Saturday, October 20, 2012

Q&A with David L. Felts of SFReader

We recently got the chance for a Q&A with David L. Felts,
owner/webmaster for
He's recently redesigned the
community forums at SRFReader. Our thanks to Dave for sharing his
insights with us.

Q: Hi, Dave. You ran your own independent science fiction publishing
house, Maelstrom, and are now the owner/webmaster for We'd like to learn from your experiences as a publisher,
writer, and promoter of science fiction and fantasy writing.  Let's
start with your experiences at Maelstrom.

Q. What kind of fiction did you publish at Maelstrom? (Short stories,
novellas, novels, etc.?)

A. I published short fiction, with a fairly firm 5,000 word limit,
although I do think I had one or two that went a bit over.

Q. Did you publish hardcopy or electronic, or both?

A. Maelstrom was a hardcopy magazine. Hardcopy only. This was back in
the late 90s, and being published in the Internet didn’t have much
legitimacy yet. I don’t think SFWA even considered Internet
publication to qualify as “publication,” regardless of pay rate.

Q. How did you get stories, art, and book reviews?

A. I only accepted snail mail submissions. The only artwork was the cover.

Q. Were/are you a member of SFWA? Was Maelstrom an SFWA-professional
approved publication? If so, what are the advantages of SFWA

A. Maelstrom didn’t pay professional rate and was considered a
“semi-pro” magazine. I was a member of the SFWA, but as a writer, not
a publisher.

Q. How would you compare and contrast professional versus
semiprofessional markets? Any advice for aspiring writers and

A. I’m afraid I haven’t kept up much with the state of the market, but
I do know there are far fewer professional level publications these
days, and also that the pay rate required to be considered a
professional has gone from 3 cents per word to 5. There are, however,
a lot more Internet and electronic opportunities for writers. I think
the market is slowly but surely shifting away from big publishing
houses and big releases. I’ve read stories of writers doing well for
themselves publishing their own work in electronic format, like for
the Kindle. We’re definitely moving toward the market establishing its
own definition of quality, and not the agents and traditional
publishers. From that perspective, I encourage new writers to forgo the
whole submit to the slush pile process that’s been the standard for so
long. Write and learn how to format what you write for Kindle and
other electronic platforms.

Q. How long was Maelstrom in business?

A. I ran the magazine for 2 years.

Q. Why did you decide to close Maelstrom?

A. It took a lot of time and not a small amount of money, I was
changing careers, and I figured 8 issues was good enough.

Q. Did you make money? Any advice on how to make a living as a writer
or publisher?

A. No, Maelstrom could have been considered a hobby. As sure, while it
did cost money to run, it was cheaper than having a hobby involving
radio controlled cars for example.

Q. Did you or any of your authors win any awards?

A. I think one of the stories I published earned an honorable mention
Datlow’s Year’s Best, but I couldn't tell you what it was any longer.

Q. What were a few of your favorite experiences as a publisher?

A. I enjoyed getting a story that, in my opinion, was almost there,
and being able to provide feedback that authors thought made their
work better. I know how exciting it is to get a story selected for
publication, so telling an author I wanted their story was always fun.

Q. If Maelstrom was hardcopy-only, did you ever consider reincarnation
as an e-publisher? Do you retain any rights to some or all of the
stories Maelstrom published? What would be the pros and cons or other

A. I’ve considered dipping my toe into fiction publishing again, but
it wouldn’t be hardcopy or another iteration of Maelstrom. It would
be an online effort. For Maelstrom, I purchased First Publication
Rights, so all those stories still belong to their authors.

Q. Let's talk about

Q. It must have been a big change from being a publisher to running an
SF review/forums website. When did you start SFReader, and what is its

A. SFReader came about as a result of my desire to teach myself web
programming. I liked to read, and I wanted to program, so I figured
I’d build a site that posted book reviews from a database. I began
building SFReader in 2001 and got it online in early 2002. By the end
if it, I’d learned Classic ASP (Active Server Pages) and the basic of
database programming and design.

Q. You recently conducted a major redesign of's forums. There
are a number of science fiction/fantasy forums out
there. What are some features that you feel will make the new stand out (types of forums, etc.)?

A. I’m trying to brand SFReader as a destination for fans, writers,
and publishers of Speculative Fiction. As the electronic publishing
landscape continues to expand, there will be a big advantage to
writers who engage their fans directly. I’m hope SFReader can be one
of those avenues. My main goal, however, is to simply support a genre
I love and provide a place for like-minded people to hang out.

Q. How can authors/publishers get reviews on your site?

A. The guidelines for getting reviewed are available on the site: If you want to
write reviews, simply join and post them. I always keep an eye out for
well done member reviews. When I find one, I promote it to the front
page of the site. If you want to be a reviewer, contact me through the
site and I’ll get you in touch with Mike Griffiths, SFReader’s review
editor. “Official” SFReader reviewers don’t get paid, but they do get
free books!

Q. You are a writer yourself. How do you decide what markets to submit
to? Why did you decide to submit a story to Third Flatiron, a
fledgling e-publisher?

A. Alas, I’m afraid I don’t write any more. I have a largish inventory
of “trunk” stories though. When I see an opportunity that might match
one of my stories, I pull it out and try it. The theme of the Flatiron
war anthology matched a tale I thought was pretty good, so I sent it
off. I was very pleased to get an acceptance and the chance to tell my
tale to a few eager readers. But I haven’t written anything new in
quite some time now.

A. I got into writing because I had stories to tell. I wasn’t one of
those writers writing for myself; I was writing for others, and the
frustration of not being able to reach them began to outweigh the
enjoyment I got from writing. I felt like the proverbial story teller
perched on the log by the fire spinning my yarns to nothing but the
empty night. So I left it behind.

A. With the rapid changes in the industry and the new opportunities
presented by electronic publishing, it might be I could find an
audience now, so that is in the back of my mind.

Q. Thanks for talking with us Dave, and best of luck with the new
features of!

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