Interview with Alan Good from Malarkey Books

Alan Good, is that you? It is! Back again. This time Alan has joined us for our first ever small press editor interview. On top of Alan’s work editing King Ludd’s Rag (check out that interview here), Alan created Malarkey Books to publish wonderful writing that might not exist otherwise. Their books look good, sound good, smell good. So, if you’ve got a project, a baby, a long story that you want to be handled with care–consider placing it into Alan Good’s loving arms.

Could you tell us a bit about the history of your press? (what you do, how you got started, what your goals are)

Well, in like 2015/2016, I was sick of querying my novel, and I read an article about how Ted Heller got dropped from his publisher and agent, Ted Heller as in the son of Joseph Heller, by the way, and I just realized no one was ever gonna take my book. I got a lot of nice rejections, but no agent was gonna take it and try to pitch it to an editor. My thinking was basically if they're not gonna let a legacy writer publish "literary fiction," they're not gonna let a nobody like me in the gates. That was my gut feeling, I guess, and it was probably right. So I looked into self-publishing, which I originally did through Amazon, and there's a little option for you to select your imprint, so it doesn't just say "Independently Published" in the metadata. Malarkey has always been sort of a favorite word for me, not like I said it a lot or anything, but it just felt like the word that describes everything. My first novel, which none of it is published anywhere, and I think I deleted all the files in a fit of depression, was even called Malarkey. So I typed in Malarkey Books, and boom, here we are. And of course, now I've pulled all my books, I still write and publish, just not through Malarkey because I want there to be a separation. Our goal at Malarkey is to publish really wonderful writing that might not exist otherwise; sometimes, that's on the website. For me, it's mostly through print or at least print-first projects. My role now is the print editor, but I also design and create the ebooks and do a lot of stuff within the website. I've started to ramble. Feel free to edit this down to "We make books."

What is your press’s vibe in six words or less?

takes literature but not itself seriously

What is the process of publishing a book like for your press? From the first read-through and acceptance, through publication and promotion.

At this point, when it comes to books, I read through all the manuscripts we get sent (which we're closed for a long while now, good god). If we get 80 or 100, I whittle that down to 10 or fifteen, which is terrible. It's a ton of work, and I feel terrible rejecting 70+ people's manuscripts. Hate that part. From that shortlist, I pick what I think we can handle. If I send an acceptance, then I send a copy of our contract, which I spent many, many hours creating. And if the author has any questions, I answer those, we get figured out, we sign. Then it's on to edits. This year we've taken on way too many books when it's just me doing this end of it; it's also my fault. I did it because I had the idea that if we could do a book a month, that would be a great way to get people to sign on to ordering books automatically through a book club. The problem is with so many books, we're barely breaking even on book club subscriptions, and I haven't been able to get ahead on book production. We're still getting books turned around on time and having them look good and everything, but we just don't always have enough lead time. Plus, we did two anthologies this year, which are both great, but they cut into both time and budget. We've cut the number of titles to six next year, so book club will be more tenable, and I should be able to get files finished farther in advance of publication. But as far as process, typically, I make a round of thorough edits, usually in google docs. This covers copy edits/line edits/structural stuff. I try not to be overbearing or insert my style or whatever into it, I would say I take a minimalist approach, but very thorough. We put out pretty clean copy, and I would stand our books next to anything the rich publishers are making both in terms of quality of writing and editing. And book covers. So once I'm done editing the author reviews, and sometimes they have their own edits. We go back and forth until we're done. Fun for me, probably boring to read about. When edits are locked in, I go to work typesetting. I put a lot of care into this part, selecting good fonts, making sure the book is laid out well, always keep the author updated and let them have input on how it looks. I'm not naturally a book designer, but it's something I've had to learn how to do, and at this point, I"m pretty good at it, and again, I think we're making books that look as good as anything the big publishers are doing. Promotion is the hardest part. This other stuff is tedious and time-consuming, but I like it, take some pride in it. Promotion is just so much harder because you have to figure out how to get people to part with their money. And then there are people who would love to buy your books, but they don't have money. If that's you, ask me for free ePubs. We're very active on Twitter, I think we have a decent presence there, I hope a positive one. We do ask our authors to do some legwork on marketing and seeking interviews/book reviews. That's just a necessity because we don't have a paid marketing or promotions staff. We're slowly building contacts and stuff, so hopefully, we'll get better and better at the promotional side until our books are all anyone's even talking about.

What kind of books are you looking for? Do you follow the market, wait for anything good, or have a particular niche in mind when you’re reading through submissions?

I'm just interested in working on books that I like and believe in, stuff that maybe the big publishers don't see as marketable or whatever, but that I really like as art.

How many pages into a manuscript do you get before leaning one way or the other on accepting it?

Depends. I wouldn't even venture to guess a number.

Are there any red flags you’ve found in writer’s submissions that other writers might want to avoid?

Nah

Do you have any recent books you’ve published that you’d like to show some love for?

It's August 23, and we've published ten books this year. I love all of them. They're called Faith, Music Is Over!, Toadstones, It Came From the Swamp, Deliver Thy Pigs, Guess What's Different, Pontoon, White People on Vacation, Your Favorite Poet, and Man in a Cage. We've got four more coming out to wrap up the year: Fearless, Don Bronco's (Working Title) Shell, Un-ruined, and Thunder From a Clear Blue Sky. All of these books are bangers.

Are there any aspects of your submissions process that writers consistently miss or do wrong that they should pay more attention to?

Nope. You're never gonna get rejected or something because you didn't do your submission right or something. As long as it comes through, we'll give it a fair shake. With that said, we're not even gonna think about opening back up for book-length work until mid-2023 at the earliest. Hopefully, for my sake, later than that.

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Malarkey Books

"We are a very small independent publisher. We publish books and zines. We also publish fiction, humor, essays, reviews, satire, and whatever else we feel like on this website."
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