Ginger Nuts of Horror
Crowded Quarantine Press have been going from strength to strength lately, with a string of quality releases this year leading up to Rich Hawkin’s BFS ‘best horror novel’ award nomination for ‘The Last Plague’.
We figured it was past time we sat down with head honcho Adam Millard to talk about the 21st-century publishing game...
GNoH: Hi Adam! Thanks for agreeing to chat with us. Let’s start at the beginning - when did you first decide to start up a publishing house, and what was your motivation for doing so?
AM: Thanks for having me. I guess it was back in 2010 when CQP was first conceived. Our goal was to put out one or two anthologies, but that quickly changed. By 2011 we were a limited company, and that was the moment we knew we were going to do it properly or not at all. We’d seen a lot of small presses fail and knew what we had to do to avoid going the same way. And here we are, five years later, and things are still looking up for us.
GNoH: I have to ask - where did the name Crowded Quarantine come from?
AM: The name, and logo - the biohazard symbol on a tin of sardines - came from our love of post-apocalyptic fiction. A crowded quarantine is possibly not a good sign. It means something pretty terrible has happened. Quarantines are usually associated with solitude, seclusion, being kept the hell away from others. A crowded one would mean that things are beyond isolating a problem, that there isn’t enough room for such luxuries. We thought it was a cool name, and so that was that.
GNoH: Without naming names (unless you want to!) what are some of those common mistakes you spotted amongst presses that ran into problems, and what steps did you take to avoid those pitfalls?
AM: Without naming names (you all know who I’m talking about) as a small press you need to know your limits. If you have no money, you have no right to be publishing. This is a very competitive market, and you’d better have the capital to back it up with. If you’re going to schedule fifty books for next year, you better have the money to promote each and every one of them. I’m not against Kickstarter or any other fundraising sites, but at some point you’re going to have to stand up and be counted, and if you’re not even paying with a contributor copy - physical not digital - then you ought to be ashamed of what you’re doing. Simple. I’m fortunate that I get to do this for a living; we rely on being paid promptly and without too much fuss. If you can’t handle that, get out of the game. It doesn’t want you, and neither do we.
GNoH: As a writer yourself, how have you managed the process of editing and publishing the work of other writers? How does being an author yourself help or hinder that process?
AM: I don’t think it’s a hindrance at all. In the beginning I worried people would take me seriously, since I had a very limited publication history, but I know a good story when I receive one. As a writer, I know that my work requires the attention of an editor, the same as anyone else’s, so I have no trouble editing for CQP. A second - and even third - pair of eyes is necessary to bring a manuscript up to scratch, so I don’t worry about making changes to an author’s work if it’s necessary.
GNoH: What other small and indie publishers do you really admire?
AM: I’m a huge fan of The Sinister Horror Company, who are putting out some great stuff at the moment. Fox Spirit are a great publisher, as are Rooster Republic Press/Strangehouse Books and Sinister Grin Press. I know how difficult it is to run a small press, and these guys are doing it right, unlike a lot of publishing start-ups whose business practices are questionable, to say the least.
GNoH: One thing I’ve noticed about the indie genre scene is that it seems very friendly, for the most part, among presses as well as authors. Do you find that, and if so, why do you think that’s the case?
AM: I have a lot of friends in the genre, in publishing, in writing, in doing what we do, and that’s amazing to me. I don’t leave the house unless I absolutely have to, so I’m not used to such camaraderie. It’s a beautiful thing. When I see I fall-out, it upsets me. We’re all in this together, and new or aspiring authors need to realise that there is no quick ladder to the top. I try to help as many people as I can, and I think that’s important. I wouldn’t be doing this now if it wasn’t for peer advice, and if I can offer upcoming authors something in the way of sage advice, let it be this: stick together. Other writers are your friends, not your enemies. Sure, others might succeed where you fail, but that should only serve as a poke, a reminder that you can be much better, that the elusive six-figure deal is around the corner (if you’re in it for that reason). Never give up.
GNoH: What is it that you thinks makes a book a ‘Crowded Quarantine’ book? What are the kinds of things you look for in a manuscript?
AM: I look for a great story, first and foremost. Originality is paramount. We receive so many generic zombie/vampire/ghost novels and novellas that it’s difficult to tell them apart. Write something which will stand out. Be daring. The only limitation is your own imagination, so why waste it on something that has its own Amazon category? I always get excited when we receive a truly inventive manuscript; it’s one of the reasons I formed CQP to begin with.
GNoH: So how many titles have Crowded Quarantine put out since you started in 2010?
AM: We’ve put out 30+ books in the past five years, and each of those has been a success, one way or the other. Anthologies tend to sell better in the long run, but Rich Hawkins’ BFS-Nominated The Last Plague has been a massive seller for the past two years. I see a lot of small presses opting for quantity over quality, and that is not what CQP is about. We have two books scheduled for next year, and if another great novel/novella comes along in the meantime, we’ll snap it up. We’ll still be around in 2020. I can guarantee you that much.
GNoH: Given self publishing has become a viable option for authors these days, what do you see as being the value you add for your authors, as a publisher?
AM: We try to put as much money as we can into advertising (SFX magazine/Scream/Lovecraft eZine). We’ve never received a negative reaction to a royalty report, which are always on time and to the penny. I get excited when I send an author a great quarterly report. It makes me happy to see others succeed. I think when a publisher picks you up, you need to check their back record, make sure they pay you what you’re due on time, and that they’re not going to fuck you over in the long run. Remember, you’re the one in charge. The publisher is simply an extension, and if they stop being useful, get rid of them at the next best opportunity.
GNoH: Looking back over the last 5 years of publishing, what do you think have been the biggest changes in the industry? And what have been your highlights as a publisher?
AM: Dinosaur porn became a thing, and people are making a good living from writing it. Good luck to them, I say. I’m happy that small presses such as ours are being taken seriously. We put out a product equal to that of the Big Six, and it’s great news for independent publishers that, if you do a good job and put the work in, people start to take notice. Our highlights of the last few years include putting out an anthology featuring the work of Graham Masterton, Lucy Taylor, Taylor Grant, and loads more (Of Devils and Deviants: An Anthology of Erotic Horror), which received a nice mention in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of The Year Volume 7. And Rich Hawkins being nominated for a British Fantasy Award for The Last Plague… that felt really good. We’re constantly trying to do better, and hope we can build on what we have established.
GNoH: You mentioned two books for 2016 - can you give us any more details? What else does the future have in store for CQ Publications?
AM: We will be releasing the final book in Rich Hawkins’ series, which is called The Last Soldier. Once that is out, there will be a very limited hardback edition (signed/numbered) featuring all three books in one volume. We will also be publishing Chris Kelso’s latest, Unger House Radicals, and there might be one or two projects in the planning stages. We’re very excited about the future, and will be opening up to general novel and novella submissions in 2016 after a brief hiatus.
Thanks to Adam for taking the time to talk to us, and stay tuned for part 2, where we discuss Adam’s own prolific writing career, and try and figure out how this guy ever manages to sleep...
THE HEART AND SOUL OF HORROR INTERVIEWS