Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Table Talk - Who's God? Whose dog?

This week, Barry Reese, Bobby Nash and Mike Bullock toss out their ideas of what's helping and hindering the New Pulp movement and what they would change if they pulled all the strings.

Question (Mike): Let's "play god" for a few minutes here. If you were the one in total control of New Pulp, what would you do with it?

Bobby: Wow. Now that’s a tough one. I really haven’t given this notion a lot of thought on this scale. I usually consider my small slice of the New Pulp landscape. I’d probably apply that same logic to New Pulp as a whole. First, tell good stories. Second, design great covers. Third, make available in multiple formats (print, Nook, Kindle, PDF, etc.). Fourth, marketing, promotion, press releases, press kits, interviews, you name it, but not only to pulp fans but to as wide an audience as possible. Fifth, Repeat process. This is all a very general breakdown of the process, of course, but that’s what I would do on a per book/series basis. As far as content, you have to think with your head. As much as I might enjoy resurrecting seaQuest DSV (to pick a non-pulp example) in novel or comic form, is there any demand out there for it? If not, then I probably shouldn’t try to build my line around it.

I think the hardest obstacle to overcome, for me, would be the name New Pulp. There is a segment of fandom out there that dismisses anything with New Pulp on it just because it’s “new” or they do not like the branding or the name “New Pulp.” That already starts you off at a negative. Is there a way around that, who knows? Perhaps taking the name a step further with a subheading is a possibility. Lance Star: Sky Ranger could be labeled “New Action Pulp” or New Pulp: Action.” Domino Lady could be “New Crime Pulp” or New Pulp: Crime.” Would that help or hurt? Again, I really don’t know. These are just some of the things that come to mind when I talk to potential readers about my work.

Barry: Hmm. Well, I like the variety of New Pulp that’s out there now and I’d want to continue to encourage that. I agree with Bobby in that I’d want to ensure quality work across the landscape but I’d never want to enforce just my view of what that would be… I mean, I’ve never had much interest in aviation pulp but I’d want some to be out there for the folks who do.

I’m fine with the name New Pulp. That’s what it is – New. Pulp. Most of the people who have problems with the name are pulp snobs who either A) Don’t consider anything but the old magazines ‘pulp’ or B) Have some other preconceived notion that’s threatened by what New Pulp is doing. I think you’d dilute the branding even further by subheading it.

Now, I’m not 100% sure that having pulp in the name at all is the way to attract “civilians,” though. Most people have only the most vague notions of pulp and many associate it with the Pulp Fiction movie and assume we’re telling stories that are similar to that. Some are but most aren’t. We want to call it pulp because we’re fans of pulp… but I do think it limits us somewhat. But I think it’s out there now and we might as well stick with it.

While I like the variety of publishers, I do wish we had a little bit more standardization across the board, in terms of pricing and branding…but that’s a slippery road to go down. I’d probably let the market handle those concerns, rather than attempt to put limits on things.

I’d definitely create samplers of all sorts though and try to get them into stores and even schools. Pick stories (classic and New Pulp) that are likely to attract new readers and draw them in. Our stuff is great for adolescent boys, which are a hard reading audience to reach… I think we could be a real niche market for that.

Mike: Great ideas and insights. The first thing I'd do is get rid of that Hancock guy… sheesh what a pinch in the pokey he is [winks]. I can say that 'cause I know he never reads this column. But seriously, I think the three areas that would help the most are:

A) Mimicking the way the original pulps came out but adapting it to modern times by blanketing the eMarkets with New Pulp magazines every month. I know Pro Se is putting out two a month, but that's hardly enough. I'd love to see each and every publisher with a dog in the pulp fight putting out at least one or two New Pulp eMagazines a month. Sell them on Amazon, all the publisher sites, Smashwords, and everywhere else you can and do so for a low price that would entice new readers.

B) Diversify more. It seems like there's no end of New Pulp material focused on the Doc Savage/Shadow/Spider genre, but hardly anything for sci fi, fantasy, sword and sorcery, horror or the other genres pulp encompasses. Not everyone wants to read another street level vigilante tale (although I love them myself).

C) This ties in greatly to "A" above, but I find the lack of a solid online store for New Pulp as the single largest roadblock to the movement. Sure all the publishers have their own stores on their website, but I think we really need one, high profile site where someone who discovers a New Pulp book like, say, The Rook, can go and find similar stories in one, easy to navigate store. If I couldn't walk into B Dalton and look in the same area where I found A Princess of Mars, I may have never discovered Conan. And from there, Flash Gordon, Zorro, The Lensmen and on and on. Right now, there are many who are enjoying a handful of the New Pulp books and completely missing out on all the other great ones out there.

All that being said, I'd like to commend all the creators and publishers for what they have been able to accomplish. Without the passion and drive that's been exhibited so far, we wouldn't be having this conversation because it would be a dead topic.

Barry: I know that the centralized store is coming along – it’s already open but it mainly has folks who reprint classic pulp on it so far. But I know that some companies are balking at joining up, which to me is remarkably shortsighted.

Bobby: I too like the idea of a centralized store presence. I know there is one such place being put together and that’s a good start, but I’d like to see more. The hardest part is getting our work in front of people. As a writer, that’s one of those things I struggle with on a regular basis. How do I let people know my work is out there?

What are some of the things you guys do to let potential readers (both fans and civilians) know about your books?

Mike: For me it's the 'same old, same old' of sending out newsletters, posting on blogs and social media, doing conventions. I really wish there was a better way, which I think a centralized store could provide, but until that's taken care of, I don't have any better ideas than to continue doing what I'm doing.

Bobby: Same here. I post to social media, blogs, forums, my sites, you name it. I also do a lot of conventions, distribute post cards and press releases. It’s almost a fulltime job promoting the books.

Barry: Yeah, I do all of that. The best thing is to somehow get the work actually in someone’s hands (or on their eBook device). Most folks will come back after sampling something if it’s good enough so for me, that’s the hard part. I’d do more shows but it’s so expensive to travel so I end up mostly doing shows in my area. I wish Icould do more – but I need to earn more to afford to advertise more, so it’s a Catch-22.


Over the past decade, Barry Reese has written for publishers as diverse as Marvel Comics, Moonstone Books and West End Games. Primarily known for his pulp fiction creations The Rook and Lazarus Gray, Barry has also penned stories featuring The Green Hornet, The Avenger and Ki-Gor. He won the Best Author Award at the 2011 Pulp Ark Conference.

From his secret lair in the wilds of Bethlehem, Georgia, Bobby Nash writes novels, short stories, novellas, comic books, and graphic novels. Visit him at www.bobbynash.com.

Born with an excessively overactive imagination, Mike Bullock has parlayed that into a successful career writing comics and prose fiction. Bullock has written more Phantom comic book stories than any other US author and won the Angouleme Discovery Prize in 2007 for his creator owned series Lions, Tigers and Bears.

5 comments:

  1. Never read this column? Bullock, you may never write this column again!!! Grrrr.....

    But to the points made, all great insights as someone said , I can't remember that hack's name....

    As for the centralized store, the biggest obstacle to that is having the set up to actually do it, to actually set up a real store, not a page where you go and click on a product and that takes you to the page of whatever publisher you've clicked because that takes the consumer away from other potential buys, but to have a fully inclusive set up where consumer may buy book a and put it its cart and go right back to looking at books b through infinity. That's what the Pulp Book Store, the site Barry and Bobby are referring to, has and thankfully, even though it's been a little slow, the New Pulp guys are starting to see the benefit of that and coming on board....not to mention the perks that go with this particular site, such as an already established customer base for massive exposure, etc.

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  2. We also need a breakout hit - either a single book or a series - to focus the readers' attention on the movement as a whole. That means better books with better covers with better, more professional publicity and marketing.

    That will be the watershed moment that brings them in. We have to work towards that with better product that actually competes with the Big 6 publishers.

    One major stumbling block that has held Newpulp back as a 'niche product' is the lack of true editorial experience. I'm not talking about proofreading, but the development and focus of creating good stories for readers. We all need a 'sounding board' - to bounce ideas off of, to proofread, to bring a level of "you can do this better" to the process. One of the unsung aspects of the pulp magazine game were the editors who worked with writers and artists in critically constructive manner. We need that now if we are to take the next step.

    So the cultivation of a 'newpulp critical group of editors' should be on the agenda.

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  3. Totally agree with the editorial thing, Bill. Great point.

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  4. Bobby suggest more than one such store and I applaud that. Airship 27 was invited to participate in one such were we actually had to them hardcopies. In the end proved to be totally impractical and unprofitable for the time and effort. Whereas we've recently been invited onto a mega site where they post our covers, send buyers to us and collect a .50 cent fee for ever sale. Now that's a store we are very much looking into joining.

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  5. For pulp scifi there are Raygun Revival webzine. I guess you to interest in Sean T.M Stiennon ( i regret that he don't go on his story series about the feline space bounty hunter Flinteyes) and John M Whalen ( the Jack Brand serie is an excellent stuff)
    For pulpy sword and sorcry ther are Rogue Blade Entertainement. People like Steve Goble, Michael Ehart, SC Bryce or Bruce Durham are really excellent.

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