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I met Mike Macartney, publisher and engineer, in May this year when he added his 6 scientists to my journal blog post about 6 scientists who “rocked my world”.  He added  the fascinating applied scientists: Isaac Newton, John Von Neumann, Jonas Salk, Lewis Leakey and Nikola Tesla. Reading his comment, I thought this was someone I should try to get to know a little better.

Mike Macartney’s publishing company is Shoot Your Eye Out Publishing, set up in 2010. I read and loved his recent release The Flower Daughter by author K R Lobel, an epic battle between the sexes for independence and earthly power.

He has graciously agreed to an interview here, about how he’s come from engineering to publishing and what kind of authors he looks for, as a new publisher.

Publisher Interview

Q: Going from engineering spaceships and electric cars to publishing is quite a trip. How did you arrive at publishing from an engineering background?

A: I came to science as a career in 5th grade when my Mormon teacher had me bring my chemistry set to class. But that is another story.

In High school I was deciding between science and engineering, but also liked writing. College and grad school was all engineering with a switch from electrical engineering to mechanical, and a brief flirtation with changing to geology as a major. The history of the Earth is truly a mesmerizing tale, no novel can touch it.

I have written hundreds of proposals, which are stories each in their own, and have struggled to get the engineers who worked for me to write their reports and analyses in readable and persuasive prose.

Aerospace, Silicon Valley, electric vehicles – all are a vision, a story, a telling of how you get there, and the ladders of imagination you have to build on the way. Silicon Valley was started because of the technology story it promised, the greed, money, and arrogance are other, darker stories that came later.

Maybe all of that leads to publishing.

Q: Does being in publishing today compare with your experience with technology partnering in Silicon Valley during the 1990s?

A: In the mid 90s I took a group of Russian scientists to see the Silicon Graphics demo room. SGI was operating Silicon Studios and had a high speed data line to Industrial Light and Magic in Marin, George Lucas’ company, at the time. Much of the nascent Hollywood Computer Graphic Image technology was all built on purple SGI machines then. SGI was predicting that expensive live actors would be replaced with computer images and had visitors sit in a chair to have their face and head mapped with a laser for digital “actor” creation.

Today CGI is an overused mainstay of Hollywood and SGI is almost out of business. Its business has been replaced by an explosion of processing power in other hardware, ubiquitous high speed wireless networks everywhere, and much improved software.

Publishing is where SGI was in 1995. It is being disintermediated by the Internet, digital technology, and consumer driven computer-cloud based libraries and bookstores. What it becomes is still up for grabs. The risk is that the quality of books and writing will become diluted, like movies with too much CGI and worn out plot lines. People will move away from it then, like they are doing with Hollywood and TV today.

Q: How did you chose the name for your new publishing company, Shoot Your Eye Out Publishing?

A: Hahaha, that may go back to the place where I took my chemistry set. Jack Vermillion, “Shoot Your Eye Out Jack.” “The West,” the book that is always closing.

Q: Did you study writing or publishing prior to starting your own small publishing business?

A: I took a technical writing class at work once.

I wrote a book in 2005 about alternative Energy and went through the traditional publishing exercise. I learned all about “platforms” and editors, agents, book proposals, and what a small “who you know” world publishing was. It was an entertainment business that controlled both ends of its supply chain completely, very much like Hollywood in that regard.

That supply chain is broken at both ends now and the publishers that survive will have to change their delivery systems and content to match the world the way it is now.

Q: As a publisher, you’ve been very selective in choosing authors – from John Milton to Mark Jameson and KR Lobel. How do you chose a new author to publish?

A: I choose the story first and decide if the author has enough life experience and depth to tell it. The writing can always be fixed, but the story and what the author brings to it can’t be faked – and when it is it shows.

The engineer in me looks for content and information in writing, and who the author is. Getting a book from “The End” to edited, re-written, edited, re-written, formatted, changed, … is a very painful process and the author has to have the “grit” to get through all of that.

Q: You’ve written advice on book proposals for authors; when is sending in the proposal a good idea?

Every author should write a book proposal for their work and submit it to somebody, sometime. That is part of learning what your book is about and if somebody will sell it. It also teaches authors how much of their work they have to give away to others to get it sold.

An author might wish to write their own proposal first and then find an agent second, if that is what they want to do. The agent’s customer is the publisher not the author. The more the author knows about the work and its value the better the relationship with the agent and publishers will turn out, and the more control the author will have.

Q: Can you tell readers a little bit about how you designed your new book, Cassandra’s Roadhouse?

A: I wanted Cassandra’s Roadhouse to be a promotional book of short stories and writing by some of my authors and others that I knew.

The main requirement was good writing and good stories from different genres. Hopefully readers will think that it was successful at that.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: My biggest challenge is finding interesting authors and building the business. 2012 will be a year to find good sales channels and marketers to balance the “engineer” side of the business.

Q: Where can readers find your new books, as eBooks and print editions?

A: They are available on IBooks, B&N, and Amazon. Print versions are available through Amazon. The books can also be seen at the publisher’s site here.

Q: How can prospective authors submit to Shoot Your Eye Out?

A: Please follow the “submissions” guidelines at the site or contact me directly through the contact form. Just write a note and see where it goes from there.

Thanks to Mike Macartney from Shoot Your Eye Out for the interview. He’s convinced me to think about a book proposal as an author.

Q: A question for readers, have you ever submitted your work to a publisher? Have you written a book proposal?

Please leave a comment in the open box below, to share your experiences with readers. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

Related Links

Publisher website:http://www.syeopub.com/

Twitter: @ShootEyeOut

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Shoot-Your-Eye-Out-Publishing/164919843554977

Cassandra’s Roadhouse, an eBook collection of short stories by published and unpublished authors, from 21 to 60. Told by scientists, radio announcers, college students, consultants, government agents, accountants and chemists. Like the stories told in a bar told over a drink with friends, the stories are about life, love, adventure, and dreams. Available free at: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/cassandras-roadhouse/id486877814?mt=11&ls=1