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An Interview with Lou Anders

How do you see the digital age, the rise of ebooks and reading devices such as the iPad and Kindle, changing the publishing industry? How will it affect the speculative fiction genre specifically?
I actually began in e-publishing and moved backwards into print. In 2000, I worked in San Francisco at a now-defunct start up called Bookface.com (nothing there now) that provided “browser based reading” and tracked banner ad revenue to share with the author or publisher in what was billed as “advertising that pays you instead of advertising you pay for.” Great idea, ahead of its time. Dot com burst. Crash boom bam. We worked under the assumption that SF authors would be the most tech friendly and so courted them heavily. They weren’t—romance writers were—but it lead to my having a great many SF contacts when the bubble burst, which I parlayed into a series of anthologies. So in a way the eBook has brought me back full circle.

Now, back in 2000, we maintained, against the fears and alarmists of the day, that the ebook wasn’t a replacement for the book, merely a new distribution channel alongside hardcovers, trade paperbacks, mass market paperbacks, and audiobooks. This is still true, and the physical book isn’t going to go away. However, with the convenience of reading on the iPhone and the beauty of iBooks on iPad, we could be approaching a game change. I’ve played on both the Nook and the Kindle but neither seemed to me to be as aesthetically pleasing an experience as reading an actual book, but the iPad is, and provides the convenience of other features as well (from web surfing to an embedded dictionary that doesn’t take you out of the book to backlighting for reading without waking the spouse).

In the way that iTunes slowly weened me off physical CDs, I could see iBooks weening me off paper over the next few years. And I’m sure that the Kindle and the Nook will only improve as well. (I have purchased ebooks for the B&N eReader, Kindle App for iPhone/IPad and iBooks all. The Kindle for iPad app is in my humble experience superior to the actual Kindle). I hear that something on the order of five million ereader devices sold last year, whereas the iPad sold a million units in under four weeks. Obviously, ebooks are here.

I think long-term we will see more of our casual reading shift to ebooks. Jeremy Lassen of Night Shade Books said that “ebooks are the new mass market” and I think he may be correct. I still buy the physical CDs of David Bowie and Robyn Hitchcock’s music, but buy MP3s for everything else. I could see restricting my physical book purchases to gorgeous hardcover volumes, illustrated books, archival quality “book as artifact” productions, small press books, art books, and treasured favorites.

But more importantly, I think that the ebook will foster a resurgence of reading in general. Ultimately, it’s all just a vehicle for good storytelling. That will never change.

At Pyr you have done a masterful job with book covers. Could you talk a little bit about the process and some of the fantastic artists you’ve worked with?
Thank you. The process at Pyr is a little different than other houses, in that in my capacity as Editorial Director, I serve—among other things—as both editor and art director. In fact, I’ve come to rely on that moment when I begin to see a cover in my head as one of the signs that I am going to want to acquire a manuscript. If I’m reading, and I begin to see the cover, then it is moving from potential to actual in my mind. I usually have a very clear idea, not of the composition, but of the artist that I want on a cover by the time I am half way through a promising submission.

I also tend to involve the authors in the process more than (I am told) is the norm, so usually when I have acquired a book, I will go to the authors with the illustrator I am thinking of, maybe a choice of two or three, and ask their opinion. I will sometimes overrule due to various considerations, but won’t go with an illustrator that the author is completely opposed to either. Then I approach the artist, and provided they are willing/available, give them the brief on the project. Some artists read the whole manuscript, some read part of it (or a sufficient amount of it to be inspired). Others ask for a selections of scenes. Often there isn’t time, perhaps the book is still being written.

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1 Free SF Reader { 06.01.10 at 1:05 am }

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4 Lou Anders on Art Directors/Editors and Illustrators « Greasy Pig Studios :: Arvin Bautista { 06.01.10 at 7:22 pm }

[…] Anders, editorial director for Pyr, Prometheus Books’ sci-fi/fantasy imprint, also serves as art director when it comes to the boo… who also, to my delight, rightfully proclaims Ender’s Game to be the Harry Potter of science […]

5 Geek Media Round-Up: June 2, 2010 – Grasping for the Wind { 06.02.10 at 8:02 am }

[…] Redstone Science Fiction interviews Lou Anders of […]

6 simply scott { 06.02.10 at 10:44 am }

Hurray! Based on Pohl’s definition, I have indeed written a science fiction novel! Just hope everyone likes it! Awesome interview! Nice to hear someone talking without the typical sci-fi nerd condescending tone that is so typical on so many blogs/forums/sites.

7 The Great Geek Manual » Geek Media Round-Up: June 1, 2010 { 06.02.10 at 3:10 pm }

[…] Redstone Science Fiction interviews Lou Anders of […]

8 Pete Miller { 06.05.10 at 11:34 pm }

Thanks for the really terrific interview. Interesting to hear Lou talk about the trends, but very discouraging for the SF reader, but I’m sure “regular” SF will very go away entirely and eBooks will allow many books with smaller audiences to thrive.

9 Interview with Lou Anders | The DARK CRUSADE { 06.07.10 at 9:32 pm }

[…] June 7th, 2010 § 0 In case you missed it, I con­ducted an inter­view with Lou Anders. The inter­view appeared in the most excel­lent first issue of Red­stone Sci­ence Fic­tion. Below is an excerpt. You can read the entire inter­view here. […]

10 Elizabeth Campbell { 06.08.10 at 8:58 pm }

What great questions for a leading publisher in the industry. This is really interesting insight for me as an SF/F reader. Thanks!

11 Pyr-o-mania: Three New Lou Interviews for You (Say That FIve Times Fast) { 06.11.10 at 4:25 am }

[…] Hardy, an engineer who works with scientific research on the International Space Station, and one with Yours Truly (conducted by author David Alastair Hayden). Check it out and give them your love. […]

12 First Issue Survival | The Blog at GateTree { 06.13.10 at 4:43 pm }

[…] interviews would reinforce the fiction. Instead, io9 and several other sites picked up the kick-ass interview with Lou Anders done by our friend David Alastair Hayden and traffic went through the roof. As that excitement […]

13 Interview with KS Augustin « The World SF News Blog { 06.14.10 at 7:33 pm }

[…] Personally, however, I feel SFR is a completely different kettle of fish because of those two letters … “SF”. Because I incorporate science-fiction in my books, I feel compelled to include some deeper insight into the human condition. To me, that’s what it means to write sf or anything sf-related. Lou Anders, quoting Frederik Pohl, said it best in his recent interview at Redstone: […]

14 Redstone Science Fiction #1, June 2010 | Redstone Science Fiction { 06.18.10 at 8:22 pm }

[…] Lou Anders, Editorial Director of Prometheus Books’ science fiction and fantasy imprint Pyr with David […]

15 Black Gate » Blog Archive » A review of Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery { 06.23.10 at 5:07 pm }

[…] again, in a Redstone Science Fiction June 1, 2010 interview: “Swords & Dark Magic (co-edited with Jonathan Strahan) is our attempt to examine, and if […]

16 Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery – Strahan & Anders | von Darkmoor's thoughts { 06.24.10 at 12:39 am }

[…] in a June 1, 2010 interview at The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Review. Lou again, in a Redstone Science Fiction June 1, 2010 interview: “Swords & Dark Magic (co-edited with Jonathan Strahan) is our attempt to examine, and if it […]