANGO and the collection I reckon Pete's got enough of a Gallagher stake on the PS table.

They'll have their day. I learned almost from the very beginning how long a game this is. They'd both be out now if 1) an over-confident (former) agent hadn't dismantled my multi-book contract with Bantam and then been taken aback when they wouldn't re-negotiate, and 2) new, much cannier agent Howard Morhaim and I had been gifted with second sight when sending SPIRIT BOX out in the first week of September 2001. I withdrew it when it became clear that it had little chance of finding the right home in the immediate post-9/11 climate, but there's absolutely no whining about that from here.

Experience has shown me that there's one answer to all such circumstances. You sit down and write something new. When VALLEY OF LIGHTS sold, I had OKTOBER and THE BOAT HOUSE sitting on the shelf. OKTOBER had been turned down by my publisher and THE BOAT HOUSE had subsequently been turned down by everyone else. Both went on to outsell VALLEY OF LIGHTS.

Go figure, as they say.
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Vanessa Taylor
Posted on Sunday, March 09, 2003 - 04:09 am:   

i think that for the independent publishers, small presses, or whatever you want to call them, to have a place at the same table with the big commercial houses, they have 2 things to achieve. First theres content, then theres physical quality. Without both together theres always going to be a resistance from the casual buyer who doesnt care about the circumstances behind publication, they just smell a rat when something doesnt seem right, whether its one of an authors lesser works or a book that has that vanity press/desk diary/little local printing-house feel about it. For me, A5 sizing is always a giveaway.
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Mark PL
Posted on Sunday, March 09, 2003 - 08:25 am:   

Yeah, you gotta look good, no arguing with that. But do you have to look identical? Hmm.
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Vanessa Taylor
Posted on Sunday, March 09, 2003 - 11:15 am:   

Identical no, but Im sure you must have seen small-press books that are clearly the apple of their makers eye but look a bit lame to the rest of us whether its because of fan art used on the djs, bad lettering, lots of fonts fighting each other in the typesetting. Its a case of getting all the tiny signals right. Pro publishing has different departments taking care of every aspect but a one-man-show is in danger of missing those things he doesnt know about.
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Mark PL
Posted on Sunday, March 09, 2003 - 01:48 pm:   

Yeah, you're right. Pete Crowther's early PS titles looked like he'd dipped into his word-processing program and dropped the first typeface he found on the covers. A pity, because it ruined some neat artwork. I don't know if you've read WHITE BIZANGO or not, but the cover design and art work really well. And it's the first PS title I've read that hasn't been riddled with typos. I think there's a couple in Joe Lansdale's intro but that's it.

PS made the mistake of producing a section of Ramsey Campbell's novel THE DARKEST PART OF THE WOODS in Brush Script. Horrible, it was, and for a change nothing to do with Ramsey intentionally chilling you and making strange things appear in the corner of your vision.

BIZANGO's the best small/indie press book I've seen, I think. And it's well worth a read as well, which is a helluva bonus!
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Stephen Gallagher
Posted on Monday, March 10, 2003 - 04:10 am:   

I think Pete will be the first to say that it's all been a big learning curve, and I'm in the fortunate position that Bizango reaps the benefits of it.

The first and biggest value of PS has been the shot in the arm that it's given to a moribund part of the genre. Gollancz may have been happy to republish some of those early novellas three-to-a-volume, but they weren't out there encouraging writers to produce material at the 30,000 word length as Pete was. They're ideas that many of us would never have pursued for lack of an outlet, but which work perfectly at the length.
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Stephen Gallagher
Posted on Monday, March 10, 2003 - 04:14 am:   

Better just add that at 50,000 words WHITE BIZANGO is short-novel length (about the same as the old Gold Medal pb originals) rather than novella-length... I set out to write 30,000 but the book found its own form and Pete was flexible enough to go with it.

I'm happy with the way it turned out... far more so than if I'd had to bloat it up to the doorstopper proportions dictated by current thriller-publishing wisdom.
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Robert Wexler
Posted on Monday, March 10, 2003 - 02:56 pm:   

Hi Stephen,

I'm going to be typesetting some of the PS titles (the first I did was my own, so whatever flaws, it has are all my fault). I haven't seen the printed copy of your book, but I did see the Quark file, which Pete sent me to base the layout of mine on. It looked pretty good. And looked like a good read, but I'll have to get copy of the book to read from rather than on-screen. Maybe I'll get to do your collection.

Best,

Robert
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Stephen Gallagher
Posted on Monday, March 10, 2003 - 03:37 pm:   

Hi Robert

Wouldn't *that* make it a small world?

One of the things that's been so exciting about the PS experience has been that sense of getting your hands dirty and being part of the actual making of something.

I try to make the text as clean as I can before it leaves me. The first book I ever supplied digital text for was NIGHTMARE, WITH ANGEL and although it was my biggest book to that date, its proofs had the lowest number of errors.

I'll have to be doubly careful with the collection because some of the stories are being OCR'd from the original typescripts. And we all know how creative OCR can be when left to its own devices...
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Chris
Posted on Friday, November 12, 2004 - 07:03 am:   

Just to drop my own two-penny'worth into this conversation, but I prefer "independent publisher" than "small press" - which reminds me of photocopied, stapled magazines like Peeping Tom, which is sadly no longer with us, nor Nasty Piece of Work.

Don't mention OCR, Steve... I've only scanned in one story, and it was quite short at 10 pages, but it was the biggest and most time-consuming pain in the arse of my entire publishing "career".
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Stephen Gallagher
Posted on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 09:02 am:   

I had to scan in all of VALLEY OF LIGHTS from the original manuscript for the forthcoming Telos Classics edition. I thought it left my desk pretty clean, but David Howe is still picking out stray commas like shrapnel...
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EDatlow
Posted on Monday, November 15, 2004 - 08:15 am:   

Scanning still sucks as far as I can tell. Everyone says that scanners have gotten better. Haven't convinced me yet. :-)
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Chris
Posted on Monday, November 15, 2004 - 08:44 am:   

A whole book? Can't think of anything worse... would drive me insane.
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Stephen Gallagher
Posted on Monday, November 15, 2004 - 12:02 pm:   

Stray commas apart it wasn't that bad, and this was from a typed-and-tippexed original.

My experience of OCR programs is limited to the two that came bundled with my scanner. One's elaborate and highly featured and does a terrible job. The other is bog-standard, boasts no bells and whistles, and surprised me with its accuracy.

Took me a couple of hours to scan all the pages in, and then I just proofed a chapter at a time. I'd say it took a day in total.

The biggest pain with OCR is the way that it embeds the layout it sees, with hard line endings and strings of spaces. Compared to the tedium of fixing such things on a line-by-line basis, picking up reading errors can be quite minor. But a few search-and-replace strategies made life a lot easier.

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