Publisher Interview – Jolly Horror Press: Jonathan Lambert
Jonathan Lambert is the founder and editor of Jolly Horror Press, and has been known to pen a horror story or two himself. His third anthology Accursed will be released December 10th, and if you love stories that mix comedy and horror, this compilation has dark scary moments featuring cursed items. Each story may lead you down some dark alleys, but then surprise you with some laugh-out-loud moments. I contributed a story to this anthology and was impressed with the time and attention Lambert paid to his edits and revisions. I can’t wait to read the entire book. In the meantime, I had some questions for him about the indie anthology business and his role as a publisher.
AF: What do you do as a day job?
JL: Interesting question. Truth be told, I like to keep my day job separate from my role as publisher at Jolly Horror Press, and even my writing. In my experience, people sometimes begin to act odd or different once they find out a coworker writes or publishes horror. God forbid the little old lady a few offices away grabs one of our books and starts reading about incubi and witch orgies, or some other risqué story in one of these anthologies. She’d never look at me the same, or she’ll never leave me alone. LOL. So, I’d rather avoid that all together If I can.
I’ll tell you a little though. I’m a senior executive at a US Federal Government agency. I lead a very large program (~2.5 billion dollars) to modernize aging computer systems over the next ten years. I work in Downtown DC near all the monuments and museums and I have a 2.5 hour commute each way, every day. That doesn’t leave me a lot of time for the publishing and writing business. That’s what the weekends are for.
AF: What motivated you to start up your small press?
JL: The genre I write is horror/comedy. Short stories. The long days I put in at the office aren’t very conducive to writing longer works at this time (maybe something I’ll do when I retire.) For many years I would submit these stories to other anthologies. I had a good bit of success, yet horror/comedy stories are difficult to place. Most anthologies want pure horror. I also sold a lot of stories for peanuts. I think 3 dollars for a 5,000-word story was the lowest. I also noticed how so many publications no longer pay at all. They pay through ‘exposure’ but if they aren’t well marketed, the exposure is limited.
After a few years of experience selling short stories to anthologies, I just decided that I could do a better job. Provide better customer service, and be more author friendly. I could also create a press that is dedicated to horror/comedy. Finally, these stories could have a home. I just needed the name, and one day Jolly Horror Press just popped in my head. The rest is history.
AF: How long have you been publishing and how many anthologies have you produced?
JL: I started Jolly Horror Press about two years ago. Purchased the domain name, developed the website myself, got some legal advice, had a logo created, and put out the call for our first anthology, “Don’t Cry to Mama.”
While the stories were coming in, I decided to put out a collection of my own work, all horror/comedy short stories, called “Betwixt the Dark & Light”, as all the exclusive rights had expired.
“Don’t Cry to Mama” came shortly after. We got a great response. Some really great stories. It was supposed to be horror/comedy, but we’ve found that not many people actually WRITE horror/comedy either. So for now, we accept both. However, funny horror stories will always be the ones we accept first. And in one of our next anthologies, “Coffin Blossoms,” we’ll only accept horror/comedy. Might be a great story but if it doesn’t make us chuckle…
Before that though, we will release our third anthology, “Accursed,” in December. It’s an anthology where each story is about some kind of cursed item. Again, both pure horror and horror/comedy.
I’m trolling the alphabet. “Accursed”; “Betwixt the Dark & Light”; “Coffin Blossoms”; “Don’t Cry to Mama”. Not sure what the one after that will be called, but you can bet it will start with an “E”.
AF: Is there any profit margin?
JL: For now, no. An anthology generally consists of 20-25 stories. We usually pay $25 per story. That amount is the minimum sale price to qualify for Horror Writer’s Association membership. We thought that was a good thing to do for authors. If we purchase 25 stories at 25 dollars, that’s a cost of $625. Throw in a cover for minimum $200, and a marketing budget ($500), and costs for supplemental editing and other things, it easily costs about $1,500 minimum to make an anthology. And we do our own editing and formatting or it would cost even more.
We generally price our print books for $12.99. Amazon takes 40% of that, leaving $7.79. But then, they subtract the print price of the book (depends on number of pages, mainly). Jolly Horror Press books have a particular style and format that I really value. I could make the print price cheaper by using smaller fonts and cramming things together, but this is a labor of love. I won’t sacrifice quality for profit. So, from the $7.79, they subtract the print cost which for “Don’t Cry to Mama” was about $4.98. This leaves an actual profit of $2.81 per sale.
Ebooks are about the same. If we price them at $3.99, Amazon takes a 30% royalty leaving $2.79 as profit.
So, we need to sell around 600 copies to come close to breaking even. We are getting close with “Don’t Cry to Mama” but haven’t quite reached it yet.
Marketing costs soon have diminishing returns. After a few months, sales begin to drop off. They pick up again when a new anthology is released though. So, in the long run, who knows?
I used the words “Labor of Love” earlier, and that’s true. I don’t care if our books are profitable. I’d love it, of course, but it’s not going to stop us from producing quality anthologies. I do have that day job, you know?
AF: What are your plans for your press in the future?
JL: I’d like to keep going until we have 10 or 15 anthologies out there, and then turn Jolly Horror into movie production company. You know how you watch a horror movie and see “Blumhouse Productions” or “Ghost House Pictures” in the beginning credits? Well, with any luck, one day you’ll see “Jolly Horror Productions” at the beginning of a horror/comedy movie
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Angelique Fawns writes horror, fantasy, kids short stories, and freelance journalism. Her day job is producing promos and after hours she takes care of her farm full of goats, horses, chickens, and her family. She has no idea how she finds time to write. She currently has stories in Ellery Queen, DreamForge Anvil, and Third Flatiron’s Gotta Wear Eclipse Glasses. You can follow her work and get writing tips and submission hints at http://fawns.ca/.