On this month's Special Page:

Crystal Lake founder Joe Mynhardt tells us why he finds the world of publishing so rewarding


Lucas Paris
John Skipp
Tim Waggoner
JG Faherty
James Longmore

joe mynhardt 2

Joe Mynhardt is a Bram Stoker Award-winning South African publisher, editor, and mentor. He is the owner and CEO of Crystal Lake Publishing, founded in 2012. He has edited and published short stories, novellas, interviews, and essays by numerous writers including Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Stephen King, Charlaine Harris, Ramsey Campbell, Elizabeth Massie, Lisa Morton, and many more. In 2017, Joe started a coalition of small press publishers to support both each other and their authors.

An interview with Crystal Lake's publisher Joe Mynhardt

by Trish Wilson

TRISH WILSON: What drew you to horror?

JOE MYNHARDT: I can't recall a specific date or occurrence that made me realize how cool horror is. It's just always been there. My earliest memories of horror are of sneaking out of my room to watch Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th over my parents' shoulders. Unfortunately I shared a room with my sister, so she'd always come and snitch on me. I was always intrigued by the covers on horror books (I went to the library with my mom every Friday), and even movie posters and album covers for bands like Iron Maiden. My sister was also an avid reader, and I'd always snatch her Stephen King books. IT and Dracula were the first novels I ever read. Since English is my 2nd language, I actually learned how to read English through the horror books she had lying around.

So when I first started writing and publishing, it wasn't even a question about what genre to focus on. I just love the idea of stories being able to go beyond the boundaries of reality. 

Another possibility might be attributed to my childhood hero, Bruce Lee. He was bullied in school, and had to learn how to fight. He was scared of losing again and even fighting in general, and pushed himself to become better, even learning how to box. As an adult, he said that we're scared of what we don't understand, so the more time we spend with it and get to know it, the less scared we'll become.

TRISH WILSON: You work as a publisher, writer, and editor. Which of those three appeals to you the most?

JOE MYNHARDT: Definitely the publisher part. The only time I write these days is when I work on marketing text or book descriptions, where I mostly just write to fit in metadata and keywords. I jump in as editor from time to time, when our editors are a bit stretched or I need to save a bit of money for a big project that's coming up. But most of my time and effort goes into being a publisher. Being a promoter for the company, the authors, and the books. It can pretty much be summed up as being a wedding planner with two weddings a month. But that's only book releases. I also run our Patreon page, newsletter, social media pages, etc. Lots of mentoring and working with authors, as well. Emails also take up a big part of my day. Not a big fan of emails, but so many great opportunities have come my way via email.

Why do I prefer the publishing part? I find it the most rewarding. Plus, I've always had a natural instinct for business. I have to give kudos to my dad for that talent. He recently passed away, and I've really been focused on what made us similar and what we had in common: a love for music (especially those that tell stories), a few health issues, and a mind that pretty much works like an idea factory.

TRISH WILSON: How did you come to found Crystal Lake Publishing?

JOE MYNHARDT: It started with the idea of self-publishing a few previously published short stories in eBook format. At that point I had a lot of shorts published, and since I had retained or regained a lot of the rights, it seemed the most opportune move at that point in my career. 

But, to sell on Amazon and other online retailers, I needed to register a company name with the IRS in America (which was a 20 minute phone call to Philadelphia and a couple of forms to complete). You can sell online without the EIN number they provide, but then you'll lose an additional 30% royalties. 

I brainstormed name ideas for a few days, looking for something that's both professional and not limited to just the horror genre. One night, my wife and I simultaneously shouted out Crystal Lake (Friday the 13th), and there was no turning back. Looking back, publishing my own book helped to learn a bit about the business. After enjoying the process of putting out my book (working with editors and an artist etc.), I decided that the business side is where I wanted to be, so I started compiling my first anthology, made up of authors I'd met or worked with up to that point. This all happened in 2012, with the anthology, For the Night is Dark, being published March of 2013. And the rest is history.

TRISH WILSON: What makes Crystal Lake Publishing different from other horror publishers? What should writers and readers look for when researching your publishing house?

JOE MYNHARDT: I want Crystal Lake Publishing to achieve a balance between professionalism and approachability. Someone looking at us for the first time needs to see professionalism and a good brand. After a while, I want that author or reader to know that we truly care about them. Lots of places say this, but we let our actions speak. We aim to help all authors, editors, and industry professionals. We're also known for pairing young talent with the legends, giving new talent an opportunity, and award-winning fiction.

I believe that as long as we focus first on the satisfaction of the reader/author, the profit aspect will take care of itself. Whenever I focused on money first, the project lacked passion and thereby suffered for it. Unfortunately I've seen many presses close down because they only focused on passion and love of the genre. This is still a business, and I'll always run it with the mindset of balance, being proactive, and longevity in an ever-changing landscape. 

TRISH WILSON: Tell me about the Author's Journey course you are personally going to offer young and up-and-coming writers.

(Trish's note: The Author's Journey launched on June 15. Feel free to follow the link below for more information. The Author's Journey will be offered again in 2023.)

A few months ago I reached out to a few dozen authors about launching The Crystal Lake Academy, which will consist of a platform that offers free and paid options for online workshops. We're still compiling all those workshops, but to get the ball rolling, I started The Author's Journey project.

With the help of several editors (one editor for every 10 students), we want to facilitate the writing journey of authors for three months (from June 15th to September 15th), improving their craft and helping them get a short story or manuscript ready for submission. Although not recommended to absolute newbies, it is for authors at any stage of their writing journey. When we're done, we'll personally consider each short story for possible publication, and we'll offer a first-look option for those who worked on manuscripts, for possible publication by Crystal Lake Publishing.

All the information about this course will work, and what exactly we offer, can be found on the purchase page: https://www.crystallakepub.com/product/the-authors-journey/

TRISH WILSON: I see more and more authors and publishers crowdfunding by using Kickstarter and Patreon to promote their works and raise money. How have Kickstarter and Patreon worked out for you? What does your Patreon offer?

JOE MYNHARDT: Patreon is absolutely amazing. If you have enough content to share, this is the way to go. As a press, we're able to share behind the scenes content, early drafts/excerpts, stories, interviews, and On Writing content for authors. It's pretty much what a press would have shared via a blog ten years ago. But this time it's extra content for those who are willing to pay for extra content. We still share stuff via our newsletter, but not nearly as much or as in-depth. We also have writing exercises, guest authors, video readings, Q+A sessions, and we also listen to our patrons regarding upcoming projects or the direction Crystal Lake is going.

A few years ago the professional payment that most authors requested skyrocketed from 5c a word to 8c a word. As a small press, it quickly became too risky publish anthologies. We have some amazing anthologies at Crystal Lake, and lots of award-winners, but we also have anthologies that did not make a profit. Paying between $6k and $15k for an anthology, that can be a death blow to a small press. My job is to make sure that nothing puts Crystal Lake at risk, so when editors started pitching crowdfunding as a way to pay the authors, I agreed and offered the editors a bigger royalty share for their effort. But I don't see us doing more than two of these campaigns/anthologies per year. 

TRISH WILSON: Tell me more about your Dark Tides series which launched in August. I understand there will be three novellas of the same theme, written by different authors. Themes include Weird Westerns, Sherlock Holmes, Body Horror, Murder Mysteries, Cosmic Horror, Celtic Mysteries, etc. There will be between 15 and 25 volumes in the series. 

JOE MYNHARDT: I've always been a fan of novellas, and would love to create a new market for them. So I decided to group authors together in one series, but various volumes with different themes. The entire series will have a similar look, so they'll look amazing as a paperback or hardcover collection. Each book has three authors involved, and sometimes the stories will even be set in the same universe, with characters intersected between the stories. 

I've approached quite a few authors I've always wanted to work with. I grouped some of them together according to their strongest sub-genre, but some authors were allowed to invite their own co-authors. Names included in the series (lots still to come) include Chad Lutzke, Robert Ford, John Boden, Angela Yuriko Smith, R. B. Wood, Michael Burke, Jess Landry, Sofia Ajram, Nadia Bulkin, Kevin Lucia, Jason Parent, Jeremy Bates, Lucy A. Snyder, Lisa Morton, Kate Maruyama, Michael Bailey, James Aquilone, Michael Knost, David Boop, Naching T. Kassa, John Linwood Grant, Nick Kolakowski, Tom Deady, Glenn Rolfe, JS Breukelaar, Aaron Dries, Kaaron Warren, Mark Allan Gunnells, and Brandon Ford.

This series launched at the end of August, after which we'll publish two volumes per month to keep the momentum going.

TRISH WILSON: Crystal Lake has published many anthologies including C.H.U.D. Lives! A Tribute Anthology and Classic Monsters Unleashed. Your newest project is Shakespeare Unleashed, whose Kickstarter funded in a little over one hour. Tell me about it.

JOE MYNHARDT: As the sequel to Classic Monsters Unleashed, Shakespeare Unleashed will be edited by James Aquilone and published by Monstrous Books and Crystal Lake Publishing. This is an anthology of horror short stories and sonnets inspired by the Bard's works. There's even a comic book.

The book is scheduled to be released in April, 2023. The Kickstarter has been met, but you may find more information on Shakespeare Unleashed at this link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/manbomb/shakespeare-unleashed.

TRISH WILSON: Below are Crystal Lake Publishing's social media links, Patreon, and the publisher's web site link. Make sure you visit the Kickstarter for Crystal Lake Publishing's new anthology, "Never Wake: An Anthology of Dream Horror". https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1921590194/never-wake-an-anthology-of-dream-horror

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Crystallakepublishing
Twitter: https://twitter.com/crystallakepub
Web site: https://www.crystallakepub.com
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/CLP