A Writer’s Questions for Black Bed Sheet Books –An Interview with Nicholas Grabowsky by Vincent James Russo

A Writer’s Questions for Black Bed Sheet Books

An Interview with Nicholas Grabowsky

by Vincent James Russo

April 2013

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(Out of all the submissions I get, sometimes I get one with many questions attached and with this one, submitted by writer Vincent James Russo…well, we decided to make it a legitimate interview.  –Nick Grabowsky)

Question: Do you have a 2013 Submission Deadline?

No, but technically we’re all booked up for 2013 and it would be a little late for an author whose submission was just accepted to expect to be published this year. I always leave room for any factor of special circumstances to come into play, which is why I say “technically.”

Question: Is Black Bed Sheet Publications accepting Novellas?

We’re accepting them as in we’ll take a look.  I look for something that can sell on its own, and if a novella’s too short, unless it comes attached with another novella or original stories we can tack onto it and sell it as a collection with the novella as a feature, it’s going to look like a cheap leaflet in printed form all by itself.  In terms of print, it would stand a better chance in ebook only and we do that too, to the right ones.  A good example of a novella we’ve published in print: Unholy Repression by Jessica Lynne Gardner.  Good example of an ebook-only novella: Bone Sai by Ruschelle Dillon.

Question: How many words can my novel be?

I have no word limits, as long as it has so many as to reasonably fall into the category of “novel,” otherwise see Novellas above.

Question: How many pages can my novel be?

I have no page limits.  If it’s War and Peace or The Stand or something, however, it’d better be exceptionally worth every word.

Question: There is a fair amount of sexually explicit scenes in some of my stories as well as hidden sexual undertones and innuendoes. Some of the material that I write is quite vulgar or brutal depending on the subject matter. I also have a pretty violent and graphic rape scene in one of my stories. I also have a story about High School Teenagers participating in (Sex, Drugs, Drinking.) I tend to write certain stories that may or may not be resolved. But a good majority of my stories that I do write have some kind of purpose regardless of the outcome. How would you go about handling or editing certain situations in my novel? Or would you even accept that kind of material?

What’s important is STORY, and how well you tell it.  If any material offensive to the large majority of society is there just for the sake of being there, then it’s only marketable to the small audience of the kind of people who are drawn to that.  But if it’s there for a purpose and works, it’s scary and compelling and that’s what we’re looking for.  When it comes to the editing, I work with the author and if you ask any of the others I’ve never yet taken out a single description or scene of that nature unless it was the author’s idea, I’ve never yet had a reason to.  Good examples:  Merciless by Brandon Ford, Spinner by Dustin LaValley, Blood Related by William Cook.

Question: My first novel is an Anthology of Thirteen Short-stories that I am currently writing. The stories are Fiction of course as well as Urban Legends and Folklore. They are told from the original stories point of view as well as putting my own personal spin and twist to it. The genre I am writing for this falls under Horror, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy etc. Will Black Bed Sheet Publications accept that?

Yes, that kind of thing is right up our alley, case in point is S.C. Hayden’s Rusty Nails, Broken Glass, which we just released April 6, a collection of stories based on urban legends and folklore.  The thing about that though, is we get a few hundred submissions a year at least, many of which is similar material, and we can only pick a tiny select few each year so they have to be exceptional.

Question: If I were to sign a contract with you, how long would I remain with Black Bed Sheet Publications? Would you require one book a year from me, or during my time with you do require several novels of mine during a legitimate length amount of time? Also, if another publishing company was interested in me and wanted to hire me and I was already in a contract with you. How would you go about handling that?

I try to keep it simple for both of us.  The standard contract is good for one year….I have up to one year to publish it, and then it’s one year from the date of actual publication from there.  That’s one year per title.  Sometimes an agreement is brought to the table where the author has a series or a trilogy and they want to make a deal with all three and we do that.  Oftentimes in retrospect one year doesn’t always seem to be long enough but the author is free to extend their contract after that time and about 90% do.  It’s 2013 and I still have a fair amount of the books I signed in 2008.  I don’t believe in owning an author.  All I want is to invest my time and money into a book they wrote and hope we make something off of it and in the process give their writing careers a little boost further up the ladder, depending on the time they’re willing to put into helping me do it.  I encourage them to publish elsewhere too.  I encourage authors to spread themselves around their industry, don’t just stick with me alone.  A serious author has to keep writing, keep getting their stuff out there….magazines, other projects, other books, with other publishers.  Once an author is with me and they want to submit a follow-up, their submission always takes priority, though, and I haven’t yet turned one down.  As a result, over the years about half my authors have accumulated more than one project with me.  After all, I believe in them or I wouldn’t have published their last material.

Question: Since my book would be an ebook first and someone happens to purchase it online. I too would get a certain percentage of that money correct? Also, if my book goes to print does Black Bed Sheet Publications produce both Hardcover and Paperback? or just Paperback? Would I receive in the mail several copies of my print book to sell on my own accord to Family and Friends? How many print books would I get to have for myself?

No one said it would be an ebook first; we mostly do (and pride ourselves in doing) print books, trade paperbacks.  Those books are also sold as ebooks.  But we do publish books in ebook only.  Novels, collections, and because ebook content is so flexible we publish ebook stand-alone novellas and shorts like Bart Brevik’s Demon of Despair.  Because ebooks are cost-effective we’re able to reach out to what we feel is great talent on a broader scale and, of course, if things work out for both of us we’re happy to put them into print.  Some ebook-only authors are even able to have limited print runs for appearances from time to time.  We’re also trying out in-person, in-store ebook-only signings where you can purchase an ebook personally from the author and they’ll sign it on their laptop and hand it to you.  And nope, we don’t do hardcover, at least not yet, because of cost.  I’ve put out hardcover editions of some of my own novels through BBS from my ‘80’s paperback days, but that’s it so far.  Also, every author gets only one free author copy unless we make arrangements otherwise, but most publishers only give their authors ten-twenty percent off retail for authors copies and I charge a dollar-fifty per copy above what I pay to get them (it used to be two dollars a copy), and that averages out to be 55% off, about what stores would pay for them wholesale, sometimes less.  On top of that, I recently made it so all BBS authors can purchase each other’s books at each one’s author’s prices too, to encourage them to read each other’s works.

Question: My first novel like I mentioned is an Anthology of Thirteen Short-stories that I am currently writing. I have a few local Artists who are friends of mine that are interested in doing the illustrations for my stories. Basically, it would be Thirteen B & W drawings that they would do themselves to go along with the story. If I do decide to go down that road and go about adding drawings into my novel, do I pay them out of my own pocket or does Black Bed Sheet Publication pay them? Also, how much do I pay them either if it’s just one person or several individuals all together that want me to include there Artwork that I may or may not use in my novel? I just want to know how that works?

We are small, independent, and perhaps maybe “underground,” if you will, with a very limited almost bare-bones budget.  We want to be able to be in the financial position to pay an outside artist if the artist is good enough.  On the other hand, if we were able to pay then our standards for accepting outside artists would go up and we’d be more picky.  But if the author really believes in this artist we have no problem with it, we work with the author in every way possible.  Most of the time when that happens, the artist is trying to get themselves known and does it at no cost for that very reason, or as a favor to the author.  If that artist expects a fee, though, and the author insists on using him/her, it’s up to the author and the artist to have that worked out between themselves.  Ultimately, BBS reserves the right to have the final say or manipulate the artwork in marketing & merchandising for the benefit of the book and how we feel it’ll sell best.  Selling it best is what ultimately matters, after all.  For now, we won’t let the lack of funding in our little outfit stop us from whatever the author wants to bring to the project’s table if he wants to bring it.

Question: I do like some of the cover art that Black Bed Sheet produces. But also I have in mind a few outside cover artists that I would like to go with myself. If I were to go with an outside cover artist of my own and they agree to do the artwork for my book. Do I myself or does Black Bed Sheet Publications pay them? Also, do I pay the Black Bed Sheet cover artist or does Black Bed Sheet Publications take care of there own?

I’m the cover artist.  I have fourteen years in graphic design, thirty years as an author in the industry and I have an advertising background. I do 90% of the covers, banners, posters, marketing ads, design.  In fact, I started BBS doing every facet of it and I’m still essentially a one-man show.  I have an equally lengthy experience in editing and marketing.  The reason Black Bed Sheet Books exists stemmed from my making a deal with Trancas Films to release a special edition of my Halloween IV novel and I did that myself, and, having the rights back to my previously published works, I decided to self-publish a number of my own works, design them myself and put them together and market them, and I simply got to thinking, if I can do all this, maybe I should go into business and do the same thing for a handful of other authors each year and be a publisher.  Another thing was, I’ve been screwed by many a publisher and seen countless other authors go through the same thing, and I wanted set an example in doing it all the right and honest way.  Fundamentally, the right way to be a legitimate publisher is to invest his own money in something he can publish that can hopefully make him some money back, and it’s the publisher’s responsibility to put that book together, inside and out, and to try and sell it for all the reasons he chose to publish that book in the first place. That goes for the cover, too.  As with everything, the author can and has brought their own artists to the table or worked with me together on the cover.  Sue Dent’s Electric Angel was the result of Sue independently working with a photographer and a male model, then I would take the photos and design them into a great cover.  They did it because it was fun and they were capable and being Sue is an accomplished author and they were friends, there was no money involved and they get their names out there a little further.  That’s the spirit of what we’re about, and it works great.  One of these days we’ll be prosperous enough to afford opportunities to employ outside cover designers and artists, we want that.  But between myself, artist friends of authors, and working together, the author doesn’t need to spend their own money on covers but can if they want to.  They just never pay us.

Question: Would Black Bed Sheet Publications market one of their own Authors who are relatively unknown to do book signings at Barnes & Noble or any other Book store outlet in order to market them and spread the word amongst the Author circuit about them? Would Black Bed Sheet Publications promote and market their client at a Horror and Comic-Con or any other Conventions etc? Does the Author pay the Conventions He or She attend in order to market themselves or does Black Bed Sheet pay the people who run and are responsible for the Convention?

Black Bed Sheet has been responsible for many appearances of many authors, directly or indirectly. Our books are orderable through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, any book store can order our books and negotiate a signing and the returnability of those books.  We work best with independent stores.  Many of our authors have had Barnes & Noble signings, though not all B&N do small press author signings, either, unless they’re local but sometimes not even that.  Many of our authors have had successful convention appearances.  I’ve orchestrated my own BBS convention events about twice a year on average…we usually have a strong presence at Horrorfind or the World Horror Convention and have sponsored our own tables, readings, hotel parties, and broadcast live with our 200,000-listener internet radio show Francy & Friends from most of them.  The Meet & Greet author Brian Keene arranged for us at the Horrorfind in PA a few years back and its hotel party was legendary.  We’ve had great moments like that and hope to keep having them!  Also there are many, many cases where the authors arrange their own event appearances and do it all themselves and I just make sure they get their books on time.  They sell their own merchandise or merchandise I designed for them that they bought from me at cost to sell or give away, and they proudly display BBS banners and sometimes even other BBS authors’ books as well as sell whatever other books they have from other publishers alongside their BBS books.   This year (2013), although our authors have many appearances and thanks to author Shannon Lee (Mythic Blood) we have a presence at the World Horror Convention in New Orleans this summer, I’m not personally investing in conventions in favor of putting one together locally myself instead with BBS written all over it. But in the cases of even those conventions BBS itself had tables and events with me there, the authors have had to pay for their own trips/rooms though some would room together.  Again, we’d love to one day be prosperous enough to afford to.

Question: Does Black Bed Sheet Publications start up a Web-Site for the Author or does the Author have to come up with making up their own personal Web-Site?

The author is responsible for doing that, and should be.  We’re serious about the books we’re publishing for them, but they should be serious enough about the scope and direction of their careers to have that taken care of independent from us.  In fact, when I look for an author deal, I not only look at the work itself, how well its written and its potential and if I can get excited about it, but I look at the author and their willingness to work as much of their ass off as they can, their ability to self-promote, their passion, how serious they view writing as something they want to do far more than simply indulge in.  In considering an author’s work, it’s often very frustrating trying to look them up online to see what else they’ve done and find they don’t even have a website.  NOT that not having a website turns me off completely. I’ve taken on authors with no websites and now, with a tiny bit of direction, they do.

Question: Would you advise an Author to put both an E-Mail and P.O. Box in the beginning or the end of his or her novel for Fans or other people to get in contact with them?

An author should always have a way for fans to get a hold of them and they should make that way known anywhere they can.  In all of our publications, we always put an author bio and all that information in the back.  We also have advertisements of our other titles in the back of every BBS book.

Question: Would you advise an Author to put his or her Facebook, Twitter, etc on his, her or the Publications Web-Site?

By all means!  Why not?  Unless an author wants his or her best ways of keeping up-to-date with them kept secret.  You don’t want to be a secret pimping a book you wrote that you want many people to buy and read.  I don’t know, though….with some of the generally graphically violent/scary material we publish, you’d think maybe some of us would have SOMETHING to hide!  Just kidding.

Question: Would you have a problem if the Author wanted to submit his or her work to a Magazine?

Not at all.  For reasons stated above, I highly encourage it.  If you’re talking about the work I’d be publishing, not the whole thing, of course, but excepts or a single story from a collection maybe.  But you can submit any other story anywhere at any time to anyhoo while you’re with us with the one we’re publishing for you.

Question: I noticed the Authors on the Web-Site have his or her brief Bio up on the site. Does Black Bed Sheet Publications write the Authors Bio on the site or do the Authors themselves write their own Bio for themselves to put up on the site?

Usually it’s the authors themselves with input from me.  Sometimes it’s me.  Mostly the authors already have one that I use on mine and it updates from time to time.  It’s often the same bio that’s found in the backs of their books.

Question: I watched one of the videos you made yourself on YouTube and you said that in 2013 you would like and are trying to have a weekend convention at a Hotel over by you just with “Black Bed Sheet” Authors. Is that still in the works?

Not just Black Bed Sheet authors but highlighting them, and with lots of independent horror talent.  Yes, it’s in the works and taking shape.  It’s called DAYS OF TERROR and has its own Facebook page (please like!), and it looks like we’re focusing on the beginning of next year.  It involves the efforts of BBS and other Northern California horror celebrities I’ve pulled together, notably Miss Misery whose “Miss Misery’s Days of Terror last year was a tremendous success.

Question: How and when would you go about telling one of your Authors in regards to getting a Manager and Agent for themselves?

You are your most important manager or agent, first and foremost.  More likely than not, you can get a lot farther on your own.  That’s not to say the right one won’t help you, as long as they don’t take your money but rather earn it from a deal they get for you, but you’re probably going to find that most won’t really do anything more for you than what you could’ve done in the first place with a little extra effort and resourcefulness. The more people you meet who do what you do, the more connections you make….not just in social networking but getting out there yourself to events and placing yourself in the midst of opportunity, that can get you far and that’s just you doing it.  In a sense, I act as an agent in regard to an author’s publication with me.  I’m always looking to my resources and connections to find foreign rights deals and film and comic book deals.  Some of our authors have such deals albeit nothing beyond the realms of the independent world, nothing to make us rich.  At least not yet.

Question: How much does a “Black Bed Sheet” Author earn a year?

If they spent it all in one place, maybe enough for a good family dinner at Denny’s without using coupons.  It’s a tough, competitive business and it seems every Joe and his mother has a book out these days.  The market’s oversaturated.  Many, many presses large and small go under and the small ones rise, take a leap, and splatter all over the pavement.  I do this full time, and in doing it I face financial calamity every single month barely being able to keep my life afloat, working for that one big break or deal or success I need to make it easier to bring Black Bed Sheet into the resounding and profitable and influential institution it’s meant to be for myself and all its authors.  Right now, the reality is an author makes very little when their book is sold through a distributor compared to books that are sold direct. The authors who generally make the most money so far have been authors who buy their own copies and personally sell them.  Then there’s sales direct from our online store where authors get a large chunk of their royalties.  Oftentimes, a retail store book signing can seem to be a success but when the remaining books are returned through the distributor, those sales are swallowed by so many extra costs it eats into profits.  Most print sales through online stores, by the time the profits filter through the stores and distributors and me to the author’s 14% of what I get, we have to really sell to make something of it that way.

Question: How do you pay the Author?

Quarterly royalties, check or Paypal, based on the percentages in our contract. Usually it’s about 14%.  Sometimes I’m a few weeks late, but they get ‘em!  I’m the BBS accountant, too.

Question: Does “Black Bed Sheet Publications” loan their Author some spending money before his or her book is even out?

I wish.  I really do.  I wish we gave out advances against royalties, but that’s not within our budget yet.  I sometimes wish someone would loan me a good chunk of spending money that I could use on authors, but I haven’t yet found the right investor.  That’s an option I’m keeping a keen but reluctant eye out for.

Question: Does “Black Bed Sheet Publications” have any Independent/Mainstream connections to turn one of the Author’s books into a Feature Length Film, Series, Mini-Series, TV Show?

We have a plethora of independent connections in film, television, plenty of resources on my end with my career, then Francy’s show of course and all her genre-related guests and connections and friends we have in the industry, our partners Shot in the Dark Comics and Hacker’s Source Magazine, etc.  As I’ve said above, some of our authors have deals as a result of being BBS authors, latest case in point being Jason Gehlert and his Quiver werewolf feature with Wits’ End Entertainment as well as so many things we have going with Shot in the Dark. I’m also supposed to be doing my Cutting Edges creature flick soon.

Question: What can I look forward to as an Author to be a part of the “Black Bed Sheet” family?

Aside from what I stated above and depending on you: a wild ride of experience, an opening of doors, direction, and, as many BBS authors have conveyed to me, it may change your life despite the fact we ain’t none of us rich yet.  And in ways already, we’re influencing the book industry, gained genre-wide respect, and are taking over the world. Check out our expanding universe at http://www.downwarden.com/blackbedsheet and buy our excellent books at http://www.downwarden.com/blackbedsheetstore

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About downwarden

Nicholas Grabowsky’s novels of horror/fantasy and mainstream pulp fiction, both as himself, as Nicholas Randers, and as Marsena Shane, have generated worldwide acclaim for over two decades and praised by many of today’s most popular horror gurus in the literary world. He began his career in traditional publishing houses with brisk sellers in mass market paperback horror and romance, and the last ten years have seen him hailed by many as a mentor and advocate to the smaller presses, which has become to him a passion. His body of work includes the award-winning macabre aliens-among-us epic The Everborn, The Rag Man, Pray Serpent’s Prey, Halloween IV (and its special edition), Diverse Tales, Reads & Reviews, The Wicked Haze, Sweet Dreams Lady Moon, June Park, and Red Wet Dirt, numerous anthologies, magazine articles, and self help books, with projects extending to screenplays, poetry, songs, film, comics and graphic novels, and a wide variety of short fiction and nonfiction since the 1980’s. He’s a veteran special guest at numerous genre conventions and makes appearances and signings across North America. He has been in the limelight a radical gospel preacher right out of high school and in the following years a rock vocalist, teacher, lecturer and activist, editor, publisher and founder of the Sacramento-based Diverse Media small press, which has recently blossomed into the subdivisions of Black Bed Sheet Books, which publishes “exemplary literature, fiction & non” but specializes in horror/fantasy, and Black Bed Sheet Productions, which produces independent film, and sponsors both the hit Blog Talk Radio show Francy & Friends and the popular web stream Black Hamster TV. Currently, Nicholas is at work with numerous anthologies, graphic novels and comic books, an Everborn sequel and the novels The Downwardens and The Sirens of Knowland. His independent film projects include the upcoming slasher creature feature Cutting Edges, as well as co-writing the independent film Into the Basement, for Triad Pictures. View all posts by downwarden

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