Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"S" is for "Severed"

It just so happens that I work with two publishers at present, and by some quirk of fate the company names follow one another in the alphabet.  So last week I wrote about my debut company, Red Adept Publishing, and this week I get to write about my sophomore and tertiary company, Severed Press.

Fortunately for me, both of these companies have been extremely good to me.  RAP is a general-purpose, multi-genre company, but Severed is, for my money, the finest small publisher of horror in the world.  All of my work can be described as "horror," though I wouldn't argue with "dark science fiction" for BILLY or "urban fantasy" or even "bizarro" (as dubbed by Brian Keene) for BRAINEATER.  Overall, though, I'm comfortable with "horror" and my knowledge of the genre is pretty fair to middling, so I have no problem weighing in here.

There are quite a number of extremely high quality small horror publishers out there.  Samhain, Sinister Grin, Ragnarok, DarkFuse, Evil Jester, and Deadite spring to mind.  (There are a lot more - I don't mean to snub anyone.)  But for my money, Severed Press is the finest out there, certainly the finest publisher of zombie horror, and probably the finest of horror overall.  You need look no further than their stable of authors - titans of the genre like Wrath James White, David Bernstein, Jake Bible, and Tim Curran, not to mention some friends of mine like Ian McClellan, H.E. Goodhue, Suzanne Robb, Phillip Tomasso...the list goes on and on.  (Again, not to snub anyone.  If you're that person I didn't mention, just know that it means I value you the most of all.)

It took me, like, a year to figure out that this was a bisected (or...severed) fountain pen nub.
So how did a shit-hot outfit like this get involved with a shit-for-brains like me?  Well, the story is like something out of a fairy tale.  A fairy tale full of mutilations and, I guess, just an ordinary fairy tale.

Anyway, it was September of 2013.  BRAINEATER had been picked up by RAP and was scheduled to come out in October.  An old mentor of mine in the army had once given me the advice "don't rest on your laurels" and it's stuck with me like few other pearls of wisdom ever have.  So I realized that with a book coming out, the only awful thing I could do was to not be ready to get another book out there.  At the time I still was (and to be frank, I still am) reaching for that brass ring of an agent and a Big 5 deal, and a 7-figure advance.  I think most of us will never give up on that dream until we get it, or we start getting the same kind of money out of self-pubbing or small pubbing.

So I began querying my masterpiece THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO to every agent in NYC.  I have to admit, there was a noticeable difference in interest this time around when I could include "my first novel will be forthcoming" in my query letters - it shows you're not just some schlub.  Almost as compelling to me as the thought of a Big 5 deal was a deal with one of the top-tier horror presses, so on Sunday, September 15, I submitted to Severed Press.

Now, Severed is located in Hobart, Tasmania.  I believe I sent my query letter in the middle of the night, EST time.  And I received a reply in the middle of the night (my time) Monday saying, "send us the full manuscript."  That was spookily fast, and bear in mind that I'd submitted to Severed before and been rejected.  That was probably the first time I realized that other people might feel as excited about TGA as I did.

I had no higher hopes of TGA being picked up by Severed than I did that it would be picked up by some rock star agent like Janet Reid or Jenny Bent, both of whom, I believe, don't represent horror, so that was a terrible metaphor, but fuck you, this is my blog, I do what I want.  So imagine my surprise when I went out that Thursday to a bar for my birthday...and just after midnight my phone dinged.

Now, this was back in the heady days of 2013 before your Meghan Trainors and your iPhone 6s, so receiving an email wasn't necessarily in real time.  But it had happened!  Severed had picked up my magnum opus, and they had done it just a few minuted before midnight, my time, so it had been on my birthday.  Best birthday present I ever received, and I had to buy a round for all my friends to celebrate.  Or maybe one of them bought me the round.  I can't really remember.  It was my birthday and I was drunk as shit.

Working with Severed has been stupendous.  They're an honest company, with a great contract, and, like I already said, their reputation is second-to-none.  One last quick story to tell you what working with them is like.  When I went back to Severed with BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS, Severed forgot to send me my three gratis author copies.  No big deal.  I wrote to them and mentioned that I needed ten for an upcoming convention, and would pay my usual author rate.

(By the way - this is just an aside - but for those of you who are always asking me for free autographed books - yeah, I have to pay for those.  So, yeah, okay, Dad, let me just give you some free shit.)

You would have thought Severed realized they had kicked my wife in the throat.  They were so apologetic, and - get this - they said they would not only get out the three courtesy copies they owed me tout suite, but they would also give me the ten books I needed for the convention!


So, basically they went out of pocket around $100 because of an honest mistake.  That basically sealed the deal for me.  After that, I began singing Severed's praises every chance I get.  These aren't just honest people, they're decent people, and they care about keeping their authors happy.  And I get to work with them.  :D

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