Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Q&A with Rosarium publisher Bill Campbell

By Matt Dembicki
Rosarium Publishing is a relatively new publisher in Washington, D.C., that delivers mostly science-fiction stories in array of formats. Its hallmark is diversity, both among its talent and content. So far, Rosarium has focused on anthologies and short novels, but publisher Bill Campbell has picked up several comics for its catalogue. Below, we chat with Bill about Rosarium, its current books and what’s in store to come in 2015.

Can you give us a brief background on Rosarium, what inspired you to start it?

This is a long, convoluted story of heartache and pain. But seriously, I was a self-published author who ended up getting a big, fancy agent. That agent didn't really work out. Mainstream publishers weren't really liking what I was doing. However, there were some academics who did. So, I found myself in the weird position of being a self-published author, basically selling his books out of the trunk of his car, then running off to some college or university to lecture about my books, some of which were being taught. I thought it was utterly ridiculous to not be good enough for a publisher but to be good enough for academia, and I figured there were probably other authors out there suffering the same fate. I started Rosarium in order to give those authors a home.

When Rosarium started in 2013, you focused on short stories through anthologies and short novels. Today, you are branching out to include comics. Was that part of the plan, or did the idea to include comics develop as you were already into your business?

That's hard to say. Publishing comics was a childhood dream of mine. So, I'm not really sure if there was a conscious decision. John Jennings (Pitch Black Rainbow, Kid Code, and Blue Hand Mojo) has been involved with Rosarium since the beginning. Keith Miller (Manticore) and I had been talking about turning my one novel, Koontown Killing Kaper, into a graphic novel before I started Rosarium. So maybe it was always part of the plan. I don't know. But as soon as I ran across KEEF CROSS's work (DayBlack), I just knew I had to publish that book.

What type of comics is and will Rosarium publish in the coming year?

“Type?” Well, that's impossible for me to pin down. As you pointed out, diversity is a key goal for Rosarium. We have over 20 different writers and artists living on five different continents. We come in all shapes, sizes, and hues. And different interests. So, we have slice-of-life (Jennifer's Journal), kid's adventure (Malice in Ovenland), a vampire tattoo artist (DayBlack), surrealist sci-fi dystopia (Corporatica), and a hip-hop Dr. Who (Kid Code); and we've got an Iranian folk tale (Little Black Fish), a medieval Indian assassin (Chadhiyana), and a prison horror tale (Manticore) in the works. And don't be surprised if you see anything from Obeah to Lovecraft coming out of our humble, little factory.

What do you look for in the comics you publish?

Good question. I'm not exactly sure there is any one “thing” I do look for. It's definitely not anything market-based or something I can easily articulate. It basically comes down to what grabs me, and, more and more, what grabs the Rosarium team. And, as you can tell, what that particular “thing” is is insanely varied.

I know that—despite holding a day job and raising a young family—you spend a lot of time on the road exhibiting at shows. Why is that important?

I once read a biography about Gene Autry. The thing that impressed me about him (which definitely wasn't his music) was that, no matter how successful he was, he was always on the road. For a musician, it's a matter of money. At this early stage, for us, it's more about connecting with people. We're doing something a little different here (on so many levels). It's really important for us to introduce ourselves, meet others inside and outside of the industry, and to connect with the folks who've felt that an experiment like Rosarium is necessary.

As a publisher that is still getting its feet wet in the publishing world, what has been the biggest challenges?

I think the biggest challenge is definitely an inside-baseball complaint. When you're new, you know that you're going to have to keep coming out with quality projects for awhile before people start taking you seriously. That was something that I realized going in and had no problem with.

The hardest part (especially since I'm dealing with comics and books) had been dealing with all the monopolies or near-monopolies. There are a bunch of distribution niches in publishing, and each niche is basically run by one company. When you're the new kid on the block, they have absolutely no interest in dealing with you, and it doesn't matter the quality of your work. They simply don't want to work with you. End of story.

It's a lot better now because we've found a smaller distributor who really likes what we're doing and is working hard on our behalf. But that first year was really hard because, even though we were with one of those monopolies, we could hardly get our books anywhere.

How would you define “success” for Rosarium?

Beats me! I'll let you know when we've achieved it.

Rosarium publisher Bill Campbell

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