Escape Collective

Welcome to a New Idea in Publishing

This is the End

 

After a long year and a half (almost two years) of planning and working, we are calling it quits.  Below I will paste the nuts & bolts letter of note, but here perhaps I should be a bit more personal.  I’ve done this before – both operating a business and shutting it down – and I can tell you it’s not a small matter.  If starting a business venture (even a creative one) is like giving birth to and raising a child, then ending a business is like… like outliving your children.  It doesn’t feel natural, no matter how right it might be.  There is no way to describe the levels of weirdness.

This year has been a difficult one for us.  As a company, we are still solvent and could continue along this track for months – maybe a year or so – without doing much of anything.  But the heart was no longer there.  The original founders (well, except for me) had removed themselves from the business.  Personal conflicts and professional/family duties strained at our resources.  Even with new blood injected into the mix, there was no way to keep the heart beating.

So why did it go South?  I don’t want to drag out all the terrible details.  The short answer is this:  Marketing.  All of our business plans looked great on paper – except for that one, ginormous, gaping hole, labeled “TBD.”  Editors, writers, and copy-editors do not make good marketers.  That is to say, the same skills that make an editor excel do not serve the skill set of a good marketer.  In our case, they didn’t overlap.  We turned a blind eye to our primary shortcomings and could never get over the crippling skill gap.  Marketing.

We all learned a great deal from this.  Well, most of us learned a great deal.  I may throw my hat into the publishing field again in the future.  I loved my authors, I loved the work, and I loved the idea that I helped bring some kind of art to the world.  It was a great adventure.  I will miss it, but I’m glad it is ending.

Thank you very much.  Below is our final, so-called ‘press release’ for ECP.

-Patrick

 

Hello,

Effective immediately, Escape Collective Publishing will cease all publishing operations.  All listings have been removed from all retail markets.  All respective copyrights will return immediately to the original copyright holders.  Any and all royalty obligations not currently satisfied will be reconciled as soon as is humanly possible.  Solicitations for stories will no longer be sought, nor accepted.  Before the end of 2012, the cooperative corporate entity that is Escape Collective Publishing will be dissolved.

It has been a pleasure to work with a great many talented, hard-working authors, editors, and artists.  Everyone here at Escape Collective Publishing is proud of the people who have made this all possible – the authors – and the fantastic stories we have worked with.

If you have any questions, please contact us at your earliest convenience.  We wish you all the very best in your future endeavors.

Best regards,

-Patrick Jennings-Mapp, Editor
Escape Collective Publishing

How To Drive Yourself Crazy, Part Two: EDITING

Welcome back, to the second installment in this irregular series.  ‘Irregular’ because I don’t know when the next will one will be, and ‘series’ because I’m always learning new ways to drive myself crazy.  This time, it’s a real “how to” style!

i made this collage myself

A typical editor's work-space

First, decide to work on an anthology.  Work on at least five – but no more than ten – pieces at a time.  After all, if you were working with just one author, it would be far too simple.  No, in order to crank up the insanity, you have to do a lot of stories – at the same time.

Next, make sure that the people doing the copy-editing aren’t looking over each others shoulders.  That way, as editor (or co-editor), you have to catch any differing opinions and weirdness that might crop up.  It’s much better to work in a vacuum, if your goal is mind-numbing anxiety in the final hour.

Combine the various documents into a ‘master document’, without setting any filters first.  Don’t worry about italics and strange formatting yet.  After all, there will be plenty of time in the last week of work to redo everything.

It’s important at this stage to neglect your basic needs.  Forgetting to eat proper meals will instill a hunger for success.  Not getting enough sleep insures that you’ll be in an emotionally sensitive space; perfect for making snap decisions.  And don’t forget how maddening it will be to clean up the mess of your so-called social life.

If you can, make sure to delete a few key email messages from your authors.  Clear, easy lines of communication often get in the way of stark, raving lunacy.  A few missed pieces of information will guarantee special, surprise errors in the final version.

Now, before you get the finalized version kicked out the door, you’ll have to make review copies.  Distribute these to whoever is supposed to have them, but whatever you do, don’t harass them for critical feedback.  In order for the full force of slavering madness to take effect, key pieces of final review will have to be avoided.  Not by you, of course – you’ll still need to stay up late, every night, worrying over the formatting and obvious typos.

Bloody flags?

Almost done!  A critical piece of your own, personal crazy-pants-puzzle that is often overlooked is very technical, but easy to take care of.  Simply update your software, right in the middle of your final work cycle.  You don’t have to go all-out and change operating systems (save that for later in your career, when you really need to go bat-shit-insane), but it’s never that difficult to upgrade whatever program you’re using to put the book together.  Just imagine the giant leaps backwards in your progress!  All of your checklists and milestones will have to be completely redone.  It’ll be like working on a brand new project.

If you’ve put the wrong foot forward and made careful missteps the whole way, you’ll be in the best position possible to screw up the last few, tiny details.  Your immune system will be working overtime, as you fight sleep-deprivation and hunger to get the completed book across the finish line.  You will have alienated your friends, co-workers and support network (and probably your children) with your erratic behavior, to the point where they don’t care if you work yourself to death anymore.  Eye strain and a nervous tic will transform you into a hideous caricature of your former, vigorous self.  And those last few, itty bitty, teensy-weensy errors will just *POP* into place – just like magic.

They will manifest as an author name being spelled wrong, or a uploading the wrong version to the distributor’s website.  You might cut & paste the wrong section of the book description, or substitute your personal email address for the company one.  My favorite was the time I tried to upload a book using my personal Amazon log-in, rather than the one for publisher.  Sure, these aren’t big, terrible, life-changing problems, but in terms of making yourself crazy, they pack a lot of firepower.

Remember, everybody makes mistakes, but they don’t let it drive them insane.  If you want your mistakes to keep you awake at night – or just wipe the smile off your face – you’re going to have to work twice as hard.  Being an editor is a difficult job, all by itself, but there’s no reason why you can’t make it even worse.  By following these easy instructions, you’ll be well on your way to screaming incoherently at strangers in the parking lot in no time.

 

Patrick Jennings-Mapp is a co-founder of and an editor for Escape Collective Publishing.  When he’s not lying awake at night, wondering if he changed those straight-quotes back into smart-quotes, you can find him wandering the aisles of the grocery store, looking for bear-bacon and elbow grease.

Broken Hearts, Big Ideas

Ooh! So very, very pretty!

With Valentine’s Day looming over the horizon, I thought I’d give my two cents on the subject.  In short, I sort of hate Valentine’s Day.  It’s not because of the usual reasons, I guess.  I have a wonderful wife, whom I adore.  Despite my best attempts to be otherwise, I am a hopeless romantic.  I even enjoy the occasional
indulgence of whimsical love notes and cards.  I don’t even really mind the commercial aspect of it, although I flat-out reject the idea that I should spend any money just because it’s Valentine’s Day.  It’s the ‘Day’ part that I loathe.  

It’s already difficult to be a hopeful, positive person in this world.  I don’t want to be negative and cynical all the time.  For one thing, it’s just too easy.  For another, it’s a bad thing to imprint on my friends and family.  It is far too easy to hate on Valentine’s Day, just because it is a cynical, consumerist, superficial thing.  It’s a bit harder to look at why we should reject it and model good ways to interact with and about “love.”  

It’s the age of ‘Jersey Shore’, ‘The Kardashians’ and the 12-hour news cycle.  My friends and I joke about kids right out of high school getting into “starter marriages” because – damn it – that’s what they are.  Real commitment is difficult to hold on to.  Real, mature and lasting relationships require communication and (sometimes) hard work.  Flowers, cards, chocolate and diamond rings have all the depth of a dixie cup and it reflects the facile, imitation-flavor of love that you can buy on your way home from work.  

I’ve had my heart broken and as much as I’d like to forget it, I’ve broken some too.  Valentine’s Day seems like a warped reflection of all that pain and misery.  Yes, there are plenty of people who enjoy it.  And who am I to say that their experience is in any way not valid?  I say, if you want to wear rose-colored glasses for a day and spend a ton of money on your sweetie, that’s fine.  That’s your business.  I object to the ‘Day’ part of it, more than anything.  

It’s funny.  I started this as a way to segue into a plug for our new book, Orbital Hearts.  It is out right now, on Amazon (for the low price of $3.99!).  It’s an anthology of ten stories, by an international coterie of authors.  And it’s all about ‘doomed romance’ and ‘star-crossed lovers’ – ya know, good stuff.  It’s not,
strictly speaking, an anti-Valentine’s Day book, but it speaks to a lot of what I’m trying to get at here.  In fact, the contributors to Orbital Hearts manage to stay within the bounds of the theme, while being more eloquent and genuinely romantic than I could hope to be.

Love – in the classic, ‘eternal love’ sort of sense – is a fleeting and ephemeral thing.  It’s here and then, sometimes, it’s gone.  Our hearts rule over us, make us do things we would never otherwise choose.  This is nothing to triffle with, nothing to take lightly, or dismiss, or cheapen with a ‘Day.’  In my experience, love – true love – is something to respect, maybe even stand in fear or awe of.  Do you love someone?  Then do something about it.  But don’t let some sales pitch dictate when and how.

Patrick Jennings-Mapp is a co-founder of and an editor for Escape Collective Publishing.  When he’s not working, he enjoys long walks on the beach, listening to Coltrane, and surrealist art.

Giving Is Good

We’re nearly done with our sales drive to benefit ProLiteracy – a super awesome organization dedicated to promoting literacy, in the United States and around the world – and I’ve learned plenty of lessons.  First and foremost, I feel pretty excited to be doing something good.  There is no equivocation or irony or conditional responses involved; this is a good thing, for a good group.  Corollary to that, I need a better word than ‘good.’

But a bigger, maybe more important lesson to take from this is that other people like it too.  I know, it seems like a no-brainer, right?  Obviously people appreciate it when someone acts in a selfless way – especially when it does the whole world a tiny bit of good.  However, I didn’t anticipate there would actually be an immediate sense of success.  Of course, that is much different than actual success, but I’ll take what I can get right now.

I’m sure there are greater lessons to take away from this experience and I’m sure that as we dissect the hows and whys of it all they will come to us.  I know it’s a terrible thing to admit, but I don’t feel good at this whole ‘marketing’ thing.  Yes, I find it easy to talk to people – about almost anything, it seems.  And yes, I really love the work we’re putting out, which makes me want to stand up and push it in your face.  But I think the thing that has been bothering me (or blocking at the very least) is the idea that it is somehow all about money.  When I read that last sentence it makes me cringe a bit – of course it should be about money, at least to some degree.

Maybe I just need to separate the idea of me making money off of this work, from the success of the work itself.  I know from my research into marketing independent and self-publishing that this is a big hurdle for many authors.  Perhaps I just took it for granted that it wouldn’t affect me, since I’m not selling my own writing?  Perhaps I am a soft-headed fool who ought to attend a few more writer’s workshops?  Hm.

I’ve gotta say, I’m very grateful to the folks out there who have picked up some of our books today.  As much as I hope they enjoy the works, I really hope it inspires some people to do something similar.  It certainly has changed the way I’ve been thinking about my job.  And it really does feel pretty damned sweet to pass on our piece of the pie to a well-deserving organization.

Happy day-after-Christmas!  And happy several days before New Year!  Cheers!

When Patrick Jennings-Mapp isn’t working out his own, personal issues through his official work blog, he’s chasing his children through the house, much like a tornado chases trailer parks.  Real tornadoes don’t make as much noise as he does though.

Day After Christmas Charity Drive!

Today we are donating all of our sales’ profits to charity!  After we pay the authors of our books, all the money we get from today’s sales goes to ProLiteracy.  Granted, it won’t be a whole lot of money, but we think that putting our money where our mouths are is a good example.

Today is supposedly a huge day for e-book sales.  So many people have just received a Kindle, Nook, or ipad that it sort of makes sense.  Of course, you can always download the free readers for PC or Mac, so there really isn’t any excuse.  Even for those who have never read e-books before, it has become so damned easy and cheap that it almost doesn’t make sense to not check it out.

As someone who is intimately involved in the e-book industry, I try to keep an eye on trends and predictions for the future.  It’s not easy and it’s far from a science, but most signs point to the field growing more and more into 2012.  We’re pretty new at this game of publishing and I’m sure we’ve made tons of mistakes.  The most obvious being our mediocre marketing skills.  It’s not for lack of interest, but more of a gap in our combined professional experience.  And it seems to be a widespread problem with us writers and artists; even when we produce fantastic works, we somehow fumble all the time when it comes to letting the world know.  Ha!

This event – donating our share of the pie to charity – is one of the steps we’ve decided to take in getting our books to a wider audience.  But it’s also a very sincere attempt to lend support to a great organization.  If you’ve never checked out our books before, now would be the best time to do so.  Not only do you get a very good, very cheap book (or two), but it is a cool thing to do; your karma and conscience could benefit considerably.  Mm hm.

Here are the links to our books:

16 authors, for less than five bucks

Corpus Pretereo is HERE and HERE.

 

Riveting detective noir in a Lovecraftian vein

All Hope Lost is HERE and HERE.

Regardless of how this all works out, I think we’ll be doing similar things in the future.  Of course, I hope that it goes like a rocket – propelling our sales through the roof and into the stuff of legends… but I’m not quite delusional enough to think that’s likely to happen anytime soon.  You know what might help?  Eggnog and rum might help.  Should be just the thing to take the edge off the holidays.  Cheers!

Patrick Jennings-Mapp is a co-founder of and an editor for Escape Collective Publishing.  When he’s not trying to eat his weight in Christmas cookies, he’s trying to figure out how to drink his displacement volume in spiked coffee.

Cryptomnesia

 

from cognitivebiases.com

A recent article pointed me at THIS Jonathan Lethem piece in Harper’s, from 2007.  As I have a great deal of respect for Lethem I’m surprised I’d never read it before.  However, 2007 was a very busy year, so I’ll just forgive myself here and we can move on.  It is an eye-opening essay, on the inherent nature of plagiarism in literature.  I know I’ve read references to it, but it’s worth every second to read the article in its entirety.

For myself, one of the worst feelings in the world as a writer is to learn that someone else has already written the story that I’m working on.  It’s happened to me several times and it’s always painful – especially when it turns out that I’ve unconsciously swiped from one of my favorite authors.  Ugh.  But what’s really mystifying is when I accidentally ‘crib’ from stories and authors I’ve never heard of, much less read.  It’s also horrifying, to no small degree.

Certainly, there is truth to the notion that great minds think alike, that some stories are just floating in the ‘aether’ – waiting for somebody to write it down, solidify the words into the correct order.  Anyone who has ever created music, or art, or done improve theater can relate to the spontaneous connections – the magic that pulls different minds into one groove.  It’s not such a stretch to imagine that it happens in writing.

But we writers are all so very special, aren’t we?  So many writers I know take pride in their misanthropy – or, ‘isolation’, if you like.  Yes, we may all be of a kind, but our kind must “stick apart”, as the Discordians like to say.  We all share a common history, even if we’re scattered across the globe.  There is a common tapestry of film, music and literature.  Sure some of us don’t watch television, or listen to the radio, but none of us are truly alone.  It’s impossible to isolate ourselves in a ‘Faraday cage’ where we receive no input from the world around us.  And even if we could, who would want to live like that?  You know who was a productive writer in that kind of isolation?  The Unabomber, that’s who.

Lethem talks about Burroughs’ habit of cutting up passages of books, to work his writing ‘magic’.  My own, self-serving take on that is this:  we are all of us cutting up the books around us.  No one writes in a vacuum and not one of us is an island.  We are creatures who mimic and remix and reproduce with ease.  It seems to be seated in our minds as deeply as language itself.  The best and most noble of our own use their talents to guide this work, rather than be led by it.  When we harness this to our craft and deliberately work with our abilities, surely the results are good.  I mean, they are, right?  Geez, I hope so.

 

Patrick Jennings-Mapp is a co-founder of and an editor for Escape Collective Publishing.  There really isn’t much reason for him writing this byline thing, but since he’s fallen into the habit he’ll probably never stop.  Also, he likes writing about himself in the third person.

 

 

Mondays are for Monkeys


This is just a little somethin’ somethin’, to keep you occupied.  A diversionary tactic?  Perhaps.  After watching this and hearing the results of number-crunching, I feel a hell of a lot better about my writing.  Mm hm.

Enjoy!

Patrick Jennings-Mapp is a co-founder of and an editor for Escape Collective Publishing.  He has a couple of typewriters, but no monkeys – much to his eternal embarrassment.

The Razor’s Edge

Wow, it turns out I’m not the only one who waits to last minute to do things.  The past week has seen a flurry of submissions pile up in our inbox.  It’s crazy, but good!  In the past few days our total submissions have doubled.  That’s amazing!  I suppose I should be clear, just in case anyone is confused at all:

Tomorrow, December 1st is the actual deadline for submissions to our next anthology.  I’m not a stickler for these kinds of things, but some of my compatriots are, so if you’re waiting until the last second, you know the score now.  Anything we get after tomorrow night gets relegated to the lowest of the low-priority stacks in our growing pile of work-to-do.  Trust me, you don’t want to languish there.  Razor’s edge, snowball’s chance, etc., etc.

When we first kicked around the ideas behind “Orbital Hearts”, one of the selling points to me was the notion of an ‘anti-Valentine’s Day’ sort of theme.  It seems like everyone does some kind of cool themed anthology, but we’re not exactly mushy romantics.  However, we do love good escapist fiction and we are more than a little bitter.  It seemed like a perfect idea.  I overlooked one, small detail, which has been a strange challenge.  I’ve had to read a lot of mushy love stories, with tragic, twisted endings.  I don’t think I ever imagined that I would be asking for the chance to read so much bad romance.  But I’ve come to a surprising conclusion – I rather like it!

Now, I’m not going to start browsing the cheap, smutty paperback aisles, but there is a definite appeal to this kind of stuff.  I’m really pleased that the work we’ve been getting has been more varied than what I’m used to.  It’s fairly cathartic to get into these broken, all-too-human dramas, especially when they’re wrapped up in some otherworldly trappings.  Naturally, there are differing levels of quality, nuance and style in any batch of submissions, but I’m most surprised at how much I’m enjoying myself.

As a counter to all these warm, happy feelings, the job that lies ahead is no sweet dream.  As much as I’m looking forward to assembling the best stories, I just know that we’ll end up rejecting really good work just for the sake of space.  But I suppose that’s not nearly as difficult as being on the other side of the process.  However, I’ll let that idea filter for a bit – perhaps it should be a post, all on its own.  For now, I should just say ‘thank you’, to all who have put forward their best work.  Cheers!

 

Patrick Jennings-Mapp is a co-founder of and an editor for Escape Collective Publishing.  He prefers Bonnie & Clyde to Mickey & Mallory, but is perfectly willing to admit that both are fine, fine love stories.

Deadlines, Schmedlines

Savage Chickens is awesome

 

Holy crap!  There are only a couple of days left before our submissions deadline.  How did that happen?  And what the hell happened to my brain?  I could have sworn I had one, just a few weeks ago.  Hm… I suspect a major holiday has inserted itself into my finely tuned work plan.  I bet there was food and family – probably too much pie.  Oh well, we struggle on.

I’m pretty damn happy with the level of submissions we’ve been getting this time around.  A lot of really well-written, often surprising material is rolling in.  If I ever complain about having to read all of these stories, just shoot me though.  Overall, this is a delightful treat.  I am not looking forward to writing rejections, however.  It’s never fun and usually kills me just a bit inside.  And unless I miss my guess, we have an embarrassment of riches this time around – we will likely have too many good stories to run them all.  So that part will hurt a bit, for all parties I imagine.

On the other hand, we have had just the teensiest amount of interest in our cover art contest.  I had a friend submit a piece in the first week, but garnering interest from artists is a skill we have yet to develop I guess.  So, when it comes to that deadline, we may have to be a bit lax.  Because the book is going to have a cover – and I’m not going to draw it.  Oh ho ho ho… No.

Okay, back to the grind for me!  And you – shouldn’t you be writing too?  Mm hm, that’s what I thought.

 

Patrick Jennings-Mapp is a co-founder of and an editor for Escape Collective Publishing.  When he’s not recovering from food-induced amnesia (or clearly faking it), he likes to write write write and drink coffee coffee coffee.

How Do You Write?

My Underwood is too pretty to type on

I found this neat article on “alternatives” to using a laptop.  It’s over HERE if you want to check it out.  Personally, I find the idea of using electric typewriters pretty gross.  They have none of the useful function of a laptop, but none of the benefits of a truly analog device.  But that could just be me.  When I do use my old manual typewriter, I take great comfort in the fact that I can’t check my email, or get distracted by the online world.

But the article prompted some interesting thoughts.  The actual mechanism with which I write is not as important as what I write, of course, but how much is one influenced by the other?  For example, the best thing about using a typewriter is that I have to go fast.  It turns off my internal editor for a while and I can concentrate on getting the words on the page.  I know that I’ll have to type it into the computer later and I can take care of on-the-spot edits at that point.  It’s liberating, but doesn’t always fit my writing ‘mood’.  On the other hand (literally!), if I’m using a pen and paper I always write for efficiency.  That is to say, I only have so much time and power in me, before my hand cramps up and makes my life hell.  Seriously, I have wussy hands.  If I write longhand for an hour I feel like my fingers are made of wood.  To counter this, I stretch my fingers and la da dee da – but the important work has to get sorted before that pen touches the paper.  It changes the way I assemble the words before they leave my brain.  Is it better?  Is any which way particularly worse?  Well, it depends on what I’m writing, I guess.

A few years ago I amazed myself with a solid day of writing.  I lost track of the time, to be honest and I don’t know how long it was.  Ten hours?  Maybe it was twelve.  There was a lot of coffee, many bathroom breaks and a whole lot of cigarettes.  When it was over and I crawled into bed, I felt as though I had prevailed over some terrible ordeal.  I was a better, stronger person in some way.  But there’s no way I’d want to make a habit out of it!  There wasn’t any particular disadvantage that arose from such strenuous activity.  The next day, I got up and went back to work.  It’s an interesting contrast, but I wonder if I’m a better writer because of it.

As anyone who is “out” as a writer can attest, there are always a lot of questions from family and friends.  The most dreaded for me is, “How’s that story/novel/project going?”  Oh geez, how do I even approach an answer?  I usually ask which story/novel/project – because it’s probably not what I’m working on at the moment, thanks.  But the other day a friend asked me an odd, out of the blue question:  “How do you start writing a story?”  On the surface, it was simple, but he really meant the nitty-gritty, down in the dirt kind of details.  I was at a loss for a bit, but I answered as honestly as I could:  “I put the pen to the paper and the words come out.  Everything after that is editing.”  I told him about how I brainstorm, how I use story prompts and how I visualize scenes and characters, but I kept coming back to that point in my thoughts.  You just have to start writing.

All that being said, I guess it doesn’t matter what kind of instrument I use to write with.  Sure, they produce different methods and some allow me a lot more flexibility (thank you Google!).  If I had to write books like Stephen Hawking does – one ponderous letter at a time – would that stop me?  Would it stop you?  Might slow some of us down, I suppose.  It may be that that’s a good thing.  I’m going to give it a try, break out of my routine a wee bit.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Patrick Jennings-Mapp is a co-founder of and an editor for Escape Collective Publishing.  He is still working on that one novel – no, the other one.  Yes, the one with the screaming and the blood. (sigh) No, the other one with the screaming and the blood.  Yeah, he really should seek help about that.

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