Today, I am talking with Joe Mynhardt, owner of Crystal Lake Publishing, Crystal Lake is a small press operating in South Africa and specializes in horror and dark short fiction and anthologies. And now, on with the questions.
Do you think books encompassing different genres have helped or hindered the industry?
That’s a catch 22 situation.
On one hand, anything that gets more people writing and reading is great. With so many online outlets (Amazon, Createspace, Smashwords etc.), writers don’t have to worry so much about where their book should be on a bookstore shelf. Bookstores invented names for the genres, not writers. We write stories, and sometimes those stories want to go wherever they need to go. I can’t tell my imagination, “Sorry, but we’re not allowed to go in that direction.”
But then you have to keep marketing in mind when you write a book. You need to know who your target readers are. So sometimes you have to pull your characters back a bit and keep the ending as well as the genre in mind. When a reader looks at a cover, they should know immediately what waits for them inside.
I’d say stick to one genre in general, because you will let your readers down if you don’t, but nothing stops you from adding romantic subplots, fantasy worlds or a funny character. Your horror book will be so much better for it if you do.
Otherwise, write different genres under a pseudonym. I write and read horror and thriller stories, or just plain weird and dark, but there’s always room a bit of romance, comedy and so on. I’m actually working with an author on an erotic horror novella for 2014, with a lot of twisted humor in there for extra fun.
Do you prefer writing and publishing short stories, novellas or novels?
For now I prefer short stories and novellas. I’m not able to fully represent a novel yet. I can’t offer authors an advance or the massive advertising budget a novel requires. This company is still young, so I’m sure we’ll get there some day.
I also read more short stories as well, since they’re just what someone with a little bit of time in need of entertainment looks for.
To be a writer you need to be a reader. Do you agree?
Definitely. There’s no way around this. Unless of course you’re writing screenplays, but even then it’s always wise to know what’s being written and read throughout the world.
I always find it funny when someone says they want to be a writer, but they don’t like reading. If you love something, you’d better love all of it.
What made you decide to get involved with this side of the business?
I just love working with other writers. It’s one of the best perks of being more than just a writer.
Also, sport injuries hinder me from sitting hours and hours behind a computer, so it’s pretty cool that I can now work according to my own schedule; although it’s still pretty hectic.
Plus, my main goal in life is to create, whether it’s a book written solely by me, or an idea that becomes a great book, like the two anthologies I’ve published this year.
I can’t begin to describe the amazing stories I’ve read and edited so far. It’s pretty awesome to be able to read top notch stories months before the world gets to see it – to be part of such an amazing process with other writers. Writing tends to get lonely, but compiling an anthology or working with an author and the cover artists is pretty damn cool.
I just love being involved and helping authors along their career paths. If I can help an author reach more readers or even just make them a bit more money, I’m a happy man.
You are a writer, publisher and editor, three very different hats. Which one fits you best?
I’d have to say publisher. I’ll never stop writing my own stories, but there’s just no greater reward than working with others. I’m a pretty good editor. I still have lot to learn and experience to gain, but I have a very sharp eye when it comes to mistakes.
With the publishing, I’m a lot more driven and fulfilled. I do my best to promote their work, or push them to become better writers by teaming them up with other writers.
The authors tend to push themselves when they share a TOC such other big-name authors, focusing on their strengths and improving their weaknesses. That’s another reason why I love anthologies so much, it introduces readers to other writers they might enjoy.
Why do you think what you do matters?
Well, stories are a written history of the times the writer lived in. And if we can entertain, scare or help a reader forget about the daily grind for a while, then we’re all psyched.
It matters because it fulfills our lives like nothing else can.
Don’t tell anyone, but I think I was quite unhappy before becoming a writer, and I’m even happier now that I run Crystal Lake Publishing.
Crystal Lake Publishing started in August 2012, and has gone on to launch quite a few books since then. Was the response to Crystal Lake just positive straight from the start?
Definitely. I think it was a combination of timing and knowing the right people. I published my own book (Lost in the Dark) first, just as a tester to sort out any kinks before taking on other authors. I’d rather screw up my own book, and then learn from my mistakes. It was quite the learning curve.
I chatted with Ben Baldwin about doing a cover, who I met through a project with my friends over at Dark Minds Press. I commissioned Ben to make the cover of my book and the next book, which would be an anthology.
I played it smart, and only started filling the TOC once I could show the authors the cover. Authors love nice covers. I then posted the cover on Facebook and continued to invite authors, adding them onto the ever-growing TOC, right there on Facebook where everyone could see it. I quickly received messages from authors I actually wanted to invite anyway, asking if I’d consider their work. I couldn’t stop smiling.
After For the Night is Dark, I contacted Daniel I. Russell about doing a collection of his own. And things just picked up from there. I knew that, although it came down to quality, I had to put in the hours and really push to get a few titles out within the first year or so. Nobody takes a publisher with only two titles very serious.
So I spent a lot of time studying the market and learning more and more about publishing and marketing (still busy), but it’s a combination of a lot of strategies, contacts and effort that helped launch this company.
Why should people read Crystal Lake’s work?
Straight answer, because I enjoy reading every story I’ve published. I’m a horror fan, but mostly a fan of stories. Whether the story comes in the form of a book, comic, movie, series, play or even a song doesn’t matter. So I write and therefor publish what I would like to read. I’m not naïve enough to believe there are no people out there like me. Lots of people enjoy the same stories I do, and the better I become at the craft of writing and editing, the better I can bring all these stories to life.
I’m actually just happy just to see people reading more. I don’t shy away from promoting other indie publishers or great authors, no matter where they’re published. A lot of my best friends are publishers.
Any advice for budding horror and dark fiction writers?
There are so many things to say, but I’ll give you a quick run-through:
-Join and participate on a forum.
-Read non-fiction horror books, especially about marketing. You’ll need it eventually.
-Always be open and ready for opportunities.
-Have confidence in yourself. Every small step becomes part of the bigger journey.
-Have a story or two on standby at all times.
-Write every day, even if it’s only 10 minutes.
-Learn how to edit your own work.
-Be as visible as possible on the internet.
-Be professional in everything you say and do. Growing a tough skin goes a long way in not
acting like an emotional rollercoaster on social media.
-Help others as much as you can, even if you just share or retweet their stuff. Celebrate
their successes with them, and don’t be jealous.
-Eat, breathe and sleep stories, but take time to rest. Writer’s fatigue is no joke.
-Take some time to just sit and think about creative things to do, whether they’re story or
-Don’t listen to negative thoughts. You’ll have off days where you’ll just have to ignore
-Take care of your body, especially your back and wrists. Being an author is not a race, but
a marathon that never ends.
Do you think it’s fair that some publishers are selling collections and anthologies, but aren’t offering writers any advances or royalties?
It’s definitely not fair for one person to make money off a book that many worked on. When I started writing, I submitted to a lot of for-the-love anthologies, which is fine for a beginning writer, since you won’t be up against the established writers. I mean, you have to start somewhere to build up a CV and learn about the industry.
But the authors I work with, the ones that do this for a living or are attempting to write full time, they need to balance their time with possible income – time is indeed money in this industry. And I don’t even pay nearly enough when it comes to anthologies, but I’m working towards it.
I give 45% royalties to short story collections and novella authors, which is a lot more than they’d get from other publishers. And I pay it with a smile. Seeing them make money and advance in their careers is more rewarding than making money for myself. In any case, all the money I make go right back into the company. For me it’s all about building the company, which will in the end be very beneficial to the authors and horror lovers across the globe.