After dinner, we went home and I sat at my computer (which died while working on the revision of the trilogy) and began to study self-publishing. It was during my research I came across Coscom Entertainment and read up on the publishing house. Like Permuted Press, they were closed to submissions. As a small publisher, it seemed evident that it was doing well and I found that encouraging.
Six months later, As The World Dies: The First Days was released and began to rack up the sales. I was surprised to receive an email from A.P. Fuchs, the owner of Coscom Entertainment, giving me some very good and solid advice. I was impressed that he reached out to me. I was greatly encouraged by his gesture.
Upon reflection, the last year has been an amazing learning experience. My views on the publishing world in all its forms has wildly swung back and forth over the months as I have struggled to find my own niche and determine what is the best route for my future. For a period of time, Coscom Entertainment's example inspired me to consider starting my own imprint.
I'm very happy to present an interview with A.P. Fuchs of Coscom Entertainment today. Though his publishing house is closed to submissions, I think he has some thought-provoking advice on writing and publishing that I'd like to share.
Rhiannon: A.P., tell me a little about the background of Coscom Entertainment.
A.P.: I'll give you the short version, but a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .
I started writing short stories in June of 2000 because my original aspirations to be a comic book artist didn't pan out. My plan was to write 5 or 6 short stories, all parts to a whole, and release it somehow as a serial. The story began changing shape a bit as I wrote it and it became the prologue to my first novel, A Stranger Dead. Once A Stranger Dead was done, I set about the task of finding a publisher. Being completely naive about the industry, I ended up getting suckered in to a deal with a vanity press called 1st Books Library (now Author House). The whole procedure going from manuscript to actual book was a nightmare, took a long time and cost A LOT of money. Awful. Being soured by 1st Books, I went to Iuniverse for my second book, a poetry collection called The Hand I've Been Dealt. Working with IU was way smoother, but still a vanity outfit nonetheless.
Ironically, out of the above two experiences, I fell in love with the book publishing process and since part of my original goal of being a comic book artist was to one day release my own stuff under my own label ala Image Comics, I decided to officially launch the company I created in high school called Coscom, but since I was doing books and possibly comics, I went with Coscom Entertainment.
Rhiannon: What exactly does Coscom mean?
A.P.: Cos = Cosmic, Com = Comics. That's how I got the name way back in high school.
Rhiannon: A lot of starting out writers always aim for the big NYC publishing houses. You own a small press. What is the main difference between the big houses and small ones?
A.P.: Besides small ones being more fun?
Well, I can't really say that seeing as how--though I've had brushes with publishing folks in NYC--I've never published with one.
In all seriousness--and based solely on what I've heard from those who've published with large presses--the small press typically allows the author more creative control and input into the final product, a MUCH faster turn-around in turning manuscripts to actual books and getting them to market, and more freedom in terms of what you can publish (i.e. you can explore themes that a large house might not want to for fear of "offending the masses.")
Rhiannon: You don't accept query letters and work with your inhouse authors and artists. You do invite authors to work on certain projects. What can an author do to catch your attention?
A.P.: Right now my choice to not accept queries is solely based on my present workload being massive and to deal with submissions on a regular basis on top of all that is not feasable at this time.
To catch my attention, I might approach you if I've, say, read a short story of yours somewhere and really liked it. I might ask you if you're working on something longer and/or novel-length.
To be honest, it's kind of hard right now to get me open to looking at something of yours--again, due to time constraints. I have a lot on the go right now.
Rhiannon: How do you discover new talent?
A.P. :See above.
Otherwise it's via the usual way of getting a query, liking what I read, then asking for the first three chapters and going from there.
Rhiannon: You work with the extremely prolific Eric S. Brown He is famous for being able to turn out manuscripts very quickly. Is this a trait you look for in your authors?
A.P.: To a point, in that if it's going to take you a year to write a book, I don't want to wait for it. The thing with publishing is that it's very much a business of timing and striking certain markets--in our case within the monster and superhero genres--when that particular market is hot. In a year from now when you finally turn in your book, that market might be done or could have died down. You'll be unhappy and I'll be unhappy. No one wins.
I like writers to be able to crank out a quality book in three months or less. That's how long it takes me and I just don't get writers taking a year or two to write a book (unless it involves a silly amount of research, of course). To me, that means they're not writing every day and, if they are, they're only typing up a couple hundred words or something. I mean, that's not even enough to get some momentum going in a story never mind actually completing one.
Rhiannon: Coscom Entertainment publishes superhero and monster stories. Why did you settle on these two genres?
A.P.: These are the two base genres I'm personally a fan of. If I'm going to sink time and money into this business, I want to be able to love what I'm producing as well.
Rhiannon: Which one has been the most successful?
A.P. : Monsters. Easy.
But that market is kind of an exception market in that it's a niche, one were you can come in with new stuff all the time and find an audience.
With superheroes, bringing new stuff into a realm where Batman and Spider-man dominate, that's much harder. However, I'm proud to have brought not just my own creation, Axiom-man, to market, but also Frank Dircherl's The Wraith and Jon Klement's Rush and the Grey Fox (now Velocity Girl and Xuàn Hú) along the way.
Rhiannon: Coscom Entertainment has recently started carving out a niche for itself in the revisioning of classic novels. What inspired you to go in this direction?
A.P.: I was originally going to bring Axiom-man and Dracula together sometime in 2008, but got busy with other projects. So this year is the year Coscom Entertainment is putting many mash-up books out to make up for lost time.
Rhiannon: How have the mashups been accepted as a whole?
A.P.: People love it. Some think it's funny, others cool. Only a few think it's stupid. Personally, I stand behind them. As long as there are cool ways to twist an old tale and you have license to do so, hey, why not? It's about the story and these are fun stories.
Rhiannon: I hear you are writing a mashup with Dracula. What can you tell us about that novel?
A.P.: It's called Dracula vs Zombula and I'm writing the story of Bill Vanhelsing, Abraham's drunken brother who's a zombie killer. His quest leads him to Zombula, the real ruler of the undead, the first to rise from the grave.
Rhiannon: You are a publisher and a writer. How do you manage to do both?
A.P.: By not sleeping.
Actually, I'm fortunate to do this full time so it's merely an issue of budgeting my time accordingly, giving X-amount of hours to publishing others then making X-amount of hours available for my own work.
Rhiannon: How does one job affect the other?
A.P.: The publishing part puts pressure on me as a writer in terms of being sure to put out good work that, on the whole, people dig. As much as any writer wants to be loved by all, that's just not possible because you can't please everybody. However, if you win over 7 or 8 out of 10 people, you're on the right track. The idea here is it would be a shame if a crappy writer was publishing others.
Fortunately, most people like what I'm doing. I get fan mail now and then so that must mean something.
Rhiannon: As a publisher, what is your number one piece of advice for a fledgling writer?
A.P.: Follow the guidelines. I'm huge on this. If you follow the guidelines to the letter, it shows you take this stuff seriously, in turn opening up the publisher or editor to want to work with you.
I mean, would you want to work with someone who can't follow a few simple instructions? I don't.
Rhiannon: As a writer what is your number one piece of advice for a fledging writer?
A.P.: Don't stop. Write at least 5-6 days a week. Write a lot and read a lot. It's common advice but one many writers don't adhere to. A lot of people like to talk about that book or story they're gonna write and never get past the idea stage. I've encountered way too many artists and writers who are dreamers and never doers. It's always a case of "one day, one day, after I fill-in-the-blank."
In short, three words: get it done.
Then go from there.
Rhiannon: What is the most common mistake you see among starting out writers?
A.P.: Dreaming too big. Let me clarify: I'm all about dreaming large and going the distance. Coscom Entertainment is built on that. I've eaten so much garbage from friends, family and folks in the business about how I personally went about getting my stories out there. If I listed the opposition I've faced, I could easily publish a full-length book on it.
Back on point, many starting-out writers dream about being the next James Patterson or Stephen King. They want the giant mass market deal with a NY house, a six-figure-plus advance, tons of press, praise from reviewers, the movie option and the fame. They start with that goal and even sometimes think themselves worthy of that goal, and that's fine. Shoot high.
But then it doesn't happen.
And they get discouraged. And bitter. And angry.
Let's face it, those movie-star-like deals happen to newcomers once in a blue moon, which is why such deals do make the media. They're rare. Very rare. Most writers hold down either a full- or partime day job to make endsmeet.
So what I would suggest for starting-out writers is to take a pragmatic approach to the business and understand that, yes, those dream-like scenarios do happen, but also accept they are few and far between and for them to just follow the old submission pattern of querying an agent(s). If that doesn't work--and assuming the agent(s) is passing not because of writing faults but just that they're not interested--then shoot for the mid-range presses. If that doesn't work, go small press. If that doesn't work, then look at POSSIBLY self-publishing (but doing it right, not going with a vanity outfit).
Rhiannon: You're very open about your faith as a Christian. How does this affect your writing and your publishing house?
A.P.: Obviously I can't put out any ol' thing I want, whether it's my work or someone else's. Many would view that as censorship or creatively stifling or whatnot. But the truth is, when a person objectively looks at anything Christ called sin, all those things, in the end, aren't good for you. Yet people get in a snit about it because, frankly, we as humans like stuff that isn't good for us.
I follow a few rules when writing or publishing others and so far it's worked out:
1) no cursing or blasphemy (and, really, stories don't need that stuff anyway; if a writer can't think of other words or notions better than four-letter curse words, they're not much of a writer to begin with)2) no graphic sex scenes3) no gore or blood and guts solely for the sake of gore or blood and guts4) same with gratuitous violence (if this serves the story, that's different and will be looked at)
Rhiannon: Would you say your horror novels are faith-based?
A.P.: More or less, though they're not preachy or anything. They just take place in a Judeo-Christian reality because that's the reality we live in and I try and make my stories as close to our world as possible, then asking, "If these fantastic elements came into our world--like superheroes or monsters--how would it most realistically play out?"
Rhiannon: Will horror fans from all backgrounds still enjoy them?
A.P.: I would hope so. It strikes me that readers--even people--in general have zero trouble with something told from, say, a Muslim point-of-view or Buddhist point-of-view or whatnot, but the moment something is told from a Christian point-of-view, suddenly they get upset.
Makes one wonder why that is. For me it just cements what Jesus said about His people being hated because of Him, but to also remember that He was hated first. It just attests to the fact that, yes indeed, we do live in a Christian reality.
Rhiannon: Tell us about your newest releases and what we can expect in the future.
A.P.: For my own work, I got the following coming up hopefully before June/July 2010:
1) Zombie Fight Night2) Possession of the Dead (Undead World Trilogy, Book Two)3) Dracula vs Zombula4) Axiom-man: City of Ruin
As for Coscom Entertainment, I'm aiming for the following before year's end:
1) Emma and the Werewolves by Jane Austen and Adam Rann2) Blood Hunger by A.M. Esmonde3) Praise the Dead by Gina Ranalli4) R.I.P. by Harrison Howe5) possibly one or two more
Thanks for the chat, Rhiannon. I had fun.
A.P. Fuchs can be contacted via his personal site at www.axiom-man.com or through Coscom Entertainment at www.coscomentertainment.com. Be sure to also check out his zombie trilogy, Undead World, at www.undeadworldtrilogy.com
Also check out Eric S. Brown's books from Coscom Entertainment, The War of the Worlds Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies and World War of the Dead. You can read my interview with Eric S. Brown here.