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Interview with Night Shade Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Lassen

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Interview with Night Shade Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Lassen

I've been pretty open about my praise for the 2011 Night Shade line-up of debut authors. Having positively reviewed The Whitefire Crossing, Seed, The Emperor's Knife, Necropolis, God's War, and Infidel, I was interested in finding out what Night Shade's plan of action was with all these tremendous new authors. Night Shade Books Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Lassen was kind enough to trade e-mails with me to talk about their New Voices Program, last year's royalties controversy, 2012 debuts, and some great news about their web presence. Hope you enjoy!

Justin: What prompted me to ask for this interview was a comment Mazarkis Williams made on Twitter about the Night Shade New Voices Program. I had no idea that Night Shade had gone so far as to actually institute a 'program'. First off, what is the New Voices Program?

Jeremy: The program will consist of a branded landing sight on our web site that spotlights upcoming releases from this new generation of writers. The Night Bazaar group blog is one component of this... a regular revolving conversation amongst our authors.

Our print advertising will feature our "New Voices" Branding with links and promotions that tie back into our New Voices web site.

There will be promotoins and giveaways (full books, and exceprts) that group these authors together, so that people get a sense that something bigger is happening, then "Just One New Book" that got some good reviews, or awards or critical accliam.

Brad Beaulieu's The Winds of Khalakovo IS related to Mazarkis Williams' The Emperor's Knife (review), which is related to Courtney Schafer's White Fire Crossing (review), which is related to Teresa Frohock's Miserere... These are all examples of what we think Fantasy Fiction can and should aspire to in the 21st century.

Likewise, Paolo's The Windup Girl is related to Will Macintosh's Soft Apocolpyse, which is related Revolution World by Katy Stauber, which is related to Rob Ziegler's Seed (review). These are Night Shade's vision of what Science fiction can be in the 21st century -- painful, and painfully relevant.

New Voices exists to draw a circle around, and bring attention to this exciting new generation of writers. It is going to exist in print, online, and will be central to Night Shade's branding, marketing and publicity going forward.

Justin: What prompted creating the New Voices program? What are you trying to accomplish?

Jeremy: Our New Voices program came about because we wanted to highlight the new direction that Night Shade is going in, editorially. We have 15 first novels coming out in 2011. We realized that a lot of people have a fixed image of what Night Shade is, and what kind of books we do, and many people just didn't realize the kind of focus and commitment we were making to new writers. The New Voices program is meant to let people know about our new writers, and how this is part of an overall editorial strategy.

Justin: One of the things I'm most impressed about is that none of the 2011 Night Shade debuts sound like anyone else. All of them (that I've read) have felt not just new, but unique. Has it been part of the 'mission' to steer clear of the thief/assassin, western medieval, and space-opera tropes that are so prevalent genre wide?

Jeremy: It's about good writing, first and foremost. The second thing we always ask is "Is it something that WE can market, and find an audience for?" Since we are a smaller company, with our marketing and publicity resources basically customized for each book, we don't have to have every book be a round peg that fits into the predefined round marketing whole. So when we answer that second question, we often are able to say yes to books that might not get a yes at a larger publishing company.

Justin: Are you looking to create a stable of authors to build Night Shade around? Or do you anticipate continuing moving forward with the New Voice concept as a niche?

Jeremy: We feel that our new voices will grow into, and become the mainstream, over time. We've made many multi book commitments, and are dedicated to building up a new generation of writers. The Giants of tomorrow, whomever they end up being are the first novelist of today. We're committed to trying to find tomorrow’s giants. That’s really what our new voices program is all about.

Justin: In looking over the Night Shade catalog it seems prior to The Windup Girl you were bringing a lot of known authors' work to market combined with lots of anthologies. Was Windup Girl as seminal a moment for Night Shade as it appears to us on the outside? Is that sort of when things started to change?

Jeremy: We had done SOME first novels prior to the publication of The Windup Girl, and in a couple of cases, we had some success. But in this industry, success builds upon success. We worked really hard to get Windup Girl out there. We pressed our sales reps and buyers at the chains to really support that one. When they were rewarded for the risks they took on our behalf, we were able to point to that past success and say "we know how to promote first novels... so you should get behind our books." Basically, we leveraged that success into more support from buyers and chains... The same goes for reviewers, and blog coverage and everything else. A whole lot of people are paying attention now – post Windup Girl – that weren't paying attention before. This type of expectation is what we want to build on. That we ARE the place to look for new and exciting authors.

Justin: Last year there was quite a bit of negative skuttlebutt about Night Shade in reference to some missing royalty payments. It led to you being put on probation by the Science Fiction Writers of America. I just wanted to give you an opportunity to comment on it now that the probation is, or will soon be, lifted.

Jeremy: Most of our problems were the result of growing too fast, and not having the organizational infrastructure to communicate to people quickly and clearly. Unsurprisingly, a few of our authors were upset by the state of things, and went public with their frustrations. When this happened, we went straight to SFWA, and brought them into the discussions we were having with some of those authors. We've been working very closely with SFWA, to show both SFWA, as well as our current and past authors the kinds of organizational changes we've made so that royalties and communication happens in a timely manner. All current royalties are being paid on time, and royalty statements are going out on time, etc.

Last I heard, SFWA was going to be taking us off probation in the wake of the last royalty period, but I don't want to speak for them... I understand it requires a full vote of the board, and not just a decision by the officers, so clearly they have an organizational process that needs to happen.

Justin: That's great news. For what it's worth, I hear the new crop of Night Shade authors singing your praises. We've talked a lot about the New Voice program, so here's your chance - who are the debut authors in 2012 that we should be getting excited about?

Jeremy: We've got a new space opera in January called Faith, by John Love. It's a bit different from your average space opera, and I think it’s going to definitely turn some heads.

In February, We've got a second novel coming from Will Macintosh that I'm very excited about. Will's short fiction was always very diverse and challenging, and his debut, Soft Apocalypse was stunning, but I'm happy that his new one, Hitchers will demonstrate his range. It's not simply "Soft Apocalypse 2".

February also has a novel called Enormity by W. G. Marshall that I'm very excited bout. It's a very funny/ironic near future adventure story.

And in March we have an Alternate History /ancient Greece steam punk adventure novel called The Pillars of Hercules by David Constantine that is a perfect example of one of those books that there's not exactly a defined marketing category for it, but its damn fun.

Justin: Awesome. I'm already penning my 2012 schedule (I just received the eARC for Faith)! Any plans on adding a FORTHCOMING section to the website? Avid readers and bloggers want to know!

Jeremy: We are in the process of redesigning our website, and a forthcoming section is definitely a category we should have. I'll make a note. :) In addition to this feature, we will be integrating the Night Bazaar group author blog into our site, instead of it being a separate stand alone site, and we will be announcing a very exciting new original web-fiction project as part of this redesign.

Justin: Jeremy, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Congratulations on a great 2011 line-up, I've very much enjoyed everything I've read. Good luck in 2012!

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At October 20, 2011 at 9:07 AM , Blogger Paul Weimer said...

Alternate History /ancient Greece steam punk adventure novel called The Pillars of Hercules

Oh, I would be all over THAT!

At October 20, 2011 at 9:45 AM , Blogger Qwill said...

Excellent interview. Night Shade Books has rapidly become one of my favorite publishers.

At October 20, 2011 at 12:08 PM , Blogger Justin said...

@Paul I know right? I mean just the title alone has me piqued.

At October 21, 2011 at 9:08 AM , Blogger demzer said...

Great interview.


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