You know that guest-blogging while traveling thing I mentioned in the last post? Well, one of the unfortunate results was that I left the file that held an entry by Matt Staggs, the mastermind behind everything public that Underland does. I think you’ve probably heard of him on Jeff’s blog before. He’s very talented, very dedicated, and is a huge support for both me and the press. (Thank you, Matt, for everything you’ve done…)
Forthwith, Matt’s report on the early days of Underland:
“From the beginning, I felt that Victoria and I held a common appreciation for what could be called a darker aesthetic, and it was my strong belief that this should be reflected in all aspects of Underlandâ€™s public persona., particularly in light of its first releases: Brian Evensonâ€™s twisted masterpiece Last Days and the sinister Pilo Family Circus, from Australian author Will Elliot. Thereâ€™s only one opportunity for a first impression, and I wanted Underlandâ€™s to be a lasting one.
“Positioning Underland Press as a unique entity would begin with the very first advance reviewer copies we sent out. Iâ€™m sure that Victoria must have cocked an eyebrow when I suggested she stock up on black ribbon and stationary, but I felt that wrapping each book individually and including a hand-written card would both help communicate Underlandâ€™s dark aesthetic, as well as to differentiate our titles from the hundreds of others sent to beleaguered book reviewers and bloggers every day.
“Another thing that we would do differently is to position Victoria herself as a spokesperson. Often, publishers stay behind the scenes, but I felt that Victoria had a compelling story all her own and that a possible key to Underlandâ€™s success would be for people to learn it and come to see Victoria as the public face of the company. Victoria, as Iâ€™ve said, is passionate about literature, and is willing to stake her future on this passion. She left a position with Dark Horse Publishing in arguably one of its highest and most successful points in recent history to strike out on her own. To me, this was a tale worth telling. Months ahead of any Underland Press title appearing on bookstore shelves, I started scheduling interviews with bloggers and journalists. I wanted people to get to know her in the hope that they would appreciate her professional journey and the risks she was taking; in short, to see Underland as a product of passion rather than just another independent press.
“In addition to presenting Victoria to the public and uniquely packaging our ARCs, the unique marketing process for Underland Press would also extend to whom we marketed the book. Although some of my colleagues have expressed skepticism about the value of bloggers and online book reviewers in spreading worthwhile buzz about upcoming titles, I feel that theyâ€™re an integral and worthwhile part of the promotion process. Online fantasy, horror and science fiction reviewers attract thousands of dedicated readers every day, many of whom have a longtime, dedicated interest in the kind of literature that Underland Press offers. Making sure that these reviewers have the same kind of access to our books and our authors that the print press has is important to me and the future of Underland Press, particularly as more newspapers look to cut costs through eliminating staff in general and book sections specifically. Further, as evidenced by Underlandâ€™s â€œwovelsâ€, this is a publishing house with one foot firmly in the online world, and it makes sense to support it from the very beginning.
“Currently, weâ€™re actively promoting our first two releases, and both books are making their way to shelves as I finish this entry. Itâ€™s an exciting time for Underland Press, and like a parent watching his children leave for college, I canâ€™t help but to feel a little nervous to see our books leave â€œhomeâ€, but like that proverbial parent, I can only take comfort that Iâ€™ve given them the best start that I can and hope that they will succeed.”