Sam Richard Q&A

October 18, 2021
There is nothing weird about the success of Sam Richard's Weirdpunk Books.

“I knew it would be a ton of work, but I also knew that I’d feel like an asshole if I just let it shrivel away and die. So that’s where you start to see the pivot away from punk as the overarching aesthetic and become more of the focus with how I operate the press. From that pivot was born The New Flesh: A Literary Tribute to David Cronenberg. So from there, the decision to start publishing novellas, as opposed to one anthology a year, which was what we had done up until then, was signing myself up for a whole lot of work. But it’s worth it. I love it.”

I love the name of the imprint and how you’ve made a literary home for outsiders. 

It’s always a struggle to stand out among the other small presses who are doing interesting and compelling things, so trying to find a niche has been interesting especially because when I took over the press I, more or less, pivoted the focus away from it being directly about punk music. I wonder if that caused a bit of an identity crisis for the press, which had started making a bit of a name for itself with those early, punk-forward anthologies. I hope that I have, but being inside of it, there’s no way I’ll ever see it clearly.

Has the venture been just an insane amount of work? 

It’s a little complex, as I didn’t start Weirdpunk, Emma Alice Johnson did. I worked with her from the beginning on the first couple of anthologies as co-editor. In the middle of the third book, Zombie Punks Fuck Off, which Emma was only publishing and I was to be sole editor on–my wife died. The book was mostly done, but I took the time I needed to basically learn how to survive that and after about a year I was ready to come back to the book, as Mo had been such a massive cheerleader of both what we were doing and my own writing, so it because really important for me to see that book through. I hit up Emma and she was like, “This has been a blast, but I’m ready to do other things, so you can just have Weirdpunk.” It took me a minute to sort out if I would take it or not. I knew it would be a ton of work, but I also knew that I’d feel like an asshole if I just let it shrivel away and die. So that’s where you start to see the pivot away from punk as the overarching aesthetic and become more of the focus with how I operate the press. From that pivot was born The New Flesh: A Literary Tribute to David Cronenberg. So from there, the decision to start publishing novellas, as opposed to one anthology a year, which was what we had done up until then, was signing myself up for a whole lot of work. But it’s worth it. I love it. There are times when it’s exhausting, but it’s also the best. And at this point I’m trying to make it my living, so I figure if it’s less stressful and loathsome than any of the previous jobs I’ve had, then it’s still worth it.

I enjoyed your tribute to David Cronenberg. Do you have a favorite Cronenberg film?

I go back and forth on a favorite Cronenberg film. The Brood is a top choice for me, something about manifesting trauma and pain into a new form of life is so unsettling and interesting. But then I’m like, but what about Videodrome, and Scanners, and Shivers, and The Fly, so I don’t think I can truly just pick one.

You’ve already put out so many books. Are you worried you might burn out?

Yes. With this being my job right now, I worry less, as it’s not like I’m doing this on top of a 40-hour week, but it is still a lot. I slated six books for 2021, and it’s a bit too many. Next year will be four or five novellas and one big anthology that Joanna Koch and I are editing together. There is more info on Stories of the Eye at https://www.weirdpunkbooks.com/submissions. The last thing I want to do is get burned out so I think going slightly less hard next year is the wise choice.

You have a hit with Eric LaRocca’s book Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke. You’ve mentioned how it tracked on TikTok. Is TikTok a big player in book marketing?

I wouldn’t have thought so prior to this. The BookTok folks who’ve shared Eric’s book absolutely helped make it the success that it has been, so I certainly want to thank them for that. Twitter was huge with it, too. I’m always looking for a multi-pronged approach when it comes to getting the word out about the book, even if that means adapting to new shit.

You’re a writer yourself. Are you working on something now?

Always. Right now I’m getting my next short story collection all tightened up and ready to submit to a few publishers. My first collection, To Wallow in Ash & Other Sorrows, went out of print, so I’m also working with a press to get a new edition published that will have additional content in it. I’ve also got a few novellas in the works right now, at various levels of in-process. I’m hoping to get those done soon, but I keep getting distracted by anthology calls and other assorted projects. Not sure if I’ll have anything solo out this year, though there’s a small chance, but I think I’ll have a couple things queued up for 2022 at this point.

Is Weirdpunk on a sustainable track? Do you make a living on it?

Amazingly, it is right now. It’s pretty nuts, but I’m currently doing this for a living. I’m not sure how long that will last, but I’m hoping to keep it up as long as I can.

What’s next for you?

The next Weirdpunk release will be Cinema Viscera: A Movie Theater Horror Anthology, which will be out on Halloween. It’s got stories from Jo Quenell, Katy Michelle Quinn, Charles Austin Muir, Brendan Vidito, and me. We’re getting edits finalized on it right now and it’s looking to be just fucking dark and harsh and bleak, which was not the original intention, haha, but I think it works super well. Beyond that, there’s one more release in December, but I haven’t announced that yet. 2022 will see Stories of the Eye and four as of yet unannounced novellas, but folks can rest assured that it will all be as dark and weird and queer as they’ve come to expect from Weirdpunk.