Archive for the ‘Publisher Profiles’ Category

Armchair Fiction: “nostalgic sci-fi and horror literature” for the Kindle

June 11, 2014

Armchair Fiction: “nostalgic sci-fi and horror literature” for the Kindle

I’m sure some of you, like me, remember the Ace Doubles (I still have some on my shelves). It was a series of science fiction paperbacks where there would actually be two books in one…and they were printed upside down to each other. In other words, you could flip the book over, and there would be another cover for another book on the “back”…both stories ended in the middle of the physical book.

I was excited to see that, in the spirit of that

Armchair Fiction

has been producing “double novels” of vintage science fiction and horror.

I was even more pleased when I ran across books from Armchair in the Kindle store:

Armchair Fiction in the USA Kindle store (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Naturally, they don’t have any kind of special “binding” in the Kindle format (and not all are doubles), but the authors and titles were really intriguing to me and the cover images stood out. Regular readers know I’m not all that visually-oriented, so if something catches my eye, there must really be something to it. 😉

The authors included:

  • Edmond Hamilton
  • Frank Belknap Long
  • Stanton A. Coblentz
  • Richard Shaver (of the Shaver Mystery…I’ve referenced Shaver once before in this blog)

In doing a little research, I was still more pleased (see how life just keeps getting better and better?) 😉 that Armchair comes from the same creative source as

Sinister Cinema

I knew SinCin from ads in some of the offbeat magazines I have read.

I wrote to Armchair to find out if the books were all in the public domain, although I suspected that the artwork might be new (and there were new introductions).

Greg Luce was nice enough to give me a lengthy reply…and to give me permission to share it with you:


Hi, Bufo.

Thanks for getting a hold of us. I’m the owner and founder of both Sinister Cinema and Armchair Fiction. I started Sinister literally thirty years ago–Spring of 1984. Armchair was started in December of 2010, so we’ve been around for roughly three-and-a-half years. Many of the Armchair titles are in the public domain, but certainly not all. We do have any number of copyrighted works, including most notably some of the works of Robert Silverberg, whom I consider one of the best science fiction authors ever.

The reason I started Armchair was essentially to do the same for nostalgic sci-fi and horror literature that I did with nostalgic sci-fi and horror cinema. There are literally thousands of older literary works of sci-fi and horror (including both novels and short fiction) that haven’t been in print since their initial publication. These are what we specialize in, although we are certainly willing to come out with more common works as well–Wells, Burroughs, etc. The thing that had always held us up were the costs of printing large numbers of books and maintaining large volumes of inventory. Being a mom-and-pop company, that was just never practical for us. However, when print-on-demand companies (like Createspace) started showing up, it changed the whole playing field and made it possible for us to move forward with a line of paperback books specializing in these forgotten works.

I grew up reading Ace Doubles, sci-fi digest magazines, paperbacks from Ballantine, Signet, etc., and these were the inspirations for what we’re doing. It’s been a real labor of love and the book side is, frankly, very labor intensive. There are only three of us–myself and two very good employees. I have plans for 400 double novels (we have 130 right now), 150-200 single novels (we’re currently at about 60), as well as many varied short story collections. I don’t know if we’ll ever get these all done, but we’ve been releasing 45 to 60 books a year, and hopefully we’ll be able to keep plugging along for many years to come. I’m not looking to become a millionaire doing this (although we did just recently sell our 10,000th book) and I’m not looking for any notoriety within the sci-fi community, I just want to do it for the people who like this kind of stuff. If I can make a little money on the side…great; but we’re in it for the long-haul no matter what. I really believe in what we’re doing.

One thing I discovered is that not everything ever written is on the generally high levels of works brought out by companies like Ace, Ballantine, and other companies. When you’re dealing with the Ray Palmer years of Amazing and Fantastic Adventures for instance, it’s really a mixed bag. Some authors like Berkeley Livingston, Leroy Xerxa, and other Palmer regulars were really not very good. Yet there were a few exceptions: Rog Phillips, David Wright O’Brien, and even Chester S. Geier churned out some surprisingly good tales. Then of course there was Richard S. Shaver, who is one of our best-selling authors, second in fact only to Edmond Hamilton. Shaver was a horrible writer, yet there is something about his stuff that has a unique appeal to many fans. I think that Shaver was to sci-fi literature what Edward D. Wood was to sci-fi cinema. They were both brilliant in their inspired lunacy.

Regarding the covers, many are the artwork pieces that were originally painted or drawn for the stories. However, there are many titles that simply never had any color artwork when first published. In these cases I have to go through literally hundreds and hundreds of PD artwork pieces looking for something that works. I’ve been very fortunate so far. Sometimes we have to do massive changes to make an artwork piece work for a story. For instance, one of our new double novels has a tale called “Voyage of the Asteroid” by Laurence Manning. The cover art we used here was originally for another story and appeared on the cover of the February, 1929 issue of Amazing. I think it’s a Frank R. Paul piece. This cover, as originally published, had a number of alien beings attacking a Tyranosaurus with ray guns. We had to get rid of the aliens and their ray guns in order for this cover to work. Using Photoshop (I’ve gotten pretty good with the clone tool!) I had to painstakingly get rid of them. It took me a while, but the end result was very good. Finding and preparing artwork is always a bit of a challenge.

At any rate, I hope this all helps. We don’t have that many Kindle editions of our books up yet (only about twenty) but more are coming. Right now the paperback editions are outselling their Kindle counterparts, probably because of the collectability aspects of the books themselves.


Thanks for your interest,

Greg Luce

Sinister Cinema/Armchair Fiction


If you like science fiction of the “Golden Age”, I’d suggest you check them out. These might also be an excellent little gift for Father’s Day…especially if you have a geeky father in the “Monster Kids” generation (Baby Boomers, basically…if your Dad has ever mentioned Famous Monsters of Filmland or watching a local “Creature Features” type TV host in the 1960s or so, they are in this group).

The prices are good, and they look to be lovingly produced. 🙂


Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

My new free Flipboard magazine, The Weird Old Days features vintage articles on ghosts, sea serpents, psychic phenomena, and more

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


Publisher profile: McFarland

February 27, 2011

Publisher profile: McFarland

Thinking about movies right now?  Gee, I can’t figure out why that might be.  😉  If you are, you might want to my coverage in my blog, The Measured Circle.

Well, even though the movies are a visual medium, there is a grand history of literary criticism about them.  Sometimes, the scholarship and attention to detail is amazing…sometimes, not so much.  🙂

One of my favorite publishers for movie (and other pop culture) books is McFarland. 

Their reputation is for very high quality production: attention to typography, high quality paper.  Their market is primarily libraries, but also enthusiasts. 

Let’s say you have a friend who likes zombie movies…and likes solidly-researched, comprehensive works.

You could get your friend

The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia

by Peter Dendle.  The author is an Assistant Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University.  The book covers 200 movies from 16 countries…as well as TV episodes.

That gives you the idea of the approach of McFarland…but not the range. 

Just so you don’t think it’s all geeky, genre stuff, how about

Francophone African Cinema: History, Culture, Politics and Theory 


Paper history

McFarland was founded in 1979 by Robert McFarland Franklin.  Since that time, they have published over 4,000 books.  They aren’t all about pop culture: there are also books on military history, for example.

Company contact information



Mailing address:

Box 611
Jefferson NC 28640

Phone & Fax:

Tel: 336-246-4460
FAX: 336-246-5018

Order Lines:

Orders only Tel: 800-253-2187
Orders only FAX: 336-246-4403

In the e-book world

I was a little surprised to see that McFarland had so many books in the Kindle store :

McFarland books in the Kindle store

There are 433 at time of writing.

That’s a fraction of the total number, but I think of McFarland as keepsake books…the kind you wouldn’t think would do well in e-book form.

Their top ranked one is #11,535 paid in the Kindle store…that’s great with something like 800,000 in that category.

For those of you who have set a hard and fast ceiling of $9.99 for an e-book, you may be disappointed in some of these.  While there are certainly books at that price and lower, they also range as high as $44.00.

I personally don’t think that’s unreasonable, for a work of massive scholarship (and micro-market), as some of these are. 

I mean, someone who wants a book on The Shadow Puppet Theatre of Malaysia: A Study of Wayang Kulit with Performance Scripts and Puppet Designs doesn’t expect to pay ten dollars for it. 

They do get a discount over the paper version, by the way….on that particular book, it’s twenty percent.

I did download a sample: Active Table of Contents, nice cover image…what you would expect from a company with an attention to detail.

However, the sample I downloaded was a Topaz format book…I’m not crazy about those.  I did guess they might do that, since they like to contol the typography, and that’s what Topaz is supposed to do.

Overall, these books aren’t going to be for everybody…but they could be the perfect gift for some people.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Publisher profile: Harlequin

February 14, 2010

Publisher profile: Harlequin

This is a profile of a publisher that does not block text-to-speech for the Kindle at time of writing.  I want to recognize these publishers, and give you a bit of background on them.

“So tell me who…who wrote e-books of love?”

Well, this isn’t exactly who wrote them, but I can tell you who published a lot of them…Harlequin.

Paper history

 Harlequin dominated romance publishing (especially series romances) in the 1970s, and bought their major challenger, Silhouette in the mid-1980s.

Almost like people call any facial tissue a Kleenex, a lot of people think of Harlequin and “romance” as synonymous.

However, when the company began in 1949, it sold paperback reprints of classics (I’ll be you didn’t think of Somerset Maugham as a Harlequin author, did you?) 😉 . 

In the late 1950s, Harlequin began publishing romance novels…primarily reprints of British novels.  In fact, I remember the controversy when they began to publish American-set books…and even more so when they began a line with…um…more explicit romantic interludes.

Its success has been incredible: they claim to have sold 5.8 billion books…billion with a B.  That’s more than twice the entire world population at the time the company was founded! 

They say they publish more than 100 novels a month and sell in 28 languages and in 114 “international markets”. 

I thought this was an interesting statistic: Harlequin books had 252 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list in 2008…about a ten percent increase from the previous year.

They’ve also established a number of clearcut lines, including a line for teens, one for fantasy (Luna), and even one for mystery (Worldwide Mystery).

They have always dynamically sought non-traditional markets and been reader-friendly.  It isn’t that easy for a bookstore to stock 100 titles that change a month…that’s a lot of shelving and returns!   You may have seen them in grocery stores, bought them by mail, and now, of course, in e-books.  Giving material away has been part of their strategy for a long time, and they continue that today.  Generally, it’s been more of their plan to commit people to regularly buying a line than to worry about the sales for a single title.

When I was a bookstore manager, we’d have some regular customers who would come in every month and leave with a huge pile of Harlequins…and they weren’t choosing particular ones, necessarily, but they wanted to read them all. 

One reason for that was familiarity.  Harlequin is open to new writers, and they give them guidelines.   That’s why there is such controversy whenever they make a change.

Overall, while you may not see them nominated for a Booker prize, Harlequin is one of the most successful, diverse, and reader-connected publishers out there.

Family ties


  • Harlequin American Romance
  • Harlequin Blaze
  • Harlequin Historical
  • Harlequin Intrigue
  • Harlequin Medical Romance
  • Harlequin NASCAR
  • Harlequin Medical Romance
  • Harlequin Special Releases
  • Harlequin Superromance
  • Harlequin Bianca
  • Harlequin Deseo
  • Harlequin Jazmin
  • Harlequin Julia
  • Harlequin Nonfiction
  • Harlequin Teen
  • Harlequin Historical Undone


  • Silhouette Desire
  • Silhouette Romantic Suspense
  • Silhouette Special Releases
  • Silhouette Nocturne
  • Silhouette Nocturne Bites

Spice (more explicit)

Mira (stand-alone novels rather than series)


Kimani Press (African American)

  • Kimani Press Kimani Romance
  • Kimani Press Arabesque
  • Kimani Press New Spirit
  • Kimani Press Sepia
  • Kimani Press Special Releases
  • Kimani Press TRU

Steeple Hill

  • Steeple Hill (for women of faith)
  • Steeple Hill Cafe
  • Steeple Hill Love Inspired
  • Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense
  • Steeple Hill Women’s Fiction
  • Steeple Hill Love Inspired HIstorical

Red Dress Ink (“with style”)

Luna (fantasy)

Worldwide Library

  • Wordlwide Rogue Angel
  • Worldwide Mystery


 Donna Hayes became the Publisher and CEO of Harlequin in 2003.  She had previously been President and COO.  Previous publishing experience included working at Doubleday Canada.  Under her leadership, the company has expanded their offerings into less genre areas of fiction.

Special note

Harlequin has also been involved in community projects, as well as making a commitment to environmental issues. 

They have a special program, called More Than Words. 

Women can be nominated for the award.

This is an excerpt from the  More Than Words website:

Somewhere right now, a woman’s compassion is improving the quality of life in her community — not only for herself but for those she cares about most.

With each act of kindness, each word of support, she is proving that real-life heroines do exist. And at Harlequin we believe her story should be told!

We solicit nominations of ordinary women who have made extraordinary contributions to their communities. With your support, we hope to turn awareness into action, and mobilize others to become engaged and make a difference.

Company contact information

General questions e-mail:

Questions about orders:

Phone: 1-888-432-4879

Canadian Headquarters:

Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. is located at:
225 Duncan Mill Rd.
Don Mills, Ontario
M3B 3K9

Harlequin also has 14 other locations around the world.


In the e-book world

 Harlequin has strongly embraced e-books.  They sell them directly through their website, and have a special website for e-books:

e-Books at eHarlequin 

They commonly have free e-books available, and have them in a number of formats.  That includes EPUB, PDF, Microsoft eBook, and Mobi.

Note: the Mobi books will not work with your Kindle, because these are “protected” Mobi files.

Harlequin e-books in the Kindle store

Fortunately, Harlequin also makes books available in the Kindle store, and generally has free ones as well:

Harlequin books in the Kindle store (freebies first) 

Some of these books have been free for a long time, which is nice.  Some promotional titles tend to only be available for a short while.

Note: the search above (3,189 results at time of writing) were just the ones that had the Harlequin name for the publisher.  Ones that were published under other imprints will not show up in that search.  For example, there are 246 Kimani titles that would not have been found by that search.

I generally use to limit by publisher.

They are also following a strategy of putting bundles in the Kindle store.  For example, you can get all eight February 2010 Harlequin Presents titles in one download for $14.99.   For those of you who don’t want to pay more than $9.99 for an e-book, this is actually only a $1.87 per book.   It was released on February 1.

One-Click Buy: February 2010 Harlequin Presents


With a broad variety of e-books available (including paranormal romance, non-fiction, and faith-based fiction), Harlequin is a major source for e-book readers.  They do not block text-to-speech, and do make books available for free.   While they may not release every book as an e-book (the bundles make that a bit hard to confirm), they do not appear to be “windowing” books (delaying e-book releases significantly after paper releases).

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Publisher profile: Pocket Books

December 23, 2009

This is a profile of a publisher that does not block text-to-speech for the Kindle at time of writing.  I want to recognize these publishers, and give you a bit of background on them.

Paper history

Pocket was crucial in US publishing history.  The idea of cheap paper editions had caught on in Europe, but it wasn’t until that magical year of 1939 that Pocket Books, under the direction of Robert de Graff, popularized the format in the United States.

For twenty-five cents (roughly the equivalent of four dollars in 2009), you could get a classic like Shakespeare (five tragedies in one volume) or Wuthering Heights (a bestseller that year), or a genre book, like the ghost comedy Topper or the fantasy/adventure novel, Lost Horizon.

This is somewhat of a parallel for me to what is happening with e-books.  We are getting cheaper editions, and they are heavy on classics and genre works.  However, we also are getting the mainstream, and that’s nice.   🙂

Over the years, the Pocket kangaroo (named Gertude) has had a lot of books with cult followings, like the Perry Mason books and the Star Trek books.

They also had the important strategy of moving book sales out of only bookstores into other places, like drugstores and variety stores.  You might not be able to buy your books in a grocery store if it wasn’t for Pocket.

Official Company History Page  

Family ties

Pocket is (since 1966) part of Simon & Schuster, which in turn is part of the New York based CBS Corporation.

Pocket itself includes:

  • Downtown Press
  • G-Unit
  • MTV Books
  • Paraview (uses Pocket phone number)
  • Star Trek (which may say Pocket)
  • Threshold Editions
  • WWE (used Pocket phone number)

Simon & Schuster also distributes Baen Books (science fiction and fantasy), Games Workshop Group (best known for the Warhammer games), Harlequin (romances), Merck (best known for the Merck Manual medical reference books), and the World Almanac.

Other Simon and Schuster imprints include the Free Press, Scribner, and Simon and Schuster.


 Carolyn Reidy is President and CEO of Simon and Schuster.  She took over the company in January of 2008.   Her experience in publishing goes back to 1976, and she has also worked for Random House and William Morrow.

Louise Burke in in charge of Pocket Books. 

Company contact information

Ebook Customer Service form 

Toll free Customer Service phone number: 1-800-223-2336

Customer Service e-mail:

New York offices:

Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
Phone: 212-698-7000

In the e-book world

Pocket has embraced e-books, which isn’t too surprising given their innovative approach to publishing in the past.  According to their website, they actually have more e-books available than they do new mass market paperbacks or trade paperbacks (although the combination of trade and mass market would be larger).  It certainly says something that e-books is the format with the largest number of titles.

Amazon has 1,195 e-books by Pocket as I write this.  It’s important to realize that I am only talking about books with the Pocket name, not other imprints (like Baen, which they distribute, and Juno).

Kindle Store search for Pocket Books 

Some books appear in more than one category, but 939 of them appear under fiction (79%). 

The most popular Kindle book they have right now is Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto by Mark R. Levin.  It’s #488 (again, as I write this) out of 396,117…that’s pretty good).

While that book comes from a particular viewpoint, it’s not the type case…they have a lot of different things.

For example, they have several Star Trek novels…nowhere near the 1201 they have in the Amazon store altogether!

Generally, they seem to be releasing Pocket branded e-books a day after the mass market paperback, although I didn’t look at a big sample.

Pocket e-books in the Kindle store

Here is a sampling of their books in the Kindle store.  You can also get Pocket e-books from other sources.

Ghost Hunting 

by Jason Hawes, Grant Wilson, and Michael Jan Friedman

If you watch the Syfy Channel’s Ghost Hunters show, you’ll know Jason and Grant…plumbers by day, proplamologists by night.  🙂

But I Trusted You 

by Ann Rule

This is the fourteenth book in the true crime series from Rule, who had a huge hit with her book on Ted Bundy, The Stranger Beside Me.

Wuthering Heights 

by Emily Bronte

This classic was one of their first paperbacks…they still do quite a few classics in e-book.

A Highlander Christmas

by Janet Chapman

The latest in a romance series.

This Family of Mine: What It Was Like Growing Up Gotti 

by Victoria Gotti

A tell-all biography by a member of the infamous family.

Star Trek (new movie tie-in)

by Alan Dean Foster

Pocket has been the Star Trek publisher for decades, and they continue with this novelization from science fiction novelist Foster (who has also written quite a few other tie-ins)

Rise of the Horde 

by Christie Golden

This is the fourth in a series of World of Warcraft books…the company does have a gaming connection.

 Nightmares & Dreamscapes 

by Stephen King

Here’s a nice collection of King short stories, from a company that doesn’t block text-to-speech access.

A House in Fez: Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco 

by Suzanna Clarke

Contemporary first person non-fiction, bringing a glimpse of what it is like to move into another culture.

101 Reasons the ’90s Ruled 

by M.C. King

Pop culture…I’m guessing the author and I might have different highlights for this decade, but this companion to the E! miniseries is likely to spark a few personal memories for you.

Hari Maut (World Terrorism Series) 

by Sanjay Gupta, Tarun Kumah Wahi, Manish Gupta, Lalit Sharma (illustrator)

A graphic novel by the CNN commentator/neurosurgeon/Surgeon General candidate…in Hindi?  I think this is the same person.  I tried a sample on my K2: it actually looked pretty good!  I could even see using this to show people the graphics capability of the Kindle.  As to the Hindi: since it is part of the picture, it reproduces…the Kindle wouldn’t be able to do it if it need the character set, currently. 

Well, that’s a pretty eclectic bunch!  If you want to support company’s that don’t block to text-to-speech, or even if that isn’t an issue for you, you’ll probably be able to find a Pocket Book to give you a great reading experience on your Kindle.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

%d bloggers like this: