Gerry Huntman is a speculative fiction writer and publisher based in Melbourne, Australia, living with his wife and young daughter. He mostly writes dark fiction and has published over 50 stories spanning many genres and sub-genres. Latest publications include Night Terrors III anthology, Lovecraft eZine, Aurealis Magazine, and Our World of Horror anthology. His all-ages fantasy novel, Guardian of the Sky Realms, will be published in 2014. His author blog is at http://gerryhuntman.livejournal.com and he tweets at @gerryhuntman.
1. You are the Managing Director of IFWG Publishing, which started in 2010, and IFWG Publishing Australia, which started in 2013. Can you tell us a bit about the company, and the rationale behind starting up a specific Australian imprint? Both IFWG Publishing and IFWG Publishing Australia is currently open for manuscript submissions – what are you looking for?
IFWG Publishing was originally formed in 2010, by four people: Esme Carpenter (York, England), Warren Goodwin (New Jersey, USA), Randy Knowlton (Missouri, USA), and myself, based in Melbourne. We created the company with the express purpose to provide another market opportunity for upcoming authors, particularly in the speculative fiction super-genre. Esme and Warren are largely ‘silent’ partners, although provide extremely useful help in a few fields, particularly submission reading. Randy was the Managing Director, and I, because of my editing background (member Editors Victoria), became Chief Editor. Because the US reading population was the largest, we decided to focus on that group, and all our publications, with few exceptions, were published with US readership in mind (for example US English, oriented toward the Chicago Style Manual).
Last year, two things happened at the same time, but coalesced to me. Firstly, I decided to create an Australian Imprint of IFWG, for the simple reason that a substantial percentage of our authors were Australian or UK based, and I felt that their target audiences should be their fellow nationals. The logic was that it is better to ‘conquer’ one’s home turf before the world, or foreign lands. The second event was a personal one, where Randy had some life issues that eclipsed his commitments to IFWG, and the baton was handed over to me. On top of all of that, I have a special love for my ezine, SQ Mag, which is published by IFWG Publishing Australia, but is independently managed under the very capable hands of Editor in Chief, Sophie Yorkston (who is also a Melbourne person, but is currently spending time in Canada).
I made the decision to move the entire IFWG operation (both imprints and SQ Mag) to Melbourne, and operate them in most ways separately. Australian, UK and NZ products are published through IFWG Publishing Australia, and the rest through our US mother company. The latter has some very good fiction by mainly US and Canadian writers, but also from Nigeria and South Africa. SQ Mag is delighting me with its quality and market penetration, featuring writers such as Cat Sparks, Kaaron Warren, Gary McMahon, Jay Lake, Daniel Russell, Alan Baxter, Ken Liu, Angela Slatter, and Laird Barron. And every story we have published (approaching 100 over 15 editions thus far) is original. The Australian imprint of IFWG Publishing also has a special place in my heart – and is producing outstanding fiction in its first year of operation.
Both title publishing imprints are definitely open for submissions, but not for very long. We have a strong selection of titles already solicited, and we are looking for 1 or 2 unsolicited editions for each. We already have a strong field for our children’s/young teen range, but if a story is strong in the 12+ age group, we will consider them. We are a speculative fiction publisher, first and foremost, and we will look at almost anything, but they have to be fresh, interesting and very well written. We are a small publishing company, and yet we strive for excellence. Quality horror is in shortage in our catalogue, and we would pay special attention to submissions in that style of speculative fiction. Note, however, we are an ‘adult’ publication (for our adult range) – which means we are willing to accept language, sex and violence – but these elements must be tools to support the story and characterisation, not the other way round.
2. Your short fiction publication rate is very impressive, and spans horror, science fiction and fantasy. I note that many of your stories are placed in newer markets that are probably unfamiliar to the Australian speculative fiction community. Do you have specific networks that you use to place your short stories, and what is your overall aim in targeting these particular markets?
My writing started decades ago, but the serious effort to publish only started back around 2009/2010. My early short stories were published in markets that were appropriate for the level of expertise I had as a writer – particularly the technical elements. Since then I have ‘climbed the ladder’ and am now publishing in professional markets, and I can pick and choose more than I used to. So, while I was not fussy in my early career, now, if I am not solicited, I write a story, and then I think long and hard about which market best suits it – not only because I will have a comfortable place to bed down my tale, but it also improves the chances of the market accepting it, and avoiding iteration on my part. I use Ralan.com and Duotrope.com extensively to assist me with identifying markets, worldwide. Just as a side point, my steampunk and Lovecraftian horror stories have a much greater reading population in the US, and I tend to send those stories there – the market is simply bigger, and better paying. Australia is a great place to publish short fiction, but the market isn’t, in my view, keeping up with demand – particularly in some fields, such as horror, and certainly not great from a payment point of view (important, if one is making a living, or part-living, from writing).
3. You recently announced that your young teen fantasy novel, ‘Guardian of the Sky Realms’, originally published in 2010 by IFWG Publishing, will be republished by Cohesion Press. What motivated you to re-release this book and do you have any other novels in the pipeline?
I published Guardian of the Sky Realms, a young teen fantasy novel, through IFWG Publishing because it was easy to do, but soon afterwards I regretted the decision. The main regret was the possible perception that I didn’t go through a quality control process and simply used my influence to get it published. This was not the case (I actually had the story blind submitted), but that doesn’t matter at all. Perceptions are what count. The other regret was that I had it published in US English, even though the main protagonists and much of the setting was Australian. I had promised myself after that move, never again to publish any of my stories through IFWG Publishing, to avoid the issues mentioned above.
Over the last year I developed a good working relationship with Cohesion Press, based in Bendigo. Like so many things in small communities, Geoff Brown, the Managing Director, heard about my story, read it with another submissions reader, and loved it. This was a godsend for me, as it enabled me to correct what I believe was a mistake, and it also gave me an opportunity to publish it exactly how I originally wanted it to be published – an Australian novel for Australians of all ages. It gave me an opportunity to revise the novel, under the expert eyes of Cohesion’s editors and proofreaders, which was nothing short of fantastic. Finally, it now has a cover design by a leading artist from the UK, who, among other credits, is currently creating the covers of some Stephen King novels. From my point of view, Guardian of the Sky Realms has finally found its rightful place in the market.
I am currently in discussion with an Australian publisher to publish a collection of all of my science fiction short fiction (running from flash all the way to novella). I am looking at something like 19 stories – a good sized product. News will be announced, hopefully, soon. Additionally, I have a series of heroic fantasy novels developing, and another Australian publisher is receptive to looking closely at the first instalment – which may possibly be split into two novels, given its size. Several other novels are bubbling away in my head for next year, more in the horror and science fiction fields.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
I love Australian genre fiction, and due to my strong affiliations with horror/dark fiction writers in the Antipodes, much of my reading has been in that space. As a long fiction judge over the last two years for the Australian Shadows Awards, I have got to read a large percentage of current dark fiction (novellas and novels), both from large and small presses. I have, over recent years, become a huge fan of Kaaron Warren, and have read her latest collections – The Gate Theory and Through Splintered Walls, both masterpieces of subtle, disturbing fiction. Other writers, who I have read over recent times, include Robert Hood, Kirstyn McDermott, Jason Nahrung, Angela Slatter, Michael B Fletcher, Alan Baxter, and many more. All of their work delight me. Outside of the dark fiction space, I enjoy Sean Williams, Margo Lanagan, Lee Battersby, Ian Irvine, and many more again.
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
The recent changes, and the continuing changes in the industry, have profound effects. As a publisher, I need to make sure that I can cater for all publishing channels – if I stuck just to print, I would be out of business, but at the same time I have to cater for the substantial readership who love the physical book. I read in both forms (ebooks and print), and no doubt will continue to. As a writer, I find no difficulty if I am commissioned to write for ebooks only, or even ezines online-only. The important thing is that I am recognised as a teller of tales, and people get exposed to my efforts in the art.
The most impactful dimension of the changes in the industry is the way in which self publishing has created a tsunami effect in fiction hitting the western world. Hundreds of thousands of titles come out each year, and whether they are good, bad or so-so in quality, it doesn’t matter – it dilutes the efforts of everyone who plays in the sandbox. We all make less money, we all must work harder to become different. Many of these obstacles are unfair – but they are also part of the reality of where we currently are.
I suspect in five years from now I will be writing more, and hopefully better, fiction, and IFWG Publishing (the two imprints and SQ Mag), will be a respected member of the Australian (and world) genre publishing community. I suspect ebooks will be more prolific, but I also believe print will still retain a place, albeit in a different form.