While perusing the ConQuesT dealer room, I stopped to talk to Tyree Campbell, managing editor of small press publisher Sam’s Dot Publishing. He was kind enough to consent to a five-minute interview, in which he discussed how his small press operates:
Me: How long has Sam’s Dot Publishing been in operation?
Tyree Campbell: As Sam’s Dot it’s been operating since 2002. My predecessor was on-line mostly; we’re in print. My predecessor was mostly on-line since 1986. So we’ve been around for a while.
Me: So you were formerly an on-line publisher?
Tyree Campbell: Formerly on-line with a few smatterings of print. But then in 2002 when I took over we went very heavily into print.
Me: Was it publishing through its own website, or through some other e-book store?
Tyree Campbell: Just through our own website at the time.
Me: Then you went into print and now you’re starting to get back into e-books again.
Tyree Campbell: Not "again" so much. We’re starting to get into e-books. As I indicated earlier, we have about 75 to 80 titles available with Smashwords. We do have an Amazon Kindle store that we just opened up about two months ago, and I believe we have about 25-30 titles with them as well. But our main focus right now is print because that makes not just more money for us but it makes more money for our authors as well.
Me: How do you think that the e-book explosion in recent years has been changing business for small and medium sized publishers like yourself?
Tyree Campbell: Wow. Sometimes it’s a can of worms, sometimes it’s a benefit. It is getting more people reading. That’s a good thing. But to me there’s nothing quite like the smell of a book when you sit down and open it up and you’re sitting there in your reading room. I don’t think you get that with e-books. But because of the explosion of it it’s really good for our authors and it’s good for business too. And we get a wider spread of people reading our work and other people’s work as well. Overall I guess I’d have to say I’m in favor of it. Personally, however, I still buy print books myself.
Me: It’s kind of a surprise, you know, how Amazon only came out with the Kindle just a couple of years ago, and suddenly boom, e-books have arrived.
Tyree Campbell: Well, Amazon itself, I hate to say too much negative but Amazon is no friend of the small independent publisher.
Me: Yeah, I get that–I was watching the thing with the Independent Publishers Group.
Tyree Campbell: Because the small independent press does not do things in as great a volume as the New York publishers do, when you have a smaller volume of anything, be it electronic or print, it costs more per unit or for the overhead to get it out there, whereas with the New York publishers… A print book for us might cost anywhere from a dollar to a dollar fifty to print, per copy. For New York publishers, two cents.
Me: So I’ve noticed from your selection you seem to do a lot of science fiction, fantasy…
Tyree Campbell: Right. Science-fiction, fantasy, we do some horror. I have to say about the horror, my idea of a good horror story is one that you read with all the lights on, and you’re looking over your shoulders while you’re turning the pages. And since I run the place, that’s the kind of horror I get. I don’t do a lot of blood. When I see intestines I just want to make giraffes and zebras…they’re not scary. Our horror is very spooky and a little racier [inaudible].
Me: Do you take unsolicited manuscripts?
Tyree Campbell: Yes. In fact that’s all we get, pretty much. I will commission a piece now and then from a particular writer, but I’d say about 90% of our stories that we accept, be they novels or short stories, what-have-you, poems…are all submitted to our submissions addresses on-line. We’re always open to submissions.
Me: Almost none of the big publishers take unagented, unsolicited manuscripts anymore. Do you think that works to the benefit of smaller presses?
Tyree Campbell: Actually it does, because you see we don’t have a bottom line like New York does. I don’t have to sell 50,000 copies of something. I’d love to sell 50,000, but I don’t
have to, see. So I can accept some good, solid, readable material that may not win awards, and it won’t get published unless we publish it, but is very much worth reading. We turn down 90% of what we get in–it’s not publishable. You can’t pay me to publish your story. If we like it, we’ll pay you.