What: Owner of Down & Out Books, an Indie publisher focused on great crime fiction with a slant on the harder side of life.
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
Tell me about the moment that you knew you were going to start Down & Out Books. What was the inspiration?
The short answer is that in 2011, after Ben LeRoy and I sold Tyrus Books (I was an investor and CFO), I still had an itch to be in the publishing business. So I blew the dust off of a business plan I had put together in mid-2009 and started D&OB. The initial goal was to be a vehicle for authors, who didn’t want to self-pub, to have their titles published as ebooks. I had no intention of releasing previously unpublished books, but the company soon blossomed into that arena.
The first title published by D&OB was Crimespree Magazine #40. Jon Jordan and I had been talking about Tyrus publishing the ebook for him. With the sell, he said why don’t you do it under D&OB.
The first book published by D&OB was TEXAS NOIR, a short story collection by Milton T. Burton. He was a wonderful writer and someone I enjoyed calling a friend (he passed away on December 1, 2011). When I told him I was starting D&OB, he said I had to publish a short story collection for him. Who was I to say no?
Well, I had four books drop on June 1, including: OVER THEIR HEADS by JB Kohl & Eric Beetner; LADIES’ NIGHT: Sisters in Crime, Los Angeles 2015 Anthology edited by Naomi Hirahara, Kate Thornton and Jeri Westerson; RULES OF HONOR by Matt Hilton, and TALES FROM THE BLUE LINE by Rob Riley.
With no disrespect to any of the authors, I’m only going to talk about OVER THEIR HEADS. I met Eric Beetner a few years back and have always enjoyed his books and short stories. One night I was minding my own business, reading email, when I received an email from Beetner asking if I’d like to consider a submission even though I was technically closed for submissions. I replied in the affirmative and he kicked me OVER THEIR HEADS, a book he wrote with JB Kohl. It’s got everything I love about this genre: bullets, drugs, foul language, people trying to fuck each other over, car chases—a story that should NOT have a happy ending. PERFECT! Sign me up. Oh, one last comment on Beetner: this isn’t the only time Beetner will appear on the D&OB release schedule this year, and we’ll see him again in 2016, but that’s for a news report later.
Indie publishers are by and large very small companies. The “staff” is probably a couple of people…or in the case of D&OB it’s basically me. We don’t make bags of cash with a price point of $2.99 to $6.99 for an ebook so staff is a luxury for most. We publish because we want to give back to the crime fiction community in our small way.
Okay, so that’s my story, but may not be everyone’s. I see the publishing company as the author’s back office. I handle the shit that you don’t want to—you know: the editing, working on the cover, ebook layout, print layout, accounting, collections, advertising, etc. You want to write and I, as a fan first and foremost, want you to write as much as you can so I can enjoy it.
Problem is I have a day job and I only have so much “extra” time to work on D&OB. So I’m always closed to submissions. I frequently over commit myself as it is and am often scurrying around trying to get everything done as close to on time as possible.
Believe it or not, many of the folks I end up working with are sent to me by someone I’ve worked with before. I pride myself on being a guy with a lot of integrity and one that is honest and trustworthy. My advice to new authors is to learn the craft and make a connection with an established author. Learn from them, ask for and accept the input and guidance they provide. If you’re manuscript is good, they’ll help you find a good indie publisher.
There are a lot of opinions about the relevancy of genre classifications in modern publishing. Why is it important for D&OB to continue defining itself as “noir,” “private eye,” “hard boiled” and “crime”?
I want people to know that if they pick up a D&OB title, they are likely to find a book that packs a punch in some way. But at the end of the day, I do publish what I enjoy reading which may or may not appeal to the reading public.
You also publish Crimespree Magazine, in addition to anthologies for Bouchercon and Sisters in Crime, Los Angeles—among others. How did those relationships come about? What is the benefit to D&OB of publishing short story collections?
I’ve met and worked with a lot of people over the last 6 or 7 years and those interactions led to the opportunity for D&OB to publish the anthologies.
With Crimespree Magazine, Jon Jordan and I became friends via an introduction made by Ben LeRoy. When I started D&OB, Jon said how about you publish the ebook of the magazine. When Jon wanted to do an anthology for Murder and Mayhem, he asked if I’d help him…and would I give the money to a charity. Yep and yep.
SinC/LA had published several anthologies over the years and when it came time to publish the 2013 edition, several of the members had worked with D&OB and asked if I’d like to be involved. You know it.
I’m not sure how BCon came to ask me last year if I’d like to publish MURDER AT THE BEACH, but they did. And I said hell, yeah. They said they’d like their share of the revenue to be contributed to a charity. I said you can have 100% of the net proceeds for the charity. By the way, did you know that MURDER AT THE BEACH is nominated for Best Anthology? And Craig Faustus Buck’s contribution called “Honeymoon Sweet” is up for Best Short Story. Two nominations from the same book. That’s fucking cool! And I’ve been invited to publish the 2015 edition of the BCon anthology as well. It’s called MURDER UNDER THE OAKS and is being edited by Art Taylor.
At the end of the day, the anthologies have allowed me to give back in a bigger way, work with people who I’ve not worked with before, and expose the D&OB brand to a wider audience.
What are your publishing plans for the rest of 2015? How about 2016?
Balance of 2015 will see:
THE BACKLIST by Eric Beetner & Frank Scalise
(Read my interview with Eric Beetner)
NO HARD FEELINGS by Mark Coggins
THE PYONGYANG OPTION by A.C. Frieden
BIG SHOES by Jack Getze
WRONG CROWD by Richard Godwin
THE LAWLESS KIND by Matt Hilton
COAST TO COAST edited by Paul D. Marks & Andrew McAleer
THE DEVIL DOGS OF BELLEAU WOOD by Terrence McCauley
(Read my interview with Terence McCauley)
THE SUBTLE ART OF BRUTALITY and WARPATH by Ryan Sayles
THE SHILL and KILL THE SHILL by John Shepphird
WELCOME BACK, JACK by Liam Sweeny
MURDER UNDER THE OAKS: Bouchercon 2015 edited by Art Taylor
As for 2016, I’m not tipping my hand just yet. But let’s say I am VERY excited about the lineup.
Shit, I’ve got 14 more for 2015…I gotta jet…
S.W. Lauden is a writer and drummer living in Los Angeles. His short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Akashic Books, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.