Today I bring you an interview with Jurassic London’s publisher and editor Jared Shurin. This is not the first time Jared has been interviewed on A Fantastical Librarian; I’ve previously interviewed him as one part of the dynamic duo behind the Pornokitsch blog. But as part of a Week of Pandemonium I wanted to re-interview him as the editor of Jurassic London, not as the purveyor of all things Pornokitsch. Jared was kind enough to agree to be interviewed again and I think it turned out to be quite an interesting (and funny) interview. I hope you’ll agree!
How did Jurassic London come about? (I know you technically already answered this in your Pornokitsch interview, but it bears repeating ;-))
That’s ok, second time around, you get the real story: we got started through sheer luck!
We spotted an opportunity – that is, if a book existed around a particular museum exhibition (John Martin’s Apocalypse at Tate Britain), it could be, um, “integrated” (we used the word “weaselled” at the time) into the marketing efforts.
There was no time and no money, so we couldn’t imagine any proper publisher would get involved. So we set up an improper one and went for it. We had so much fun that we wound up doing it again.
Why the focus on short form anthologies?
There are a host of practical reasons. As a small press, it is a lot easier to get an author to write and contribute a short story than, say, a novel. They’re also a lot easier (and quicker) to edit.
Plus, a few less practical reasons. Anthologies allow us to showcase new writers as well as more recognisable names. They also allow us to experiment and approach a topic from multiple angles – The Lowest Heaven, for example, would’ve been an awful novel – probably some sort of cheesy celestial scavenger hunt. But as an anthology, the reader gets almost twenty different perspectives on space: romantic, horrifying, humorous, adventurous… you name it.
How do you go about editing the anthologies? Do you invite authors, have open submissions, or a combination of both?
Our chapbooks are all open submissions – that’s why they’re there. The anthologies are largely invite only, but we’ve taken open subs in the past, and will again. (“Invite” sounds like we sit around in hooded robes – really it is an organic/random/batty process.)
Has your approach changed at all now you’ve some titles under your editorial belt?
The big change is that “we” are now a “royal we” – Anne’s jumped ship to Hodder & Stoughton, where she’s doing amazing things with their genre list. Sadly, that means she’s left Jurassic. We argue about whether she quit or got ‘fired’, either way, her severance package was a pack of Jammy Dodgers.
But, as an imprint, we (collective) have had over a year of experimentation and, even if we (royal) don’t have the answers yet, we (royal) are at least making new and different mistakes.
You’ve branched out into longer fiction with Simon Morden’s Thy Kingdom Come. Are you planning more novel length publications?
Yes! Thy Kingdom Come was another one of those experiments – the book was just there as a pdf on Simon’s site, and had been for years. He loved the idea of bringing it back as a luxury limited edition and we raised some money for the Red Cross by doing it.
We’ve got two others in the works: Mark Charan Newton’s The Reef and Kim Lakin-Smith’s Tourniquet. Both were excellent debuts – really ambitious and beautiful books. We’ve got great artists on board as well: Philippa Rice for The Reef and Graeme Howard for Tourniquet.
Both artists have incredible visions for how they’re going to make the books gorgeous.
Jurassic London is a non-profit with most of your proceeds going to charity. Did you always intend for Jurassic to work that way and how do you determine the charities?
That was always the intention. One of the few things we got right from the beginning.
The charities are generally selected by our partners or the authors themselves. So far, that’s included the Red Cross, English PEN, Epilepsy Research UK, Samaritans and several others. Our authors should definitely have warm & fuzzy feelings, they deserve them.
You’ve been publishing for about 18 months now. What have you learned about the business in that year and a half? Have there been big surprises?
I’ve learned a lot. I think there’s a different big surprise with every book. It sounds a bit like a teary-eyed Oscar speech, but I’ve been extremely lucky to work with the very best people – artists, authors, partners and printers. Their talent has made up for a lot of my ignorance.
One thing that I wish I’d realised up front – it is extremely difficult to make money through retail, which is why most small presses only sell direct (through their websites, at cons or through specific partners). With the retail discount (40% – at best), you need to sell a lot of copies to make any sort of money – and that kind of volume comes with its own challenges as to printing, distribution and storage. As a small press, you’re not just responsible for commissioning and editing books, you’re your own legal team, sales force, supply chain, warehousing and shipping as well.
I suppose that’s less of a “big surprise” than it is a “rude awakening”. But every time you see a small press publication in a bookshop, you should buy it. That publisher worked their ass off to get it there.
Where do you see Jurassic going in the future?
Theoretically, the yearly plan looks something like this: two anthologies, four novelettes, one reprint, 3 chapbooks. That said, well… the best-laid plans…
Jurassic will also be publishing work from other editors as well. Speculative Fiction 2014 is one, with Thea James and Ana Grilo. But there are others, extremely cool and yet to be announced.
So what’s next in the immediate future?
October is The Book of Dead – original mummy stories with the Egypt Exploration Society (oooooh). This is going to be big, 125,000 words of shambling, curses, romance and seriously, seriously dark humor. Plus, as mentioned above, Unearthed. Mummies are cool.
There will be at two more chapbooks (Ash, Stocking Stuffer 2013) and another novelette or two by the end of the year as well.
2014 starts with Speculative Fiction. Everyone should to submit their best blog posts (either their own or what they see elsewhere, like, you know, elsewhere on this very site.)
Later in the spring: Irregularity. The 18th century and that tension between those trying to bring order to the world and the chaos that slips through the cracks. This anthology is in partnership with the National Maritime Museum and we’ve got some incredible contributors signed up already.
And next fall: The Streets of Pandemonium. A return to A Town Called Pandemonium and the band is getting back together (with a few new members) to describe the hectic events of 1923. Flappers, bootleggers, noir and post-war mayhem. If Gatsby, the Continental Op, Dorothy Parker and Cthulhu all walked into a bar…
Plus, more novelettes, more chapbooks, The Reef, Tourniquet and those mysterious books from other editors!
Anything else we need to know about Jurassic London or any other parts of the Pornokitsch empire?
I can’t imagine!
Thank you very much for having me, this is a lot of fun. A Fantastical Librarian ran the first review of our first book, and it is hard to express how awesome that made us feel. There may have been champagne involved…
And thank you, Jared, for a wonderful interview (again) and it’s been my pleasure to have reviewed your anthologies. If you haven’t yet checked out the various books Jurassic London has put out, please do check out their site and hurry… their books – yes, even their ebooks – go out of print after having been published a year and you’ve already missed out on some gems! You can also follow Jurassic London on Facebook and you can follow Jared on Twitter.