Spotlight on: Tricia Reeks of Meerkat Publishing

Locus Magazine, Science Fiction FantasyTricia Reeks lives in the bear-infested mountains of Asheville, North Carolina with her mountaineer husband and her two ferocious French bulldogs. She is the founder of Meerkat Press, the co-editor of Behind the Mask: An Anthology of Heroic Proportions (a Kirkus Reviews Best Indie Book of 2017) and Love Hurts: A Speculative Fiction Anthology.

Tell us about how your press was founded. Why did you decide to get into publishing?

Great question! I’d have to say that the founding of Meerkat Press was the culmination of several things that came together back in late 2014. The first was very specific: I had started a recreational sports business back in 2007, which is now primarily run by staff, and was looking for another venture, this time one that allowed for more creativity. The second, which had the most to do with that venture being Meerkat Press, was that I’d taken up fiction writing as a hobby, and it exposed me to the short speculative fiction market and to the business of publishing. I started out editing and publishing a short anthol­ogy and had so much fun that I knew it was something I wanted to get seri­ous about. Thus Meerkat Press was born. My career has spanned design, technology, business development, and management, but I had no expe­rience in publishing, so I’ve been in boot-camp mode since day one, and every day I learn something new.

Does Meerkat Press have a mission statement or guiding philosophy? Is there a particular niche you aim to fill?

As a voracious reader and someone who loves creating things, my primary guiding philosophy is to find and publish books I love to read. Early in my ca­reer, I worked at a small company as a consultant for small businesses. We con­sidered ourselves a boutique shop and only took on a small number of clients. Our relationship with those clients was closer to a partnership than anything, and that’s how I think of our relationship with our authors. Because growth is not a primary goal, we’re able to focus on making each book something we’re really proud of, from the writing, to the cover, to the interior book design.

I’ve considered narrowing the type of books we’ve published; it would certainly provide some efficiencies in our process, but just can’t get myself to do so. So far, 90% of our acquisitions have had a speculative element to them, which is more indicative of our tastes in fiction than anything. The general fiction books we’ve signed are amazing books that I couldn’t put down, and I am just as excited about them as I am the others.

How are things going now? How many books are you publishing each year, and what recent titles are you especially excited about?

2017 was our first year with a full schedule of books. It was a whirlwind in the very best way! Our goal is to publish 4 to 6 books a year, so now that word is out about our little press and the manuscripts are flowing, it is a real challenge narrowing our choices down to so few books. We’ve had to pass on some wonderful work.

We just released Keith Rosson’s Smoke City, which is one of the coolest, strangest books I’ve read, much less published. There is a place where liter­ary and genre writing meet that is absolutely magical, and this book is right in that sweet spot – a character-driven story about two men on a road trip from Portland to L.A. through a landscape where ghostly apparitions, called “smokes,” have begun appearing. And did I mention that one of the fellows is Joan of Arc’s reincarnated executioner, seeking redemption for lighting the fire that killed Joan? It is a brilliant book by an extremely talented au­thor. We also published his debut novel in 2017, The Mercy of the Tide, which although it didn’t make the final cut, was on the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker award for superior achievement in a first novel. This book was turned down by traditional and small publishers alike before landing at Meerkat Press. It was our first full-length novel acquisition and I’m extremely proud of it.

What’s happening next? What works are on the horizon, and what kinds of material are you looking to publish in the future?

We have some amazing titles coming out the remainder of 2018. In the speculative fiction genres, we have a dreamy, retro-futuristic YA fantasy by Leander Watts, and a sci-fi novella by Seb Doubinsky set in the same world as The Song of Synth and the Babylonian Trilogy, with aliens and government conspiracies galore. We’ve also acquired an astounding collection of weird short fiction by J.S. Breukelaar, author of American Monster and Alethiea, that we are very excited about.

We are primarily looking for novels and the only thing we specifically ask authors not to submit is historical and formula­ic romance. Speculative fiction is very high on our list. We love fresh voices, imaginative stories, and fully developed characters. Although magical realism, weird, and slipstream are all probably my personal favorites, last year we published an amazing epic fantasy, Wings Unseen, by Rebecca Gomez Farrell, and a short fiction superhero anthology, Behind the Mask, as well as G.D. Penman’s delightful urban fantasy, The Year of the Knife!

As a start-up small press, what has been your biggest chal­lenge so far?

Every day is a challenge, as I’ve been learning as I go! But that’s a big part of the fun for me. If I had to name a biggest challenge, it was finding a distributor that would represent us, given the small number of books we publish each year and our lack of a huge back­list. We searched for over a year and finally signed with Midpoint Trade late 2016. We have a very small staff, so this has been huge for us, as now we can focus on acquiring, publishing and market­ing our books, and they handle sales to the trade, warehousing, shipping, and accounts receivable. They’ve played a wonderful advisory role as well. It has been nice having someone with expe­rience we can go to for brainstorming, feedback on pricing, covers, marketing, and other things.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or the work you do?

We don’t take lightly the trust our authors put in us to bring their work to the world. There is nothing more rewarding for this booknerd/fan-girl than to discover and work hand in hand with a talented author to publish their “book baby.” I hope that if you’ve not heard of us or our books, you take some time to learn more.

This and more like it in the March 2018 issue of Locus.

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