2014 Snapshot Archive: Keith Stevenson (coeur de lion)

First published at Tehani Wessely’s blog.

Keith Stevenson is a speculative fiction writer, editor, reviewer, publisher and podcaster. In 2014 he launched Dimension6 magazine and began reviewing speculative fiction for the Newtown Review of Books. His new science fiction novel Horizon will be published by Harper Impulse in early December.

1. The latest coeur de lion project is Dimension6, an online periodical publication. What made you pursue this publication model, and how is it going?

A lot of thoughts and ideas about my work to date with coeur de lion made Dimension6 inevitable really.

Firstly, just to explain for those who haven’t heard of it, Dimension6 is a free electronic magazine in epub and mobi format that is published by coeur de lion three times a year. Each issue features three pieces of original fiction, and each author also has space to talk about their story, spruik their other works and add links to their blog, twitter feed, facebook page etc. etc. We carry advertising but we don’t charge for that, preferring to trade ads with other sites and publications. The stories are published DRM free and are distributed under a Creative Commons licence which means anyone is free to take the file, copy it and distribute it to whoever they want as long as they don’t change the content, claim it as their own or charge for it. For that reason D6 is also distributed through a range of affiliate sites including sites run by spec fic readers, other publishers, and spec fic authors.

So, why is D6 set up this way? The last few projects I’ve worked on for coeur de lion took a couple of years each, which is a long time in anyone’s book. I wanted to work on something with a fast turnaround (and get some instant gratification 🙂 ). The production schedule for D6 is a slim twelve weeks from initial edit to distribution.

The other thing I’ve found is just how hard it is to sell books and ebooks, particularly when you’re competing with thousands of other titles published each month. Removing the paywall, means there’s no barrier between the reader’s impulse to consume D6 and their decision to acquire it. It makes the whole transaction that much simpler. As I’ve said elsewhere, Cory Doctorow has no qualms about giving stuff away, and it can be beneficial to an author to do so because it’s means they are more likely to get read – which is kind of the whole idea in this writing lark – and the ‘gift’ of the work makes the reader more predisposed towards the author, for example to have a look at what else they’ve produced and maybe even buy some of their other stuff. D6 is a marketing tool for the authors that appear in it and for coeur de lion as a whole. We’re earning karma points with the great reading public.

The other element to being free is that we are not in competition with anyone else for the limited reading dollar that a particular customer has. This fosters business to business cooperation which makes it easier for D6 to appear on other websites, for example, another speculative fiction publisher.

The final thing that I like about going electronic is that, unlike the print medium, those D6stories will never go out of print. They’ll always be immediately accessible. That’s why I did the Terra Incognita podcast (www.tisf.com.au) and it’s why I do D6.

So the whole model really supports what has always been our key aim at coeur de lion: to bring great Australian speculative fiction writing to as wide an audience as possible.

In terms of how it’s going, we’ve had some very positive feedback. We have a mailchimp list with with seventy-two subscribers (and you can join it herehttp://eepurl.com/AIKWv) and the first two issues have been downloaded over three hundred times (not counting downloads from our affiliate sites). And our next issue out in October 3 features new work by Robert Hood, Cat Sparks and Steve Cameron.

Oh, and you can download Dimension6 here http://ow.ly/uJGJK.

2. You published coeur de lion’s first original novel in 2012, Adam Browne’s very well-reviewed debut Pyrotechnicon. What did you find were the main differences in producing a novel as opposed to an anthology or collection, which you’ve done in the past?

I think the key difference is that – as a publisher – I’m working with one person instead of thirty. The author has far more ownership than say someone who’s written a fifteen page story in a four hundred page book. And a debut novel is a huge thing for an author as well. There’s a lot riding on it. So the dynamic was very different and there was far more negotiation and discussion between us, not just about the words on the page, but about the look of the book, the physicality of it as an object. Adam is a good friend and has been for many years, but he’d agree that for both of us there were a few times when we found the process personally challenging, when we had different ideas about things. That meant we both had to work really hard to find solutions. And I think we both feel we achieved something really special in the final analysis. It’s a beautiful story with real heart, amazing invention and great action, and the layout, the illustrations and the cover really make it something you want to pick up, touch and open.

3. You’re working on Dimension6 as an ongoing project, but is there anything else on the horizon for coeur de lion (or Keith Stevenson) that you can tell us about?

Well for coeur de lion, we’ll concentrate on D6 for a while to really consolidate it and see what else turns up. And for any authors out there our next reading period opens on 1 November. More details at www.coeurdelion.com.au.

For myself I’m feeling more than a little blown away that HarperCollins have bought my science fiction novel Horizon which will be published in early December through their digital-first imprint Impulse. Horizon combines space exploration with murder, betrayal, political intrigue and a lot of cool science all played out in the cramped confines of a starship 70 light years from Earth. You can find out more about Horizon on my blog at http://keithstevensonwriter.blogspot.com.au/

The other thing I’ve been busy with is a business I run with my partner, freelance editor Nicola O’Shea. Ebookedit provides a full range of professional editing and ebook and print book file conversion and layout services to indie authors. We’ve been up and running for six months now and really enjoying working with some amazing writers. Our website is at www.ebookedit.com.au.

Apart from all that, I’m still plugging away at my three book space opera The Lenticular Series, and reviewing books for the Newtown Review of Books (http://newtownreviewofbooks.com/). So I’m no slouch at the moment!

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I think we’re experiencing another wave of fantastic Australian talent right now. There are some great writers out there and I’ve really enjoyed Rjurik Davidson’s Unwrapped Sky, Marianne De Pierres’ Peacemaker, and Andrew Macrae’s Trucksong. And Max Barry’s Lexicon is so good I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’m also enjoying Alan Baxter’s Bound right now and looking forward to reading Ben Peek’s Godless. Really, we’re spoiled for choice here. On the non-Australian side, other books I’ve loved lately include Christopher Priest’s The Adjacent, which is delightfully baffling, Paul McAuley’s The Quiet War series and Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing in five years from now?

It’s all about digital now, and for an independent publisher that has just made things so much easier for me and a lot more cost effective than the bad old days of having boxes of books in the basement that I hope I can sell, or posting bulky bags of books to customers. It’s been a real boon, but with more and more content being published as a result of all this freedom, discoverability is becoming more and more difficult. So you have to take the good with the bad. But I’m hopeful that quality will always win out in the end.

Five years from now I’d like to still be doing D6!

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