DarkTales: An Interview With David
Nordhaus/ Victor Heck
David Nordhaus is part of the next generation of book publishers, those who are taking advantage of new technologies to circumvent the traditional New York-based publishing empires. Nordhaus was co-founder of DarkTales Publications, a now-defunct small press focusing on horror titles.
Nordhaus is also an author, writing under the name Victor Heck, and DarkTales released his novel A DARKNESS INBRED. He has been a highly-successful corporate salesman, graphic and web designer, a movie extra, and worked in a cemetery in addition to other, more extreme undertakings
Nicholson: First off, how long do think about starting an
independent press and why did you eventually make the
move, even though it creates an obvious financial burden?
The expense was more than we'd anticipated so it took us until 1999 to actually publish the thing, and by then we had also opened the anthology up to HWA members. The first Asylum book cost around $4500 to print via traditional offset methods, and was funded by my 1998 tax refund. We wanted to continue with the Asylum series with its other three volumes, but at that price we knew it wasn't possible. So for the next three months I scoured the web for printing alternatives.
This was when Print On Demand technology was just starting to appear, but it was still shunned mostly because back then the quality was lower than offset provides and the per unit prices were higher. But I knew there had to be something we could use Print On Demand for, and it would take more studying before we made a move. But to more specifically answer your question above, I would say that first we had our ideas of what we "wanted" to do in a small press, then we had to think about what we could pull off with what resources we had to work with, but the most important thing was knowing you've got an angle no one else has done or fully exploited yet that you might be able to do better.
case it was the complete lack of larger small press
venues for a good mix of new name authors and established
authors. There were plenty of small presses in horror,
but I simply didn't see any new names to speak of
breaking into anything anywhere. Other editors told me
that new names don't sell and you have to be very picky
about what new names you go with if they have a solid
voice and story to tell. Well, this IS true, but the word
"picky" never became an issue. As soon as we
opened our doors and told the world we were
Of those ten, maybe five were turning a profit making it worthwhile to continue shelling out the effort, and of those five I only saw four that were really making a major appearance in horror. Cemetery Dance, Subterranean, Meisha Merlin and Design Image. At least those are the four that made an impression on me when DarkTales' mission was being 'conceived'. Don't get me wrong, the stuff coming out by a bunch of the small presses is good quality stuff, I just meant that, to answer your question properly, that I felt there really was an opening for a new, energetic press in this genre. I felt this because CD and Subterranean both put out hardcovers and cater almost to a different market than we do, Design Image was a new company back then only doing Vampire or "traditional" monster horror themes, and Meisha Merlin, while also doing trade paperbacks, seemed to go more for established names and did both horror and scifi.
We instead went for all new titles, no reprints, all in trade paperback, of any theme as long as it was horror. In fact we've sort of silently avoided traditional monster themes like vampires and werewolves although DeadTimes has a vampiric aspect to it that we really liked, and it was something we as customers would really want to buy and read, and at least 50% of our titles are written by first-time or very new novelists that had written incredible works deserving publication.
Plus Horror is what I love. Damn near exclusively. Granted, the horror market is small compared to other genres. But despite the whining going on in the background about horror's impending doom, I've always loved horror and just KNOW there are others out there who think like I do and are always looking for great new stuff they can't find in the mass market. We just need to find and reach them is all, which we're working diligently to do.
are the advantages of print-on-demand publishing and what
are the pitfalls, for both writers and publishers?
I don't know that there are any 'pitfalls' per se, other than the perception of some that POD is still low quality when it isn't. Some is, yes. But not the printers we use for our product. We make sure of that. Beyond that, the only other downside to POD I can see is the per unit price for printing is higher than traditional printing. Which translates to us having smaller profits than other publishers for each book sold if we price our books competitively. Which we are doing. In January 2001 we are revealing our all new, lower pricing schedule. So, while we receive lower profits, we don't suffer the risk other presses do if their stuff doesn't sell.
that can be considered a pitfall: overprinting a POD book
in anticipation of greater sales numbers and they don't
come. Then you're stuck with books just like an offset
printed book, but yours cost you more to print in the
peeve is spelling errors. I have this firm belief that
writers should know how to spell. But despite these
things, I'm primarily looking for a cool story I think we
can sell that would fit our line. I overlook a lot of
simple errors that editing can fix if there is a good,
solid, original story in there we like.
I think if anything is going to change it's going to be the direction DarkTales takes with its publications. We're continually evolving and trying new stuff.
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