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INTERVIEW WITH TOM JOHNSON

Published January 20, 2015 by JoAnna Senger

Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to talk to my bloggers.  Here are some questions, and feel free to add any other information you like.

  1. How many novels have you written over the years?

Counting non-fiction, fiction, short story collection and anthologies, I have over 80 books in print.

 2.  I know you best as a writer of pulp fiction, but you do write in other genres.  What other genres have you written?

Pulp fiction contains many genres, some consider “pulp fiction” a genre, but to be honest it is more a way of writing. At one time it was a media – magazines printed on pulpwood paper. Today, it seems to have evolved into a genre. I write science fiction, westerns, mysteries, costumed heroes, and action and adventure, even a little swashbuckling now and then.

3.  Would you write a historical romance, a fantasy, a children’s book?

I would enjoy writing most genres, especially children’s books, and even some fantasy. However, my wife tells me I shouldn’t write romance, contemporary or historical. I think she’s trying to tell me something (lol). She also hints that I’m not good with comedy (g).

    4.  Are there any genres you wouldn’t write? Any you couldn’t?

I wouldn’t write erotica, and I couldn’t write horror.

5.  If a visitor from another planet showed up on your doorstep, which three of your books would you want him to read?

First would be WORLDS OF TOMORROW, which is Flash Gordon type adventure. Second would be THESE ALIEN SKIES, as it does feature aliens, and third would have to be PANGAEA: EDEN’S PLANET, which gives an alien a better account of Earth’s past.

6.  Do you consider modern comic books to be direct descendants of the comics you read as a boy, or a genre of their own?

Today’s comic books have evolved into “picture books for adults” while the comic books I grew up with were aimed at children. I quit reading comic books in the early 1980s, as the content was taking them too deep into adult material. In the 1940s & ‘50s, we needed heroes, and comic books gave them to us. By the 1960s, we were introduced to the anti-heroes, and heroes with problems of their own.

 7.  Are there any direct descendants of the comic books you loved but not in comic book form, such as TV, movies, or video games?

The comic book super hero came out of the pulp magazines. Batman was influenced by The Shadow, while Superman was influenced by Doc Savage. That’s the simple version. But the pulps were a big influence of comic books, movies, serials, radio, and today’s television series, as well as the paperback novels that came after the pulps ceased. We still feel their influence today. You’re correct comic books also have become an influence in modern media today. But it all goes back to the pulp magazines.

 8.  Wax eloquent as a philosopher for a moment. Sometimes critics say that young people don’t read any more.  The screen play has taken the place of the novel, drawing away the writer of the novel to the screen.  Grocery stores don’t offer a rack or two of comic books any more.  Children don’t learn to read for pleasure.  The printed word is dead!  On the other hand, an enormous number of novels are published every year.  Somebody is reading them.  The golden world of the imagination still lives on the printed page. 

What do you think?

I wonder about the answer to your question myself. I live in a small town, and owned a used bookstore for many years. Sales were awful. I had over 2000 comic books in the shop when I closed due to poor business. I seldom saw a person under twenty in the store. The majority of my customers were older men and women, and they only wanted westerns and romance. I wasn’t making enough to pay utilities. There is one used bookstore in a hundred miles of me, and they specialize in romance novels. None carry comic books, except a lone comic shop fifty miles from me. Comic books just don’t sell in this area. But this is a small area, and children seem more interested in electronic games than reading comic books.

Western and romance novels are big in this area. I can’t comment about other areas. Comic books seem to be mostly for collectors and adults today. This almost killed the comic books several years ago. Today, I imagine many comic books are sold online, or through comic shops. There is also the new media of online electronic comic books that seem to be taking sales away from the print copies.

Books are also sold through online markets like Amazon, Abebooks, Alybris, and other outlets, and they seem to be doing okay. So people are still buying and reading our books. How good is the market? You would have to check with those establishments. But personally, I think our population is growing faster than readers. We may see a lot of books sold, but I don’t think it matches the rise in population. Maybe I’m wrong.

Touching on another area is the ease of self-publishing with today’s technology. Okay, it gives writers more of a chance of seeing their work in print, but it also opens the door for a lot of junk. That means readers have to be more vigilant in what they buy. Let’s face it there was a lot of junk in paperbacks and pulp magazines for the last hundred years, so this is not new. We will always have the junk; it’s just easier now.

I probably got carried away with my answer. My philosophy is, as long as we have imagination, we will always have writers; and as long as books are published, regardless of format, someone will want to read. If I may quote S,I, Hayakawa at this point: “It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish.”

From JoAnna Senger:  Tom Johnson blogs at 

The Publishing Industry: Chaos in Action???

Published October 9, 2014 by JoAnna Senger

For months now, I have been hearing contradictory information about publishing, self-publishing, Amazon, CreateSpace, and other terms.  As a writer, I thought that I understood the various terms.  Nope!  

For example, I thought I knew what the term “self-published” meant. The author must write the work, arrange and pay to create the cover, produce the work, publicize and market the work, and then take money or arrange for the billing/payment side of the transaction.  By that definition, I am not self-published because I have a publisher and am not involved in the production/sales side.

When bookstores kept asking me if I was self-published and I kept saying “no,” they would not take “no” for an answer.  Bookstore staff asked me if I paid my publisher to publish my work, if my publisher was a vanity press, and other similar questions.  One exceptionally kind bookstore manager took me aside and spent an hour with me and the bookstore buyer to explain the bookstore point of view.

Here are two sides of the publishing coin that have come my way.  I would be most grateful to hear opinions from people, especially writers,on these two points of view.

Publishing according to bookstores:

The Big Six publishing houses (or is it now the Big Five?) serve as a validation stamp for any book.  We bookstores don’t have time to read the thousands of books that come out every year.  We rely on the Big Five-or-Six to vet the authors, put up some front money to produce the book, and most importantly, go through Baker & Taylor or Ingram to deliver the books to us.  We want to stock books and then, after a reasonable period of time, return them if they don’t sell.  Consignment selling is too much trouble.   If your book is print-on-demand, you are self-published as far as we’re concerned.

It’s Big Five-or-Six or nothing.  If the author is good, one of those publishers will publish his/her work.

 

Publishing according to Self-Published Authors:

The publishing industry is collapsing and everyone knows it but them.  They are slow to respond and even if one of them publishes your work, they only actively market 20% of the books they publish.  Odds are, your book won’t be in that hallowed 20%.  Further, they take more money from you than you’ll ever be able to track.  Unless you are already a big name, you’ll have to spend at least $3000 including travel to market your book and you’ll be lucky to break even.

Writers can spend that same effort on Amazon which can do everything the publisher does and faster.  Your percentage will be much greater.  True, bookstores won’t stock your book or invite you to signings, but who goes to bookstores any more, anyway?

Amazon vs. Established Publishers

There is a war going on between Amazon and the established publishers.  I recently contacted a mid-range publisher with whom I shared a contact about a book of mine.  The first question he asked was, “Is it out on Amazon?  That could be a problem.”

The following link will direct those interested to articles on the feud between Amazon and the French publisher Hachette:

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/aug/25/amazon-hachette-publishing-future-ebooks