Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Brain Hurts: Dealing with Living Dead Press

In the last few months the internet has been exploding with stories about how Anthiny "Tony" Giangregori, "editor" and owner of Living Dead Press, is pretty much the most unprofessional small press owner in the history of planet earth.

Mandy DeGeit has an awesome piece about how Tony totally butchered her story, and then reacted like a complete tool when she questioned him about it. The post got so much attention that even super writer Neil Gaiman chimed in.

Since I feel it's important that writers stand up to Tony--who is a flat-out bully who threatens to beat people up if they talk bad about him--I figured it was time I share my own dealings with Living Dead Press.

A few years back, I had yet to be published--anywhere. I wanted nothing more than to have a piece published. So when I was put in contact with Tony Giangregori at Living Dead Press, I was overjoyed at the prospect of making it into a zombie anthology he was publishing. I knew nothing about Tony, or his seemingly endless (and terrible) zombie books. I was just happy for an opportunity.

But right from the start I noticed that Tony didn't seem "all there." First off, my full first name is Christopher, but I never go by that–I go by Chris, always. I signed my contract as “Chris”, I submitted the story under “Chris.”

Before the book went to publication, Tony sent me a proof and I saw my name listed as Christopher.

Now, obviously this isn't a huge deal, but the fact is that no one ever calls me "Christopher", and seeing my name like that sort of made it feel like it wasn't really MY story.

So I wrote Tony a very polite email saying essentially “If there is still time, could you possibly change my name to Chris? If not, no problem.”

He replied with an email in ALL CAPS, accusing me of not telling him beforehand I wanted to go by Chris and not Christopher–even though I had never used my full first name in any of our dealings. He seemed furious at me for even suggesting such a thing. I was about to respond and ask him just what the deal was, and then he sent another telling me it was fine and he fixed it.

I thought, "How odd." But I let it go.

Then there was an issue with my ending. My story involved zombie animals–feral cats to be precise. He wrote to me and said “I love the story but you need to add a HUMAN zombie at the end–people HATE animal zombie stories.” I wasn’t sure where he was getting that statistic from; I had never heard anything like that. A better way for him to phrase it would have been "I personally hate animal zombie stories." Instead he decided to make his opinion speak for the whole world. But at the time I was so excited and desperate to be published that I said “what the hell” and added a little extra bit to the end.

Next on the list of growing concerns was the total lack of publicity he generated for the book. Seeing as he was the publisher, and it was his publishing "house", it felt only natural that he should do some sort of publicity for the book--even if it meant sending free copies to horror review sites to see what they thought. He didn't do any of that. His attitude was "I have plenty of fans, and they will find my books."

Okay...fine. Whatever. I was still being published, and that was exciting!

Finally the day came. I got a copy of the book, and flipped to my story. The title wasn’t even centered on the page; it was clear someone had just hit “tab” a bunch of times rather than, you know, centering it. 

And things just got worse as I read. There were grammar and spelling mistakes that I did NOT make in my submitted copy. And then at the very end I saw he had added a whole section I did NOT write. And not only that, but it was a really BAD section totally not fitting the tone of the story. He had written almost an entire passage that had no right being in my story. Don't get me wrong--the story I wrote wasn't exactly on the level of Raymond Carver. But for him to so blatantly add things to it without even asking me made the whole thing feel cheap and false.

I was hurt more than I was angry. Why would he do this? I considered emailing him, but I had had such awkward dealings with him in the past that I just let it go, and never dealt with Living Dead Press again.

Tony is still putting out his books. He's only gotten worse with time. Back when he published me, he actually paid me (a very small sum, of course) and gave me a free copy of the book. I hear he doesn't do either of those things anymore. 

And he continues to attack people who question his skills--or lack thereof. Such threats also, for some strange reason, include his wife. He'll say things about how "My wife wants to have an angry talk with you!"

What the hell does his wife have anything to do with it? Why would SHE want to have an angry talk with someone? YOU'RE the one that screwed up.

So that is my little trip down memory lane. Since then I've been published in real publications, and the experiences have been rewarding. No one has added whole sections to my work, and no one has written back to me in an email in ALL CAPS. 

So to those struggling writers out there: beware. It's very easy to get published by Living Dead Press. And that's because they're just not very good. 

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