Inside the Mind of an Independent Horror Publisher, Part II of II
by Rebecca Rowland
Beyond evoking serendipity, there are a few tricks to standing out when your submission is one of hundreds in an open call. According to the fifteen independent press owners interviewed for this piece, originality and a gift for the craft—both in terms of mechanics and of story-telling—are what makes them swoon.
“Originality,” stated Chrissy Brown of Caab Publishing Ltd. “If we cannot guess the ending then we love it. If a character goes off the wall but it makes perfect sense once explained, our brains light up and we adore the piece. We do not like to feel the characters are just going through the motions or only there to be filler. We like meat on the bones and depth to the story.” Stuck in a rut? “Read more outside of your ‘comfort genre’ and/or the genre that you write in,” advised Filthy Loot Press’ Ira Rat. “There’s an unintentional homogeny that settles in and then shines through when all you’re reading is one style.”
Beyond standing out from the crowd, take the time to polish your prose. “Top notch writing is highest on my list of things that speak to me when reading submissions. Even a basic story, if extremely well written, will get my attention,” noted Sinister Smile Press’ Steven Pajak. “I want great writing,” agreed Cameron Trost of Black Beacon Books. “This means you know how to tell a gripping story, and it means you have a working knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the English language. If you don’t, study up before writing your story…you wouldn’t build a house without knowing the basics of carpentry, so don’t write a story without brushing up on grammar and punctuation.” Once you have those nuts and bolts in place, sand, buff, and lacquer your cadence. “What grabs my attention and makes me want a story in our anthologies is the prose itself,” stated Pajak’s company partner, R.E. Sargent. “When it is extremely well written and has almost a poetic flow to it, it immediately catches my attention. Then as long as it meets theme and isn’t full of plot holes, or doesn’t fall on its face at the end, it’s pretty much an instant ‘Hell yes’ from me.”