Barry Skelhorn might not be a household name as of today, but it will certainly be one day – and he’s going to bring his Sanitarium Magazine with him. The magazine, which is about launch its 40th issue, is all about horror. It started out as a an idea for something that the market was missing – a published magazine for up and coming authors to get their work noticed. Back in 2012 Barry contacted me about a Rocket Hub campaign I had going – and from there I started writing reviews and conducting interviews for Sanitarium. I owe Barry a lot – he helped me in a time of a need, and it’s something I’ll never forget. Not only is he a talented writer, editor, and creator, he’s just simply one Hell of a good guy. Check out the interview below.
Q: Sanitarium has risen in the ranks of horror magazines in the past couple of years. Tell us how the idea came to fruition, who else was involved in the idea from the beginning, and what sort of support did you have from either friends and family, or co-creators?
Sanitarium came about as I was trying to find collected short stories that we’re not a in one theme. Yes there were anthologies (and really good ones at that) that I could pick up from Amazon and a few zines but there wasn’t anything (that I could find) that gave a voice to the up and coming writers.
So in the autumn of 2012 I put the word out that I was looking for said writers to submit to the fledgling magazine that would become Sanitarium. I knew the look that I was going for and luckily I was ok at Photoshop and InDesign but it was a baptism by fire until the first issue was released.
As for support I have some really great people about me as I was launching, a few seasoned pro’s gave me their time for interviews and feedback on the magazine.
Q: Now that we’ve touched on support, what sort of obstacles did you face when getting the magazine up and running? Were you ever worried that it wouldn’t pick up, or that you wouldn’t have the submissions to carry a magazine of this nature?
From day one (and still to this day) we are still fighting for every eyeball that comes across us. After the initial setup it was time that was the currency, working long into the night trying to get the magazine to work on Kindle, working to a strict deadline that I never want to go over – these things drive me day in and day out to put out the best version of the magazine as possible.
Yes it was a struggle but as we have moved past the dreaded 24 month period, we are getting more and more people to look at the back catalogue* and pick up a subscription here and there.
As an aside I have to add, if you are looking to start a magazine today – just do it. However be warned – it is hard work and if you piss of your readers or contributors with delay after delay for the first issue then maybe this isn’t for you (sorry but that is one of the hard facts you need to know from the beginning).
Q: People seem to keep coming back for more in terms of submissions. I’ve noticed a few authors tend to pop up more than once with their stories, is this something you like to do to keep a continuity and familiarity with subscribers? Or is it just that they’re that good you just can’t keep them out?
As a rule I open a new submission and read from the start (where else would you being right?) of the story, I don’t read the cover letter, the title or the name – just the story.
This way, if the story grabs me, then it is marked as a re-read for typo’s etc. This way a few writers have hit the mark early on like Luke Tarzian and Rage of the Stage writer James S. But ultimately it is done this was to keep it fair so I didn’t get star stuck when I read a name that I was familiar with.
Q: Speaking about submissions, how has the process changed from day one to today? Has there been much of a change in how you request submissions? How many submissions, on average, would you say you receive per issue? And what can people expect should they be fortunate enough to be selected?
The submissions used to be sent to a single email address and then read from there, we then moved (very short lived though) to using submittable but the $2 fee for contributing smacked in the face of what we are trying to achieve so we killed that and came up with the bespoke submissions manager that we have used for over 18 months now.
As for the reading the team that we have is great, we are lucky to have such talented writers reading for us. The team is about 10 strong and each and every one of them brings something new to the table.
Another submission set that we have is the novella section, these are picked up by a member of the team, read and suggested edits are made. We have put out the first (of hopefully many) novella’s – Mark Farley’s Grans and Ammo edited by Scarlett R. Algee and the cover by Kevin Spencer was released in October.
We are following this up with Bill Soldan’s The Changing Key which is just going through the cover process at the moment.
However to bring it back to the second part of the question, as we are open 365 day of the year for submissions we are always planning ahead. Starting in 2016 we will be contacting people 3 months in advance to let them know if they made it in or not. As we don’t have a set theme we can move stories around so there is a fair weight of different sub-genres covered in each issue.
Q: A magazine of this size has a lot of collaboration that goes into it. I know there were a few different people in charge of a few different sections, but can you tell us about how you came across the people currently on staff, what your relationship with them is like, and how do they make the world of Sanitarium spin around?
We had (like yourself) and continue to have great writers who are willing to give up their time to us, as at the moment we do not have the budget to pay a large amount to the writers and artists. This WILL change in 2016 as we are putting a lot of work into the iPad custom edition which will (we hope anyway) bring the magazine to life with interactive sections, video and much more.
The great thing about this industry is everyone wants to see it succeed; yes we want to be best sellers or top grossing movies for the year. But to get there, you need friends to help you along the way – for me anyway. I personally have subscriptions to Nightmare Magazine, Rue Morgue, Black Static and the Horror Zine, not to spy but to embrace what they are offering to the community.
Q: What’s your passion behind horror and writing? You’re an author yourself, so if you wouldn’t mind telling us about your other works, and why you ultimately chose to do an anthology style magazine monthly?
I have indeed dabbled in short fiction and these collections can be found on Amazon, but I feel my passion is for curating stories and articles for others to enjoy.
They say you should build for others and not for yourself, and maybe they are right. But I really wanted this style of magazine to arrive in the post or on my device every month, so if no one else was publishing it – why not me?
As for why monthly? Well that in itself is a challenge, I work full time in IT Support in the UK so my evenings are spent reading and hunting down new items to share with our readers. We are about to put out the 40th issue this month – 40th!
Q: Lastly, what plans do you have for Sanitarium? Print/digital writing is just one medium, do you have plans for maybe a podcast, or a youtube channel in the future? I think everybody is excited to see what the future holds, so a sneak peak would be pretty awesome!
Sanitarium Magazine has had a few tweaks over the past 3 years and of course there will be a few more. But it wasn’t until I was sitting down to dinner with the friend who was trying to get into the blogging that it hit me. Sanitarium Magazine started out as a place for up and coming writers to be seen, so why not broaden the reach from horror fiction and dark verse to music, arts and film.
This will allow us to get to those, whose passion has them working every weekend on that killer short film that will shock everyone, or the make-up artist who works on great props and showcases how it is done on YouTube to the cello player who is re-mixing with synth to bring a score together.
So moving into 2016 we are aiming to be the place to go to read about indie projects within the horror industry.
We all have to start somewhere so let’s start together and watch this space.
Thank you for your time Casey.
And thank you, Barry. As you can see, he’s an incredibly hard working individual. His drive and passion for the genre is next to none, and it shows with Sanitarium going strong for three years now. If you’re a fan of horror, I would highly suggest picking up a past issue, and get yourself a subscription. Not only do you get quality entertainment, but you’d be supporting authors and creators looking to make their way in this crazy creative world in which we live. Be a part of something, and if you fancy it, send in a submission. You never know.
Also, check out Sanitarium Magazine Here.