Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net

Interview:
Deron Douglas, of DDP Publishing 

By Lazette Gifford
© 2002, Lazette Gifford


While new ebook publishers still seem to appear and disappear at an alarming rate, Deron Douglas of Double Dragon Publishing has used skill and knowledge acquired in the print-publishing world to forge a solid company that is:

... a Canadian-based publishing venue for the growing number of good but unpublished fiction writers around the world. Double Dragon is dedicated to publishing quality works of fiction and nonfiction, and will continue to publish works in various genres in both the eBook and traditional paper book formats. We also make special efforts to publish a specific number of works written by North American Aboriginal authors each year.

Vision:  First, tell us a little about yourself and Double Dragon Publishing.

Deron:  Well, I've been involved in the publishing business in one way or another since about 1978. I started out as a graphic artist for a very small publishing company. At that time we didn't use computers for all of our graphic needs. We used film and a process called "stripping" to knock out an image. (I actually have a fine arts degree as well as a computer science and sociology degree, so my left and right brain are always fighting. <g>) I've worked as a professional photographer for about 5 years in the advertising industry (it seemed like a natural step at the time), computer science teacher for a local Toronto college, and later as production manager for a larger publishing house in Toronto. It was at this time, when ebooks were barely a glint in someone's eye, that the opportunity presented itself for someone to oversee the conversion of university and college textbooks to an electronic format. Since I had print production experience as well as computer knowledge I was "selected" for the job. This lasted from around 1995 to 1999/2000.

Double Dragon Publishing is the result of my personal need to stay in the publishing industry but have control over the important factors in my life, my need for artistic expression (I do 90% of DDP's cover art), and a real love of books. I still have my collection of science fiction and fantasy paperbacks from when I was a kid up to the present. There is somewhere in the neighborhood of 11,760 books.

 Vision:    What drew you to epublishing? Do you enjoy having an Internet-based business?

Deron:  First of all you must understand that I am a "computer geek,” something I've come to realize only a short while ago :-) I'm also a very active reader, and before I opened DDP I read an average of 60-80 novels a year. Having the ability to be to carry a book   within a handheld device was a great convenience. I'd take it to meetings and sometimes pretend I was taking notes, or read a few chapters in line at the movies or during lunch. My first ebook device was a Rocket eBook. This little device is what started DDP. After buying the REB and looking on the Internet for good material to read I realized that, "Hey, I had all the skills and experience to do this!" Until that point it never really occurred to me to look at epublishing. It was like a light turning on.

I've always had an Internet-based business in one form or another. Before DDP I owned a software company that sold exclusively over the Internet. I recently sold that business to a larger concern.

 Vision:     Many people claim that ebooks are badly produced and unedited. What is the process a book goes through at your company after you accept the manuscript?

Deron:  Our ebooks go through the same process as our hardcover and paperback books: one or two edits with an editor/author team, usually a final "look-over" by the author, then a proof-read. Sometimes I also do a final proof-read myself. Once an ebook goes to paperback, it goes through another edit, and a final proof-read. It really depends on the author or book. Some come to us edited, and need only a proof-read.

We also try not to change the author's "voice," which can be very easy to do if you edit too "hard.” Many authors use slang or dialectic language. You need an editor who will recognize this and not edit it out.

For example, we had one book in which a character would say "Excuuse me!" all the time. The editor felt that this was an error and changed it to the correct spelling. Luckily I was doing a proof-read and realized that since the book took place in the late 70's, that the character was mimicking Steve Martin. This phrase was popular at that time.

 Vision:     What sort of material do you look for in submissions?

Deron:  I personally look for an interesting story. Something different. And of course it must be well-written, but a well-written story that is boring wouldn't sell, and a badly written story that is different is like finger nails on a chalkboard. Our editors are good, but they can't raise the dead. Our submission guidelines outline our needs, and the approval process.

Vision:        What is a sure thing to get a manuscript rejected?

Deron:  Not following the guidelines. People will send me their manuscript right in the email without a synopsis or under the flap "blurb.” I delete these without looking at them. Spelling and grammar are also a biggie. If you can't take the time to spell check, we can't take the time to read it. I would also appreciate it if the authors would read over their own work. Some will do a spell check but the wrong word gets inserted. "The" instead of "They"... that sort of thing.

Vision:    You offer many formats, including some print editions.  Do you think diversification is the answer to the new world of publication?

Deron:  It's worked for us. We stay away from HTML and Word document downloads however.  For us that's considered "source code.” I try to make it a little difficult for pirates. I don't want to hand it to them on a silver platter :-)

Vision:     One of your books is on display at the Pentagon.  Can you tell us about that book and how this came about?

Deron:  The Sword & Psyche  is a hardcover, limited edition (100 printed), signed and numbered book on the philosophy and practice of Iaido. Iaido roughly translates to "The Art of Drawing the Sword.” It's something I practice myself. Think of it as Tai Chi with a Japanese sword.  It had a greater significance in Japan a few hundred years ago. It's the Japanese version of the old western "quick draw.” Two opponents would face each other, usually on their knees. While staring into each other's eyes, each would look for a sign that the other person was drawing their sword. Iaido teaches a person to kill their opponent within 15 seconds or less. One of these "duels" could last for hours, but the final "stroke" would be only a few seconds. We use real swords that are razor sharp, I have cut myself a few times drawing the sword, and a few people have cut veins. When you practice with an opponent, you usually swing the sword inches from their neck or torso. It takes concentration. You have to be careful not to accidentally hurt someone, because they could accidentally hurt you back. :-) There is more to it than that of course. It’s a form of meditation where the user "becomes" one with the sword; it's also the study of tactics and warfare. The author is a top master of Iaido, and was granted "Special Honorary Citizen­ship" of the Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture in Japan -- a  rare distinction for an American.

Are you beginning to understand why the Pentagon might be interested? Actually the author is in touch with the person who bought the book. From what I've learnt, that person is in charge of the military libraries, did a number of tours in Japan, and felt the book would be of interest. I've also heard that they are rebuilding the display cabinets along the walls of the Pentagon, and they need items for display. I'll never know for sure since I obviously can't visit the Pentagon.

 Vision:   What problems do you see epublishers facing in the next few years?

Deron:  Ebooks are very dependent on the device. Until the manufacturers can produce a reading device that is both portable and inexpensive, we won’t have the readership we need. The PDA is actually going in that direction, but it's hard to convince people to read from their PDAs. Some find it too small. I thought so myself, but I've changed my mind.

Epublishers also need to be taken seriously; the larger publishers tend to consider us a joke. This is in part due to the use of the Internet itself. It's too easy to start a business on the Internet. Many fail. It's up to DDP to prove them wrong.

Vision:    Do you think the market is going to grow?  Will it ever be the equal of -- or more important than -- traditional print venues?

Deron:  It will grow, and is growing. Approximately 6000 PDAs are sold per day around the world. That's a lot of potential ebook readers. But ebooks will not replace traditional books. Hopefully they will exist side-by-side.

 Vision:     You do covers for DDP.  Were you interested in art before you started DDP, or was that something that happened because of the business?

Deron:  As mentioned earlier, I started out as a graphic artist. It's something that is a part of me. I suppose I'm one of those people who can function using both the left and right sides of their brain. I also play the guitar, but I don't think I'll tour or open a music shop too soon. :-) The covers are something I do for myself, if you can understand that.It's fun. Work should be fun.

 Vision:   Anything else you'd like to add?

Deron:  Nothing that I can think of.

 Thank you! 

Double Dragon Publications