An Interview With Author Erin Lale

Erin Lale’s publishing career began in 1985. Her published works and paid works for hire include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, technical writing, speeches, catalog copy, puzzles, songs, films, academic papers, cartoons, print ads, TV commercials, operations & procedure manuals, photos, art, newsletters, jokes, recipes, translations, and web content. She wrote for The Sonoma Index-Tribune, and was the publisher and editor of Berserkrgangr Magazine, a quarterly that ran 16 issues in the 90s. She was Oakes Valedictorian of UC-Santa Cruz, owned and operated The Science Fiction Store in Las Vegas, invented a number of technical processes in iDEN and CDMA wireless communications technology, and ran for Nevada State Assembly.

You can find Erin Lale on her website LaleLibrary, via Twitter, Goodreads, and through the Time Yarns website.

Recently I reviewed the first in her Punch series, set in the Time Yarns universe, titled The Loribond. This led to Erin offering to be quizzed about the world of micropress and anthology publishing.

If you’re a writer, preferably female with an interest in cats, you’re welcome to submit your work to the anthology she mentions further down. More information can be found here.

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Bonnie: For those unfamiliar with the term, can you give readers a run-down of what a micro-press is and in comparison to a small press?

Erin Lale: I’m using the term micropress to describe a small press that is also a microbusiness, meaning a business a person can start for under $200. In Nevada, only internet-based businesses are allowed to operate without buying various licenses and permits from the government first, all of which together cost much more than that, so the only legal microbusinesses are internet businesses. I had a previous internet-based home business, an online gallery where I sold my sunprint art and hand-dyed fabrics, but the Great Recession and the immediately following Not-So-Great Depression killed it and I had to close it last year. That coincided with the success of my first book, the nonfiction book Asatru For Beginners, so I set out to publish more books. I published 15 of my own books this year, 3 of which are electronic reprints of my short writing that was published over the last 26 years. Then, drawing on my experience publishing a print magazine in the 90s, I set out to publish anthologies of other authors’ short works. The first 2 anthologies will come out in January 2012. I’m hoping Time Yarns will grow, become profitable, maybe even add some other employees besides me, at which point it will still be a small press, but will no longer be a micropress.

Bonnie: What obstacles have you faced with micro-press and anthology publishing?

Erin Lale: I got all the kinks worked out of my publishing process with my own books before trying to publish the anthologies, so I already knew how little art and other transmedia elements I could publish in each anthology without going over file size limits on the most popular host sites, and what sort of technical restrictions I had to work with for cover art, and that sort of thing. The only real surprise in doing the anthologies was how hard it is to attract women writers of science fiction. If I hadn’t put my own stories in the anthologies, there wouldn’t be any women writers represented in them. I find it baffling and sad, but I hope to attract some next time.

Bonnie: And what have you found rewarding with the experience?

Erin Lale: Getting to work with such a distinguished group of scientists. Sometimes I felt like with the team I had assembled, we could actually invent a time machine! Or at least a timelessness machine– three of us independently came up with the idea that attempting to invent a time machine results in a timelessness machine. My story The Timelessness Machine was originally published in the first issue of Sterling Web, and I recently republished it in my ebook collection of my short fiction, Universal Genius. Anarchy Zone Time Yarns has a story based on identical physics by Ian Miller, who invented several products based on algae, including algal biofuel, and owns Carina Chemical Labs in New Zealand which manufactures his products, and Cassandra’s Time Yarns has a story with identical physics by Tony Thorne MBE, a Canary Islands residents who was awarded a chivalric order by the Queen of England for advances in cryosurgery tools and carbon fiber furnaces.

Bonnie: Do you think lack of women interested in writing science fiction is because it’s not a popular subject or more because female writers in Sci-Fi are not recognised enough, similar to a men-can’t-write-romance sort of stereotype?

Erin Lale: I know there are plenty of women writing sf, I just couldn’t get any of them to submit a story. My personal experience is that once I had gotten a few stories and started advertising for more writers with a list of the accepted authors and their impressive scientific credentials, male writers tended to see the list and think, Wow, they are great, I want to be in that list, I’ll send a story, and female writers tended to think, Wow, they are great, I don’t qualify, I won’t bother sending a story.

The flyer I brought to WorldCon looked like a brochure for a technology startup at first glance; it was meant to get people to almost believe we could really invent a time machine with this group of people. It said, “Meet our team: Ralph Ewig, rocket scientist at SpaceX. Erin Lale, inventor of technical processes in iDEN and CDMA wireless communications technology. Ian Miller, inventor of algal biofuel and owner of Carina Chemical Laboratories in New Zealand. Humberto Sachs from Brazil, co-designer of the International Space Station. Tony Thorne MBE from the Canary Islands, awarded the MBE chivalric order by the Queen of England for advances in cryosurgery tools and carbon fiber furnaces. Gordon Yaswen is a … poet? WHAT are we inventing? Ahem. Time travel.”

The idea was to appeal to the geniuses and geeks that are the target market of Time Yarns. But I think women writers tended to find it intimidating rather than attractive. Hopefully that will change with the third anthology, which has a cat theme. If I can’t attract women writers with cats, I give up!

Bonnie: Are there any tips or tricks of the trade you can share for those who are, or contemplating, editing an anthology?

Erin Lale: One thing I learned is that how I defined what sort of stories I was looking for — any type of speculative fiction that fit within the guidelines on physics and magic in the Shared World Guide — wasn’t as important as who I attracted. Almost all the stories I’m publishing in the first two Time Yarns anthologies turned out to be hard science fiction. I think that’s because the Shared World Guide was very physics-heavy and tended to appeal to the sort of writer who writes hard sf. In fact, most of the writers I attracted to Time Yarns are serious scientists who also write sf.

Bonnie: For someone considering putting together their own micropress, where do you feel the best place to start is?

Erin Lale: Start by publishing your own books first. Make all the mistakes, get through all the technical frustrations, figure out how to make all the different platforms co-operate with you, learn how to sell books before trying to publish anyone else’s works.  I published and edited a quarterly magazine in the print era, and the new technology has changed everything. The length of a book and how many pictures it has in it no longer affects how much it costs to produce in the ebook era, but I still can’t publish a book with a thousand illos because of file size limits on host sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. When I published my transmedia-packed story Punch I had to break it into 7 parts and publish it as a series to get all the pictures and videos in. That’s the sort of thing you need to know before you decide which stories and artworks belong in your anthology.

Bonnie: What type of support have you discovered is out there for someone running a micropress or publishing via one?

Erin Lale: I actually found most of the writers I’m publishing through LinkedIn. I get most of my reviews by following all the blogroll links in whatever review site I find and finding more sites, one link follows on to another link, but there are some actual lists to get started with reviews, which I also found on LinkedIn, through writers’ forums.

Bonnie: On the other end of things, when it comes to writers submitting to an anthology, do you have any words of advice?

Erin Lale: Read everything for writers provided on the website and see if you have a story that fits what they’re looking for, even if you don’t seem to be like the other writers. And here’s some advice about publishing in general, not specific to anthologies: Consider it like Bingo: you can’t win if you don’t play, and the more you play, the more likely you are to win. Go ahead and submit stories. The worst that can happen is they’ll say no. Just go on to the next possibility. Learn to shrug off not winning this round and keep going.

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Thank you to Erin for such an informative interview and I hope all you aspiring micro-press and anthology publishers both enjoyed and learnt something new.

You can also find Erin Lale’s extensive list of published fiction and non fiction at the following websites;

AmazonSmashwordsBarnes and Noble

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