Monday, July 20, 2015

Guest Post - Jason Sizemore The Horror of Running a Small Press

All across the world, there exists a small segment of the population who enjoy the metaphorical self-flagellation known as running a small press.

I am one of those individuals, and I wrote a book about it.

For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher is the mostly true story of how Apex Publications came to be, why it exists, and the odd personal spectacles I’ve endured that makes its continued existence a never-ending miracle. I’m told it is quite humorous. Yet, I fail to see the humor of stumbling into a large orgy overseen by a sweet little grandmother offering visitors a bite of honey baked ham.

Because many of the tales in For Exposure are so outlandish, I was afraid people wouldn’t believe them and asked numerous others to provide ‘rebuttals’ to my accounts.

After reading For Exposure, one would think that I’d shared all of the bizarre experiences I’ve had as a publisher. Sadly, this isn’t so. There are other tales. Many, many other tales. One such tale I will share exclusively with I apologize upfront if this incident crosses the line of good taste. I also apologize that I do not have a witness who can write a rebuttal to confirm or expose the veracity of what I’m about to describe. Rest assured, good readers, I tell you only the truth.

Being the owner and managing editor of Apex Publications means I travel to many different events and conventions. I live in Lexington, KY, so when The Scarefest horror show landed in town on a permanent basis, I was quite pleased. For once, I wouldn’t have to drive hours and hours to get to an event nor would I have the expense of room and board. I bought space in the vendor hall and offered a fine Apex selection of horror and dark fantasy books.

At the time, Apex had a new senior editor named Janet Harriett. She drove from northern Ohio to help me run our table. As it turns out, we were placed next to an elderly gentleman who sold imported DVDs of all spices and varieties. I had noticed some…interesting items on the shelf adjacent to our two spaces…namely hardcore manga films. Nothing you won’t see at any media vendor hall, so while I noted them, I wasn’t concerned. What I hadn’t counted on was the elderly gentleman having a 45 minute conversation with a large, sweaty guy in a ripped white t-shirt and dirty red sweatpants about the most extreme manga porn scenes they’d ever seen. My poor, green senior editor heard things nobody should have to hear.

Fortunately for me, I hadn’t heard any of it. I was off taking a late lunch. After gorging myself on greasy fries and a burger at the food court, I took a shortcut back to the Scarefest vendor hall. This meant crossing through another event space.

In my haste, I failed to notice that the other event was the annual gun and knife show held here in Lexington. Masses of men and women armed to the teeth walked up and down the rows of tables displaying weapons for sale. I found it all quite disconcerting.

As I crossed the crowded hall I bumped into a large man with General Burnside facial hair. Across the shoulder of his camo jacket he carried a scoped rifle. A holster held a sidearm. He glared me down.I mumbled an apology and made to move on. His big meaty hand gripped my arm and stopped me.  “You best watch where you’re going, peckerwood.”

Peckerwood. That’s the word he used. I can’t recall having heard it since high school.  I’m not a coward (mostly) nor am I stupid (mostly). This beast of a man armed with a rifle and pistol was threatening me. This time, my flight instinct had turned me yellow. “You’re right,” I said. “Sorry.”
Someone associated with the gun and knife show appeared. I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Lloyd, this boy bothering you?”
“Bothering him?” I said. I’m not armed and a good four inches shorter than the man holding me in place.
The gun show volunteer nodded. “Something’s got Lloyd all bothered.”
Lloyd let go of my arm. “It’s fine, Charley. I’m done wit’em.” With that, the beast lumbered away. But Charley wasn’t done with me.
“How did you get in here? You don’t have a badge,” he said.
I stupidly looked down at my Scarefest badge.
“That one doesn’t grant you entrance to our show. I’m going have to escort you out of the building.”
Despite my objections, two armed men walked me to the far back of the convention center, shoved me out a door that had no handle on the outside. I imagined this was what it felt like, to some degree, of being marched to your death by the Mafia. Fortunately, the two men did not follow me out. I was left to walk all the way back around the convention center and back to my table in the Scarefest vendor hall.

On my arrival, Janet looked two shades of green. I asked her what was wrong. She looked at me, pointed out how pale I was, and asked me what was wrong.

So we shared our experiences.

The greatest dangers you’ll face when running a small press doesn’t always come from authors, editors, distributors, and crooked vendors. You never know the oddities you’ll encounter when you leave your writer’s cave and venture out into the big scary world.

Despite the occasional problem, I love running Apex Publications. I could share many happy adventures from my publishing years, but why not check out For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher and have them in a nicely formatted, fancy book edition?

Born the son of an unemployed coal miner in a tiny Kentucky Appalachian villa named Big Creek (population 400), Jason fought his way out of the hills to the big city of Lexington. He attended Transylvania University (a real school with its own vampire legend) and received a degree in computer science. Since 2005, he has owned and operated Apex Publications. He is the editor of five anthologies, author of Irredeemable, a three-time Hugo Award loser, an occasional writer, who can usually be found wandering the halls of hotel conventions seeking friends and free food. Visit him online at


Kate @Midnight Book Girl said...

I can't even imagine being in the publishing industry right now, although I do think the internet has helped introduce me, the reader, to a much wider world of books from small publishers to self published.

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