Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Interview with Fuzzbom Publishing

I am thrilled to welcome to the blog today Ian Kezsbom and Deborah Pasachoff from Fuzzbom Publishing.  Ian and Deborah are the publishers of Fuzzbom and the driving force behind its speculative fiction anthologies, Journeys of Wonder.  Ian also writes wonderfully high-concept middle grade and speculative fiction, while Deborah is a meticulously detailed editor.  I have been completely thrilled with my experience with Fuzzbom as my short story "Lighting the Sacred Way" was included in the most recent JoW (volume 2), and thus wanted to learn more about how Fuzzbom started and what their future plans are.

Deborah and Ian are quite focused on producing quality books and bring a drive and energy to their work that is both professional and exciting.  The level of editing, the quality of the cover art, the attention to detail, and their drive to market and promote are just top-notch.  I hope you will enjoy the interview with the masterminds behind this up-and-coming publisher as much as I have!

Welcome Ian and Deborah!

         1)  How did the idea for starting Fuzzbom originate?
Ian: Deborah and I have always loved books. For the past years (and still currently), I have been focusing on traditionally publishing my books for children (primarily middle grade). During all this time I noticed two things occurring. One was the rise of digital publishing, which in turn helped independent publishing grow. The second was that it was getting harder and harder to sell short stories for any significant amount of money. I had a bunch of adult short stories I had been shopping around, sometimes being offered only $2 or less for them. I had a bunch of writing partners with the same issue, and we approached them about creating our own compilation (which became “Journeys of Wonder”). Originally it was just something we were doing for fun, but it soon became apparent that we had something more in our hands.

Deborah: Fuzzbom itself is the film company that Ian and some friends started before he and I met. We decided to use the same name for our publishing company so that someday when all our creative ventures are super profitable, we can easily have them all under one umbrella. But the idea for publishing started as just the anthologies; it was only after creating the first one that we started to consider doing other projects. The anthologies were Ian's idea...we know so many great authors shopping short stories around, and we felt like we could offer a more lucrative outlet than most of the traditional magazines. 

2) How did you go about forming your team?
Ian: As I stated above, I initially approached other writers I knew and trusted who also had short stories they wanted to try and sell (in this case it was Lisa Gail Green and Leslie S. Rose). It wasn’t long before we realized that, between the four of us (including my wife), we created a powerful editing team.

Deborah: Initially, we just went to some authors whose work we respected to see if they would want to contribute stories. Then it became a huge collaboration to get things edited to the point we were happy with. For volumes two and three (which we started working on at the same time), we reached out a little further to include friends and industry contacts.

3) What were the surprises you faced in publishing your first book?
Ian: There were a few. One of the big ones was how much work went into it. It’s not that we ever expected it to be easy, but it ended up being much more difficult and time-consuming (and rewarding) than we ever expected. From the editorial aspect of getting the stories just right, to the technical aspect of creating the physical ebook from scratch, we faced new and harder challenges every step of the way.
Another big surprise was how much support we found in the independent publishing community. There are so many people who aren’t writers/publishers helping us to promote our books, giving honest reviews, and even giving advice, that it’s been fun making new “online” friends.

Deborah: We knew that there would be a ton of work to do this the way we wanted to. I think Ian was a little surprised by just how much technical work he had to do to get the ebook created. We are just lucky that between the two of us we have a really diversified skill set. I think everything in this process takes longer than you expect it will, and that's the biggest surprise.

4) What are the challenges that a startup publisher faces in today's market and what are the advantages this changing market presents?
Ian: As with any startup in any business, one of the major challenges is getting recognition. This is especially hard in this new market. There are a lot of independently published books out there all competing for the same virtual space. Even though that space might be unlimited, it’s still a challenge getting your books to a place a reader might find them.

Deborah: There are so many opportunities in today's market for startup/indie publishers. But I think the biggest challenge is that everyone seems to view that as meaning that there are no costs of entry into the industry. That's a two-fold problem: the first is that people don't always take us seriously, and the second is that there is unfortunately a lot of bad stuff out there by indie "publishers" who don't even take the time to edit the work before making an ebook. We also have to compete with companies out there that just do ebook formatting, even though we think we have a lot more to offer than they do. On the flip side, it is so great to have access to low cost ways of publishing like ebooks and print on demand.

5) What do you think Fuzzbom has to offer to readers that isn't already available elsewhere?
Ian: We’re hoping that we can offer affordable independent books that have as much time and care put into them as any traditionally published book. We’re very selective in the stories we choose to work on, and once we select something we put a lot of time into giving it the care both it and the eventual reader deserve. While there are a lot of well-written independent books out there, we hope that the care we put into anything under the Fuzzbom brand will be able to stand out in an already crowded market.

Deborah: We are excited to introduce readers to some great new writers. A lot of folks seem to only want to publish someone who has already made a name for themselves. Or else people will publish anything they can. But we want to make high quality books that help writers and readers find each other. I don't think that's something that doesn't exist yet, but I do think it's something that isn't prevalent enough.

6) What are your future plans for Fuzzbom?
Ian: We have some novels and non-fiction works that we’re in the early stages of production on, as well as plans for other short story anthologies (in addition to the “Journeys of Wonder” line).

Deborah: We plan to keep producing anthologies through “Journeys of Wonder”...probably around three volumes a year. Eventually we will also be able to offer volumes with all the stories of a similar genre, etc. We are also already talking with some authors about totally different projects, both fiction and non-fiction. In short, we're busy!


Thank you so much Ian and Deborah for taking the time to share your experience with us!

For the blog readers -- you'll want to be sure to check out the Journeys of Wonder blog where Ian and Deborah post regularly on their experience as independent publishers.  I think you will find it quite interesting and informative.

You can also find names and links to the rest of Journeys of Wonder staff here, including Lisa Gail Green and Leslie S. Rose, both talented writers and readers of this blog.

If you have questions for Ian or Deborah, please feel free to post them in the comments.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

In Storytelling, POV is Everything

There are so many aspects of writing a story that are crucial to the success of reaching your reader, so as a follow-up to the post I did on Monday, In Storytelling, Emotion Trumps All, I thought I'd focus on another aspect that I also consider absolutely essential to telling a compelling story.

In storytelling, POV is EVERYTHING.

Think about it. Where else in life can you get into somebody else's head?

You can't do it in real life.  No matter how close you are to your husband or wife, no matter that you've loved and watched your child's every development since the moment of conception...you still cannot get inside their head to hear their thoughts and feel their emotions as if they were your own.

Even TV and film do not offer the deep POV which we can find inside the pages of a book.  Aside from a few voice-overs, most of what you see on the screen is watching characters from the outside...just like in real life...though the story may be so focused that we may come away with greater insights.

It is the unique opportunity presented by a story that allows the reader to fully enter into someone else's point of view, to feel their emotions, understand their beliefs, experience their fears, which makes novels forever appealing to readers.

I think getting into a POV that is not your own is one of the greatest exercises we participate in when becoming a writer.  If we as writers can truly immerse ourselves in the thoughts, beliefs, and fears of someone who is not "me," we can expand not only our own world view, but that of our readers as well.  Having just come off a brutal election, I think developing this ability to empathize and understand someone who is not ourselves is perhaps the greatest gift writers have to offer the world.

There is so much to say on developing the POV of your characters, but I'd like to offer two points here.  Choose a compelling POV(s) and then dive as deep into that head as you possibly can.

With each story I write, I try to work with a POV that provides unique insight to the story for the reader and an interesting challenge to me to write it.  A POV can be compelling because of the personality of the character or the conflict they are experiencing.  Whatever you do when choosing your POV, don't go for easy.

Then dive deeply into that head.  Try, as much as possible, to get out of your own world view and into the perception of how your character would experience the story.  Filter everything through the POV that you are in -- the setting, the other characters, the dialogue, and especially the conflict.  Make this POV so real and so compelling that your reader will feel as if he or she is truly inside someone else's head experiencing the world through their eyes.

Because what a powerful gift to the world that is.

Monday, November 5, 2012

In Storytelling, Emotion Trumps All

Last year, in honor of NaNoWriMo, I did a series of short posts, taken from Harry Potter, to encourage and inspire NoNo participants.  As I know writers are intent on keeping their focus on writing and don't have much time to read blog posts, I kept them short (for me) and (hopefully) sweet.

I'm late to the gate, but plan to repeat that this year, though it will probably be 2-3 times a week rather than every day.

For this first post, I thought I'd go write to the heart of the matter - emotion.  When I present my HP for Writers workshop, I usually start with the three things which I believe drove HP to the stratosphere of success: 1) lovable, quirky characters, 2) fantastically detailed, fun world building, and 3) an engaging series-spanning mystery.  However, what lies beneath and powers all of these is the emotional conflict Harry and his friends face in each book, and the emotional response their adventures and interactions arouse in the reader.

I've read a couple of articles recently warning writers not to let their words get in the way of telling a good story, and reminding us that our  largest audience is not other writers, but readers -- who have a different set of priorities than our writer friends.

I think for many of us who care deeply about craft, we can get so focused on crafting our words, that we forget to enthrall our reader with a deeply-felt emotional story.  To be honest, when we hear ourselves complaining about how this-or-that book made it onto a bestseller list, this is often the reason why.  That author may have not written with exquisite craft, but I guarantee you they had a storyteller's heart that elicited emotions in their reader.

Think back to your best-loved books, especially the ones from perhaps younger days that you dog-eared favorite passages.  Were those passages where the prose was luminescent, flowing like a river through the sublime subconscious?  Or did they rock with emotion?  Emotion that gripped you, made you hold your breath, or wish you were in those pages?

In looking back at my favorite Harry Potter book, Goblet of Fire, I'll share a passage with you that would be dog-eared if I still did that to a book. :-)

     A torrent of sound deafened and confused him; there were voices everywhere, footsteps, screams....He remained where he was, his face screwed up against the noise, as though it were a nightmare that would pass.... 
     Then a pair of hands seized him roughly and turned him over. 
     "Harry! Harry!" 
     He opened his eyes. 
     He was looking up at the starry sky, and Albus Dumbledore was crouched over him. ...
     Harry let go of the cup, but he clutched Cedric to him even more tightly. He raised his free hand and seized Dumbledore's wrist, while Dumbledore's face swam in and out of focus. 
     "He's back," Harry whispered. "He's back. Voldemort." 
     "What's going on? What's happened?" 
     The face of Cornelius Fudge appeared upside down over Harry; it looked white, appalled. 
     "My God - Diggory!" it whispered. "Dumbledore - he's dead!" 
     The words were repeated, the shadowy figures pressing in on them gasped it to those around them...and then others shouted it - screeched it - into the night - "He's dead!" "He's dead!" "Cedric Diggory! Dead!" 
     "Harry, let go of him," he heard Fudge's voice say, and he felt fingers trying to pry him from Cedric's limp body, but Harry wouldn't let him go. Then Dumbledore's face, which was still blurred and misted, came closer. 
     "Harry, you can't help him now. It's over. Let go." 
     "He wanted me to bring him back," Harry muttered - it seemed important to explain this. "He wanted me to bring him back to his parents...." 
     "That's right. Harry...just let go now...." 
     Dumbledore bent down, and with extraordinary strength for a man so old and thin, raised Harry from the ground and set -him on his feet. Harry swayed. ... Fudge was saying loudly. "He's ill, he's injured - Dumbledore, Diggory's parents, they're here, they're in the stands...." 
     "I'll take Harry, Dumbledore, I'll take him -" 
     "No, I would prefer-" 
     "Dumbledore, Amos Diggory's running...he's coming over....Don't you think you should tell him - before he sees - ?" 
     "Harry, stay here -" 
     Girls were screaming, sobbing hysterically....The scene flickered oddly before Harry's eyes.... 
The emotion of this scene, especially when I first read it as a young parent, was so deep and so real, it struck a chord with me.  I've analyzed part of why I think it worked on my post about the power of touch.  But there's such a complex web of emotions being woven into this scene: Harry's horror at witnessing the murder of Cedric and his vow to his spirit; Dumbledore's care and concern for the injured Harry; the news reaching Cedric's parents in the stands of the loss of their son (the worst horror of all); and the emotional reactions from Cedric's friends.

NaNoWriMo is the month in which we commit to starting and finishing a complete novel, in which we turn off our internal editor and just keep going.  It's an excellent time, therefore, to remind yourself to focus on the one thing that matters above all...the emotions of your characters and the story you are telling.

Happy writing!

Question: What would be the primary emotional response you would be seeking from your reader in the story you are currently writing?