On Friday night I submitted a story to Spectral Visions Press for one of their new publications. As some of you will already know, I’ve been both a writer and a volunteer employee for the Press before.
That didn’t exactly mean that writing and submitting this story was any easier. I have about ten different versions of the same story saved in various places, and a couple written down on paper, because having a good idea doesn’t always mean that the story itself is easy to write. Initially, I started with a vague idea about the style – something a little bit different to how I usually write my short stories – and an opening line. The opening line, for once, was actually the easiest part of this process. Both of these things I kept but the details of the overall story changed, as I’m sure you can tell from the ‘ten different versions’.
Spectral Visions Press is a niche market publisher based in the North East of England, specifically Sunderland, Tyne and Wear. It’s affiliated with Sunderland University, particularly the English department who have the closest relationship with the press, and that’s how I learned about it and came to work for them.
Beginning with a conference in 2011 at Sunderland University that explored the influence of Gothic and using the momentum to eventually launch a new publishing house in 2014, Spectral Visions Press primarily employs volunteers made up of university students at various levels of study. Their first anthology was called Spectral Visions: The Collection and was released in the first year that the Press was launched. They have a WordPress blog at this link: spectralvisions.wordpress.com
Me? I was in a genre fiction class, near the beginning of my third and last year of undergraduate study in English and Creative Writing, when one of the professor’s and a founder of Spectral Visions Press, Dr Alison Younger, mentioned that they were going to be doing a project based on the tarot. I definitely perked up when she said that judging by the quick way that she asked me if I was interested. Initially, I assumed that I’d just be submitting to such a publication but my contribution didn’t end there. I already knew I liked project work but this was beyond the experience I’d expected to gain in the beginning.
Previously, after hearing about Spectral Visions Press from my first year studying there, I’d edited a couple of pieces for the Press but I’d not been heavily involved. My third year at university, well, I figured that I shouldn’t waste a moment and I had a great year. The extra responsibility of the tarot project was welcome.
Niche market publishing means that you’re publishing for a specific audience. Generally, most of your target audience will have already heard of you and they will have an interest in the product that you’re offering. Despite an expected smaller audience than a mainstream publisher I find niche marketing a lot of fun but I did have a pretty rounded experience during the course of my project so maybe that’s just me.
Spectral Visions Press has a specialised interest in Gothic literature through publishing original stories as well as academic texts, but they welcome submissions from more than just Sunderland University students. The Spectral Visions Press Tarot Collection showcases works from published authors around the world, university staff and students as well as members of the public with an interest in writing and the project.
So, for the story I submitted this year the brief was that it was for a new collection with the description, Bestiary of Monsters. I really do not remember being given any other guidelines. Basically it’s a big book of monsters, or as Wikipedia puts it: A bestiary, or bestiarum vocabulum, is a compendium of beasts. It was fun to write something along the lines of a specific theme.
I knew that they were looking for short stories, at least, about legendary/mythological creatures and I will tell you that I changed my mind several times about what monster I was going to write about. I find mythology interesting. It was fun trying out my idea in different ways but, in the end I did make a choice (although it’s tempting to write follow on stories from what I submitted featuring other monsters) and I emailed my story to the Press on the day of the deadline. That’s something that I wouldn’t always recommend doing – sometimes earlier is better – but sometimes I get trapped in the thought of ‘I have to get this right’. On the other hand, I am much happier with the version I sent in rather than any of the previous ones.