Memo to Myself: Do the Dumb Things I Gotta to Do, Touch the Puppet Head

Invariably, I’m asked, “So what prompted you to start a publishing company?” This happens at conventions, in interviews, and by concerned family members. It’s a loaded question, because what they mean to ask is “Are you nuts? Do you enjoy losing money? It’ll only end in tears and you’ll probably be the one left crying.”

I liken it to the ‘train wreck’ scenario. People can’t look away from a good disaster. People can’t help themselves but to wonder.

In the four years since I started my adventures in small press publishing, I still can’t give a direct, concise answer as to why I started a publishing company. Part of it comes down to having a career crisis. In 2005, I was working in a dead end job as an I/T support specialist for the city government’s division of risk management. I’d also just turned 30. I could see myself troubleshooting risk management software for the rest of my life, never making waves, never making a difference, and that depressed me. Making sure somebody is getting their workman’s comp payments is a good thing, but it’s not something that gives a person joy or pride—at least not this person.

I wanted to combine something I enjoyed with something that could be a positive influence on others.

Then, one day, while browsing the Shocklines forum (a popular site for horror fans), I noticed a topic of the sort that stated that the short fiction print market was dead. I wondered, “Is this true?” For a long time, I’d dismissed the problems of the ‘big 3’ digests as their inability to leave the Jurassic age (particularly in presentation and design). I formulated a plan for an edgier, more visually appealing digest, wrote up a business plan, bummed some money from a bank, and set forth to prove the naysayers wrong.

So the best answer to “Why did you do it?” comes down to two things: being unhappy and being stubborn. Apex Digest ran for twelve issues, reaching a circulation of nearly 5,000 when the last issue hit the stands. Eventually, time and money forced me to retire the print version of the digest. While I consider the magazine to be a partial success (mostly held back by my inexperience running a small business), others might argue otherwise. All I know is that I had a blast working with authors, editors, and artists.

In 2008, I decided to change the direction of Apex and focus on book publishing. Our first book was Jennifer Pelland’s well-regarded SF collection Unwelcome Bodies, containing her Nebula Award-nominated story “Captive Girl.” In short, we kicked off our book division with a naked man on the cover and haven’t looked back since.

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