Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Dancing With Myself: JAY HARTMAN interviews JAY HARTMAN

A few things before the interview today.

I was delighted to get through to the semi-finals of the Favourite Crime E-book tournament over at Spinetingler, and gutted to be knocked out.  All the same, I was so pleased to see Ray Banks and Patti Abbot in there (Doc Noir would have given me a smile, too) that I quickly got over it.  

In the end, it was Dead Money that came out on top by a very narrow margin.  I'd say there were no losers in that one.  Well done to all involved.

I was also really pleased to see a couple of posts over at Do Dome Damage

The first outlined the reasons behind the choice of 'Plastic Soldiers' by WD County.  It was my favourite short of last year, so its inclusion was pretty straightforward in lots of ways.  I do wonder how many out there would have been brave enough to put it out given the subject matter.  Well done to Brian for his decision.

And a lovely piece of news from Dave White - congratulations on both counts.

Followed by a curio from Steve Weddle.

Also a note about the release of Jochem Vanderstein's Redemption and 4 Funny Detective Stories from Benjamin Sobieck.  Should be good reads those.

Finally, Dirty Old Town (and other stories) sold its 1500th copy yesterday, so old-man-style cartwheels in my bedroom last night (ouch!). 

Now on to the interview.

Jay Hartman.  What a good guy.

E-book pioneer.

Hugely professional.

Great man to work with.

Head of Untreed Reads.

I've been lucky enough to have a couple of things out with the publisher.  First off, 'Into Thin Air', a short story that has been in the Waterstone's Top Ten short stories on and off for the past 4 or 5 months now (though their charts are in a bit of a mess just now - sort it out WS. please), and as part of the wonderful 'Grimm Tales' which has sold really well into American libraries.  However they manage it, I'm glad to be on board with them.

And if you're a writer or a publisher of e-books what more could you ask for in a blog post (answers on a postcard, please)?

Take it away, Jay...

Q: Geez. Wasn't this interview supposed to have happened ages ago?
A: You know, it's perfectly possible that I feel guilty enough about not getting it done sooner without my inner consciousness giving me grief about it too. And considering how much time I spend talking to myself, you'd think you'd have figured all this out by yourself.

Q: Well EXCUSE me! Sheesh. Somebody didn't have their coffee today, did they?
A: As a raving caffeineaholic, yes...I can be rather testy when I'm running low on brew. There's no venti soy sugar-free vanilla latte in sight at the moment. However, I've got some pumpkin spice brewed up so maybe that will mellow me out by at least halfway through this interview.

Q: So I know that Untreed Reads came about after spending 15 years writing commentary about ebooks, and that you're one of the founders of, which was one of the first websites to ever cover the ebook industry. Since that's kind of a yawner, do you have anything INTERESTING you can tell folks about the road to Untreed Reads' existence?
A: Well, at KnowBetter we helped do the market research that eventually led to the creation of ebook divisions at both Random House and HarperCollins. It was a pretty exciting time as everything was emerging. I still remember the first time Barnes and Noble tried doing ebooks, then shut down the division and left everyone hanging. I remember when Amazon didn't have ebooks and the electronic publishing space was ruled by the independent publishers. Those were good times. Still, I wouldn't trade the last two years of developing Untreed Reads with my business partner K.D. Sullivan for anything.

Q: You sure have a lot of authors writing with Untreed Reads. But some of these people normally write about erotica and I see they're writing mystery or sci-fi at your place. What's up with that?
A: I've never been a believer that authors should be pigeon-holed into a specific genre. A good author has great ideas that can span multiple genres, and I don't think it does the author any justice to be limited in what they write. So, I love having the opportunity to give a voice to all of these folks in whatever kind of story they'd like to write. It's not for me to tell an author what to write, but rather to showcase their work the best way I can.

Q: It seems like everywhere I turn I'm seeing Untreed Reads titles. How do you manage that?
A: Early on, we decided distribution was going to be one of the most important things to focus on. It wouldn't do us much good to have a bunch of titles that were only available to US markets. People love reading all over the world, and with the explosion of ebooks in the library market it was even more important to be available through as many channels as possible. We've recently opened up our distribution network to other small publishers and self-pubbed authors to help them get out to the rest of the world too. Pretty exciting stuff.

Q: What's the worst thing about being an editor?
A: Having to tell someone you can't give them a contract. It's like telling them their baby is ugly and can't play with the other kids on the swings.

Q: What IS your current acceptance and rejection rate? What sort of things make you turn down a work?
A: We run at about a 70-75% rejection rate. I do see a lot of manuscripts where people haven't taken the proper amount of time to really edit or proofread their stories. Overuse of adverbs is another big one that annoys me (he said, curmudgeonly). Not bringing anything new to an existing genre is also pretty much a killer. Telling the reader everything instead of showing them through descriptive narrative. Just like you wouldn't want to go into an interview without being dressed up and presenting yourself in the best light possible, you really should make sure a submission is as clean as it can possibly be.

Q: And now for a completely random question. I hear you're a Back to the Future fanatic. Why?
A: I've always had a thing for time travel stories. I remember seeing Time Bandits when I was a kid and being completely blown away. The Back to the Future trilogy was pretty much the same thing. I wish I had more time travel submissions come through, but I don't see too many.

Q: How's the caffeine headache doing? Going away?
A: Yes, but now I'm about out of time for this thing. I can only spend so much time talking to myself. How about throwing one more decent question at me and we'll call it quits?

Q: If a train leaves St. Louis at 6pm traveling at a speed of 45 mph...
A: Um. I said a DECENT question. Math is my worst subject.

Q: What drives you to keep working on Untreed Reads so many hours a week? I've heard you're a raging insomniac and get most of your work done between 7pm and 4am.
A: I genuinely love all of my authors and their works. Their passion, enthusiasm and support of all of us at Untreed Reads makes me want to turn around and give that back double. It's true, I don't sleep much and that makes it possible for me to get stuff done in the wee hours. But honestly? I'd work anytime day or night for these folks. Every time I publish a new story I feel like a proud father, and I think sometimes I've even more excited than the author as I see a particular story take off in sales. It confirms for me that I was right to get into this line of work, and every success we see makes me feel more confident. I'm surrounded by passionate people, whether that's my authors, K.D. Sullivan, our brilliant staff or the agents in NY that we work with. It's hard not to feel energized by these folks.

Q: I suppose this has been an enlightening interview. As your inner consciousness, most of this stuff is pretty much old hat. Hopefully someone else who reads this will find it interesting.

A: Stuff it, and pass the non-dairy vanilla creamer. This coffee was way too strong. I've really got to teach you how to brew better.


  1. Smashing stuff. Unreed Reads is a class act and I'm very chuffed to have been published by them.

  2. Thirteen Shots Of Noir is a great colletion - noticed it doing pretty well at Waterstones in the Crime charts, too.

  3. Really? ! I didn't know that! I'll have to check! How do I find out?!

  4. Just go to the ebooks and select crime, then scroll through the charts. Problem with Waterstones is that since Christmas half the time they're wrong as things are changing, so you need to check out for a while to see whether they're the real ones or not (crazy, huh?)

  5. Nice to get some more background on a great, helpful guy. Jay was instrumental in getting GRIMM TALES into the marketplace.

  6. Jay has been great to work with. I hope to get more work published with Untreed Reads now that I know what kind of bribe to offer

  7. Great interview, Jay!

    Joe DeMarco

  8. I was very happy working with Jay and being published by Untreed Reads. Now I find out he never sleeps and talks to himself. Hmmm. I have to rethink this.

    Awww, what the hell. We're all crazy in this writing/publishing thing. Let the bug hop.