The OF Blog: The wotmania Files: Interview with Greg Ketter of Dreamhaven Books (1/10/2003)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The wotmania Files: Interview with Greg Ketter of Dreamhaven Books (1/10/2003)

As plans stand now, every Tuesday and Thursday for the next few months, I'll be reposting interviews that I and others conducted at wotmania from 2003-2006. This was my second interview and at the time, I had thought of interviewing those who worked more in the editing/selling part of the industry rather than authors, although this would soon change. The following interview was with Greg Ketter, owner of the large independent SF/F bookstore, Dreamhaven, in Minneapolis.


1) Many of our readers are aspiring fantasy/sci-fi writers. What tips would you give them for submitting a work that's more likely to be accepted?

I'm afraid that I don't accept any open submissions. Since I'm really a one-man publishing venture and only do perhaps one book a year, I limit my publications to authors whose work I'm very familiar with and whose sales potential I'm confident about. I really can't speak for other publishers since I don't know their requirements.

2) Locus Online featured an interview last week on the future of science fiction. In particular was a discussion of "science fantasy." What are your thoughts on this emergence of crossgenre fiction?

I don't think that "science fantasy" is particularly an "emerging" sub-genre. It's been around almost as long as science fiction. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote lots of it. We had Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, which was more fantasy than science fiction. Much of what is published is really science fantasy - a melding of hard science with some made up bits of magic. A great recent example is China Mieville's Perdido Street Station (highly recommended). It has a basic background of science where certain magical tropes are used in scientific settings. It's a big sprawling work and it works quite well. I haven't yet read the second in the same world, The Scar, but I'll get to it soon.

3) Some writers also aspire to be artists, and therefore have sketches or drawings of characters or locations in their work. Have you come across such, and if so, have you/do you consider integrating them into a prospective publication?

Once in a while a competent writer is also a competent artist. I imagine some good visuals along with a manuscript could help an editor get a bit more excited about a work. But, they had better be very good visuals or you risk turning the editor off to what might otherwise be a fine story. A good presentation package never hurts.

4) Do you have a particular POV that you gravitate towards? How about your co-workers?

"POV"? I'm not sure what this question means. If I understand it, I guess you could say I am (we are) fairly liberal in our attitudes and try to present various viewpoints. I try to carry extreme material because it usually represents a minority view and too often these groups do not have a voice. We fully support the First Amendment above all others; without it, there would be no other freedoms as far as I'm concerned. We support people's right to read what they like and try to fulfill those desires.

5) Roughly how many people will read a manuscript before it's decided that it's suitable to be published?

I really couldn't tell you. I know it varies from publisher to publisher.

6) How active of a reader are you outside of the slushpile? Do you keep up with what other publishers in the genre are putting out, or do you tend to read material from outside of the genre on your own time?

As I've said, I don't read slushpile - if I receive unsolicited work, I return it unread. I just don't have time to read them. I read quite a lot mostly within the SF/Fantasy field, also mysteries and film material.

7) Dreamhaven appears to wear many hats, from speciality press to collectible fantasy to being a featured partner in some of Neil Gaiman's works. How do you manage to balance out the various needs of these respective areas?

We do what we have to to survive. We're fortunate to be booksellers and publishers; it gives us a fairly unique perspective from both angles. We've learned the problems from both sides and have learned to deal with them with new vision.

8) There is a growing number of fantasy and sci-fi writers outside the English-speaking world. Are there any plans to publish any English-language translations of their works?

It's unlikely I'd ever come across one of them since I only read English and a very little bit of French so finding them would be difficult at best. We did try to publish some French language comics once but it just never worked out.

9) Are there any particular authors for which we here at Other Fantasy should be on the lookout?

China Mieville, R. A. Lafferty, John Sladek, Keith Roberts.

10) Our site has a large number of non-native English speakers, around 10% of the people who visit there. How do you get the word out regarding your authors to such a global audience? Is it more of a use of traditional marketing techniques, or have newer methods of communication with potential readers been developed?

The internet. In particular, Neil Gaiman has an international audience and they find us through our websites. We do attend conventions in Britain and Europe so we do find some customers that way. We have also advertised in a few European magazines but haven't done so in some time.

11) In what ways, if any, have fansites had an impact on your business?

Again, Neil Gaiman in particular has been a topic on fansites and they generally find us through word of mouth. DreamHaven has been a prescence on the web for nearly 8 years and we do have a good reputation so many people do find us. Go to a search engine like Google and type in Monster Magazines, Neil Gaiman, Science Fiction Booksellers and you'll see us in the top few sites mentioned. People do notice.

Greg Ketter
Owner, DreamHaven Books

Very interesting. If you are in search for a rare collectible item in sci-fi/fantasy, I would recommend trying to find things there, since Dreamhaven seems to be loaded with rare items. As I've said in reply, thanks again must go to Mr. Ketter for being so gracious as to reply to our request in such a timely fashion.

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