Our guest today is author and publisher Dan Kalin. Dan runs Feral Cat Publishers. We became acquainted in 2018, when he was kind enough (or foolish enough) to publish my short story, “Goodnight, Pretty Molly,” in an anthology called Bubble Off-Plumb.
“Goodnight, Pretty Molly,” is about a robot police officer and a parrot, the only survivors of some kind of unspecified catastrophe which killed everyone in the world. It’s grim, but people who’ve read it say they like it. All the stories in Bubble Off-Plumb are good. Here’s a link to learn more about it, and about Feral Cat Publishers:
Later this month Feral Cat Publishers plans to release Dear Leader Tales. It’s a collection of humorous or satirical poems and short stories about clueless CEOs, ham-handed politicians, and various annoying/appalling overlords. I think we can all relate, can’t we?
In addition to being an author and publisher, Dan has done many things. He has worked as an engineer and a management consultant. He’s an inventor and a member of Mensa, a non-profit organization for highly intelligent people.
Dan is also a competitive swimmer, competing in Masters events. Most recently he has taken part in open-water races in Florida, where he lives.
And now for the Q and A!
Q: Please tell our (very few) readers a little bit about being an independent publisher. What is that, exactly? How did you get involved in it? What are its challenges? What are its triumphs?
A: It’s kind of a moving target. Initially I started the company to handle in-house content as a liability breakwater. After putting out a couple of books, I realized we had sufficient resources to do even more, so we branched out. It became apparent there are many companies feeding off those who can least afford it, namely indie or self-publish authors. So we only sell books, not services.
We have a free book review program which is unique in a couple of ways. First we actually buy a copy of a book and write the reviews as readers, which means they are most useful kind: “verified purchase” reviews on Amazon. The industry, especially the pay-for-literary reviews segment, has diluted the objectivity of reviews to the point where it adds little useful data for potential buyers. One paid service only provides 4 and 5 star reviews, for example, and many truly horrible books have 5-star ratings there. Great for an author’s ego, but not useful for a potential buyer. FCP has a more objective review standard, which we use for all of our reviews. So a poorly written book is going to be rated accordingly. We have a monthly budget for the program and execute against it. The program is kind of a karmic experiment in that we’ll review books and hopefully it will eventually come back around in the form of reviews for our growing catalog.
Q: How many books has Feral Cat published so far? How do you decide what to publish next?
A: Seven as of next week. The goal is to publish two to three good books per year. Recently we started a “Publisher-Lite” program, but so far we haven’t found the right mix of author interest and content. It’s an optimization exercise. The question is how can we release the most high-quality content with the resources at our disposal?
Q: Is it true you were never a member of the covert intelligence community?
A: It is true.
Q: What are you currently reading? Do you prefer prose or poetry? Fiction or non-fiction, biography, history, how-to manuals, or are you an eclectic reader who’s happy to peruse whatever is at hand?
A: I generally have two or three books in process at any given moment, finishing five or sometimes as many ten per week. For entertainment, I stick close to fiction for the most part (science fiction and fantasy). I’m one of those people who can learn how to do something by reading a how-to book, but those aren’t usually front-to-back reads — just the parts needed. Dear Leader Tales story and poem submittals ran about 600K words, which all had to be read and rated within a two week period. Luckily I read fast and have fairly good recall.
Prose or Poetry? Generally I think there is more well-written prose than there is poetry, especially in the indie author space. Poetry is harder to write, and few do it well. I want to read well-written texts, so prose gets most of the mind-share.
Q: What’s it like living in Florida? Do you have a Florida Man story you’d like to share?
A: If you live in Florida, you also have county-level Florida Men, and Brevard County has some especially thick examples. One thing I have noticed is most Florida Man stories involve native-born Floridians, rather than transplants. I’m planning to relocate to Denver to be closer to my grandcats and to have four seasons.
Q: How would you describe your own writing? Do you have a work in progress?
A; I have a science fiction novel in edits (Pandora’s Children), a Martyrs sequel about half complete, and four or five other projects in various stages of completion. I’m not counting short stories which get done pretty fast. I have the luxury of being able to write whatever I want to, which means it never really gets boring. I try to write a certain quota of words per day, but it isn’t tied to a specific project. If I’m blocked on one project I just switch to one that isn’t and things progress. The mix in genres makes it difficult to build a reader base, but that isn’t existential for me. My goal is to spend most of my time writing, as that is what creates intellectual property. The other elements are important for various reasons but do not contribute to that goal.
Q: Please tell us about your pets. I believe you have a dog, or more than one dog. Do you have cats also? Is it a peaceable kingdom at your house or are there occasional dust-ups among the animal population?
A: You heard of the uprising then? In years past, the kingdom was peacefully administered by a feline overlord (naturally), but when he passed it created a power vacuum which no canine can fill. So currently there is unrest, a scrambling for position. I await the return of the once and future monarch to restore a balance.
Q: Is there anything I forgot to ask that you’d especially like to mention?
A: Just to note that I’m a recovering Engineer/Mensan. Both things warranted a 12-Step program. One day at a time!