Gauntlet Press’ Publisher Talks About the Business of Tipsheet Signing

Introduction: Barry Hoffman’s Gauntlet Press is a specialty press devoted to publishing signed limited edition collectibles and trade paperbacks. Many of the authors published by the press work in the horror, dark fantasy and sf genres.

With our signed limited editions we don’t simply publish a book with the author’s signature (as do too many specialty presses). We are not an assembly line publisher releasing a dozen or more books per year. We work with the author closely to produce a definitive edition of each of our books. Many of our authors have provided deleted chapters, alternate endings, handwritten first drafts, sketches and interior art (Clive Barker and Marie Lu are accomplished artists and Ray Bradbury is famous for both his “doodles” and oil paintings), introductions and more. Our authors choose the artist for the dustjacket and have final approval of cover art. Our goal is to provide an edition of a book the author can be proud of and customers feel in truly unique.

Of course, the author’s signature is a crucial part of the overall package. Barry shared a glimpse of how this is arranged on the business side of things in his June newsletter, reprinted here with permission.

Barry Hoffman

By Barry Hoffman, Publisher, Gauntlet Press: Authors are a unique bunch when it comes to signing tipsheets, especially when they are writing an introduction or afterword for a book. For those unfamiliar, we can’t send 500 books to an author to sign. That’s not how it works with signed limited editions. We send 52 copies for the lettered edition and 500 copies for the numbered edition of a “tipsheet” paper. The author signs all 550 copies and returns them to us (or the printer). They are then bound into the book as part of the printing process.

All but a few authors do this without charging a penny. One of our first books was Bob Bloch’s PSYCHO. Ray Bradbury agreed to write an introduction and sign tipsheets for all 500 copies. Richard Matheson agreed to write an afterword and sign tipsheets for all 500 tipsheets. At the time (30 years ago) we didn’t have a lettered edition for our first few books. Neither charged a penny for either writing their piece or signing the tipsheets.

A few authors have asked for money to sign. That’s their prerogative. Harlan Ellison always asked for a modest sum. I only mention Harlan because he was outspoken about the practice. At a convention where the two of us were on a panel he told the assembled group that he never wrote anything for free. He didn’t make it a secret that he would charge a nominal fee to sign tipsheets. I may not agree with him but he was consistent and never charged an outrageous amount.

It’s more of a mixed bag when it comes to celebrities. Neither Robert De Niro nor Martin Scorsese asked for payment for signing tipsheets for TAXI DRIVER. None of the many celebrities who signed our 10-volume Twilight Zone script series asked for a dime to sign tipsheets for the lettered edition of the book. However, we did pay William Shatner to sign tipsheets for NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET.

There are celebrities who also make a living (a pretty good one, at that) going to conventions. At Chiller Con, where I would host a table with Jack Ketchum, there was an eclectic group of celebrities who autographed photos for a fee. Carl Weathers was at Chiller at least once. Makeup artists and other cult figures would have a steady stream of customers. There were always several Playboy centerfolds who, years later, were still making money selling signed photos of themselves. There is nothing wrong with that. Still, Ketchum (aka Dallas Mayr) never charged for his signature. Neither did F. Paul Wilson, who attended several of the Chiller Cons I went to.

Why do most authors not ask for compensation for writing an introduction/afterword or signing tipsheets? I can’t offer a definitive answer, but I think it lies with the respect authors have for one another and their novels. Matheson and Bradbury both had enormous respect for Bob Bloch the man and the author. And, PSYCHO was his masterpiece. No one had to twist their arms.

Authors are a unique bunch and I thank each and every one for the contributions they have made to our books.

A Bradbury Multimedia Roundup

(1) WHO RAY LEARNED FROM. The Ray Bradbury Experience Museum invites you to “Meet Ray Bradbury’s Greatest Writing Mentor: Leigh Douglass Brackett”.

Leigh Brackett

…“Her stories were very simple, and well-plotted, and very beautiful. I learned from her how to pare my stories down and how to plot,” Bradbury said. —Sam Weller in The Bradbury Chronicles.

Brackett was a masterful storyteller of limitless imagination, exquisite writing skills and quite an impressive range. She was ahead of her time just as she was ahead of most of her colleagues, Sven Mikulec reports in Cinephilia Beyond. She was known as the “Queen of Space Opera.”…

(2) WALKING WAUKEGAN. Also, the “Ray Bradbury museum offers virtual tour of his life in Waukegan” – and the Chicago Tribune took it.

…As the pandemic continues, the museum is offering online experiences such as the virtual tour and the “I Met Ray” video project, also in the News & Media tab. The virtual tour, paid for with a grant from Chicago-based nonprofit Illinois Humanities, focus a great deal on the library, one of Bradbury’s favorite places, according to Sandra Petroshius, committee chair of the museum. “Bradbury just loved the library,” said Petroshius, who grew up in Waukegan and lives in Lake Forest. “He showed that in his writings,” she said.

Bradbury’s book, “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” is set in the library, and one of the characters works at a library, she said….

(3) PANDEMIC TIMES. Bradbury biographer Sam Weller looks back at “Ray Bradbury and the Last Global Pandemic” in the LA Review of Books.

…For all the years I spent with him (12 in total, five during which I saw him every two weeks, flying from Chicago to Los Angeles as I was writing his authorized biography), he would often speak about the 1918 virus, the so-called “Spanish flu.” This was in the early 2000s, when few understood the damage a pandemic could wreak. Pandemics were the stuff of a Michael Crichton novel, not our own reality.

Bradbury was dumbfounded that the 1918 tragedy had faded from our cultural consciousness. “Nobody talks about it anymore,” he said with remorse. The 1918 pandemic claimed at least 50 million lives around the world; in the United States, the death toll is estimated to be near 675,000.

…Bradbury lost two family members to the 1918 pandemic. These deaths, with their associated grief, imbue much of his oeuvre. Mortality, loneliness, letting go were the central motifs to Bradbury’s first book, Dark Carnival (1947), published when he was only 27 years old, and dubbed by Stephen King as the “Dubliners of American Gothic.”

Ray Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920, after the flu pandemic had ended. The virus had taken a devastating toll on his family. I have spent two decades delving into Bradbury’s genealogy, combing through lost records, staring blurry-eyed at microfiche screens, trying to understand and fully appreciate how Bradbury’s formative years (what he called his “root system”) shaped him as a writer….

(4) BEWARE PIRATES. Barry Hoffman, Publisher, Gauntlet Press sent out this warning to his list on April 28:

Have you ever come across a deal that seemed too good to pass up? A customer wrote to me asking if a 3000 copy edition of Ray Bradbury’s Dark Carnival being offered by Dragon Books was a scam. The offer seemed to be too good to be true … and in fact, it was an illegal sale of the title.

When Ray Bradbury agreed to let us publish his first short story collection as a signed limited his agent, Don Congdon, told me it would be the only printing of the book, after which it would go back into the vault. But here was a listing of the book for $3.99 with a bookplate signed by Bradbury (with the cover art of our version). It made no sense. Bradbury, of course, has passed away. He agreed with his agent that after our release of the book there should be no other. And, where would the publisher get 3000 bookplates SIGNED by Bradbury? To offer a SIGNED version of Bradbury’s acclaimed first book for less than $4 was ludicrous.
 
I contacted Bradbury’s agent Michael Congdon (son of Don) who sent Dragon Books a cease and desist letter. They agreed and the listing has been removed….
 
It has always been our goal to protect the legacy of authors we have published. Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson can no longer protect their work. However, both still have agents who will take action when an illegal version of their writing is offered. If you see Bradbury or Matheson books (especially signed versions) being offered (other than on legitimate secondary markets like eBay and Abe.com) please contact me at gauntlet66@aol.com and I will look into the offering and, if necessary, contact their agent.

(5) THE SPACE BETWEEN THE WORDS. In “A Science Fiction Author’s Pointers for Worldbuilding with Negative Space” on CrimeReads, Stina Leicht cites classics by Bradbury, Le Guin, and Butler as examples of how it’s what you don’t show in worldbuilding that is as important as what you do show.

…It might be easier to imagine world-building as an iceberg floating in the sea of plot. The reader only sees a small percentage of it. The rest is deep beneath the water and affects everything in the water—visibly and invisibly. That said, communicating with the empty spaces takes a deft hand because the border between too little and just right is quite thin. In addition, Americans in particular are often socially conditioned to say more and listen less. That’s why world building in the blank spaces is an advanced technique most often employed by authors with experience and skill.

A great deal of worldbuilding can happen with what is left unsaid….

(6) A WIDE FANBASE. The “Ray Bradbury: Inextinguishable” virtual exhibit at the American Writers Museum includes a treasured letter. (Click for larger image.)

One of the letters that Ray received in 2003 was of particular significance. It was from Thomas Steinbeck, the son of Ray’s childhood literary hero John Steinbeck.

In the letter, Thomas told Ray that the entire family had been fans of him for years. John would read to the children, and would often choose Ray’s stories. This in turn inspired Thomas to become a writer when he got older. It is amazing that Ray inspired the son of a writer that inspired him so much, and shows the enduring legacy of his writing and personality.

The File 770 post “Bradbury at Big Read” includes a photo of Ray and Thomas at an encounter in Santa Barbara in 2009.

(7) CLIFTON’S CAFETERIA. The eatery hosted LASFS gatherings in the Thirties, and Ray held court there may times in later years. This is/was the dedicated Ray Bradbury booth at Clifton’s in the Gothic Bar room. Photo by Steve Leiva.

(8) LANSDALE ON BRADBURY. Joe R. Lansdale joined a RBEM Virtual Session to talk about Hap & Leonard, Batman and Ray Bradbury.

(9) THE ORIGINAL 451. Christie Hefner will discuss Playboy Magazine and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in a free livestream on May 25, 6:30 Central. Register at Eventbrite: “Playboy and Fahrenheit 451: A Program with Christie Hefner”.

In 1954, when Playboy magazine was in its infancy, it published a three-part serialized novel about the perils of censorship and the seductive lure of anti-intellectual movements. The magazine introduced thousands of readers unfamiliar with science fiction to the genre’s masterwork and helped make it a classic. Former Chairman, CEO Playboy Enterprises Christie Hefner talks about the landmark publication and its influence.

This program is made possible by NEA Big Read. NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) designed to broaden our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. The American Writers Museum is one of 78 not-for-profit organizations to receive a grant to host an NEA Big Read project between September 2019 and December 2021. The NEA presents NEA Big Read in partnership with Arts Midwest.

(10) THE HEADLINER. Franco Laguna Correa discusses “Ray Bradbury on War, Recycling, and Artificial Intelligence” at Public Books.

One of the roles of science fiction is to provide readers with a glimpse of how the future could be.1 Ray Bradbury didn’t get everything about the future right. We haven’t yet seen books and reading made illegal (as in his 1953 Fahrenheit 451),2 just as we haven’t yet discovered another planet ready for American colonizers (as in his 1950 The Martian Chronicles). And yet, the themes he explored in those books—mass media and censorship, colonization and environmental change—are more relevant than ever. Even in his lesser-known works—such as the 1951 sci-fi collection The Illustrated Man, Bradbury tackles a surprising array of issues that feel as if they were ripped from today’s headlines….

(11) RAY TALKS ABOUT DISNEY. In “The Optimistic Futurist” Leonard Maltin interviews Ray Bradbury about Walt Disney.

From the Walt Disney Treasures DVDs, this is an interview about Walt Disney. It is a bonus feature from the set, and here it is meant to shed light on the genius of Walt Disney.

(12) HISTORIC INFLUENCE. Dana Gioia calls it the “Ray Bradbury’s Butterfly Effect”:

…Was Bradbury really a major writer? Or was he simply the amiable pioneer of a dynamic popular genre? The question persists, so let me offer what I believe will be Bradbury’s particular claim to literary posterity. For one astonishingly productive decade—from 1950 to 1960—Ray Bradbury was probably the most influential fiction writer in the English language. Please note that I’m not claiming he was the best writer or that he exerted the most influence on his fellow writers. In strictly literary terms, Bradbury was not remotely the equal of Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, Chinua Achebe, John Cheever, or a dozen other of his Anglophonic contemporaries. Bradbury’s enormous impact was felt mostly outside the literary world—on scientists, filmmakers, architects, engineers, journalists, librarians, artists, and entrepreneurs. Above all, his influence was felt on the young, the generation of adolescents who would shape the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Bradbury’s impact is still evident from Disneyland to Cape Canaveral, from Hollywood to Silicon Valley. It is even evident on other planets. When the Mars rover Curiosity touched down two months after the author’s death, NASA scientists named the spot Bradbury Landing. He was the paperback bard of book burning, the Butterfly Effect, virtual reality, and the full-body tattoo. Bradbury’s dreams and nightmares of space travel, nuclear holocaust, interactive media, robotics, censorship, mass illiteracy, and environmental payback provided the mythic structure for millions of other dreamers in science, entertainment, and technology.

(13) RAY BRADBURY & COMICS. The staff from the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum share behind-the-scenes views of the museum and stories of Bradbury’s love of comics in this 90-minute video.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Will R., and Martin Morse Wooster for these stories.]

Pixel Scroll 3/22/17 I Scroll The Pixel Electric

(1) BATTERIES INCLUDED. The BBC reports plans for a short-distance electric passenger plane:

A new start-up says that it intends to offer an electric-powered commercial flight from London to Paris in 10 years.

Its plane, yet to go into development, would carry 150 people on journeys of less than 300 miles.

Wright Electric said by removing the need for jet fuel, the price of travel could drop dramatically.

British low-cost airline Easyjet has expressed its interest in the technology.

“Easyjet has had discussions with Wright Electric and is actively providing an airline operator’s perspective on the development of this exciting technology,” the airline told the BBC.

Chip Hitchcock adds: “Note the caveat of battery tech continuing to improve at its current rate. Reminds of the beginning of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, where the computer says there won’t be famine because matter transformation will be invented in a few years.”

(2) AND THEN I WROTE. In “Using Twine @TwineThreads”, Camestros Felapton gives a demonstration of the interactive story-writing software, amply illustrated by screencaps.

The software doesn’t present you with much: a simple screen with limited menu options. However, this really encourages you to jump straight in, start a story and start typing.

(3) FEWER BOOKS, MORE BOOZE. No, I’m not talking about Raymond Chandler. I’m reporting the observations by Barry Hoffman, publisher of Gauntlet Press, in his March 22 newsletter —

Late last year Barnes & Noble opened a new “superstore” in Eastchester, New York. The store features a full-service restaurant which serves alcohol. And, the store will be 20-25% smaller than its traditional superstores.

Normally, this news would be taken with a yawn (there are other such B&N superstores). But the sad fact is that B&N is responding to Amazon.com by adding a restaurant and cutting the number of books that it will carry. As it is B&N stores in Colorado Springs (where our offices are located) already devote a lot of space to other items besides books. The two stores in Colorado Springs have a Starbucks (a smart idea, in my opinion and it doesn’t take up all that much space), a large display for their Nook device, games, toys and other non-book related items. Since the price of these non-book related items are just as or more expensive than at nearby competitors such as Best Buy, Target, Walmart and Toys R Us it makes little sense to squeeze out books for them.

The B&N’s here used to sell CDs and DVDs but at a premium price which made no sense since there were competitors selling the same items at a greater discount. It seems that the B&N philosophy is to add these products and now large restaurants to their stores rather than come up with innovative approaches to selling books. To me this doesn’t seem the ideal approach to competing with Amazon.com.

(4) PAY THE WRITER. Lucy A. Snyder aired a grievance about MARCon, the annual Columbus, OH convention, in a public Facebook post.

Several people have asked me if I will be attending MARCon (Multiple Alternate Realities Convention) this year. I will not. As much as I would like to support one of the few remaining local Columbus conventions, I can no longer do so.

Last year, Marcon staff contacted me about leading a couple of writing workshops. We negotiated the same kind of deal as I had arranged for instructors at Context: they would charge for the workshops, and I would get half the fees with a minimum of $50 per workshop.

The convention completely failed to promote the workshops ahead of time, and didn’t even put an information page on their website so that I could promote them myself. They assured me that they would promote the workshops at the door and that I should plan to lead them, so I did my usual preparations.

Unsurprisingly, nobody signed up for my first workshop; I arrived at the expected time and then left when it was clear nobody was coming. They did sell several seats to the second workshop, and so I led that as expected. Aside from my time, my own costs to offer the workshops included $30 in parking garage fees, which I had expected to cover with the $50 for the workshop.

(I had expected a lot *more* than a net of $20, but I adjusted my expectations downward after I realized I wouldn’t be able to adequately promote my sessions. $20 was still better than nothing.)

A few months after the convention was over, I queried the staff who had recruited me to see when payment would be forthcoming, and received no reply.

Later, I forwarded the agreement to the programming email address with an inquiry, which also did not receive a reply.

Most recently, I forwarded the agreement to the convention chairs’ address; it’s been over a week and I haven’t gotten a reply.

So that’s three times I’ve emailed various staff, with zero replies from anyone. Not a “We’re working on it,” or a “The check’s in the mail,” or a “We’re kind of broke and need more time” or even a “Screw you, Snyder, we’re not paying you squat!” Nothing.

I’ve also talked to a Marcon volunteer who spent $120 on convention supplies and was promised reimbursement; so far, the convention has blown off her queries, too.

I would not be surprised to find out that other volunteers who were promised reimbursement of their registration fees have not received them.

The upshot is that Marcon appears to have become the kind of convention that won’t always honor its financial commitments.

There were other problems at last year’s convention that soured me on the experience, but failing to uphold business agreements and refusing to reply to communications is a definite deal breaker for me.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 22, 1931 – William Shatner

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY STARSHIP CAPTAIN

  • Born March 22, 2233 – James Tiberius Kirk.

(7) SCALZI INTERVIEW. The Verge asked the questions and got this answer: “Sci-fi author John Scalzi on the future of publishing: ‘I aspire to be a cockroach’”.

The author of Old Man’s War and The Collapsing Empire lays out his plan for his 10-year book contract, and the future of science fiction publishing….

With concerns about publishers dying off, it’s intriguing that Tor is making this long-term commitment.

I think there’s a number of things going on there. I do think it was signaling. It is Tor and Macmillan saying: “We’re going to stay in business, and we’re going to do a good job of it.” This is part of an overall thing going on with Tor. Tor recently reorganized; brought in Devi Pillai [from rival publisher Hachette]; moved Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who’s my editor, from senior editor to associate publisher; brought in some new editors and some other new folks; and Macmillan basically gave it a huge vote of confidence.

It’s been fun and fashionable to talk about the death of publishing, and certainly publishing has had “exciting times,” I think that’s the euphemism we want to use, over the last decade. But the people who are in it do feel optimistic that not only are they going to be around for the next 10 years, but that they are going to do what they have always done, which is to bring exciting stories and people into the market, to keep people engaged in the genre, and to be a presence….

Did you just describe yourself as a cockroach?

I am a cockroach. I aspire to be a cockroach. But in all honesty, what that means is that as a writer, you have to recognize that nothing lasts and things change, that there’s no one time in the history of publishing where everything was one way, and then all of a sudden there was change. It’s always changing. So we will definitely try new things to see if they work. And if they don’t, you don’t do them again, or you wait for the market to come around to them again, whatever. I’m totally open to that…

(8) BOOK HEAVEN. Real Simple lists the best bookstore in every state.

When you think of a great local bookstore, you probably single it out for its conscientious curation, enthralling events, and splendid staff. But what makes a bookstore go from great to one of the best in America? We partnered with Yelp to explore the best independent bookstores our country has to offer. There are no chains on this list. Using an algorithm that looks at the number of reviews and star rating for each business, Yelp singled out the top bookseller in each state.

In California, it’s Century Books in Pasadena.

(9) SAD PUPPY SADNESS. On Twitter, SF/F author Matthew W. Rossi thought Declan Finn was telling him that it’s not that big a deal he’s going blind. Apparently that’s not what Finn meant:

(10) INSIDE THE SHELL. Ghost in the Shell (2017) – “Creating The Shell” Featurette.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, rcade, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]