We became friends with Stan on Facebook and found him to be so entertaining and knowledgeable, that we wanted to interview him so that all you guys could get to know him as well. Here is that interview.
WW - Tell us how you got started with Variance Publishing and Find The Axis Design, and what your typical day is like.
ST - . I got started at Variance when the company came to being in 2008 and they needed someone who was moldable and had some graphics experience. When they noticed that I was a Jack-of-all-trades going to school for web design, my skill set fit the bill. I knew that when I started it was going to be a great experience that I couldn’t pass up if I got the opportunity. From there, I took on more responsibility and worked my way up to where I am today doing all facets of the pre-production side of Variance… well except for editing - I leave that to the professionals.
Because of what I did with Variance and the experience I had gained in the pre-production side of publishing, Jeremy Robinson invited me along to help him out doing interiors for jobs he gained through friends and clients that went to his site and found that he produced titles. We decided that we had something going for us and it is a great way to really help the industry, and authors, get top-quality looking titles equal to or better than what has come from many big publishing houses. He thought it would be best to branch out from his website and create a brand, so that’s when FindTheAxis came to see the light of day. A short time later when Jeremy decided to focus on his writing, he all but stopped doing covers, so I started to take over all but a few of the clients coming to us for help.
A typical day… hmm, that really can vary. It typically starts at 630, getting my son ready for school. After wife and Mini-me leave, I head up to my office and begin the day with emails, Google Alerts and any overnight Facebook/Twitter contact. I then go onto whatever is necessary to be done - interior work, cover design, website maintenance - for Variance to be as successful as I can make it. I usually mix in a bunch of social networking as well, making contact with A-list authors and bloggers who may be interested in reading our titles and reviewing them, as well as working alongside the current stable of authors to promote their work both in and out of Variance’s hands. I’ve also been known to do online tutorials to hone my craft to make better covers and give myself ideas for interior art and layout.
I usually stop around 430 to get ready for my family to return home to eat dinner with them and spend a few hours enjoying the togetherness. Depending on my workload, I’ll restart my day with FindTheAxis stuff between 730-9 until I crash, or make myself stop because I know I need to get to bed… though I know my head is hopping with ideas from the day and it will take a miracle to calm down. I’m also in process of redesigning our website and have come up with a new logo that I plan on using regularly, here’s a sneak peek.
WW - What would you say is the best part of your day at work?
ST - I’d say it’s toss-up between helping authors achieve their goals, and feeling accomplished with a quality design that makes everyone satisfied and come back for more.
WW - What does Stan do for fun besides make us laugh on Facebook?
ST - Spending time with my family is a big part of my life, being a non-existent father-figure or husband is not in my vocabulary. I also like to, in no particular order, go to BN and peruse the interior/cover designs while sipping an iced Salted Caramel Mocha, practice my graphic arts skills, PC gaming, read an adrenaline-rushing thriller, and getting a beer or other tasty beverage with the boys.
WW - Please tell us more about your personal writing experience and what you like to write most (your favorite writing genre).
ST - Personally, I don’t write, and while people have told me that I should I just don’t make the time for it right now with everything else I pack into my schedule. My favorite genre to read is certainly Science Thrillers, Speculative Fiction, Creature-features, and Action/Adventure - fast-paced!
WW - Can you tell us who’s work you read most and why?
ST - I’m definitely a huge Jeremy Robinson fan - not because I’ve known him for nearly 20 years, not because I’m a lead character in his Jack Sigler/Chess Team series, but because he knows how to write! He grabs my attention and doesn’t let go until I’m out of breath. They are fast-paced, have lots of scientific craziness, and most have creatures that he ties in seamlessly with modern-day situations and landscapes. The first book I read of his was Antarktos Rising, if you’ve not read it I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I highly recommend it! Sure, some of it may be far-fetched, but leave that portion of your brain at the door and hang on for a crazy, fun adventure.
WW - If you were going to choose another profession, what would it be?
ST - That would probably have to be a Chemistry teacher. I had two in particular who I looked up to very much and reflect back on fondly as two of my favorite educators. There is nothing more important in my mind than a teacher who can connect with their students, get them thinking and learning, and inspire them to reach for more than ‘average’, which they did in me.
WW - Tell us, how hard is it to get a manuscript accepted by Variance and how many authors do you guys publish at present?
ST - Well, we certainly don’t let everyone in. With all of the great talent out there who is yet to be discovered, there is a lot of competition for authors to have to shine above. I would say it is anywhere from 5-10 authors per year at this point, but we are looking to provide a home for more as we grow without a doubt, and currently have 20 authors with published titles through us.
WW - Give us an idea about your feelings on self-publishing—good or bad, and please be honest.
ST - It is all in how it is accomplished, plain and simple. I think that self-publishing can be a very good thing when it is taken seriously and done as a real business proposition. That means after you write it and proof it through friends… you don’t stop, but take it to the next level and hire an editor - one with a proven track record (or at the very least, an English graduate looking for extra credit while pursuing further literary education), get a professional layout so people will want to read - both because it is a good story and because it is legible and does not cause eye-strain, and finally, getting a professional cover that rivals what you would find coming out of a big 6 publishing house. Are you going to drop some money? Of course, but you will have something that people will take a look at and not bypass because it looks amateur. You will have a better chance at landing an agent, getting high sales, and ultimately getting that feeling of accomplishment. Want to know my thoughts on why I think there is such a stigma in self-publishing and POD? It’s due to people taking shortcuts when creating a final product - don’t do it, break the stigma… hey no one said it was going to be easy! But, it will be worth it.
WW - What is the most difficult part of being in the publishing business?
ST - It can be very difficult to meet author’s standards sometimes, especially when it comes to cover design. I really wish that I was an accomplished illustrator, one that can create something from nothing with a pencil and paper, and bring that into something like Photoshop and hit the design out of the park. Unfortunately, I’m at the mercy of the photos that I have access to. Always come to the table with a few ideas, and if a scene can’t be recreated thought-for-thought on the cover it won’t kill your book. As long as you aren’t out-right lying to them and the image is engaging, readers won’t think twice about the fact that they didn’t see it in the reading.
WW - Where do you think the future of publishing is really heading?
ST - That is an amazing question… and if I knew I’d probably play Powerball too! I think it is all up to where publishing houses want to go and how they interact with authors. Mainstream publishing houses have some great perks that the indies don’t get, and this isn’t a woe-is-me moment, it’s the cold hard truth. They get more money coming in because they can charge more and get higher royalty-rates from the distributors. For example, they are able to put their books up for $14.99 and still get that 70% royalty rate where independents like you and I (publisher or not) can only get that up to $9.99. They are more readily available to get support from the book stores, like face-out shelf space, media blasts, and the like. Last point here, many authors are fed up with feeling out of the loop (we are partners after all and ultimately we both want to see success of the title), and not getting their fair cut when all is said and done, a cause and effect reason for so many moving to the self-publishing market who will end up making much more through ebooks never having to cut their royalty with a publisher, and getting to provide more input on the final output.
And that brings us to the other million-dollar question: e-books. Where are e-books going? Where will they take us? At the 2010 Thrillerfest conference, it was thought by industry professionals that e-books would reach a 50% market share within five years. I disagreed, I thought within one- to two-years… and sure enough before Summer 2011 hit we saw a 51% market share. I think books will always be here, no doubt. But I think that with the crazy drop in prices - even for color tablets - it is opening up the market to people who can’t afford the $25 hardcover. By the fourth one, the e-reader has paid for itself and then some. Do I think that this could be the downfall of the bookstore? Maybe, if they don’t grow and change like the rest of everything mutating and trying to find its way. What about libraries? No, libraries will always be around… at least I hope. There is more to a library than just books. It is a multi-faceted location for learning, for community relations, for family building. E-books are going to be what you make of them, but mark my words, they won’t wait for you to jump on board, this train isn’t stopping anytime soon.
WW - Anything else you’d like to tell our readers about yourself, your work or whatever?
ST - Thank you for having me on your blog. The opportunity is so greatly appreciated!
There are a few places you can find me, and hope you come say hello:
• Variance’s ThrillerBlog, Facebook Page, Twitter
• FindTheAxis Blog, Facebook Page, Twitter
You can also come find my directly on Facebook and join in the jolly fun.
Lastly, thanks to all of you who have read the post. I look forward to making contact with you, both here and everywhere else we cross paths.