Interview with Tannhauser Press – How to Start an Independent Book Publisher?

Recently I have been exploring the independent publishing world. In my last article, I talked with Space Squid about what is needed to start a fiction magazine. In this article, I have a discussion with Martin Wilsey, the founder of the Independent Book publisher, Tannhauser Press.

JBJ: Why was Tannhauser Press created?

MW: After self-publishing my first three novels, I learned a lot about publishing. I learned that books that used the free ISBNs were not likely to find their way into bookstores. This is combined with the fact that—to my great surprise—I had two #1 best sellers on Amazon. Soon I had an accountant, a lawyer, and an LLC taxed as an S-Corp. I started buying ISBNs 100 at a time, and all my books began to be published under the imprint Tannhauser Press with the associated ISBNs. I also began publishing ALL my books in Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover, and Audio editions.

JBJ: What inspired the name Tannhauser?

MW: Several things led to the name. There was a character in one of my novels named Tannhauser. It’s one of my favorite operas. And then there is the Blade Runner reference to the Tannhauser Gate. An LLC in Virginia requires a unique name as well. It was available. My Trademarked logo is a subtle nod to the opera.

JBJ: For other people who are interested in doing the same thing, what were the steps your publishing company took starting out?

MW: Pick a unique name. It will forever be associated with the ISBN of the books. Register the name so it can’t be used by others.

In Virginia, you can register names with the State Corporation Clerk’s Information System.

After registering a name, buy a pile of ISBNs under that name, then build a website.

JBJ: What are the important services you have to pay for when running an independent publisher?

MW: ISBNs if you are in the US. Get them via bowker.com
Web hosting.

JBJ: Do you mind giving me a figure for a starting budget?

MW: Setting up the LLC was $250 (My lawyer did it. $50 annually). You can do it yourself for $50. 100 ISBNs = $575. Domain name (tannhauserpress.com) varies depending on where you get it and for how long. $100 Web Hosting is $80 annually. (There are free options like wordpress.com). Accounting software for expense tracking (I use QuickBooks $250). Please note: I also use an accountant to keep the books (optional $1200 annually).

JBJ: Would you especially recommend anyone or any website for the following services: legal, production, editing?

MW: I am reluctant to make these kinds of recommendations in general because everyone’s needs and budgets are very different.

JBJ: What is Tannhauser Press’s greatest challenge?

MW: Time. As an author primarily, it distracts from my own writing. As owner/operator I could easily do the publishing side full time.

JBJ: What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?

MW: Helping other new authors. I had to figure out everything myself. I stepped on every landmine and made many mistakes that I can help new authors avoid.

JBJ: Are you able to get print books into bookstores? If so, how do you do that? Do you have other ways of selling your print books?

MW: Tannhauser press IS able to get books into bookstores. However, that is a big complicated topic, including returns, delayed payment terms, accepting purchase orders, and pricing. Tannhauser Press makes most bookstore and library sales via IngramSpark.com. Please note that bookstore sales have the LOWEST profit margin unless the order volume is huge. I sell direct to readers signed copies, in person and via the web.

JBJ: What steps would you recommend to an author who is submitting a query to you? What is the best way for a prospective author to get published at your publisher?

MW: The best way is to write a book that doesn’t suck. Include Tannhauser in the developmental phases.

JBJ: What are your plans for the future?

MW: Continue at the present pace. Ten books or less annually. Expand to other genres beyond Sci-fi and Fantasy. Expand the audio edition practice.

Check out more from Tannhauser at their website: Click Here.

Interview with Space Squid – How to Start a Fiction Magazine

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About ten years ago, there were six big publishers for books. Now there are five. And soon there may only be four. Combined with the competition introduced by self-publishing, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for authors to get traditionally published. This is on top of the supply problems introduced by Covid, and the fact that there was a massive exodus from the publishing industry back in March of 2022. About 1% of people in the publishing industry quit.

With all of these factors in play, some people are now more interested in creating their own independent platforms, or at least are interested in learning how they work.

I decided to interview some of the staff on various speculative fiction magazines along with indie publishers to see how that works. The first people I interviewed were the staff of the humor sci-fi magazine, Space Squid.

JBJ: Thank you so much for your help. Let’s say I started a free online blog—which I could hopefully to turn into a literary magazine or publisher later. Would I need to make a contract with the people submitting to the blog?

SS: I wouldn’t bother for blog entries. You might want to keep the email thread in which they agree to write for you; we’re a little more formal since we’re publishing stories.

JBJ: What inspired you to create an online magazine?

SS: We’re frustrated writers. Also there’s not a lot of spaces for funny scifi/speculative.

JBJ: For other people who are interested in doing the same thing, what were the steps you took starting out?

SS: Hmm… well we published on paper first, using some old photocopiers. That was more work than it was worth. Today we’d either go digital right away or send it to a printer for better quality and less hassle. We do publish one paper issue per year for Armadillocon.org.

As frustrated writers, we know a lot of other frustrated or semi-successful writers, and some of them were willing to send us material for our first issues. We reached out to some local bookstores and got some shelf space that way. But really, we’re marginally successful and we just kept doing it and publishing stuff we liked.

JBJ: What kind of services do you have to pay for to run a literary magazine?

SS: When publishing digitally, not much. We run our own WordPress site on a shared server. So the main costs are 1) the server and domain, 2) payments to writers, 3) the annual paper issue, and 4) time. 3 and 4 are the most expensive.

JBJ: Do you mind giving me a figure for a starting budget?

SS: Hmmm… maybe $200/yr for a digital-only publication?

JBJ: Would you especially recommend anyone or any website for the following services: legal, production, editing.

SS: I think we wrote our own writer contract. It’s clear enough to stand up in court, and that’s all we care about. Editing is our responsibility and kind of the core competency we bring to the table. For webhosting, we like hawkhost.com; shared hosting is less than $3/month. Use our referral code, https://my.hawkhost.com/aff.php?aff=1430!

JBJ: What was your greatest challenge?

SS: Just keeping it going. It’s a tough time for writers and publishers. There’s a lot of apathy and we don’t get the kind of readership we’d like. Reading submissions and editing stories takes a lot of time and love.

JBJ: What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?

SS: We do have a few dedicated fans who love our stories and style, and some writers like yourself who understand what we like. Occasionally we get a bit of acclaim or press. And of course we get energy from great stories and publishing first-time or enthusiastic writers.

JBJ: Is there anything else you would recommend for those who are just starting out?

SS: It’s good to have a clear niche picked out — some angle that you can cover better than anyone else because of your skills or POV or because it’s under served. It also helps a ton to have at least one other person onboard who’s as motivated as you are.

JBJ: What are your plans for the future?

SS: We’ve got plans for a premium membership plan that will deliver a lot of fun, useful services to our dedicated readers and writers. It’s called Squid Plus and we’ve got high hopes for it.

JBJ: Great. Thanks for the interview. Have a great day.

STORIES ON SPACE SQUID:

Bob and Beastman’s Honeymoon

Downloading Brunch

Moon Knight’s Weakness – Astronomy Apps (Plot Hole in Episode 3)

Twitter is abuzz today with the news that a second season of Moon Knight is in the making.

Moon Knight director Mohamed Diab and Oscar Isaac are currently in Cairo. When asked by a fan if season 2 was happening, Oscar Isaac replied, “Why else would we be here? (Source)”

SEASON 1 SPOILERS BELOW.

Overall the first season was a major success. Oscar Isaac was able to show off his remarkable acting talent by portraying two very different personalities: Tough guy American mercenary Marc Spector, and the meek, mild mannered, British gift shop cashier, Steven Grant.

The Disney+ action filled super hero story of Egyptian mythos and gods was very fun. I was definitely entertained.

However, my only hang up about the show was what happened in episode three of season one. Something so silly and ridiculous I wanted to throw a gold plated scarab at my TV.

Marc Spector is in Egypt trying to locate Ammit’s tomb, all while vying for control over his and Steven’s shared body. It’s critical for them to find Ammit’s tomb quickly, or else Arthur (the bad guy) will get there first, and resurrect a very dangerous goddess into the world.

However, in order to find Ammit’s tomb, the good guys need to know how the night sky looked one millennia earlier.

So what do they do?

Does Marc Spector or Layla download an astronomy app like SkySafari to see what the sky would’ve looked like a thousand years ago? The app costs $5.

NOPE! TOO EASY.

Instead, Khonshu, Egyptian lord of the moon and vengeance, changes the ENTIRE freaking night sky! This is a move so controversial it gets him imprisoned in stone by the other gods.

And all he had to do was pay $5 for an app.

Oh well. Their version was more dramatic than mine. Script called for it I guess.

Links

Moon Knight Season 1 Episode 3 Recap (The Ringer)

Moon Knight Is Returning for Season 2, Oscar Isaac Suggests in TikTok (CNET)

When is the Best Time to Send an Email?

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This is a question that many writers ponder, along with marketing teams.

Much of the advice for writers says, “Just send your query when you are ready. Don’t wait around.” To a degree that is true. Every literary agent is different.

But there are some times that are better for the general person than others. I checked out some findings from mass emailer websites about when people are most likely to open an email based on when you send it.

LEAST LIKELY TO GET CHECKED: Holidays and weekends.

MOST LIKELY TO GET CHECKED: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Late morning.

See more resources below:

Advice From Literary Agents

Best Time to Send to a Literary Agent? (Literary Agents)

Funny You Should Ask: What are the best times to query a literary agent? (Writers Digest)

Seven Submission Tips From a Literary Agent’s Slush Pile (Well Storied)

Studies on Emails

What’s the Best Time to Send Email? Here’s What the Data Says (2022) (Drip)

Perfect Timing: The Very Best Time to Send Email Newsletters (Wordstream)

What 14 Studies Say About The Best Time To Send Email (Coschedule)

The Best Time to Send an Email [Research] (Hubspot)

Why “The Love Interest” Is a Boring Character

Do I hate love? Am I cold, dark hearted person?

Or is it that the “love interest” is a boring character in fiction? Specifically, the “Satellite Love Interest” trope is a character who exists solely in reference to another character as a cherished love object. In fact, the “Satellite Love Interest” could often be replaced with a bag of flavor blasted goldfish and the plot wouldn’t be affected much. This is similar to the sexy lamp test.

A satellite character is one whose sole purpose revolves around another more interesting, more significant character.

Does this mean that I am saying romance shouldn’t be a part of fiction? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that a character is more interesting if they are well developed and complex in their own right, and don’t depend on another character for their relevance.

EXAMPLES OF SATELLITE LOVE INTERESTS:

[Spoilers Included. If I list something you haven’t watched/read yet, feel free to skip past to avoid spoilers.]

[Disclaimer: The critique of the characters in the live action shows and movies mentioned is not a critique of the actors who play these characters. I’m sure these actors are all fine people.]

The Prince from Snow White:

This dude shows up at the beginning of the film to be all pretty and charming. That’s about it. Then he disappears for most of the film and returns at the opportune moment to wake Snow White up from her poison apple induced food coma. Rumor has it that Prince Charming had a larger role originally, but the animators were struggling with animating a human male.

Bella Swan from Twilight:

Bella Swan is a unusual example of the Satellite Love Interest being the main character of her own story. We don’t learn much about what her life was like before she moved away from sunny Arizona to rainy, emo Washington state: a place full of foggy montages and sparkly forests that echo with the sounds of early 2000s indie rock. That’s because all that matters is Edward, the most handsome vampire who ever handsomely handsomed into existence.

Bella easily makes friends at the beginning of the novel (because everyone loves her for inexplicable reasons), but then she dumps them all to be with the only person in the universe who matters—Eddie Pants. Her entire life soon revolves around Edward, to the point where she goes catatonic when he leaves her. She jumps between being Edward or Jacob’s satellite love interest throughout the series. Edward and Jacob could easily have been fighting over a bag of flavor blasted goldfish, because Bella had that special blood that made her a delicious snack.

Luke Bankole from The Handmaid’s Tale TV Show

Luke Bankole is the husband of the main character, Offred. He escapes Gilead and makes it to Canada. There he pretty much exists to pine for Offred, to be in her flashbacks, and to flail around (like one of those car dealership blowing floppy guys) in multiple attempts to be helpful that don’t end up panning out.

When Shows Try to Keep An Unnecessary Love Interest Character…

Laurel Lance/Black Canary from the show, Arrow:

In Arrow, we see Oliver Queen pining for Laurel while he’s stuck on the island (he’s stuck so long on that island). However, in season 3, the show writers make a sudden, and unexpected shift to the “Olicity” track, where they ship Oliver away from Laurel to the quirky, perky, blonde and nerdy Felicity Smoak. Many people believe that this was fan service, as fans found Felicity more interesting than Laurel.

After shipping Felicity with Oliver, it seemed the show writers didn’t have much they could do with the character of Laurel/Black Canary, since her original purpose was to be a love interest. So they kept finding contrived reasons to keep her relevant, including having Laurel die but then come back as an evil version of herself from another universe (I’m not even making this up).

However, I will say, some fans grew to like Black Canary in later seasons as the writers attempted to develop her into a more complex character. I stopped watching by season 6 because the show writers kept turning everyone Oliver met into a superhero. That boy had a superhero STI that affected everyone he touched, but that’s a story for another post.

Iris West Allen from the show, The Flash:

If you look on Reddit and Quora, there’s a lot of people who were not a fan of Iris West Allen, the love interest of Barry Allen/The Flash. In a show full of super heroes and super geniuses, Iris West Allen doesn’t really seem like she has a reason to be there. What makes her special? She writes an online blog?

Some people might say a character can still be interesting even without super powers and super intellect. And that is true for her father, Joe West. He’s likeable in the sense that he has life wisdom, street smarts and a sense of humor that dissolves tension. But unfortunately for Iris West Allen, she’s not even likeable.

Her catchphrase, “We are the Flash,” is cringey and reeks of entitlement. She routinely insists that she’s always right (when she happens to be in a room full of geniuses with super powers and multiple PHDs). Many people believe the writers put her into the position of authority over Team Flash simply because they had nothing else to do with her.

EXAMPLES OF INTERESTING LOVE INTERESTS:

I don’t want to be only negative, so I’ll try to point out some interesting love interests as well. I think the reason why the following love interests below work is because they are an integral part of the story, and couldn’t easily be replaced with a bag of flavor blasted goldfish.

MJ (played by Zendaya) in MCU’s Spiderman

MJ overall received positive reviews as a a strong, supporting character. She’s smart, snarky and interesting whenever she’s on the screen. She also helps Peter, Ned and Doctor Strange capture multiple super villains. She’s intelligent enough to feel like an organic part of the team (she is a soon to be student at MIT after all) and she has personality quirks that make her unique and yet sympathetic. She struggles with disappointment, and often avoids getting excited or happy about things so she won’t end up disappointed. I think many people can relate to that (myself included). And importantly, she is likeable!

All of the Love Interests in the show, Ms. Marvel

Ms. Marvel has received overwhelmingly positive reviews so far. It is a light-hearted, fun show about a teenage, Muslim, Pakistani super hero. She actually has multiple love interests in the show (which seems normal for a teenage girl).

First, there’s her loyal, nerdy sidekick Bruno. While Bruno obviously has feelings for Kamala Khan, she is oblivious to his attractions. This is a tale as old as time. Bruno is stuck knee deep into the friendzone. But he still tries to help her when he can with his technological innovations and moral support.

Then enters the tall, dark and handsome Kamran as the new kid at school. Kamala immediately becomes interested in him (why wouldn’t she?). He’s even willing to offer her driving lessons, which is a plus. But soon it becomes clear that he’s giving her attention because he wants her to help his mom, who happens to be a jinn. I think more than being handsome, he has an interesting background story and ends up being likeable. He takes a moral stand against his jinn mother, who is trying to make a portal that could destroy life on Earth.

The next potential love interest we meet is Kareem, a masked fighter who is a legacy crime fighter associated with The Red Dagger. So far he seems mysterious, and I definitely want to learn more about Kareem as the show progresses.

Mike in Stranger Things

Mike is Eleven’s love interest in Stranger Things. Yet more than being a guy she pines for, he is “the heart” of the team as Will states in a platonic (but not so platonic) speech about Mike in Season 4.

Mike is likeable as a loyal friend and a loyal boyfriend. He experiences some doubts about himself from time to time, but ultimately pulls through at the end of the day to help his friends.

Links

Sexy Lamp Test

Satellite Love Interest (TV Tropes)

Predictions for Stranger Things Season 5

Stranger Things season 4 has broken several Netflix records. It was the biggest premiere weekend ever for an English-language TV show on Netflix with 286.79 million hours viewed. It was the first season to reach #1 in 83 countries on the Netflix Top 10.

Season 4 (in my humble opinion) was the best Stranger Things season, and perhaps even one of the best shows currently on television. Each episode (which was over one hour long) was like it’s own movie. And the final episode, being 2.5 hours, was really a feature length film.

And now, of course, there is much excitement about what’s coming next.

See some predictions below.

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VECNA IS INJURED BUT NOT DEAD

A concrete law of any death on television is that if the body is missing, the person is not really dead.

In the “final” showdown between Vecna and the Steve/Nancy/Robin teenage trio, Nancy takes a shot at Vecna with her sawed off shotgun and blasts him through the attic window of the Creel house to the ground below. However, when the kids all run outside, Vecna’s body is missing.

It was also established in season 4 that Vecna was ultimately the puppet master in control of the Upside Down (so Eddie playing Metallica’s Master of Puppets on guitar was a nice tie in). Once Will realizes that One/Henry/Vecna is in control of the Upside Down, he says that he can feel Vecna’s presence. He feels this presence toward the end of the season 4 finale, when they discover rotting flowers and a strange dust filling the air.

It is most likely that Vecna is injured, but not dead. He’s biding his time in recovery before he sends his armies through the cracks he created between the Upside Down and the regular world.

EDDIE COMES BACK AS A VAMPIRE

A community manager for Wizards of the Coast made a very well written post on Reddit about the striking parallels between the plot of Stranger Things and the story canon of the D&D universe. Henry/One/Vecna of Stranger Things follows much of the storyline about Vecna from D&D, including the fact that he knows peoples’ darkest secrets.

Thus by following D&D lore, one may be able to predict the plot of what is to come in Stranger Things season 5.

There is a popular theory proliferating on the internet that Eddie is going to come back as a vampire.

In the D&D universe, Vecna has a resurrected vampire lieutenant named “Kas” who ultimately betrays him in the end.

At the end of season 4, Eddie gets bitten by demo-bats and dies. However, a vampire is technically dead themselves. They die before being resurrected back to life. So, there may be a chance that Vecna resurrects Eddie to serve in his army. And given the popularity of the character Eddie, the creators of the show may potentially resurrect him as fan service.

WILL HAS POWERS

While season 4 is arguably one of the strongest Stranger Things seasons yet, one complaint I saw among many fans was that Will was effectively side-lined this season.

However, I will say with all the different characters and plotlines going on, I think it would have been difficult to give Will more air time.

The show did heavily hint that Will had feelings for his friend Mike. This was very obviously suggested when he painted a picture of Mike, seemed embarrassed, and then said Eleven “basically commissioned it.” Yet, in the first episode of season 4, Eleven says that Will is painting something and she doesn’t know what he’s painting. There was also his speech he gave about what “Eleven” feels about Mike, which people are saying is what Will actually feels about Mike.

So there is much discussion over that plot element. However, something else that is interesting, but lesser discussed, is the theory that Will has powers. This theory is potentially supported by the fact that Will was stuck in the Upside Down for a week and survived without Vecna draining him and stealing his mind like he did to his other victims in season 4. There is also the fact that Will has a mental connection to Vecna.

There is also the interesting fact that the Upside Down resembles Hawkins from the day Will entered into it. One will notice in Henry/One/Vecna’s flashbacks about first entering the Upside Down, that it looks like a completely alien landscape with no resemblance to Hawkins. So there is a suggestion that Will actually changed the reality of the Upside Down and that he has the power to change reality. Some people say this is why Vecna didn’t treat Will like his other victims, he may have been scared of Will’s power.

VECNA WILL RE-ENTER THE WORLD THROUGH MAX

In the final episode of season 4, we see Max comatose in the hospital. Eleven tries to make mental contact with her, but when she enters Max’s mind, Max doesn’t seem present. Thus, there is a theory that Max will exist as an empty vessel for Vecna to enter into in season 5.

For more theories check out the link below:

Stranger Things: 10 Fan Theories About Season 5, According to Reddit (Screen Rant)

Is Vecna From Stranger Things Gay?

Vecna above having a hot ghoul summer.

For those of you watching Stranger Things Season 4, you’ll recognize Vecna above as the lich lord esque villain living in the Upside Down who causes his victims to go into a trance.

SPOILERS COMING! WATCH OUT!

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As the show progressed through Vecna’s background story, we discovered that he was actually One (or Henry), the original child involved in the clandestine experimental program for psychic children that Eleven was also part of as well.

As Henry is describing his childhood to Eleven, he told her that his parents saw him as “Broken,” and they kept trying to change and control him and couldn’t accept him for who he really was.

After murdering his family, Henry was sent away to a place that was specifically designed to experiment upon young kids and force them to suppress their instincts and conform to strict rules.

Vecna talks much about the oppressive norms of society, norms that try to bend people into something they are not.

Also, just in terms of the way that the actor Jamie Campbell Bower portrayed Henry, it seemed to me that there were subtle hints that he was gay. But maybe I am reading too much into his role?

However, I’m not the only one who thinks this.

Stranger Things’ Vecna is the queer icon you didn’t know you needed (Digital Spy, 7-5-22)

Is the Actor Who Plays Vecna Gay? (Netflixdeed, 7-8-22)

What’s Going to Happen in Stranger Things Next?

Predictions For Stranger Things Season 5 (Stories From Tomorrow)

New Guidelines to Join the SFWA

The SFWA has recently simplified their membership requirements. It seems they are trying to open up their resources to more writers.

Their old requirements involved pay rate, advance amount, and date of publication. They also kept track of markets that were recognized as paying appropriate rates. Previous sales requirements were at $3000 for a novel, or three or more short fiction pieces at 8¢ a word.

Now the new sales requirements are much simpler. One must earn $1000 or over on their work to be qualified for Full Membership. Or they must earn $100 or more to qualify for Associate Membership.

See the new requirements here.

SFWA: Tired Disability Tropes In SFF – Do Better

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association recently released an article about tired disability tropes. It’s a great resource for those who want to include disabled characters in their stories.

Why write about disabled characters? For for the same reason you would include any other character, because disabled people are a part of the world. Their experiences, their stories, and their representation matters.

However, there are many times people write about a disabled character who has a gift so powerful that their disability is functionally erased and they might as well not even be disabled at all. 

Read the SFWA article here for more information