An interview with… ELIZABETH SUGGS & JONATHAN J. REDDOCH FROM COLLECTIVE TALES PUBLISHING

JONATHAN J. REDDOCH:
Jonathan is a father, a copy editor, a test developer, an academic, and a lifelong learner. He rarely dabbles in writing horror but loves to read it and watch it and occasionally live it. He is the Associate editor in the anthology.

He and his business partner, Elizabeth Suggs, started a company Collective Tales Publishing to publish authors in anthologies. He has worked in publishing and editing for over fifteen years. 

When he’s not writing or working on the business, he hangs out with his two adorable daughters and watches superhero, horror, and drama movies.

ELIZABETH SUGGS:
Elizabeth Suggs is a writer, an editor, and a leader in the writing community. She obsessively writes each morning, lunch, and evening. When she’s not writing, she’s leading a group of writers through bi-weekly workshops on feedback and focused writing. She believes these meetings help writers understand themselves in the world and better prepare them for major publishers. 

She and her business partner, Jonathan Reddoch, started a company Collective Tales Publishing to publish authors in anthologies. She is also published in a podcast, a poetry journal, with news agencies, and several anthologies. 

Outside of writing, Elizabeth devours literature through reading or listening. She tries any genre once, but she especially loves classics, horror, sci-fi, and psychology texts. Sometimes she even listens to audiobooks while playing games because she can stay productive that way.

You guys started Collective Tales Publishing together, would you like to talk about it and how that happened?

Jonathan: Well, it all started with Liz, of course. She had her own solo publishing and editing service called Editing Mee, which she still does. She had this brilliant idea—and she is super brave to do it—to publish an anthology. And then about a year into the project, she invited me to join. I was a writer at first, and then, I was an editor and helped on other things. Eventually, we started to work more and more closely that it made sense to start a business to benefit us both.

Elizabeth: Man, I am so grateful for Jonathan. I don’t think I would have been as successful without his help. Plus,  I wouldn’t have had as much fun!

What new releases are lined up on Collective Tales Publishing’s horizon?

Collective Tales Publishing: Collective Tales Publishing has several new releases on the horizon! We’re collecting submissions for a shorter horror anthology called The Darkness Between. We’re also working on Collective Fantasy, a medieval fantasy anthology, and in the next few months we will be taking submissions for a sci fi anthology, and next year, we’re planning a dystopian anthology and a charitable anthology for the LGBTQ+ community. They’re all branded with “Collective” in the title, so “Collective Visions” for the sci fi, “Collective Chaos” for the dystopian, and “Collective Humanity” for the LGBTQ anthology. 

Elizabeth: Our model is to have two anthologies per year, one in fall and one in spring, all in speculative fiction.

Can you tell us what the Little Darkness ebook is?

Jonathan: Little Darkness is the companion copy to Collective Darkness, with some of the same authors from Collective Darkness. It features horror flash fiction and poetry.

Are you looking for submissions for your future anthologies and projects?

Elizabeth: Yes, absolutely! We’re always looking for submissions. Currently, we’re looking for submissions for The Darkness Between, which is a larger version of Little Darkness, but with authors outside of Collective Darkness.

The Collective Tales Publishing is a new business of yours. Would you like to explain what that is?

Collective Tales Publishing: Collective Tales Publishing is an independent publisher that publishes speculative fiction anthologies. We’re co-owners, but we have some amazing and wonderful collaborators, writers, and hopefully, artists soon.

I was very happy to hear about your charity work. Would you like to talk about it?

Jonathan: Collective Humanity: An LGBTQ+ Anthology of Imaginative Fiction is an anthology of speculative fiction that will publish a diverse range of story ideas, genres, and lengths. We’re basically working for free and asking our submitters to donate to the project to reduce cost. All net proceeds will go to a nonprofit community called Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire in Salt Lake City, Utah. The theme is Metamorphosis or rebirth.

As people who work in the publishing / editing industry, what are the main and biggest mistakes that new authors make?

Elizabeth: Anthologies are a different breed from novel-length stories, and many authors don’t realize the pacing is different. So, what ends up happening is there tends to be too much detail, slow pacing, or the start of the story isn’t actually the real start of the story, which is fine in a novel, but a writer only has so much space to tell a story. If we don’t know what’s going on or what the inciting incident is by the first page, then the story may need significant cuts.  

Jonathan: MARKETING! Many new writers fall into this pithole where they write a story (especially self-publish authors) where they think that the book will sell itself. It doesn’t matter if the words are spun gold, if you don’t tell people about it, no one knows.

Elizabeth runs a couple of writers workshops, how are those going?

Elizabeth: I run two writing groups, one is romance and the other general. I cover things like feedback, writing retreats (when there’s no Covid); we have presenters, focused writing sessions, and this January I’ll be helping host a romance writer conference.

What – if anything – is missing from the indie industry?

Jonathan: Sanity–I’m kidding, but there is severe a lack of experience and expertise out there. You have a lot of very eager people publishing things, and they’re not really sure what they’re doing. There’s some beauty to that, but I’d like to see a little more order. So, indie publishers can be successful and prove that we are just as valid as big publishers. With our experience, we can help a lot of writers collectively succeed.

Many horror creatures, are tied to religion (at least in classic versions); do you find this to put a limit to creativity?

Elizabeth: I don’t think so. I think it can enhance creativity because it is tied so deeply with a person’s emotional state, and emotion is at the heart of creativity. 

Jonathan: I also say no because our imagination is limitless, and we can create all kinds of new demons. I think our monsters reflect who we are and who we fear we might be.

Do you come from a literary background?

Jonathan: I studied English and editing in my undergrad and worked in academic publishing during this time. I’ve always been into reading and writing sci fi, but when I worked in publishing, it was mainly academic and other random jobs. Every editor thinks they’re going to edit the next Great American novel, but that’s not always the case, and that’s okay too because I enjoyed my work, but I’m internally grateful I ran into Liz and pulled me back into speculative fiction. I always joked there’s way more money in academic publishing, but this is more fun. 

I also have a master’s in education, which helps pay the bills and a masters in business administration, which helps us run the business side. 

Elizabeth: I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism and one in psychology, so I did a lot of academic and journalism editing and writing for awhile, but I slowly pulled away from that and focused on my true love: speculative fiction.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Elizabeth: Vanity presses. Don’t do it. They’re scams. Also, stock images for covers. It’s a lot cheaper, but if done wrong, it can lead to a distorted image or poor quality. But, I think stock images can work if you have a background in design or understand the dimensions required for your specific cover compared to the image. 

Jonathan: I agree. I think it looks amateur to have stock images as your cover. Sometimes I’ve seen a cover and go, “Wait! I’ve seen that image before!” 

Also, amateur authors get stuck in this trap where they think that their vision matters more than the reader’s experience. As the publisher and editor, I’m not concerned as much with the writer’s vision or feelings as I am with making sure the reader has the best experience as possible. And sometimes this poses a conflict with new writers. But professionals know how to collaborate and compromise. 

Elizabeth: Writing is a solo activity, but publishing is a collaborative process. For example, journalists always collaborate on stories. It’s the same thing in the book publishing industry. It sounds harsh, but it’s a compromise. It works with us as independent publishers, and it works with the big 5.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

Jonathan: Both. It depends on if I’m writing because I have an idea or if I’m writing because I am forcing myself to write. If an idea strikes me in the middle of the night, when I’m showering, or driving, I’m struck with electricity and I can’t write fast enough to get it out. 

Elizabeth: Writing energizes me, which is why I choose to write every morning with green tea.

What is an indie movement cliché that you’d like to erase?

Jonathan: Publishing stuff for free. Because, to me, if it’s valuable, why would it be for free? As a reader, if I see something for free, I don’t want to read. 

Elizabeth: Self-publishing without working with an editor. It really matters! You get too close to the project, and you can’t see your own foibles. Many writers are pretty decent, but even the best authors have good editors. It’s arrogant to think you don’t need one. These are two sides to the business, and they require different skills. 

Also, overpriced independent books. Check what price your genre is selling for (you have to compare page count, print quality, author status, etc.) and match or beat that price. I realize that you’re not going to make that much if you sell your book for $8, but you can make it up in volume. 

Jonathan: I’ll add to that. It’s risk management for the reader. If you’ve read five Stephen King books that you love, then buying Carrie is almost no risk at all. However, the self-published author is virtual unknown to the market. It could be great or the worst, and the reader doesn’t know that, so they may not take the risk in buying your book.

You will have notice that Amazon has basically the monopoly on self-publication. How bad do you think that is and do you think there is anything that “normal” people can do to create an indie market that’s more free?

Jonathan: No comment! Just kidding, I have so many comments. So, I kind of see Amazon as a necessary evil right now. We need Amazon to succeed, but I wish we didn’t. We had a strategic marketing plan in place that worked! We focused on selling hard on Amazon on launch day. We were able to achieve bestseller status, which helped us gain a foothold in the market, and now we spend more time on local bookstores and selling directly, which we’re both patient about. Amazon was a stepping stone, but I never want to treat it as the end-all-be-all to publishing. 

Elizabeth: I agree with Jonathan. If a self-published author wants to gain traction in the market, they may need to use Amazon, but there are many different avenues. Amazon just makes it easily accessible, but direct selling and selling locally will help the community and help the author earn more money.

How important is a book’s cover?

Elizabeth: Extremely! The front cover pulls in the reader and the back cover should close the sale. 

Jonathan: I will admit I used to believe the adage about judging book covers, but after seeing people be pulled in by our book’s tantalizing cover and making the purchase without reading a single word, I’ve come to conclude that it is very important.

With the advent of social media, is it still important to have a personal website for an indie-author?

Jonathan: It’s important to have some online presence. For me, I focus a lot on Instagram, and I try to engage with the bookstagram community directly. For me, Instagram is a place to meet readers where they are, instead of trying to draw them to a second location. 

Elizabeth: I think it is critical to have something. Having a website is a clean, electronic portfolio of all your work, but it’s also vital to have social media because you need engagement. A website is only good if people know to look for it. If you’re not communicating with people, then how do they know to check your site out?

Would you like to give us some of your contacts?

http://www.CollectiveDarkness.com 

collectivetalespublishing@gmail.com (send all submissions here)

Instagram: 

@Collective_Tales_Publishing

@allusions_of_grandeur

@elizabethsuggsauthor


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