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Today I'm giving the editor of "One Star Review of the Afterlife", Giovanni Valentino, Editor in Chief of Strange Musings Press, an interview! (I have a story in that compilation...very good story, that)...Yeah! Whoop! Yeah! (cough)... so let's get right on to it! Yeah!...
First question. The name. Why One Star Review? Why the Afterlife?
The title “One Star Reviews of the Afterlife” came from a crazy comment I made during a dinner party. For some reason, one of my guests felt the need to cross that line of discussing ‘money, politics or religion’ in mixed company. Said guest made the mistake of taking a strong stance against organized religion to defend their choice of being an atheist and it was really bringing the party down. I tried to steer the conversation back to something lighter but they wanted to dig in. After a minute long diatribe about people betting so much on an afterlife they had no proof of, I said, “Too bad they don’t have an app for that. Like Yelp! For the hereafter! That would be the best selling app ever.” Everyone laughed and the discussion turned to just what kinds of afterlives might get a one star review. From there, a theme was born. FYI, about almost all of the ideas from the party were submitted by someone.
Second question. How did Strange Musings Press come into being?
Strange Musings Press came into being as a dream reinvigorated. I published Alternate Hilarities as a fan zine in the 90s, more about that later, but stopped because the cost of publishing back in the day was too high and the quality you would get was too low. And you couldn’t get small print runs either. I would have to order at least 1000 copies of any one issue to get time on the schedule with the printers and I didn’t need anywhere near that many.
Fast forward to 2012 and an author friend of mine had just gotten back the rights to two of her novels because her small press publisher had gone under. She asked me to look into the cost and efforts of getting those books back into print via self-publishing and I was surprise to see how easy it was now a days to get your own work to market if you just had some computer savvy. Having mad skills in Microsoft office, I could do a lot of the work myself and I had a few good contacts that could help me with the rest.
My friend got her books back into print with a different small press but I’d been bitten by the publishing bug again. So I started Strange Musings Press and for much less money and at a higher level of quality, I brought Alternate Hilarities back from the dead.
Third question. This compilation is the fifth ‘Alternate Hilarities’. What is the history of the series and has it changed since its beginnings?
Like I said, Alternate Hilarities was originally a fanzine I produced during the nineties. (see attached cover art) At the time, humorous speculative fiction was rare and it was hard to sell without a big author name behind it. I couldn’t make any headway with the big magazines of the time but I started getting things in print after someone introduced me to the small press. Small presses of the day were offset print magazines produced by fans of the genres, hence the term fan-zine. They didn’t pay well, or at all sometimes, but you frequently got contributor’s copies of the issue you were in and mild bragging rights. After receiving a few contributor’s copies, I realized I had the skill sets to do better. I produced 6 issues and it was fun. I ran my stories along with many other great ones. In the end the cost of producing each issue got too high to justify continuing this fun project and for the sake of domestic tranquility, I put it to bed.
In this new digital age, a lot of the costs have changed. Since I can format the files in Word, the eBook’s cost is just my labor and with print on demand, I don’t have to shell out big bucks to do a full print run for a print edition and fill my basement with boxes of my ego.
As for the modern incarnation of Alternate Hilarities, you’ll notice the first edition doesn’t have a subtitle or theme. I just took any humorous speculative fiction that came my way, horror, fantasy and science fiction. It worked out fine but I felt the anthology was a little disjointed, so I started with the themes. I was never brave enough to try a themed issue in the old days because I never got enough submissions to even try. I got a little braver after getting over one hundred and twenty submissions for Alternate Hilarities one. My first attempt at a theme, Vampires Suck, was a little rough because it was a little too narrow. I only got seventy submissions for that one. That’s why the next two were more open, Hysterical Realms being just fantasy and Weirder Science is just sci-fi. I took a chance on One Star Reviews of the Afterlife. It’s narrower than my original idea of paranormal stories but the Afterlife has a lot of range to it like Heaven, Hell, Ghosts, and I even threw in a few undead ones.
Fourth question. Will Strange Musings Press move into other areas, such as novels or other types of compilations?
The original plan was to do a few different anthology series. We had another one called Romantic Ruckus. It was a parody of the romance genre with the tag line of “An anthology of stories about Love gone wrong!” My friend Kara Leigh Miller was the editor of the series but she got busy with other projects and we never produced a second one. I’ve consider doing others but I keep hoping to find someone else to be the editor. Have you got any ideas?
I’d love to start taking submissions for full length novels but I don’t have the capital to do it right just yet. I can do a lot of the work of getting a book to market myself but I still need to budget for promotion, art work and I’m a terrible line editor. I’d hate to ruin someone else’s book because I wasn’t ready. It is a plan for the future. If the full length science fiction parody epic I’m working on now doesn’t find a home, I’ll make it the test case for the Strange Musings Press novel line.
Fifth question. What are your ‘pet peeves’ when it comes to editing?
I have a list a mile long but I’ll keep it to my top two to avoid sounding whiney.
My biggest pet peeve is people who submit without reading the guidelines. Stories that are too long or too short are irritations but stories that aren’t even trying to be funny or 5000 words of boring to setup a punchline just drive me nuts. It’s a humor anthology. The first thing your story needs to be is funny or at least trying to be funny. I might not get the joke but I can tell when you’re trying.
The second would be people that don’t provide a cover letter. It’s not a hard thing to do and it’s very important for your submission. Just introduce yourself with a quick bio, plug your story and give me something about your publication history, even if it is an honest admission like “I have no publications to date”. It seems simple but so many authors find it too daunting to promote themselves. A good cover letter sets the tone of your relationship with the editor and starts your submission off with a better chance. Here’s a link to a post I wrote about it,
Sixth question. Where do you think the publishing industry will be in five years? (for example, will self-publishing be banned?)
The publishing industry is changing. The digital age has made putting your work out for the world to see very easy. This has led to a huge rise in self-publishing and an explosion of new small presses. This is both a curse and a blessing. More authors have a chance to get their work out there. Works that might never have seen the light of day because it just didn’t fit in an one genre. Some of these are good and some are bad.
I doubt this new trend will ever be banned. A lot of people are making money on it like Amazon, Createspace and Smashwords. Still, I do foresee online retailers making things a little harder on the self-publisher sometime soon to weed out the chaff. I’m not sure how they’re going to do it but I’m ready to make sure I’m not left behind.
Seventh question. What’s your favorite color?My favorite color is red...
Thank you, Giovanni Valentino! And all the best for "One Star Reviews of the Afterlife"!
You can get it here...!
Giovanni Valentino - http://giovannivalentino.blogspot.com/
Strange Musings Press - http://www.strangemusingspress.com/p/main.html