Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Still More... When Publishing Goes Wrong. An Interview with Editor Vincenzo Bilof of Undead Press


Yesterday I posted a story called When Publishing Goes Wrong. Today I thought I'd interview the editor that finds himself in hot water, Vincent Bilof of Undead Press. (You can also check out my interview with Mandy DeGeit, the woman that has the publishing world shaking their head.)


JAMES ROY DALEY:
Hi Vincent. Let me start by saying, I have no dogs in this race whatsoever. I just think it's an interesting story, mostly because it has become so big, not because there was an issue between an author and a publisher. Are you a writer?

VINCENZO BILOF:
Yes. I write as a hobby. Well... not anymore.

JAMES ROY DALEY:
Oh, that's awful. I'm sorry to hear that, Vince. Have you ever worked with Undead Press before?

VINCENZO BILOF:
Yes. I co-edited another anthology.

JAMES ROY DALEY:
How was it?

VINCENZO BILOF:
I thought the first anthology was a positive experience, overall. There are some good authors in that book, and the stories I worked with were well-written. I can recall that there were instances when I wasn't sure if I was doing the right thing, or what the right thing exactly was. I wasn't sure what the correct process was, and there were things I questioned. I didn't feel that I was being taken advantage of at the time, and I felt like the working relationship with Tony was positive. I wanted the experience of editing other work. However, there were times that I didn't feel... comfortable with what I was doing, because I thought editing was supposed to be... different. I think the overall product was good. But it seemed that what I was doing was "good" and "acceptable," though I inquired many times about my objectives. There were many times where I voiced my worry and hesitation. I wasn't always confident... I believed that I was learning, and I trusted in the "process" that was involved... because I was naive.

JAMES ROY DALEY:
Aside from the recent backlash, how did this last anthology differ from the first?

VINCENZO BILOF:
It was quite a challenge. At one point, I was told that the stories that I worked on were severely lacking in entertainment value, and that I should be more liberal with my... actions. This was, of course, taken to an extreme. There wasn't exactly a "slush pile" to work from.

My choices were slim, and although it was never at any time stated to me, I felt like I had to get the book done. Again, I blame myself when I say these things, and the feelings regarding what happened are certainly mutual at this point. Sadly, there are some very good stories in that second book from authors with great talent and potential. I understand that my words will be interpreted, as it seems everyone with fingers can twist these words into a blog of some sort.

JAMES ROY DALEY:
I mentioned to both Tony and Mandy that I didn't think the recent backlash was justified, not without having more information. I find myself a little bit mortified in regards to people going on the witch-hunt––a mob mentality is never good. If you can pull yourself out of the story for a moment, do you feel that people are justified in crucifying the press and the editor after only hearing one side of the story?

VINCENZO BILOF:
Yes and no. First, I do not think the work done with her story was justified. I've already stated that. I regret what happened. Actually, when I finished the story, I explained that I wasn't entirely comfortable. I do wish that someone had looked at both versions and said, "You went too far." But I guess I was the editor, right? I can't ever be judged by another publisher now by the merit of my work. I stood to gain nothing from what happened... nothing at all. Secondly, I should have asked to do it the way that I believed to be "ethical," and I never did that. I was convinced... I was sold on the idea that I was doing the right thing, for various reasons.

JAMES ROY DALEY:
Why?

VINCENZO BILOF:
There are some things that aren't justified. My biggest issue with this is that there are people out there who feel that there was some kind of financial gain involved for me. My actions were called "predatory" by an Amazon reviewer. I interpret that to mean that I stole stories from authors, rewrote ALL of them, neglected to give authors credit, and earned a bag full of cash. None of this is true. You'd be amazed at my "compensation" for this book.

The hypocrisy involved is not justified. There have been many "publishers" who've come forward and offered their sympathetic ear to the author, but they're all in the publishing business to make money, aren't they? This is an opportunity for them to crush a competitor, and assert themselves as "good guys." There are publishers who want to publish the story sight unseen... and for what? I'm not exactly a marketing student, but they are taking advantage of the situation, as any company would. There's blood in the water...

There are a lot of people who still assume that I was responsible for the travesty involving the author's title. I refuse to accept responsibility for that. No matter how many times I state that I don't format books, people don't believe it.

If I were on the outside looking in, it is certainly justified to say that the editor should have done the right thing from the start, or not do it at all. At some point, someone should have said "no". That someone should have been me.

JAMES ROY DALEY:
In the music industry the “producer” needs to be the most capable person in the studio. It is the producer’s job to get the most of the songwriters, musicians, and in the end, the songs. This is not unlike a coach being in control of a sports team. In the publishing world, the editor of an anthology plays a similar role. It is the editor’s job to make the stories shine. What advice would you give a to a first-time editor?

VINCENZO BILOF:
Making the stories "shine" does not mean that you dramatically change a story just to fill your anthology. An editor should be in DIRECT contact with the author at all times. If you're editing someone's work, you should be talking to them. These authors should be allowed to see their stories and approve the final print version. There should not be another person in the middle. If you don't approach it in this way, you will feel unsure, and you will hesitate. You will make a terrible mistake. You will get used to making these mistakes, you will get caught up in what you're doing, and you will truly damage someone's work.

JAMES ROY DALEY:
If you could give some advice to small press publishers, what would it be?

VINCENZO BILOF:
The editors should follow the proper ethics. A small press should also use a lengthy review process. I know that there are many good publishers who engage in these practices, and the authors are typically very pleased. If your company is on the verge of folding, or you don't want to run it anymore, the authors should be contacted... there are companies out there who refuse to communicate with their authors.

JAMES ROY DALEY:
Do you have anything else that you would like to add?

VINCENZO BILOF:
I would like to once again apologize to Ms. DeGeit and wish her the best of luck. I would like nothing more than for her story to be accepted in a prestigious publication.

JAMES ROY DALEY:
Thank you so very much, Vincent. Good luck with your future endeavors.

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19 comments:

  1. Thanks for the explanations, Vincent. It sounds like you really learned what an editor does (and doesn't do). Better late than never. I still see Tony as the one to blame here, he should know better, he's done enough anthologies. What you understand NOW, Vincent it correct. But unfortunately the damage has been done.

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  2. It seems that with all these small publishers popping up, people are going to have to be extremely careful and vet the companies before they even think of sending a story or novel to them. If publishers aren't hiring professional copy editors who have worked in the industry, then think twice before submitting.

    Publishers need to stop thinking they can just publish anthologies because they can. If work isn't good enough, than it's not good enough, and they need to keep looking.

    I've written and designed nine books on graphic design for Rockport Publishers, and I'm currently finishing my first novel, but I would never consider myself an Editor. My design book publisher has two copy editors who edit what I've written and then send me the edits to review, and I agree with 99% of those edits because they are professional editors.

    I'm having two copy editors go over my novel, after I've edited it twice. But they don't get to rewrite it, they just get to comment and suggest edits. I can't imagine taking hold of another author's story and doing anything more than proofing it without being completely confident that I know how to edit, and I really can't imagine a publisher not having an editor work directly with an author.

    I'd say there are three people at fault. The author who sent the story without checking on the publisher (did she hire an editor first before sending?), the editor who didn't seem confident in the knowledge of how to copy edit, and especially the publisher who didn't care (as we can tell from his response) about the author at all.

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    1. "I'd say there are three people at fault. The author who sent the story without checking on the publisher (did she hire an editor first before sending?)..."

      Forgive me, I don't understand that. Are you saying she should have hired an editor before submitting her tale? I don't know any author who has ever done that, and I do know quite a number.

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  3. James,

    Thank you for that interview. It's been a feeding frenzy of negativity these last couple of days. It's reshreshing to see someone take the time to interview those involved.

    It doesn't change what was done, buy it was nice to hear Vince's cooments on what took place.

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  4. Question: Was or was it not Vincent who responded on Ms. DeGeit's post?

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    1. I believe it was. He's apologized profusely to me and I believe coming forward and agreeing to do this interview shows a lot of heart.

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  5. Hello, I'm just wondering, how did Vincent get involved in the small press with Tony, and how has Tony reacted to the whole thing? Thanks!

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  6. 1. The first part of this sounds like pointing the finger at someone else... No slush pile to work from and feeling like you're rushed is more a sign not to do the antho or to change something (ie, expand the deadline to get more submissions), than it is to totally change stories.

    2. Did the interviewer really say that he thought it was a witch hunt? Seriously? Way to stay impartial.

    2a. Mob mentality? Really? This is how the world works. You have a bad experience, you post about it. And in Mandy's case, what happened to her was NOT okay, and she totally has a right to say it.

    3. Vincent said he didn't know if what he was doing was okay. He's the editor. It's his job to know this, not somebody else's to come through, look at the copy sent to him and see what he did with it. With *anything* in life, you trust your feeling/instinct and if what you're doing seems wrong, you don't do it. Plain and simple.

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    1. "2. Did the interviewer really say that he thought it was a witch hunt? Seriously? Way to stay impartial."

      I have to agree. Daley opens with a big "I have no dogs in this race" declaration impartiality, and later dives into a huge implicit defense of Bilof. (Unless one considers the term "witch hunt" to be utterly without value-judgement, which it isn't.)

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    2. I don't have dogs in this race. This being said, I'm VERY good friends with Mandy, and I've never met Vince. Despite this, it seemed obvious to me that Mandy COULD have been lying from day one. I don't think she WAS lying, but a lot of the people that jumped into the fight early really didn't have any idea whether she was lying or not. And if "witch hunt" is the wrong term, well, okay. Here's a very small taste of the backlash, which is what I was referring to:

      I hope this guy’s fingers drop off - This guy is a douche... a big snotty prick - Douchebag is far too nice a term for him - Sue the bastards - What a fuckwhistle - Self-obsessed megalomaniac doucheswoggle - They’re either souless bloodsuckers or else they’re wandering around looking for brains that they themselves do not have - No fucking clue about publishing - Vile little creature - He writes like an illiterate teenager - Tempted to start one-starring his stuff on Amazon - This guy is a complete moron - Total hacks who don’t have a clue - They sound like a pack of pig rapists - Just go on a killing spree - The equivalent of farting and blaming it on someone else - Step on this fuckknob’s head - Karma will get him - This guy is clearly a nut job - He’s an unprofessional eejit - What a dick - This Tony guy is just an ass - He really was a fascinating mixture of arrogance and stupidity in one twitchy package - Can’t we just nuke him from orbit? It’s the only way to be sure. - Tony is a complete piece of shit.

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  7. If the story is lacking 'entertainment value' in the first place, then you reject it. Who wants lackluster work in an anthology with your name on it? If you don't have enough stories that make the grade quality wise, then why would you go on with the anthology in the first place? That is disingenuous at best. I give this guy credit for coming forward, but honestly, I still blame Tony and his well earned reputation.

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  8. Thanks for posting this. As a small press editor and a writer, I can see this situation from both sides. Writers can be just as nasty as publishers. A ticked off writer can wreak havoc on a publisher, as we've seen. We all need to remember there are three sides to this story: Mandy's, Tony's and the Truth. Unfortunately, I feel we will never know the Truth.

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  9. Hmm, interesting that "Vincenzo" says this:

    "The hypocrisy involved is not justified. There have been many "publishers" who've come forward and offered their sympathetic ear to the author, but they're all in the publishing business to make money, aren't they? This is an opportunity for them to crush a competitor, and assert themselves as "good guys." There are publishers who want to publish the story sight unseen... and for what? I'm not exactly a marketing student, but they are taking advantage of the situation, as any company would. There's blood in the water..."

    This statement makes me believe that Vincenzo IS Tony, because who else would try to deflect the blame and attempt to disparage the other publishers who kindly offered Mandy to SUBMIT her manuscript to them...they never guaranteed that they would publish it. How would publishing Mandy equate to "crushing their competition", and what makes him believe that Tony G's presses were "competition" for them in the first place? And another thing, how is it "taking advantage of a situation, as any company would?" They don't NEED to solicit Mandy in order to get submissions, they don't need to do anything in order to try and look like "good guys". Their reputations speak for themselves. If they done good by their authors, then they will already enjoy the respect they deserve. You don't gain respect by putting on a show, but by your true actions. I find "Vincenzo's" comments in regard to the other publishers a form of projection. I would advise Vincenzo/Tony to seek some help from a psychiatric professional before he hurts himself any further.

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  10. Even MORE interesting...

    While reading Mandy's interview with James, this leapt out at me:

    "JAMES ROY DALEY:
    I asked Anthony Giangregorio, the publisher at Undead Press, if he would like to be interviewed so he could set the record straight. He told me that it didn’t matter what he said, and that he was “in the right”. He also stated that he had “a valid contract” and that “these people are out for blood”. How do you respond to this?"

    Hmmm, Vincenzo speaks of "blood in the water". Tony says "they are out for blood".

    Curiouser and curiouser...

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  11. Vincenzo is not Tony. I'm friends with Vincenzo on Facebook and, without giving too many details about his private life, can state with certainty that they are not one and the same. I also find nothing odd about the blood references ... these are, after all, people who work in the horror genre. He's apologized to both Mandy and to the writing community at large ... which is still something we haven't seen from Tony.

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  12. I've been following this since it happened and even though it's an unfortunate turn of events, I think Mandy should take the lessons learned from this experience and just go on with her writing and put this past her. There is really no need in dragging this out any further. I recently read a posting from her which implyed that for all the profits she took in from sales of her ebook, she was going to hire an attorney etc, etc.. No one is taking this to court, and her "attorney" wouldn't touch this. Neither would Anthony's fictional lawyer.

    She brought awareness to this issue which is good because Tony G is an absolute scumbag in my opinion (And I'm convinced Vincenzo is really him...no one has ever met him in person)and he should be run out of town asap. But if she keeps carrying on about this then she'll forever be known as just the Cavalcade of Terror chick. After all, she too played a part in this dilema by rushing to have her story published (just to be published) without fine-tuning her story. She should also have researched the publisher, which if she had, she'd have discovered that there have been negative vibes surrounding him and his 3 presses dating back to 2009. Here is a tip, stay away from anthology mills. They love new writers so they can get away with using their stories to fill their pages and not have to pay them. They also thrive on the fact that the author will automatically buy 10+ copies for their family and friends. While I'm truly sorry to hear about Mandy's issues, she should have guarded herself better instead of rushing just to see her name in print. If writers don't start learning the business of publishing a little bit better, these hack-job publishers are never going to go away.

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  13. Hey, starting authors, have your literate friends proof your work for errors and just publish it yourself through Amazon. Then you publish it the way YOU intend. And then you don't have people trying to tell you that you should let them have your story for their anthology for free "for the exposure". Let me give you a clue: One short story, free for five days only, over 400 downloads. I didn't have to buy anything. All I had to do was post it to my social media outlets. Now, THAT is free exposure. ;-)

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