I just received a very nice note from Van Allen Plexico, who, in addition to having a freakin’ awesome name, writes some of my favorite superhero prose. Check out “The Sentinels” from White Rocket Books for only $2.99!
In his note, VAP tells me the New Pulp guys actually publish a wide variety of genres and that it is too expensive for them to drop their pricing as POD or low-print run publishers. He says a bit more, but goes in to some specific references I don’t want to reprint here without his permission. Here is my response to him:
Van: Yay…this is actually the point I wanted you to get to (I like it when a reader gets to the point on their own because, hopefully, the answer responds better if they figure it out on their own). If genre is now taken out of the equation: the new pulp guys are publishing tons of genres, doesn’t that mean genre isn’t a factor of pulp? In which case, what was the point of pulp? Wasn’t it cheap pricing? If genre isn’t the defining factor of pulp, and the books aren’t budget priced the way pulp was (or published in the same format), then what is the benefit from attaching the name to a group of what are essentially just standard genre indy publishers?
In business, you adopt a name or tagline or build a brand based on the reaction you get from the public when they hear/see it. Since genre and style aren’t a factor with pulp (as you say in your note), then what reaction is trying to be gained from the attachment of that particular name? What is the business sense behind it?
It seems like you’re taking what I said and applying it to authors when I’m talking about the publishers. Although, I do think the authors are just as guilty of mis-branding the movement. Again, you see it almost daily on those sites I mentioned.
And, I think you’re misunderstanding when I talk about pricing – I think $2.99 is a great price for an indy ebook and $10-$15 is a good price for print (although, for a new/unknown author or series, it’s a bit tough to get unfamiliar readers to try books at those prices, especially online – $9.99 is a better intro price, but that’s an unrelated discussion for now). $24.95 for a print paperback is ridiculous. My point is that if genre isn’t essential to being called new pulp, and the actual format isn’t essential (meaning the cheap pulp paper-printed magazines or even mass market paperbacks of the 70s), then isn’t a low price required? If that is a factor in what pulp was (and it was, don’t kid yourself), then how does a completely standard pricing – one at par with the majority of what is available – equate to “pulp?”
My question for “New Pulp” is: what is the benefit of the attachment of that particular title? If genre and format are not a factor or benefit, then what is the reaction the movement is trying to elicit from potential new readers by using “Pulp” as its name? What are they referencing? Again, since you just said there were a lot of genres being published by the publishers, and we both know there wasn’t a set style (Lovecraft was as different from Lester Dent as they both were from Raymond Chandler or Philip K Dick or Isaac Asimov) and the pulps are more than just knock-offs of Doc Savage, then: what is the point of the name and what is it the authors and publishers are gaining from the association, really?
This is an especially important question if you’re saying the current “New Pulpers” are unable to price cheaply – so we have no genre specifications, no format or medium requirements, and no pricing ones. How then is it pulp?