Mr. James H. Longmore, British, easy-going, and very cool, gave me my big break into horror. In fact, he’s given quite a few people their big breaks. When I decided to get serious about writing again, I made many new acquaintances, and a few friends as well. Many of these folks have contracts with HellBound Books Publishing LLC, an indie house that is swiftly growing by proverbial leaps and bounds. Whether they have written novels, short stories in themed horror anthologies, or short story collections, a lot of authors have been recently published by HBB. And while I’m not quite where I want to be, myself–a named HBB writer (I have some projects in the works)–I still feel very privileged to have my work included in three different HBB anthologies. It’s an awesome feeling.
However, like many writers, I endure terrible fits of doubt. I not only doubt myself, I tend to doubt any publisher willing to pick me up. I doubt my luck. I’ve heard sad, tragic stories about indie publishing houses going under, leaving writers stranded. I’ve bent a few ears over my angst (Becky Narron, a Personal Assistant with HBB, can testify–she’s had to straighten me out more than once). I don’t feel I’m really good enough to be published yet, either. Well, maybe just a little bit, but… Mostly I just worry that I’m going to lose my tenacious but tenuous foothold in the world of published writers. I have nightmares about it all falling apart before I can actually get anywhere. I’ve often speculated, in these fits of faithlessness, as to whether or not I’m getting good at my craft, and am actually worthy, or if James Longmore has published me simply because he would publish anybody?
It’s not the sort of thing you ask a guy in his position, though I believe Mr. Longmore is down-to-earth enough to handle such a poignant query with style and grace. Being the owner of a publishing house, I’m sure he’s quite used to dealing with doubting Thomases and prima-donnas alike (and I can be both). In fact, one of his personal goals behind the HellBound Books brand turns out to be a strong desire to create a better experience for unheard-of writers like myself. He reiterates this point in his answer to my first question.
TSG: “It must feel great to be the editor-in-chief of HellBound Books. How did you wind up here?”
JHL: “Oddly enough, I’m not actually editor-in-chief — I own the company, but I possess the writer’s typical lack of editing skills, hence we have far better editors than I signing off on manuscripts.
“As to how I wound up heading up an indie horror publisher — I guess that was borne of my own frustrations and bad experiences at the hands of other publishers (who shall remain nameless) — I wanted to be able to offer authors (and their readers) a good, positive experience with their work.
“Thus, HBB was born, and we very quickly established a solid reputation for being fair, honest, drama-free, and innovative (we’re still the only ones with our own App!).”
TSG: “HBB seems to be growing at an incredible rate. Does the future look promising? Do you ever suffer any doubt about where things are going, or if it will all fall apart?”
This was my most daring question, I think–I had laid my fears on the table. Mr. Longmore’s answer feels fresh and reassuring as if it was indeed shaped to dispel doubt, particularly my own.
JHL: “We are, and it does!
“Our objective was always to produce an exemplary and wide-ranging catalog within our first two years, to provide a strong offering to our growing readership and a powerful marketing tool for each and every one of our authors.
“So far, so good.
“I have no doubts whatsoever regarding HBB’s future — we are already bigger than the sum of our parts, and have a strong financial base.
“And no, there’s nothing in the business plan about things falling apart.”
This answer was followed by a clever emoji. Yep, even James H. Longmore uses emojis to convey emotion and strengthen communication.
TSG: “Is it ever difficult to make choices concerning what and who gets published, who gets put on hold, or who is rejected?”
(Am I always this transparent?)
JHL: “To be quite honest, nope, it is never difficult to make that choice.
“If a writer is good, and their work stands out, they will be accepted. Likewise, if we find a writer who shows good promise, but their MSS needs work to knock it into shape, we will also accept, and work hard with that author to mold their book into publishable material.
“If a writer’s work is not up to scratch, then the decision is equally easy.”
TSG: “You’ve done some business with Richard Chizmar of Cemetery Dance, and have actually shared some space with him (introduction for Blood and Kisses). Will we see more of Mr. Chizmar in the future, or was this a one-off thing? Might we see other big names in the future?”
JHL: “We have a good relationship with Richard — he has kindly contributed to our charity anthology [The Big Book of Bootleg Horror III], and appeared on our renowned blog radio show — The New Panic Room http://www.panicroomradio.com/ (Thursdays, 9:30 Central) and he was gracious enough to write the forward for my collection, Blood and Kisses — we do hope to work with him again in the future, he’s one hell of a guy!
“As HBB grows, we are attracting ‘big names,’ we are in talks with a bunch at the moment for our Jack Ketchum memorial anthology (we are working close with Dallas’ agent and estate) — as our reputation grows, we will become a real and viable go-to for established authors across the genre.
“That said, we will never forget our primary purpose, which is to give new and up-coming authors a solid foundation to launch their work.”
TSG: “You’ve written quite a lot yourself. Where does it all come from? Are there certain influences? Books, movies, authors?”
JHL: “I have, and I continue to do so — my first love will always be writing. Early influences include H.G. Wells, John Wyndham, James Herbert, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Chuck Palahniuk, Guy n Smith, Mark Morris — the list goes on.
“The very first grown-up horror novel I ever read was The Rats (Herbert), and that had me hooked on the whole new (as it was then), visceral style of horror — my own creature novel, Pede, is my very own homage to the late, great James Herbert.”
There’s no mistaking Mr. Longmore’s deep appreciation of horror and horror authors, some of them favorites of my own. It’s comforting. He’s a writer. He’s the owner of an indie publishing house rooted in the classics. HBB is not a fly-by-night publisher, and my fears are groundless (of course). Why do I doubt myself so much? Why do I doubt success? It’s hard to live with sometimes, and I am grateful for the positive vibes James H. Longmore seems to radiate naturally.
TSG: “If I may ask, how do you choose which authors are published, which are put on hold, and which are rejected?”
Didn’t I just ask this question?
JHL: “You may.
“Those with good, strong, well-written stories are a shoe-in and will receive an acceptance from us.
“We do try to be constructive with those who we do reject, as I hold the true belief that we writers can only improve by absorbing critique, and learning from it.
“It is an unpleasant part of the job, but rejections are inevitable — sometimes a MSS is just not good enough, other times it may not be our thing (we keep getting YA novels submitted, heaven only knows why!) and sometimes it just doesn’t grab our attention; but heck, even the Beatles were rejected at least once!”
I’ve certainly had my fair share of rejections. They’re much easier to swallow, however, after some success — you appreciate them more.
TSG: “I know this is a worn-out question, but do you have any advice for fledgling writers? For semi-pros? For pros?”
JHL: “Yeah, lots!
“I guess first and foremost is — learn your craft!
“Write, read, elicit criticism (from people who will be brutally honest with you, not your Mom), write some more, read some more — shine your work until you can see your face in it
“Learn, also, the tools of the trade. In today’s market, this means the appropriate computer software — learn how to format your work to the publisher’s specifications (most are pretty standard, but do your research and give ’em what they want!). Teach yourself correct grammar and punctuation, and for Christ’s sakes, if a word has a little red or green line underneath it, pay attention to what your PC is telling you!
“We receive — and reject — too many manuscripts that are badly formatted and have the most atrocious spelling, punctuation, and grammar — as a general rule, if your work makes it difficult for us to read, and pulls us out of a story, it’s coming back to you (we even provide FOC our very own grammar and punctuation guide!).
“And — excuses such as ‘I don’t understand how to use word/open office/etc.’ just won’t wash — it’s like deciding to become a car mechanic with a spoon.
“Finally — keep on writing! Don’t stop, don’t ever let other people’s criticism be your excuse to quit — just keep on hammering out those words, one at a time…”
There’s no denying the positive vibes that emanate from James H. Longmore, even in a textual form. Though I have no idea what his voice actually sounds like, I can hear him stressing syllables, enunciating words, speaking with a British accent, and everything he says is encouraging, uplifting, and soothing. And, besides that, he’s a writer. He’s a fellow author. We share similar visions of success.
So, why do I worry? I don’t know–it’s a quirk, I guess. I certainly don’t need to worry about HellBound Books Publishing LLC. It’s one publishing house, built on a great foundation, that’s determined to beat out the competition. There are literally thousands of writers out there, but all the good ones write for HBB.
Ps. My Mom is a brutal critic. Maybe that’s why James H. Longmore likes my work. Maybe…
Fans can learn more about HellBound Books and Mr. James H. Longmore via these URLs: