Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Interview with Matt Sinclair of Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, Part I of II

Many of you writers are busy writing, editing, and querying your manuscripts. However, for many of you it is a mystery what goes on, on the other side of the curtain. How do publishing houses work? How do they pick novels? What treatment will your novel receive under their direction? 

Today I have the pleasure of lifting the curtain a little and peering into the other side of the industry. Matt Sinclair, the founder of Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, has kindly answered some of our most burning questions. 

For some of you, these names might sound familiar. That’s because the Elephant’s Bookshelf has opened submissions for their summer anthology! And if you haven’t already, please check out Spring Fevers, and The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse. (FYI: Spring Fevers is free for Kindle owners, so there really is no reason to not check this out!)

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’ve been working as a journalist since the early 1990s in a variety of contexts – internal communications at a university; reporting or editing for local, regional, and national publications; many years at a national trade journal covering the nonprofit sector; and several years editing a national online publication about philanthropy both in the United States and increasingly on an international level. Aside from my dream of playing major league baseball, writing was all I ever really wanted to do.

What inspired you to found Elephant’s Bookshelf Press?

The first anthology, Spring Fevers, came about from discussions I’d had with Cat Woods, who is one of the many writing friends I’ve met at AgentQuery Connect, which honestly has changed my writing life. It’s a supportive community of writers that aren’t blowing sunshine up each other’s backsides but instead are offering honest critiques and accurate information to point writers in the right direction. Cat and I developed the idea of an anthology. I’d long been toying with the idea of starting a literary journal or a publishing company but it seemed like an overly daunting task. After Cat and I bandied the anthology idea about, however, I realized this was my opportunity to launch a publishing company.

What are the goals of the company? Can you tell us a little bit about your mission?

Elephant’s Bookshelf Press is a traditional, albeit small publisher. I’m fortunate to have put together a team of what I call my editorial advisory board: Cat Woods, Mindy McGinnis, Robb Grindstaff, R.C. Lewis, Jean Oram, and Calista Taylor. All of us expect excellence. Sometimes I feel like I’m the weak link because I’m the only one who hasn’t had an agent or a publishing deal. Our goal at Elephant’s Bookshelf Press is to help talented writers not only earn publication but develop an audience. We aim to build long-term relationships with these writers, to complement the work that they’re already doing to advance their careers, spur them to do more to help boost themselves and build their visibility, and establish a lasting reputation for the company as a publisher of quality work. I think our writers have been impressed with our dedication to the craft of writing. I’m obviously biased, but I believe Spring Fevers and The Fall are excellent, though they’re quite different anthologies.

How do you believe Elephant’s Bookshelf Press will adapt and succeed amidst the shifts occurring in the book industry?

Initially we expected Spring Fevers to be just an electronic book, and it was after we had several inquiries about a print version that we decided to add that. I must say, I love having print copies, but I’m old school. Still, I expect that we’ll always publish electronically, and we’ll need to make decisions about new formats as they emerge. In terms of how authors are gaining greater independence, we’re already looking at how to be a writer-friendly publishing house so we can attract the type of novelists we hope to publish. There are other concerns, such as what some changes by giants like Amazon might mean for small publishers. All I can do is keep abreast of the industry and dodge and swerve as need be.

What projects are you currently working on that you can tell us about?

We’re working on our summer anthology, and since there are only four seasons in the year, we’re also thinking about what we want our winter anthology to be about. That’ll be published in early 2014, but I can’t really say more about it than that at this time. In between anthologies, we’ll be publishing our first novel. It’ll be by one of the writers we’ve met in The Fall. (No, it’s not me.) We intend to have a sample chapter included in the summer anthology as a way to start building interest in the novel among our readers.

What types of literature does Elephant’s Bookshelf Press publish now and in the future?

I’ve initiated conversations with other writers about publishing their work through Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. As we consider different writers, we’re also deciding what genres we want to expand. For example, the first novel is on the cusp of young adult and the emerging “new adult” category. I expect that we’ll have YA and NA novels going forward. I also believe we’ll consider Middle Grade fiction for younger readers. I have small children, and I’d love to be able to publish stories that they grow up with. I’ve always loved science fiction, too, and while we haven’t done a lot of it in our anthologies, I think we’ll include science fiction before too long. I also expect that we’ll publish nonfiction, although I’d be surprised if we publish that till late 2014 at the earliest. Still, promising projects might come in over the transom. We’re also discussing what route to take the anthologies after the seasons are done. We will continue to publish short fiction. Who knows, maybe we’ll do a Daylight Savings Time anthology.

Why is your company a great option for writers seeking to get traditionally published?

We’re writers ourselves. By “we” I mean not only me but also the advisors who’ve agreed to work with me – people like Calista Taylor, who’s been our cover designer for both anthologies, and R.C. Lewis, who has handled the book design for them both. Calista has been published traditionally in nonfiction and she has established a strong reputation for steampunk and niche romance novels, and R.C. will have her debut novel, Stitching Snow, published by Disney/Hyperion in 2014. One thing that our writers like about EBP is it’s an outlet for their short fiction. It’s hard to get any attention for short stories. There are fewer markets for them, especially in print. I’m not saying anthologies are an easy sell, because they’re not. But having a story in a published collection says more to me as a reader than something that’s been published on a Web site that hasn’t been updated in two years.

Watch out for Part II of the Interview!
Thank you Matt for taking the time to answer some of our burning questions! For all you readers, make sure not to miss out on part two of our interview, where Matt answers questions on marketing novels, how writers catch his attention, and more! 

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services


  1. Great interview. I've enjoyed Matt's work at From The Write Angle, and I've been trying to figure out which piece of mine might be appropriate for the summer anthology. I guess I'd better get my butt in gear, the deadline's approaching!

    1. It’s so hard choosing the correct short story to submit, isn’t it? As always, it’s great to read your input Jeff! Thanks for commenting!

  2. Wow, I actually forgot that this was coming out till I saw it tweeted. Thanks, Laura, I almost sound intelligent! Clearly you're a great editor. Jeff, I'm looking forward to your submission.

    1. Nonsense! That was all you! :) Thanks for swinging by!