Dave Kuzminski Interview
Posted: Mar-10-2015 at 8:49am
HUNTING DOWN PREDITORS
An interview with Dave Kuzminski
Daniel E. Blackston
If you’re looking for inside info on how to successfully navigate the SF publishing industry, the following interview is must-read. Dave Kuzminski is not only the owner and Editor of Preditors and Editors, he’s a prolific SF novelist – author of over a dozen published titles – whose recently landed a triple-book deal with Double-Dragon Publishing. Resourceful, efficient, restlessly imaginative and... savvy are some of the words I might use to describe this mysterious author/editor/literary guardian angel, but of course, the best way to get acquainted with Mr. K., is to listen to his own words.
What's the key to survivability (if there is one) in this modern-age of publishing? Is there a different set of hurdles for SF writers than say, ten or twenty years ago? What's better in your opinion about the writer's lot; what seems not so good?
The key is to write a good story just as it always has. If nothing else, speculative fiction isn't a playground for celebrities in general. Few have the interest or ability to write in the speculative fields of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Consequently, very few do. However, the explosion of the Internet into our lives has provided many resources to writers. That has upgraded many of the skills those writers possess because they're now capable of contacting other writers to learn what works and what doesn't. They're no longer stuck with a small writing group that may have no clues as to how the publishing industry works. Because of this, there is more competition than before. The bad side is that there are more bad writers trying to be published than before as well.
You've published a number of books through POD and Electronic publishers. Tell us a little about how these kinds of book contracts work, as opposed to traditional publishing deals. Also, how are sales? Any marked difference between the POD books and Ebooks?
Actually, the contracts work similarly. The better publishers have chosen to use what the print industry was using with natural modifications to account for differences between the two. There's no need to talk about printing plates when the book is electronic or printed from an electronic text file. In some ways, the new POD and electronic publishers offer better contracts because they don't have the printing costs, so some frequently offer better royalty percentages.
The only differences that I've noticed so far have been in the editing and sales. Many of the POD and electronic publishers are actually small publishers with small staffs. That means they're limited in the amount of editing they can offer. That also means they have fewer staff to devote to marketing, so that affects sales. As for myself, my ebook sales are actually higher than my print books for the same titles that are in both. Contrary to what people say, there is a growing market for ebooks. That market should grow once the electronics industry gets behind a single standard for portable electronic readers.
What was you first published novel?
My first published novel was Rust Bucket. Boson Books published it. To date, it's only in ebook format, but Boson Books recently emailed me to advise me that they're in negotiations with a publisher who specializes in audio books. If that goes through, then four or five of my books published by Boson Books will become available at truck stops across the countryside.
Have you attempted to market mss. to traditional publishers? Do you have an agent?
I have not let up on submitting my work to the older, established, traditional publishers. However, for some of those an agent is necessary and I don't have an agent yet. I am working on that as well.
You have three novels forthcoming: Mark II, The Dark Unicorn, and Redwing, Dragon from Venus. Which of three represents your newest writing? Tell us a bit about the book deal (s) involved, landing all three novels with the same publisher.
To my surprise, The Dark Unicorn is the latest of those three. I believe that Mark II is daring in its content, but Redwing, Dragon from Venus is the one I like best of those three because it gave me the opportunity to spoof detective and police stories in a way that was different and unexpected.
Frankly, I thought Mark II and Redwing could be sold together as two novellas in the tradition of the old Ace doubles. However, the publisher believes they're different and strong enough to stand on their own. Otherwise, it was just my good luck that the publisher, Double Dragon Publishing, liked all three that I submitted.
Preditors and Editors is a great place to keep tabs on industry 'scams", news, opportunities and contacts. What prompted you to found the website?
I started the site years ago when I hosted a writers' workshop for an ISP. Every week, I'd be asked many of the same questions by new writers visiting for their first time. I reasoned that I could answer many of their questions by creating a web page with links to the publishers they were seeking. Along the way, I was asked who could be trusted and who to avoid. At that time, I didn't know of anyone listing those places by name that writers should approach warily, so I decided that if P&E was to be truly useful and successful, it had to give out names and recommendations. So, from an initial page listing about sixty sites for publishers and agents, it's become hundreds of pages listing thousands of publishers, agents, editing services, and other services within the publishing industry. P&E is obviously successful because the scam artists have tried to scuttle it on more than one occasion because we clearly do cut into their operations by educating writers and pointing out who we don't recommend based upon criteria we publish within the P&E sites.
You write under pen-names, always an option for any writer. Do you *begin* a work knowing what pen-name it will ultimately be published under?
I first used a pen name for two reasons. One was that my wife was concerned that writers would be contacting me all the time. The other was because my regular day job dealt with confidential data and publicly contacting those people it involved. Using a pen name was one way to solve both of those concerns. However, a few of my publishers have used my real name in my byline and my day job has changed since then, so it's no longer an important issue. As to whether there are different personalities involved with the pen name, I've never noticed any.
Who are some interesting SF novelists publishing in the 'new' press? Any names we should know about?
I think Ty Drago is going to be worth reading. He's been working his way up and now has a book with Tor.
Do you write outside of the SF genre? What attracts you to science-fiction? Fantasy?
Only on occasion do I write outside of speculative fiction. However, it's that speculative ability that really calls to me. It gives me the opportunity to think about how other civilizations might form and how people might react within those.
How do you stay so prolific? Any tips on getting the work done?
Again, the answer is in time management. It's a matter of sitting down and doing the work that's necessary to reach the point in a manuscript where you can write "the end." You just have to determine on your own what your best time for writing happens to be. Then you use that time whenever possible to write. Don't discard ideas, regardless of how stupid those first sound. Learn to take the best parts and link those to other ideas. Then remember that stories are about people. Sure, there can be animals and aliens, but the stories are primarily about people like ourselves. Let them experience that world or situation you've invented. Then let them fail or succeed.
What do you plan to do next? Where will we soon see your name(s) in lights?
Ah, now we get to the good stuff. Right now, I'm working on two projects. One is a sequel to Knight Spirits, also published by Double Dragon Publishing. I hope to have it finished before the end of the year. The other is a different project that I'm also working on a sequel for. However, I'm submitting it to publishers and agents in hopes of seeing it accepted soon. For now, it's titled An Age of Heroes and it takes a different approach to main characters. In some sections, certain supporting characters become main characters while the previous main characters become supporting characters. This gives a different perspective on the point of view that readers can experience. So far, it's working very well according to some first readers who've seen the completed portions.
How important is self-promotion for a SF novelist?
Writing a good story is paramount. Self-promotion doesn't get books sold.
What's the best tip you could give an unpublished SF novelist who is looking to have their book published?
Write the best story you can.
What's the most shocking instance of "preditor" activity you've seen lately in the publishing field? Any new cons we should know about?
There may be a new twist on getting reprints sold where a "publisher" writes claiming to have read the writer's work on the writer's personal web site. The "publisher" then asks for banking information in order to pay for the reprint rights. That brings us to the fact that this "publisher" is asking to purchase rights in something that has virtually no rights left. It's been published on the Internet for everyone to read. While it is possible that a real publisher might do that, it's important to remember that the information that's wanted might also be used to empty a bank account instead of fill it.
Where can we get your books?
Boson Books, Hard Shell Word Factory, Silver Lake Publishing, New Concepts Publishing, Double Dragon Publishing, Amazon, Fictionwise, and many more online sites.
copyright © 2004, Dan Blackston
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