Interview with Eric Borsage, Editor of Eric's Hysterics and Love Hurts!

Today’s interview is with one of my favorite editors, Eric Bosarge. He founded the humor magazine, Eric's Hysterics and edited the short story anthology, LOVE HURTS! (Note: while the magazine is closed to submissions, it's still available online if you're in the mood to laugh.)


SARETT: What was your impetus for starting Eric's Hysterics?
BORSAGE: I wanted to submit something funny that I had written but couldn’t find a suitable home. I decided that meant there was a niche I could exploit. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to work. I never expected to produce a print anthology. The thing took on a life of its own in a "field of dreams" sort of way.


SARETT: What are the ingredients that make a good fiction magazine editor?   
BORSAGE: Being able to recognize that the simplest fix is usually the best. Writers and artists get touchy when someone insists on changes. It’s important to make sure any suggestions will enhance their vision, not yours.


SARETT: Humor is tough. What do you feel most humorists or would-be-humorists get wrong?  
BORSAGE: Two common problems were the this will be funny if I use a sarcastic, witty voice designed more to imply humor than actually be funny kind of attitude, and making improbable, unbelievable premises and conflicts the heart of the story. To address the first, a good, funny story only needs one funny line per page, sometimes even less. It’s better to be genuinely funny once, than fake funny all the time. You can’t force it. Second, it’s one thing to attempt the theater of the absurd, but the reader still must bear the weight of disbelief. Unbelievable premises or characters are doomed to failure.



SARETT; I’ve heard that writers who are rejected write back and argue. Does that happen or is that a myth?  
BORSAGE: It does happen. I’d rather not comment on specific instances, but remind writers that each time they leave a bookstore, they leave thousands of books behind, and it’s nothing personal. It’s the same with rejection letters. You’re trying to sell a manuscript to people who are browsing, hoping what you have will fit their interests. Style and skill helps to attract editors, of course, but most often rejection is about fit for a particular market.


SARETT: Any favorite humorists that you’d like to share with readers-- novelists, essayists or short fiction writers?  
BORSAGE: Besides the blogger conducting this interview? (wink wink):
--Wayne Scheer is a machine, with something like seven pieces featured on Eric's Hysterics. His work was always a pleasure to read. 
--Mike Heartz, whom I see you're familiar with, is just waiting to be discovered. I am amazed a top editor hasn’t latched onto him. He’s one to watch. 
--Josh Sampson, one of the writers we featured early on, has the drive needed to succeed. His revisions to a story (featured on the site) blew me away. 
--Helen Peppe’s memoir PIGS CAN'T SWIM is currently atop the bestseller list, and rightfully so. I’ve used her short fiction piece “The Situation and the Story” to set the stage for writer’s workshops.


SARETT: Would you ever think about a new magazine, or is it, been there, done that?

I want to pursue something, but not without the backing of either a Kickstarter-type campaign or a major publisher. It probably won’t be humor. I’m working on a novel and enjoying the pleasant distractions of home ownership and family life.  

Scribd and Oyster: Not the Netflix of books

I read a lot so I was intrigued to hear about Scribd and Oyster, two entries into the "e-book subscription" business.  A low monthly fee for all the books you can read, which sounds like a great deal.  Both services have prompted comparisons to the the streaming video (and DVD rental) service, Netflix.

"The new Netflix," say reviews.  Are they really?

Hmm, not so fast.

Netflix started as a DVD rental alternative with a far deeper inventory, especially of rare, foreign and classic films, than video stores. When streaming video arrived, savvy Netflix offered series from Showtime, HBO and the BBC, mostly to compensate for the meager inventory on the streaming video side.  For many subscribers, who combine DVD with streaming video, Netflix remains the best place to find films and TV.
 
Product DetailsSo how do Oyster and Scribd perform?

I do love reading about Philadelphia history, especially of the Revolutionary War period. I own quite a few books, but wanted more.  So, I hopped over to Scribd and searched "Philadelphia history."  My search yielded mostly sports books or fiction (?)  On Oyster (which required payment info before I could search!) browsing looked tough.

In case you're wondering,  Amazon quickly spit out a list of 16 books.   I bought a few.  I think we're a long way from a Netflix of books.  

Amazon vs. Hachette: annals of dopey battles

Oh, the irony.  A big fat publisher who represents big authors is now the hero in a fake David vs. Goliath tale.  Hachette, one of the companies who fought to keep e-book prices high (as high as their print counterparts, in many cases) is now whining that it just can't get a good deal.  And Amazon, which has revolutionized book-selling as well as publishing, is characterized as a "bully" that is trampling on Hachette's invented rights.  

In fact, Hachette has lots of other big retailers to hawk their books, just as Amazon has lots of other content for consumers to buy.  Those brand-name authors who are losing "pre-sales" hardly lack distribution channels.  If a reader is dying to read, say, Kate Atkinson, she can find Kate on at least six other online retailers, including iBooks-- online, it's a click away.  (Isn't content supposed to be king?  Would I stop reading an author because I couldn't buy on Amazon?  I think not.)

What's the reality?  Not only are readers addicted to sales (in clothes, in stores, everywhere,) but they are becoming increasingly addicted to free content (which, in digital, is ubiquitous.)  Inflating prices (which is essentially what publishers like Hachette want) is in no one's long-term interests as Hugh Howey argues in The Guardian.   Higher prices will mean, ultimately, fewer readers for everyone.  Now, that's dopey.



'via Blog this'

July 6-- Strange Courtships is free on Amazon

The holiday weekend continues.  Strange Courtships: Nine Romantic Stories is available free on Amazon for one day only.  If you enjoy the book, please take a moment to review on Amazon.  

SUMMER DREAMS: short story anthology is free on July 4th and 5th



Holiday reading alert:  you can download the Kindle Edition of SUMMER DREAMS  on July 4 and 5th.  Aside from being entertaining to read, the book has wonderful, whimsical graphics.

It's got a mix of summer-themed stories, including one of mine -- "Stranger in Paradise" in which angels of many types appear.  

Publishing and the Hollywood Blockbuster Syndrome

I've noticed something.  When people talk about great characters, and great writing, they usually cite shows like HOUSE OF CARDS, ORANGE IN THE NEW BLACK, HOMELAND, BREAKING BAD and MAD MEN.  No one's talking about movies, are they?

It wasn't always this way.  Under the studio system, film directors (and screenwriters) worked constantly, and churned out movies quickly-- and among them, many of film classics. At first, TV was obviously inferior--it lacked the budgets and production schedules were rushed (in comparison to film.)

But a funny thing happened after the studio system fell apart.  Film became a slow, poky  business that relied on so-called blockbusters. (Yes, there are indie films -- but getting one of those off the ground is also slow, and sometimes impossible.)  Directors and screenwriters were lucky if they worked on one project per year.  By comparison, TV writers, working on series, wrote dozens of scripts, and honed their writing craft in a way that movies did not allow.  

Which brings us to publishing. Recently, I read an article in The New York Times entitled "I Was a Digital Best Seller!"  The author's into digital publishing was a flop.  But peeling back his complaints, I find that he discovered the virtues of digital publishing.  He writes, "If I were writing for a traditional publisher, I'd have to wait months to see my work in print. This time, I'd be read within days, on top of the news."  Digital is fast.

So, the question is, who will be producing the better books in two or three decades?  The traditional publishers who take a long time to publish one book, and who, increasingly, place big bets on celebrities and "brand name" authors?  Or, the indie side in which writers publish lots and quickly?  Where are writers most likely to hone their skills?

I don't think the answer is obvious.  And it may well be that just as orange is the new black, indie publishing is the new cable.







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