I was lucky to get a few of Richard Pruitt’s time. He’s the mastermind behind the website The Buzzkill Magazine. If you’ve dug deep into the website you will see, for some time, I wrote for this magazine and it spawned the series here on the website called The Veil, formerly known as WTF Cryptos when it lived on Richard’s website.
So, what does a former writer of a magazine ask their former boss who doubles as a comedian? I had several questions and he actually answered them! Below is just that interaction.
For those that don’t know you or what you do in the publishing industry, please take a few moments to explain.
A loaded question right out of the gate. My name is Richard Pruitt and I am the president of Random Evolved Media LLC. Under our umbrella, we publish books, create podcasts, and create content for our online publication TBK Magazine.
How do you do all that you do?
Coffee with a side of more coffee. I always feel the days are not long enough.
From an informational and interesting website to most recently the publishing side of the business, how has the transition been for you?
Adding book publishing to our list of things just seemed perfect. Almost like Peanut Butter and Chocolate. Yes, there are days I want to rip out every hair on my head. At the same time, having the honor of getting to help authors go after their dreams is worth it. Getting to walk through each step of the process with each author is something I never knew I wanted to do with life until I did it.
One glance at your work and one could easily think you’re overworked, what would you have to say to someone wondering how you do it all?
I have always heard the old adage,“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Somedays are bad and frustration rears its three heads. If anyone did not know, frustration looks a lot like King Ghidorah from the Godzilla franchise. By the end of the day, if we made one person smile or think or cry or scared, it’s worth everything.
What’s the first thing you plan on doing when the pandemic is over?
I have thought about this extensively. And when the time comes, I will be taking a trip to my favorite place on the planet, Medieval Times. I wish I was kidding but I walk through the castle doors and I automatically just have a smile on my face. Plus, you can drink beer out of a horn.
With your fingers in so many pots, what’s one thing you haven’t done yet that you’re planning on doing?
Sketch Comedy or creating our own independent movie.
How did you start your career? When did you get the idea and how did you begin your website that has now branched out so greatly?
In high school, I joined the International Thespian Society. During one of our state conventions, I discovered improv. And I jumped on stage when they asked for volunteers, I think I was on that stage for a solid 15 minutes. That is the moment that I decided I wanted to do something to entertain people. I did improv for a little bit, I transitioned to stand up comedy and radio DJ.
The start of TBK Magazine is bittersweet. In 2009, my mom had a stroke. She had to be rushed to the ER and her doctor sat down with me. Someone needed to take care of her. I gave up everything because that is my mother. During that time, I wanted to do something creatively but nothing crossed my mind. YouTube is still in its infancy stages at the time. So, I decided to just write silly stuff. Numbers started out small. I remember being so excited the first time I hit 100 reader for a month. In 2015, we covered a comic convention. And my mind was blown. I remember getting that email and just busting out in tears. I never thought anything like that would happen. It’s still surreal and humbling to me to this day.
Do you ever Google yourself?
Occasionally. I like to do so in private….browsers.
Is there anything you are always on the lookout for? New staffers? New submissions for the publishing company?
We are always looking for new staff members for TBK Magazine. If you have an idea, we would love to hear it. And the same with books. At first, we considered just publishing certain genres, but it just does not fit our company. There is a reason I love the motto “We are Random Evolved.” You can look towards any direction and hopefully find something. Over the next few years, we have books that fall under romance, humor, horror, science fiction, religion being released. As far as submissions, we are open to all genres. Of course, we have to read those submissions.
Also, we are working on our first anthology. The anthology will be coming out stories from members of the LGBTQ+ community. All proceeds from this book will be donated to The Glo Center in Springfield Mo. The center gives LGBTQ+ youth of SW Missouri and the Ozarks a place to be themselves.
Our magazine staff addition page can be found https://tbkmagazine.com/join-staff/ which apparently also has the Uncle Sam I Want You Poster except Uncle Sam is replaced by Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony.
What are your plans for the next five years? Expansion?
I love this question. As a company the main thing is growth. Comic Books and Graphic Novels is something that is being talked about for later down the road. Hard Back Covers for each release. The Podcast Network is growing, next logical progression is adding video with the episodes. One of the reasons I am losing weight. No one wants to see Great Value Josh Gad.
Early in my publishing career I noticed there wasn’t many poetry books being advertised. I didn’t think much of it, figured I was just simply missing the advertising and marketing of the poets or publishers, but only in the last year or two I learned the reason.
I put out my own poetry book. I found old files and old notebooks full of my poetry from when I was younger and things I wrote in hard times and good. For me, these were my healing times. I felt so deeply I wanted to share them. I did research publishers and had a hard time finding any publishers that covered this genre.
I saw plenty of magazines accepting submissions for ‘themed poems’, but that didn’t fit my style. I am a freestyle or free form poet. I write how I’m feeling without a rhythm guiding me. For my readers, they noticed at the beginning of my series The Blasphemer Series, I included a poem from my husband under a pen name he wanted to use. I love poetry, but never called myself a poet.
When I started this journey, while still gathering poetry together, I began talking with publishers and published authors and found the reason so many, despite wanting to, simply didn’t want to put out poetry collections.
Poetry is a hard sale.
Poetry, from newcomers, is often considered a hard sale. Not many enjoy poetry, unless it’s from the likes of the greats like Plath or a narrative poet like Poe. Publishers, have, but don’t often take a chance on this genre. Which, as a result discourage writers that are producing work in other genres to step out as poets in publishing.
At the end of the day, often forgotten, publishing is a business. The bottom line is making money for the majority that are not the hobbyists. With all that said, don’t give up. If you feel strongly publish your work, if you cannot find a publisher.
Authors have so much going for them now that they didn’t before or didn’t know they had before. Remember many of the greats self-published out their own work when people refused to publish their work. Self-publishing isn’t a new concept.
Never give up. Step back, breathe, and make a plan of attack to go another round. Remember, just because something is a ‘hard sale’ doesn’t mean its impossible!
It reignited me after a few days of feeling down and doubting myself, possibly even quitting the industry altogether. I had, a few days ago, began staring at my screen with my head down trying to get those words typed, get those scenes written, and that formatting handled.
Small detour into my past year
I experienced a complete burnout last year. It was bad, it effected my graphic work and I didn’t realize my burnout was beginning, that I had moved into a deeper part of it, or that I growing resentful and miserable. When I began stepping back the weight was lifted and it was almost instantly my work level changed, it improved back to what my name had grown to be and my clients expected of me. I still wasn’t writing much though and that greatly bothered me.
Back to our scheduled post
This year is to be my year off, but honestly it’s my year of refocus on myself, my goals, and the things I’ve missed doing most writing and producing my own work. I still wasn’t looking around at the environment I had created, just muscling through getting things done I hadn’t.
Knowing that manifesto is meant to be highly personal I wrote it in my notebook but being inspired I have typed it word for word for this post. Mine does look a bit different than the post at the above link on ebookandpod.com, but again this is an individual practice.
My manifesto is as follows
In my life I have always been a very open and honest person
because of this I will carry this over into my work. I will continue to be
honest and transparent for my supporters, co-workers, clients, readers, and
I will continue to filter myself professionally, when to let
things go, and when to stand-up for myself.
As in my life, I will remain positive and optimistic most of
all when I am feeling down about the direction, I am moving in. Through these
things I will always find something humorous to laugh about to brighten my day.
My art matters, to me. I will continue to do it no matter
the outcome and take away another may have. Whether my art is created in a
written form, digital, or upon a canvas. I vow to always create while I still
I promise myself to improve on my craft at any available
I am unsure if I am inspiring others, but I will continue
moving forward hoping that someone somewhere is aware they’re not alone. I will
continue to be open as possible about my life knowing that my soul will connect
to another’s in my sharing. Even if for a moment another doesn’t feel alone.
I will continue to be charitable, not for recognition, but
because I know it’s the right thing for me to do.
I will continue to live by my life motto, life as you climb.
If for no other reason than to be there when someone may need it. I know what
it’s like to need someone and have no one there.
I promise myself if I come across something, I want to
submit to not to hesitate and miss out on an opportunity. I will no longer
allow myself to be left behind.
Continuing with this exercise
I followed the ‘Hot to create your manifesto’ only after I had begun writing the above. I wrote down writers that inspire me and why.
I wrote Anne Rice. I chose Mrs. Rice because of her class.
She has a way about how she carries herself in interviews and with the videos
she’s made for her fans that have really stood out to me, inspiring me to be a
better version of myself. She embraces who she is unapologetically. This is
something I struggle with often, accepting myself for who I am and what I’ve
become at the age that I currently am. She is an inspiration and has been one
to me since I was much younger.
I also wrote down Stephen King. I mentioned some years back
how I’d not read his work but had seen movies based on it. I wrote this author
down because of his attitude and abilities. He has an ability to find
inspiration in ways that are amazing to me. I admire that. I enjoy the sense of
humor I’ve witnessed in interviews.
My manifesto was dated April, 8th, 2019, but as I’m not
sharing it on here it will be dated to the current date.
Think you’ll do a manifesto? Has this helped you in any way? Let me know! Let’s start a discussion.
With past books, my inspiration generally came with my dreams. My Guardians series (the first of this series being published by Burning Willow Press) and Wolfe’s Fayt: The Rescue are main examples of this.
There were a few times where I had a generalized thought and felt that it would make for a good book. Those were times where the project got halfway through, and I seemed to lose my inspiration.
When it came to Rip Zulu: Revenant of Retribution, it was a completely different animal. I started to get this feeling; like there was something brewing. My muse was working on something, but it was a vague blurred image; nothing clear or concrete. Eventually, I began to realize a character was coming into focus, but the first thing I saw were her hair and eyes. Her hair was dark at the crown of her head, but as it fell down her back, it transitioned from a darker purple to lavender, until it moved to such a light purple it was almost white. From there it became a silvery color, like the color of stars twinkling in the blackened sky. Her eyes were lavender.
I knew she would be tall, and then I realized she was six feet tall with golden-colored skin. Eventually the name came to me: Ripley Zulu. The muse kept talking to me, letting me know she didn’t like to be called Ripley, preferring Rip instead.
As I started writing the story, I began with how she was formed within the womb of a star; nourished by the light and heat of the blazing sun. I wrote her plummet to Earth and into the lives of some very significant people. As the story was edited, I was told that it might be better to start the story with action and dialogue. The scene of her growing at a high rate of speed within that star womb was pulled, but it was referenced a few times in the book.
The story began taking shape and form, and while I wrote the first book, ideas for the second book developed as well. I loved the times I could sit down and pour myself into this story, the many character that developed during the course of its evolution, and the setting.
I became very protective of my work, and for quite a long time, I didn’t share with clarity the events and such in the book with anyone. I kept many things very tightly wrapped. After submitting to one publishing company, I quickly decided I wanted everything to go my way without any interference from outside influences. Without even realizing it, I decided I would publish it myself, get the cover art done by an amazing artist (who has this ability to take my vision and bring it to the highest level possible), and give it everything I had. I had it edited by a wonderful and insightful person who set me straight on quite a few matters, but at the same time, she had the ability to see my vision and not try to change my voice.
So far, publicizing has not been as nerve-wracking as I originally thought. I have actually quite enjoyed scheduling events, talking to people about doing book signings, and taking care of the little details that goes into a successful launch of a book. I have learned some important things along the way (thinks I will take into consideration when I’m promoting my next book—The Guardians: Warrior Angels—coming out in July 2019).
If you would like to hear more about my books, release dates, and upcoming projects I’m working on, you are welcome to join me on:
Edd Sowder is the type of man to not hold back his thoughts or feelings when it comes to business and thus he was the perfect person for me to ask. He’s been publishing for many years and brings to this Q&A his experience and expertise.
I hope in some way that those that read this gain a perspective and insight they may not have had before on things behind-the-scenes of publishing. So many of us go into submissions unaware of what may be going through the mind of the person we’re sending a manuscript to. This is inside one such mind.
In your opinion, what should someone know before submitting to a publisher?
My opinion varies from day to day. Recently, well…when our submissions were still open, I noticed that a lot of authors were submitting first drafts, if not second. I feel that if you are an author, and have written the next great novel in history, you should have someone beta (prior to submitting your books a “beta reader”) your novel from one end to the other and help you with suggestions on fixing plot holes. Additionally, if you could allow time from when the novel was submitted, many publishers have what’s called a “slush pile” of books to read and yours is just as important as the others, so if they say it will take at least three months, don’t email them a week later and say, “did you like my book?”
I feel that if you are an author, and have written the next great novel in history, you should have someone beta your novel from one end to the other and help you with suggestions on fixing plot holes.
Many believe the publisher should take on full responsibility for the marketing of a project where others believe in splitting the responsibility, what should people know on this? I have read where some will do all the marketing for the author and others will do zero.
Ours is somewhat in the middle of that. In today’s world, an author should be just as proud of their book as the publisher is. Now if the idea of marketing your books is just completely devastating to you, guess what? If you self-publish it, you will still have to do that as well but you will not have the same amount of reach, you will have to come out of pocket for the edits, cover, interior, and deal with the business side of being published. It is not as glorious as some think. Here is a piece of real information, NO book is accepted by a big five publisher anymore without a marketing plan submitted for approval by the author. I have heard this and read it in several areas. Will my company do it for you? No, not exactly. We will do some light promotional posting, some follow up after the book is out, a few posts on social media a few times a year for you but that is about all the time I have. I actually expect my authors to do the bulk of it themselves. It does show when they, and/or I, do find a few minutes to post something about the back catalog. There is no reason why it would not show something if the author did it as well. Each author is different though. And to ask if an author will or will not, well… most will at the beginning of the life of the book, but soon after it has come out, they discontinue to do so. I have seen it a lot. It is unfortunate but we all get pretty busy.
Here is a piece of real information, NO book is accepted by a big five publisher anymore without a marketing plan submitted for approval by the author.
From an active publisher, what is your take on what you see authors doing wrong?
think I just answered that in the last question but I can elaborate one that I
have seen all too often that burns me, and many other publishers up. You have a
book with a publisher, and one with another, and you have self-published a few.
Great! Good for you! We could not be happier for you and if you ask, I am
certain that we may even help you spread the word on your newest book that was
self-published as we have the time… just don’t forget that this industry does
not revolve around the last book you let out into the world. It is hinged upon
all of your catalogs. You have a book
here, there, and now a new one but when did you stop loving that first one you
have with the initial publisher who took a huge risk on your name, book, concept and put their funds into it to make
your dreams come true? Is that now the step-child you never liked? It happens
all the time and it hurts not just the publisher but you as well as nobody
remembers the first books you put out because you are spending so much time
promoting the newest one. Bundle it, ask for a sale to help promote it, make
sure that you are not bastardizing the prior catalog you have just because the
newest book is ready. They all deserve equal attention.
…just don’t forget that this industry does not revolve around the last book you let out into the world. It is hinged upon all of your catalogs.
The situation is a newcomer/green writer to the business doesn’t know what to do, they’ve got a bunch of things done, ideas, and no networking. Advice for those people coming in and unsure what to do and what not to do?
Ask questions. Each publisher, author, editor, graphic artist, will have ideas of what you should and should not do to get things rolling. Join a couple of groups online that are primarily other authors and be certain you join a few that are readers too. You will need beta readers. Those that will read your book before it goes to print and help you mold the idea. These people are just as important as the ones who publish it for you. I cannot express to you how important in today’s world social media is for sales. Everyone behind a computer screen is anonymous and nobody knows more about your story than you do. So, share it with friends, family, and loved ones online in excerpts. Don’t give them a whole chapter but give them a part of the book, a passage, that you are particularly fond of writing. Do some interviews. Get on some podcasts as a guest, start an online blog, guest write on a few. It will keep your name in the spotlight and when your book comes out, people will be looking for it.
I cannot express to you how important in today’s world social media is for sales. Everyone behind a computer screen is anonymous and nobody knows more about your story than you do.
You’ve gone to many conventions, met a bunch of celebrities. What can you share for an author starting off in conventions? What should they remember about dealing with celebrities?
Be yourself, be gracious, and be thankful. If you are an introvert, as most authors are, take someone along with you who can help liven up the table a bit for the passersby to talk to. If you are an extrovert, like me, go out a few times a day and walk the area to see who all is there. Meet other authors, artists, and for Pete’s sake, get bookmarks, business cards, or something else that will tell others who you are in case they do not buy today. New authors going to cons are hard sells. But sometimes, if you can get in good with a neighbor, they will point people in your direction for you. We have done it for others and likewise, others have done it for us. As far as dealing with celebrities, if there is an after party to go to where they will be there, do it. No excuses. Just go. They will be more relaxed, likely having a drink, chatting with others, and less in the mindset of having to make money. We have met some incredible people on our journeys and many of them are still friends with us to this day. Some have even brought us into cons with them as we get along with them so well. Remember, at the end of the day, we are all just people. Being in the place of a celebrated actor/actress, remember to respect their privacy, ask for permissions, and be cool. All of them like to get something cool from fans (many are readers too), and if you can get a photo op at the end of the con with them, all the better.
Be yourself, be gracious, and be thankful. If you are an introvert, as most authors are, take someone along with you who can help liven up the table a bit for the passersby to talk to. If you are an extrovert, like me, go out a few times a day and walk the area to see who all is there.
What’s your take on the saying ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’? Some don’t submit to more than one publisher whereas some prefer doing this?
While I would like to have exclusivity on all published works, that is unreasonable. We suggest—since we know we are not the only publisher out there—to shop around. If you tell us that your book is being submitted to other publishers, as well as ours, we will understand. It will not speed us up in getting to your potential work but we do want to know ahead of time. Submitting to a publisher and then not submitting to others while you wait seems like you are willing to just wait and see. I suggest, weighing the options and looking for who seems to be the best fit for you. Much like we are implementing new tactics for new submissions, we expect that you, the author, are willing to look to not just reputation of the publisher but also ask questions to authors that are with that publisher. If the overall atmosphere seems good for you, and you are willing to wait on them, then by all means submit and be inquisitive but if you get an overall bad feeling from them, or their authors are highly dismissive of how they work with them, walk away. Keep in mind that not all authors will feel that they are getting a fair shake from the publisher, and not all publishers will feel that the authors are doing their fair share of working with the publisher. So, take all info with a grain of salt, so to speak, and weigh the pros and cons of each decision.
If the overall atmosphere seems good for you, and you are willing to wait on them, then by all means submit and be inquisitive but if you get an overall bad feeling from them, or their authors are highly dismissive of how they work with them, walk away.
Pet peeves that authors should know about publishers?
Well, that is a good question. That list can grow substantially daily and shrink just as fast depending on the schedule, the stressors of the day, and the attitudes of those involved, myself included. One thing that publishers hate is for someone to refer to themselves as the “next Stephen King, Anne Rice, James Patterson, Lovecraft, Wells, Harris, etc.” Let us make that determination for you. No, on second thought, let your readers and reviewers do it. If your style is much like Koontz, or Rushdie, your readers will notice. Don’t make the assumption that you are the next anyone. Be you. Be honest. If you are influenced by those prolific authors, then, by all means, state it in interviews that you enjoy their works but if you are trying to be the replacement for Gaiman, you need to have the clout to back that up. Another pet peeve that publishers, well I personally hate, is an unedited manuscript sent in with credits installed in the file that says who edited it. Now, all editors will see a sentence differently than the next but if you have several hundred mistakes per chapter in your submission but it was supposedly edited prior to submitting, and you named that person, as the editor, we already expect a very clean version of the MS. When we get in there and start reading only to find these mistakes, missing words, sentence structure that is horrific and not in any way ready to be considered… it slows us down. If we really want to know if the sub is worth it, we will read on trying to ignore the issues but sometimes, the issues will outweigh the story. This is where beta readers come in handy. Additionally, never submit a first draft. I think I said something about this earlier… or a second. Revisions are your friend. A submission is a piece of your soul. You are baring it for the other world to see and it is also a career path. Treat it as such. Never get too upset if you get a rejection. It comes with the territory and developing a thick skin as it takes to handle it will go further for you than wallowing in self-pity. Hopefully, the rejection that comes back will have some creative ideas to help you grow. I know when I send one back, it has ideas in it to help the author but many other publishers will send a form letter. Those are too impersonal and it’s like they never read through your submission. Why waste your time like that? Keep in mind that most publishers work on a release schedule and many times it has to fit with their preconceived budget to operate for the year. If they tell you the book is accepted and will not release until such and such date, ask them what you can do in the meantime to help them and yourself in potential sales. They should have some good ideas to get your name out there. Remember, your name is now a brand, the book is a product. You need to sell it as much as the publisher will, if not more. You are competing with over one million other books a year to get a piece of the proverbial pie in sales, although other authors are not your competition by any means.
One thing that publishers hate is for someone to refer to themselves as the “next Stephen King, Anne Rice, James Patterson, Lovecraft, Wells, Harris, etc.” Let us make that determination for you. No, on second thought, let your readers and reviewers do it. If your style is much like Koontz, or Rushdie, your readers will notice. Don’t make the assumption that you are the next anyone. Be you. Be honest.
From the outside, one could easily look at the independent and self-publishing community as weird, a big joke, or even bizarre. Through my years of jumping from self-published, to being signed to a small press, and back again I have seen many conflicts arise. Authors/writers becoming upset in a vague post or this person saying something or that person not understanding. I can understand fully how frustrating it is and can be.
I wanted to write this in hopes of helping someone, anyone, to understand some of the common things you’ll see, hear, or experience from the outside looking in.
It’s easy and they’re lazy
The professionals among us would argue this until we’re blue in the face. There is nothing easy about what we do. Some parts might come easier to us than others, but that’s just life. Those of us that take this very serious talk about ‘the marathon and not the sprint’. Those that come into the field that sprint to the end (publishing) make more mistakes than those of us that understand the long game, the marathon. Mistake over mistake will eventually get noticed, by the community and readers. This is not easy! In it for the long run is hard, tedious, and so worth it for us.
It’s not a real job
What makes it ‘not a real job?’ We pay taxes (yearly or quarterly). We put hours in (months or even years on a single project). If anything many of us will learn multiple skills along the way. For example: When I began self-publishing I hard to learn marketing, formatting, video editing, new art programs, learn new techniques to keep up with trends and pace of others marketing, and learn better ways to time-manage, stick to a schedule, and how to work with the not so friendly co-worker. Sure sounds like a job to me!
They’re all coffee-addicts
Maybe…but what else are we suppose to use when we need to be rejuvenated? A lot of us like to joke, does that mean we’re not able to take things seriously too?
Self-published books aren’t that good, the quality just sucks
If you’ve come across one that isn’t of decent quality then frankly that dear reader is an author that tried to sprint or hired a non-professional to work on their book. Many books, done by professionals, are highly checked, scanned, edited, formatted, and the whole process before publishing happened. Even then, sometimes just sometimes, a misspelling will get through. That misspelling is a warrior god that made it through many rounds of a battle and more than anything should be given a great feast.
Small book press are just scams
Lies! Vanity presses are scammers and are not the same as a small book or independent publishing house.
Self-published, hybrid published, or independently published writers really don’t have talent. If they had any they’d be traditionally published.
That’s a big ol’ negatory. There have been many traditionally published authors that have decided to go self-publish or chose to go to a smaller press for various reasons. Does that mean they’re not talented? Many chose to publish self or go to an indie press because that’s what they wanted. If a smaller press picked them they had to have some amount of talent to have gotten their manuscript picked up.
What are myths that you have come across or even though? Let’s get a discussion going!