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Stony Meadow Publishing / Dark Moon Books

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Devin Singer

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Stony Meadow has a horror imprint, Dark Moon, that's running an interesting contest. I can't find any info that suggests these folks aren't on the up-and-up, but I figured this would be the place to ask.

(I'm mostly amused by the idea of an anthology composed of contest entries, only three of which were rewarded in any way beyond author copies, but that may be a different topic.)
 

Devin Singer

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Upon further investigation, it looks like this publisher is one guy's personal POD "imprint" - they have no printed books by anyone other than the founder, and only one "Kindle edition" of a book by someone else. I am now substantially less amused at the idea that this guy is publishing a whole anthology for $175 in prize money to three people and a bunch of author's copies paid to the other 9-12 writers.

I think I'd rather find a different market, personally. I hope this info may be of use to someone else!
 

BjornAbust

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Anyone had any recent dealings with Dark Moon?

http://darkmoonbooks.com/index.html

I researched this publisher intensely for quite some time last year, and my impressions of it were not at all good. The man who started the outfit is a writer named Stan Swanson. When his works were rejected by traditional publishers he decided to start his own publishing company- Stony Meadow Publishing. Dark Moon Books is Stony Meadow's horror branch.

It's very clear that the company was started as a means of promoting Stan Swanson's work, which certainly is a tremendous red flag. Most of the publications on Stony Meadow's site are authored by him.

He also puts out a quarterly journal called 'Dark Moon Digest.' It's a token-paying mag that focuses on short horror fiction. Swanson often includes his own stories in this magazine (sometimes under pseudonyms).

What's more, Stan Swanson's author site sends up several red flags. There are links at the bottom for various ridiculous ventures such as selling 'Ideas for Authors' and websites for numerous projects that never came to fruition.

While I haven't seen a copy of their contract, I can say with confidence that Stony Meadow/ Dark Moon isn't worth your time. Stan Swanson's supposed expertise and experience in the publishing business is virtually non-existant, despite boasts to the contrary. Definitely steer clear of this one, mate. It's amateurish at best.
 

seun

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I researched this publisher intensely for quite some time last year, and my impressions of it were not at all good. The man who started the outfit is a writer named Stan Swanson. When his works were rejected by traditional publishers he decided to start his own publishing company- Stony Meadow Publishing. Dark Moon Books is Stony Meadow's horror branch.

While I haven't seen a copy of their contract, I can say with confidence that Stony Meadow/ Dark Moon isn't worth your time. Stan Swanson's supposed expertise and experience in the publishing business is virtually non-existant, despite boasts to the contrary. Definitely steer clear of this one, mate. It's amateurish at best.

Thanks for the info. I think you could be right; this does look more than a little iffy.

I'll scratch it off my list.
 

HapiSofi

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And he's written two books of writing advice. Can we have a word for people like Stan Swanson and Stacy Clark (Inkubate) who don't know that they're cliches?
 

shelleyo

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Can we have a word for people like Stan Swanson and Stacy Clark (Inkubate) who don't know that they're cliches?

We can. But it's not a polite word.

Shelley
 

Momento Mori

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I went through their "writing advice" and particularly loved this extract from their piece on "power words" for songwriters (which also comes from Stan's book "Inspiration For Songwriters"):

Stony Meadow Website:
Words like "beautiful" or "ugly" aren't power words in my dictionary of songwriting definitions. Which sounds better: "she's beautiful" or "she's enchanting"? Enchanting, of course, is a much better choice.

James Blunt made millions from repeating "You're beautiful".

Stony Meadow Website:
Magic, for example, is a power word. When you hear the word it is like, well... "magic". No doubt about it. A word like refrigerator is not a power word. Castle, crystal, heaven, hurricane, guillotine and vagabond are all power words. Lawnmower, microwave, garage, doorknob and pencil are not. See the difference? Now I'm not saying you couldn't write a song or poem about a lawnmower or a pencil, but they certainly aren't power words.

Okay, so "lawnmower" might not be a power word, but in the 70s the Wurzels had a number 1 hit with "I've got a brand new combine harvester".

MM
 

stanswanson

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Dark Moon Books and Dark Moon Digest

Guess it's time to step in and defend myself. Yes, I self-published several of my own books. In this day and age, this should not reflect on my talents as a writer. "The Songwriter's Journal" has done well in the market and my middle grade fantasy book "The Misadventures of Hobart Hucklebuck" has received solid reviews. Dark Moon Books is also now publishing books by other authors. (One is available now and three more are on the schedule for this fall.) And our horror quarterly, Dark Moon Digest, is getting very high marks. Please don't judge us simply on comments from those who have not even bothered to read anything from Dark Moon. And what is wrong with writing contests? We do not require authors to enter these and most of our published short stories were not contest entrants. I will happily answer any valid criticisms and invite you to visit either www.darkmoonbooks.com or www.darkmoondigest.com.
 

priceless1

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I self-published several of my own books. In this day and age, this should not reflect on my talents as a writer.
May I inquire as to why?

"The Songwriter's Journal" has done well in the market
I would agree. You don't have any distribution, yet your Bookscan sales (admittedly untrustworthy) list your sales in the 700 range. Most self pubbed books sell less than 50.
and my middle grade fantasy book "The Misadventures of Hobart Hucklebuck" has received solid reviews.
These sales are very low - Bookscan (admittedly untrustworthy) lists only 29 books sold.

I think it's important to know how you get your books to market without any distribution. Do you do print runs? How do you market and promote your authors?
 

BjornAbust

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In this day and age, this should not reflect on my talents as a writer.

It isn't your talent as an author that's in question here; it's your ability to produce a quality product and distribute it. We're wondering if you have what it takes to be a viable publisher, Mr. Swanson. There are various small publishers that accept works of horror- why should authors subimt to Dark Moon instead of any others?
 

Unimportant

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Mr Swanson, do you think that there may be a conflict of interest inherent in your being the owner of the press?

For example, publishers may find that for every X dollars they put into marketing a title, they increase that title's sales by 10%. A savvy publisher, therefore, will put more money towards promoting a big-selling title than a tiny niche book. It makes more sense to spend the press's limited marketing budget to increase Big Title's sales from 10,000 to 11,000 than it does to spend the same amount to increase Tiny Title's sales from 1000 to 1100. The thousand extra sales of Big Title will give the press a profit; the hundred extra sales of Tiny Title won't cover the cost of marketing.

Authors know this and expect this, so they strive to write the best, most marketable books they can, knowing that the better their book is the more the press will put into marketing it and the more sales they'll have and the more money they'll earn. However, this only works if the press allocates its marketing dollars fairly, based on the author's previous sales and projected sales for the current title. That kind of falls to pieces if the press has a vested interest in putting its marketing dollars into a particular title regardless of its potential or sales, simply because the person making the marketing-dollars decisions also wrote that particular title.

I'm not saying you DO do this or that you WILL do this. I'm saying that it has happened before with author-owned presses, and it will likely happen again. The conflict of interest exists with every author-owned press. The potential for the press's authors to be subsidising sales for the press's owner-author exists.

Can you address what steps you've taken to remove this conflict of interest?
 

stanswanson

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Quote:
Originally Posted by stanswanson
I self-published several of my own books. In this day and age, this should not reflect on my talents as a writer.

MM: May I inquire as to why?

Why do I self-publish or why should self-publishing not reflect on my talents? I guess both questions can be answered similarly. I originally self-published because I felt I had something to offer as an author and just because you get dozens of rejections doesn't mean you don't have a good book, whether it be nonfiction or fiction. (J K Rowling is a prime example of someone who originally self-published. And, no, I am not making comparisons here...)

As far as sales, marketing, etc., I have not done much in the past. "The Songwriter's Journal" sells well and I haven't marketed it in a couple of years. "Hobart" has not sold well (again, no marketing), but it is a well-known fact that nonfiction usually outsells fiction by a wide margin. All of my stuff is print-on-demand, which (in my opinion) is not a four-letter word in this day and age. Whether you like it or not, it is the face of the future of publishing.
 

stanswanson

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Quote:
Originally Posted by stanswanson
In this day and age, this should not reflect on my talents as a writer.

It isn't your talent as an author that's in question here; it's your ability to produce a quality product and distribute it. We're wondering if you have what it takes to be a viable publisher, Mr. Swanson. There are various small publishers that accept works of horror- why should authors subimt to Dark Moon instead of any others?

Although I recently edited and updated a collection of my own zombie short stories, all other books published by Dark Moon this year will be from other authors. (I have a sequel in the works for "Hobart", but have turned my attention towards publishing.) We have just published Dark Moon Digest #4 and all issues are getting great reviews. We are also beginning a major advertising campaign and will be making a major splash at the 2012 World Horror Convention in Salt Lake. We will also be launching "Slices of Horror" at the convention with flash fiction pieces from authors such as Jack Ketchum, Del Howison, Brian McKinney, Graham Masterton, etc. and cover art done by Mike Mignola. Yes, we are relatively new, but we are growing quickly. (If you are in doubt about the quality of our work, check out a recent issue of Dark Moon Digest. I think the publication will speak for itself.)
 

shelleyo

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I have nothing to say about the rest, but

J K Rowling is a prime example of someone who originally self-published.

No, I don't think so. Why do people keep saying this?

Shelley
 
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stanswanson

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Mr Swanson, do you think that there may be a conflict of interest inherent in your being the owner of the press?

You make a good point. I think that is one of the big problems with, for example, Amazon's CreateSpace. It allows anyone to sell a Kindle book for almost nothing. And this leads to some very poor "books" being "published." Personally I will not buy a Kindle (or Nook, etc.) book unless there is also a print version available or I am familiar with the author. I also have all of my books edited by professional editors. I have also had a couple of short stories published in Dark Moon Digest, but all stories submitted to the publication are read blindly (associate editors do not know the name of the author) and are read/rated by a minimum of four different editors. (I currently have a staff of twenty.)

I see no conflict of interest. I have been around the block a time or two and know when I have written something that is crap. It would not be to my advantage to publish something of my own simply for self-gratification if it would hurt the image of the company as a whole. Hope that answers your questions.

Also, we typically market/advertise all Dark Moon titles as a unit, so all books receive somewhat "equal" billing. Full page ads for Dark Moon will appear in the next several issues of Cemetery Dance.
 

stanswanson

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Okay, right idea, wrong author. Sorry. (She is, however, going to self-publish the e-book versions of Harry Potter.) We could talk about Amanda Hocking, however. As well as famous authors that received dozens of rejections (i.e. Stephen King, Joseph Heller, Ursula K. Le Guin and Rowling).
 

priceless1

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As far as sales, marketing, etc., I have not done much in the past. "The Songwriter's Journal" sells well and I haven't marketed it in a couple of years. "Hobart" has not sold well (again, no marketing),
If you aren't/haven't marketed your own book, then how do you propose to market your authors? The thing is, there isn't anything in your answers that should give an author confidence that you know how to get books sold. And this makes me ask what elements of your company make you a solid choice to query?

but it is a well-known fact that nonfiction usually outsells fiction by a wide margin.
That depends. I specialize in nonfiction, and I can assure you we work very hard at achieving our sales. Authors need to have a solid platform, and the publisher needs excellent distribution and subject matter. Please don't ever think nonfiction sells strictly for nonfiction's sake. It doesn't.

All of my stuff is print-on-demand, which (in my opinion) is not a four-letter word in this day and age. Whether you like it or not, it is the face of the future of publishing.
While I agree digital printing is far from a four-letter word, I think it remains to be seen whether that process is the face of the future. Have you been in business long enough to have that clear of a crystal ball? You aren't a commercial press, so do you really know how our side of the business works? Bookstores haven't gone the way of the dodo bird yet, and POD books are shut out of those venues - where most of our sales take place.

If you're going to be a POD press, you still need to provide solid answers as to how you plan on getting your authors' books in front of an audience.
We could talk about Amanda Hocking
We could, but Amanda and her other successful brethren have worked achingly long hours to attain those sales. And at that, Amanda took the commercial press contract because she knew she couldn't sustain that kind of momentum and felt happier being under the umbrella of a solid publisher who can give her the support and distribution she needs. And at that, what does Amanda's story have to do with your business?
 
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shelleyo

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We will also be launching "Slices of Horror" at the convention with flash fiction pieces from authors such as Jack Ketchum, Del Howison, Brian McKinney, Graham Masterton, etc. and cover art done by Mike Mignola.

Definitely some impressive names in that list.

Shelley
 

stanswanson

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Well, I guess the bottom line is we could argue this all day long. You seem to feel that Dark Moon can't support an argument that is of benefit to our authors and it doesn't do me any good to try and justify that to you. We all have our opinions. But brick-and-mortar stores are struggling. (i.e. Borders is closing stories; Barnes & Noble's online bookstore is the only thing keeping them afloat, etc. and we aren't even mentioning independent bookstores. And, aside from the Stephen Kings and John Grishams of the world, nonfiction (on the average) will always outsell fiction. (IMHO) My current and upcoming authors are quite happy with Dark Moon and that is all that counts. If you are a publisher, then I wish you the best. If you are an author, then Dark Moon isn't going to be high on your list of potential publishers and I still wish you the best. (Guess I'd better go and do some marketing...) ;)
 

veinglory

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Justification, schmustification. When you have sales figures for sales of books by people other than yourself... they will be whatever they are. In my opinion that is pretty much all that matters. Until then, best of luck.
 

priceless1

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Well, I guess the bottom line is we could argue this all day long. You seem to feel that Dark Moon can't support an argument that is of benefit to our authors and it doesn't do me any good to try and justify that to you.
Now wait a minute. You came here offering to answer questions about your company, and I don't think I asked you anything that was extraordinary:
How do you propose to market?
How do you promote your books and get them into the marketplace?

To date, you have yet to answer those questions, so I think it's a bit premature to take your marbles and go home.

But brick-and-mortar stores are struggling.
Yes, yes, we all know that, but you're vastly oversimplifying who is actually selling books in stores. Nonfiction sells well, but you have to have a marketable book whose storyline will appeal to a large readership. You have yet to state how you make your nonfiction sell - or any of your genres, for that matter.

My current and upcoming authors are quite happy with Dark Moon and that is all that counts.
Sigh. This is what I'm asking. WHY are they happy? What are you doing for them that makes them love you?

You said you would answer any questions, and I'm still waiting. Why is this? Publishing isn't a matter of saying, "Just trust me." If you can't handle a few pointed questions, then I can't help but wonder how you'll handle the tough business of selling books. It takes a thick hide and guts.
 

jairey

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Um, you don't publish Kindle books through Createspace.