Bill KiefferVisit Bill Kieffer‘s website.
I first became aware of Deadman's Tome from the Twitter feed of Promote Horror, which does exactly what it says that it does. I was there to promote myself and my book (The Goat: Building The Perfect Victim and thank you for asking) but one of the titles in the feed just caught my eye: Turbo-Slut 5K. It caught my eye like a double barbed fishhook. I had to have it. I contacted the author and we agreed to swap books for reviews.
This was not a family friendly book, although with that title, I've no idea why'd I feel compelled to explain that. It was brash and raw. Hyper-sexualized violence was the driving force and reviewing it was hard, because analyzing the story forced me to think. People don't read this stuff to think. It was a vacation and it was offensive. It got to me in a time and a place where I needed to drop all PC pretenses let this polluted river just wash over me. I swear I didn't swallow.
Plus, it had the best Donald Trump cameo ever. Written before the release of the Access Hollywood bus footage, proving that Jesse Dedman had a talent for pulling out the things hidden in the dark. He's the Lenny Bruce of Horror.
If you like Troma, but you don't think they go far enough, you'll want to pay Mr. Deadman a visit.
Since then, I've been keeping an eye on Deadman's Tome, waiting for a themed issue that will inspire me to write and submit something for his ezine. Maybe someday.
Until then, I decided to interview Jesse Dedman for Shelfies for two reasons apart from his unique and totally indy publisher vibe. First, I wanted the see if he could go a whole interview without being a potty mouth. Secondly, I had a side bet with another reader about whether he'd have a Cthulu dildo on the bookshelf.
OK, he surprised me both times.
Jesse Dedman on His Bookshelf
My bookshelf used to be a lot bigger. I took a few trips to half price books to help pay the bills, the magazine, and to feed my vices.
I read Anne Rice, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, H. P. Lovecraft, Bret Easton Ellis, and Aldous Huxley. I had the classics: Interview with a Vampire, Thinner, Fire Starter, American Psycho, and such.
I should read more. Other than submissions and case files for my day job, I don't do much reading. I read some books from Grey Matter Press that I enjoyed and intended to review, but still haven't gotten around to it.
Deadman's Tome & Horror,: unfiltered, uncensored, brutal horror
Please describe Deadman's Tome briefly and what genre(s) you serve.
Deadman's Tome is an indie horror magazine with a strong, very strong focus on brutal horror. People think that's a joke, but that's before they read some of the darker, more potent stories that the magazine offers
How did you come to found Deadman's Tome? What titles and writers did you start with?
In 2008, I started Demonic Tome after crossing out large sections of horror mags in a Writer's Digest. I would search to find that a page of “open for subs” magazines were either defunct or in a hiatus. It was that moment that I wondered how hard it is really to publish, especially as an ezine.
It's much harder than you think. Much harder.
How has the company changed over time? Was it because of lessons learned? Did changes within the publishing world force you to adapt as well?
I'm still learning. Yeah, mistakes happen. Sometimes a project leads one way or another, maybe it fails to perform. Maybe I ventured into new territory without doing all my homework, but it's from mistakes that we learn.
Demonic Tome, great name. I would love to go back to that. But I change it. I changed the name and established a brand because its hard to advertise and market Demonic Tome. The name worries the wrong people. I'll bring back the label for a future project. Maybe something so dark and demented that it really sends the overbearing religious families for a riot.
Changes in publishing world? Social media has helped so much. People are more connected than ever. Just, don't be an ad. Don't be a walking, breathing ad. Have some personality.
Deadman's Tome is more than just a magazine. You have short stories and novellas also available in e-formats. Can you tell me a bit about those?
Deadman's Tome started out as an ezine. A monthly serving of horror shorts, editorials, and the occasional interview delivered for free direct from a website. Due to some financial problems and soul searching, the original website no longer exists.
In 2015, Deadman's Tome resurfaced with a radical and insane idea: feature free to read horror shorts with the authors paid per view, like, and comment. You might wonder how is that model sustainable if the content is free? Well, that's where merchandise and the horror anthologies came into the picture.
The first anthology was Book of Horrors. Book of Horrors is a horror anthology that features stories from the site in a chronological order. Then came Horrgasm, which is like a mixtape of stories from the site.
The anthologies and merchandise helped, but that model was not sustainable. It would be interesting to bring back but some serious adjustments would have to be made.
Currently, Deadman's Tome is back to the original model: tried and true monthly release of horror shorts. I save the editorials for the website, YouTube, and the Deadman's Tome podcast.
With that said, the Tome has a special release here and there. Mechanisms of Despair is a collection of short stories by Gary Buller and profits from it are going to charity. Turbo Slut 5K is more of a personal project for fun, but it's a novella. Book of Horrors III (coming out in June) is another addition to the Book of Horror series.
As a small indie publisher, I expect your company and your home may be somewhat juxtaposed. How much of your place has been given over to publishing? Is it fairer to say that Deadman's Tome allows you to have a cot in the break room? Or, perhaps, there’s a clear separation between the two?
Ha, company space? You're funny. Man, I had an office at my old place, but then there was a time where I pretty much ran and managed everything from a damn smart phone! I felt so light doing that. Now, I have a dark corner where I do my evil bidding!
Tales of Yourself
Tell us a bit about yourself before you put on your publisher hat. Where were you raised? How did you relate to others from your age group?
I was raised outside in a shed. My mother, greatest mother ever, would make a month's worth of sandwiches and leave them in a box just outside my door. These sandwiches were so delicious and like a fine wine, they got better with age. Great mother, really!
Am I kidding? Wouldn't you like to know?
Just a dirty white boy that grew up in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. How dirty? Well, at the age of seven I was already checking out the teachers, looking down their blouse during seemingly innocent hugs. As far as relating with peers, I played a lot of Nintendo, watched anime, listened to heavy metal and read weird books. Yeah, my friends were not the popular kids, and that's okay.
Imagine that your ultimate destiny is a window-less, suspicious-looking van for a moment. Instead of “free candy,” what would be written on the side of it to lure you inside?
Free beer? I sound like a stereotype, but it's true!
What was the Young You like? Would Young You recognize Current You? What would you tell Young You?
The young me was a jaded, cynical kid that spent a lot of time in his room playing online video games with his friends. The Young Me was also very much a lone wolf and had a tendency to stubbornly refuse help, or at least not ask for it.
The cynicism only grew over time, and I'm very much a lone wolf at times, but I've learned that I can reach out and rely on others. I think the Younger Me was burned from group projects a bit, I'm not too sure.
What character from fiction are you most like? Which character from fiction would you most like to be? What fictional character would you most like to meet?
Can't recall his name, but the interviewer in Interview with a Vampire. I interview a lot of people because I'm curious about how they arrive to where they are in life. My day job is mostly interviews, though I somehow keep some energy for a podcast I run called simply The Deadman's Tome podcast.
If you meet someone for the first time and they introduce themselves as a writer, do you... a) say “Hey, funny coincidence...” b) talk about your “day job” exclusively... or c) point to a grouse in the trees and run away when their back is turned?
Ha, with what my day job is I usually keep it on the down low. Sometimes I feel like I'm living two lives and I try to keep them from crossing over. My day job is like mostly classified confidential stuff. Then I have Deadman's Tome and dirty minded writers sending dick pics on twitter. I follow a very lively bunch.
On Community Interaction: Readers/Fans
How do you find your readers? Or do readers tend to find you?
Honestly, I don't know. Not a good answer, or at least one that gives much confidence to the writers that work with me. I reach out through social media and follow trends. I put out ads here and there. I've used marketing services, but word of mouth seems the best in actually reaching.
How do you interact with your readership? Do you have a forum? A newsletter? Pen-pals?
Deadman's Tome is on Twitter and Facebook and I'm very good at responding. Though, this depends on how busy my day job is.
What is the typical fan of (Your Company) like? Do you even have a typical fan? Are your readers attracted to different authors (or imprints) differently? Or do your readers tend to be attracted to the whole she-bang?
She-bang? That sounds pretty sexist. I honestly don't know what a typical Deadman's Tome fan is like. I imagine that he or she is in need of therapy, though. From the comments on the site and feedback on the publications, it seems that the readers like the whole she-bang.
On Community Interaction: Writers
How do you attract writers? Or do they tend to find you? From submission to publication to marketing, how closely to you tend to work with your creators?
I reach out to writers through Facebook and Twitter, mostly. I thought I would have a problem, especially since each month has a certain theme. Some authors need more time to write, while others can write in a crunch, and some have pieces waiting for the right moment.
Tell me about some of your favorite authors that you have worked with.
I work with a lot of authors. Deadman's Tome isn't a high paying or a pro market, but it's an area where authors can work on their craft and tighten their prose. Gary Buller, William Marchese, S. E. Casey, S. J. Budd, are just a few of the many, many authors I had worked with.
Do you have one perfect font for your books or do you work with the writer to find the best font for each book?
Oh, everyone knows that the best font is Comic Sans. I kid.
Writers can submit in any font they want but I read their work in Times New Roman or Arial.
How do you reach out to your existing writers? Do you have a forum? A newsletter? Personal emails? Do you host panels at conventions and such?
I stay connected through twitter and facebook. People really use newsletters? I try to stay in touch with the authors I work with.
Most indie authors understand that they must do some marketing of their book, once it’s published. If publishing was a pool and marketing was swimming, are you the doting parent that shows them a video, buys them water-wings, and eases them in? Or are you more the uncle that throws them into the deep end with a slap on the ass and a hearty “Sink or Swim!” shout?
Some expect the publisher to take charge of ALL marketing and promotion. That is a delusion. If an author is not willing and not able to spread the word, at least word of mouth, then he or she (whatever pronoun you want) cannot come to me upset that a certain title did not do so well. I promote a ton on social media. I follow the trends, and I even crate sensational blog topic just to generate conversions, but the best form of marketing is word of mouth. If your mom and dad aren't willing to buy your book, then who the hell is?
I don't want the authors to sink, but to swim with me. I see publishing, especially nowadays, like a ship. We're all on board, publishers, editors, and authors, and when we work together under a brand our collective energies can really move us along. It's a group effort, all the way.
Where do you recommend indie writers go to market their books? Are there any types of services that you suggest that they avoid?
Promotion is a constant process, unless you've established a brand that sales on name recognition alone. I've dabbled in paid services, but I don't really know if they helped. I haven't noticed any real spike in conversions, hits on the website, and what not. What really helps, and this is hard to do, but is connecting with people and sparking interest. It's more difficult and takes a lot of time, but so far each issue has made a profit. A small one, not enough to where I can quit my day job, and not enough to where authors I work with will be swimming in the green, but there is a profit.
I noticed that in May you had a contest going for writers. I understand the participation award was rather unique. How is that going?
Rejected! I got the idea after watching a lot of Chopped. It's one of those cooking shows where contestants have to work with what they have and compete for a prize. Change a few things and you have Rejected.
The contest is ongoing. Contestants write a story with certain restrictions (plot, theme, characters) and they're read and judged live on the podcast. The winner wins $50. Not an Amazon card. I mean cash.
I think the announcement suffered from too much at once. There are a lot of things going on with Deadman's Tome at the moment. But, honestly, it could be that the challenge is rather tough.
On Community Interaction: Local Real World Stuff
Do you, as a creator, reach out to local community groups or art guilds? Is there an active art community there? If so, do you interact with it in some way?
I don't even know if there is a horror community here in Houston, but I've crossed paths via podcast with a certain Hank Schwaeble who is also Houston bound. I could do better in networking locally. From family life, kids, and day job, its tough, but I know I need to do better on reaching out to what exists of a local community.
Do you, as a publisher, reach out to locals through bookstores, craft fairs, or the local chamber of commerce? Do you maybe sell your books at farm markets and the like?
I don't think my books would be welcomed. Though, that's why I changed the name. I changed the name so that it would be more accessible to local communities.
Business vs Passion, Publisher vs Creator
Do you publish your own work? If so, do you handle the work differently from idea to distribution?
I've self-published my own work. Honestly, I don't think too many people would really take Turbo Slut 5K. It's a hyper-sexualized ultra-violent offensive piece and not for most people. Definitely not for decent people.
I handle self-publication a bit differently in that I don't promote it as much as the magazine. I don't like how it feels to plug my own material constantly when the magazine is also about other writers. I should say that it is mainly about other writers. If I'm the gatekeeper for my own material, then it better be top tier, otherwise what am I doing for myself as a writer?
What business choices have you had to make that really annoyed your creative self? How often do the artist and the publisher within you butt heads? Which side wins the most often? What was your last bad business but good art decision?
I have not had a clash of creative opinions or visions yet. I hear about somethings here and there between authors. For that, I stay out of the drama unless it spills over, and then when that happens I remind them that we're in this project together. This does not happen often.
What’s your day publishing like? How many days or hours of publishing are you able to get in per week?
Like most people do, I start my day with my ass on an ivory throne reading emails, checking stats, and checking other messages. I'll sort the emails by label, and tend to them later when I'm much more awake, unless the email is requires my immediate attention. I'll set my tweet buffer up for the day, and then tend to my kids, get them ready, and head out the door. During the course of the day, I may check messages and such, but mostly any replies and actual work is done between 9pm and 11pm.
I get spend about 20 hours a week on Deadman's Tome related things, maybe.
That Damn Slush Pile
How often is your “open” period, and where do writers find your latest story needs? Do you announce on sites like Horror Tree or Submittable?
Horror Tree is a great help and resource. Every time I have a call for submissions they retweet and deliver. Honestly, I'm surprised that authors can contribute as fast as they do. I wonder what it would be like for a month without submissions, but it hasn't happened yet. I call, and they come. It's great. I love the authors for it, I do.
What’s your methodology for pruning your slush pile? Do you have a page limit or time limit per day? Do you break them down to different, smaller piles? Or do you keep digging in until you find “the one?”
I just go down the list. I tag the sub for whatever issue its related to and I read it whenever I can. I might be in my car waiting to make contact with a client on my day job reading subs, but that's what I do. If the submission is unbearable I will just throw it out. I am very nice in that I give chances, but If I can't find a saving grace then its gone.
If a story fails to grab my attention within the first paragraph, I move on. I'll mark it as a possible rejection, and then go back to it to see if I was being too harsh or not. If I'm not entertained, then why would I chance it with the readers? Subjective, yes. But that's the reality of screening submissions. Why would any publisher release something they think is a total bore? If I'm not entertained during the second read through, then I delete the email and move on.
These days, the slush pile is probably mostly or all piles of pixels. Is there a point where you might print some out to see how the story looks on paper?
The pixels are fine for me. I read submissions on the go with my phone. It's so convenient that it would seems more trouble to read submissions in the more traditional way.
How do you dole out rejection letters? Do you ever say “maybe with revisions”?
I used to give feedback, but sometimes shattered egos lead to one star reviews on Amazon. Now, I just tell them I'm going to pass. If they want to know why, I might go in to it, but probably not.
On Current and Future Plans
What was 2016 like for you and Deadman's Tome? What were some of the highlights for you and the Horror genre?
2016? That's the year Deadman's Tome revived, so to speak. A moment of hiatus led to a periods of posting stories on the site directly, and then to monthly ezines and now print and ezines. 2016 was a great year for the site. Deadmanstome.net has never had as much traffic. I would post stories on the site an pay the author for the views, likes, and comments received. Some very awesome stories were featured on the site. Some of which were selected for horror anthologies where they would earn even more.
What are the plans for the immediate future? What books will be rolling off the presses shortly?
The military horror issue is set for late May early June. Book of Horrors III is set for release in this coming summer. Monsters Exist is set for July.
I have something scheduled for every month. All of the releases are available on Amazon, with some having either digital and print options.
Do you have any long range plans in the works?
My main plan is to spread awareness of the magazine. I want to reach a level where Deadman's Tome is downloaded on just about every Kindle. That's the dream!