Monday Original Content: Ten years of Six Brumes

Six Brumes [Six Mists] is an independent Québecois genre publishing house helmed by Jonathan Reynolds and Guillaume Houle, based in Drummondville and Sherbrooke. I met them at Congrès Boréal (a Québecois sf and fantasy convention) this past May in Montréal, where they were celebrating ten years of existence as well as the nomination of a novella they had published, L’Aquilon, by Carl Rocheleau, for the Prix Borèal. In November 2011, they were honoured on the occasion of their tenth year of existence at the Montréal Salon du livre by the association’s president.

Q: Why did you decide to found Six Brumes during your studies? Did you find that your professors or fellow students thought that genre literature wasn’t worthy of attention, or for other reasons?

Jonathan Reynolds: In all of our efforts, we are passionate. Thus, when we founded Six Brumes, it was of course our passion that prompted us, passion for promoting fantastic literature in all ways: writing, reading, editing, publishing . . . Our mission was very simple from the start: to help authors become known, to serve as their springboard. We published the first books of a number of authors who are now well experienced: Michel J. Lévesque, Dominic Bellavance, and Mathieu Fortin, among others.

Q: What lessons in the business and art of publishing did you learn in your first years?

Jonathan Reynolds: We started from zero, without any experience. So, we went step by step, with our first book, first launch, first distributor, first attendance at a book show, first prize, first reprint. I learned never to become discouraged: these tests are here to make us grow and learn. There are no mistakes, just challenges that one can choose to surmount, or not. It doesn’t matter what project you’re working on: it’s all a question of believing or not believing. How far is one willing to go to realize one’s dream and those of others (in this case, authors publishing their first novel)?

Guillaume Houle: I ask myself lots of questions about authors’ involvement in the promotion of their books. More and more, the author is becoming like both a film director and an actor at once, and must connect with the reader, whether indirectly through the media (television, the web, newspapers, etc.) or directly (at workshops, literary events, book shows, or with a personal website). Paid publicity helps very little, so we concentrate on authors who are comfortable coming out of their hideyholes to meet readers. We have effectively refused, after a number of years, to publish writers who we never meet and who don’t want to attend the Salons du livres or other literary events. On the other hand, one can notice a difference between what one likes as an editor and what sells well. In choosing to have a vision and investing in less popular genres, one reaches a more loyal and dedicated audience, but a smaller one.

Q: Why do you define literary genres so specifically on your website? Is it to clarify your submission preferences?

Jonathan Reynolds: In effect, the principal reason is to classify submissions, to make sure we’re all on the same wavelength. It’s also because the readers may choose what they want to read based on its genre. For example, we don’t market a horror story in the fantasy genre, or our readers won’t like us anymore. Of course, there are a number of crossing points between existing genres, and we are also interested in those, but we classify our books within their predominant genre.

Q: Are the same readers reading detective or crime fiction and fantastic literature?

Jonathan Reynolds: Good question. At first thought, I’d be inclined to say ”No, these genres don’t attract the same kind of reader,” but after further thought, I’d say the answer is more complicated. Because it varies from one reader to another, and there are as many kinds of readers as there are kinds of human beings. And I have seen the same person buy Kindresser (a detective novel) and Morphoses (an anthology of fantasy stories) at a Salon du livre.

Guillaume Houle: Our main reader base, fans of Québecois sf and fantasy, will buy almost everything we publish. Occasional readers are willing to try two or three different genres. Those who buy a book just because they know the author tend to confine themselves to a single title.

Q: Talk to me a bit about “l’Inconnu” . . . what the the similarities between this style and Weird or Slipstream in anglophone fantastic literature?

Jonathan Reynolds: This genre seemed to us to be an entry point for manuscripts that we are interested in but which do not fit into other categories. To be honest, I don’t know the Weird or Slipstream styles, because I don’t read many books in English.

Guillaume Houle: We haven’t explored “l’Inconnu” much, but one could say that it resembles Slipstream in the sense that, as Jonathan said, it opens the door to manuscripts that are difficult to categorise.

Q:  How did you develop the idea for your Nova series?

Jonathan Reynolds: It was Guillaume Houle’s idea to create a collection to publish short stories without having to collect them in an anthology.

Guillaume Houle: I was working in a supermarket at the time, a job where the mind, having nothing to do, reflects constantly. I had an idea to make a collection, “le Librio”, for two euro each, making the classics of literature accessible for one low price. I also thought of the collection of the Thousand and One Nights which I worked on when I was at the book distributor SOCADIS.

The difference is that these would be by new writers, and targeted first and foremost for Salons du livre, where you can attract hesitant but curious readers with a book at a low price: $5.

Q : What are your plans for ebooks?

Jonathan Reynolds: We are presently working on converting our books to electronic formats. The novella La légende de McNeil is already available in PDF and epub.

Guillaume Houle: We are publishing, slowly but surely, more ebooks. They will be released via our distributor, Prologue Numérique, and on the websites of resellers in Québec, Canada, and eventually the United States.

Q: How might short fiction be uniquely well suited to the needs of small publishing houses?

Jonathan Reynolds: We were first inspired to start this house because we both like reading short stories.

Guillaume Houle: I also like to think that we train new Québecois authors of sf and the fantastic. And for me it is essential that a new author start in with short forms before trying long ones. This allows them to develop their capabilities, their writing, and their critical sense, as well as a network of readers.


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