Interview with Dom McDermott

The Advent of Winter: Interview with Dom McDermott

It’s our pleasure to host Dom McDermott, SFF YouTuber, proofreader and the organizing mastermind behind The Advent of Winter anthology. Today we are talking about reviewing, SPFBO, and of course the birth of the anthology. If you missed out on the Kickstarter campaign, fear not, the anthology will be available later on!

Meet the Author
Dom McDermott

Dom McDermott is one of those lucky people who get paid to do what they love – in his case, reading. He is a full-time proofreader working primarily with self-published fantasy and science fiction authors. He has also worked on titles for the independent publisher Angry Robot. In his free time, Dom is a reviewer of the books he reads, hosting a YouTube channel to talk about the latest strange and fantastical worlds he has gotten lost in. He lives in Hampshire, on the south coast of England, with his wife and daughter, and two cats.

Connect with Dom McDermott

About the Book
The Advent of Winter edited by Dom McDermott

24 Authors, 24 Stories, 1 Unique Advent Calendar

Step into the magical realms of “The Advent of Winter,” where twenty-four self-published authors craft enchanting tales that will transport you to a realm of frost-kissed wonders. This winter-themed fantasy anthology invites you to journey through December, one captivating story at a time.

With each story, you’ll discover a new world, a new adventure, and a new facet of the season. From tales of joy and beauty that warm your heart to stories filled with danger and horror that send shivers down your spine, “The Advent of Winter” is a treasure trove of diverse narratives.

Let these evocative tales wrap you in the spirit of the season, as you explore the many faces of winter’s magic. Whether you’re seeking the comfort of familiar traditions or the thrill of unexpected surprises, this anthology will make your December days truly enchanting.

Welcome to the Asylum, Dom! Take a seat by the fire, have a glass of beverage of your choice and tell us something about yourself that’s not in your bio!

Thank you for having me. And thank you for giving me the opportunity to remove something from my bio just so I can talk about it here!

What can I say? I serve to please ????

No really, I’ll go with an easy one instead – I love to cook. I used to alternate cooking duties with my wife, but took on her evenings as well when she was pregnant with our daughter, and since then I’ve done almost all the cooking for the family. I find it quite therapeutic and love throwing together something new and having it (hopefully) come out tasting great! 

Our paths didn’t cross much before, so I’m curious about your background story when it comes to reviewing. How did you end up in the SFF community? Why YouTube and not a blog? Did anyone inspire you?

I’ve always read SFF – in fact I read nothing but fantasy for about twenty years, before eventually expanding into sci-fi as well. As with many people, I started getting more involved during our pandemic lockdowns, when I set up an Instagram account. I then had some people persuade me to start up a YouTube channel and just took the plunge. I actually did have a blog originally, over ten years ago, but I didn’t do enough (or want to do enough) to make something of it. That’s where I really started; John Gwynne released Malice and I won a hardcover copy – I decided then that I would pay that back by writing a review for it and I kept going from there. So I guess you could say that John Gwynne was my inspiration!

Ha! Our stories are quite similar. I decided to take the plunge into blogging when I had two ARCs landing in my lap back in 2018 from indie authors. I wanted to help spread the word. Even if I had absolutely no audience back then.
You are a supporter of indie authors yourself. Who was your first introduction to indies? What made you support them as you do?

Yeah, I love the indie community and many of my favourite books have been self-published. I just love the freedom that you get from an indie title – there’s no gatekeeper telling the author their ideas won’t sell, and as a result, I tend to find that many indie books just feel like they have more heart and soul to them. My first proper introduction to indie SFF was The Sword of Kaigen (M.L. Wang) which I read as a buddy read with some friends on Discord. I can’t remember now what prompted it, but at around the same time (I think it was literally the next book) I read Voice of War by Zack Argyle, and that’s what really set me on this journey.

Yeah, The Sword of Kaigen really made the rounds back then, especially when it became an SPFBO 4 finalist (and later winner). Same for Voice of War a year later. It didn’t win, but did really well in the competition.
If someone wanted to start a YouTube channel, what advice would you give them? What were your challenges when you started, and how did you overcome them?

I think the key thing is that there isn’t necessarily a “winning formula” to follow. You just have to do it for the right reasons, and do what you love. For “BookTube” there are a variety of “staple” videos – TBRs, wrap-ups, hauls and unhauls, that kind of thing – but you don’t have to do any of them, you just need to do what you want. The minute it becomes a chore, and you don’t enjoy doing it, you should stop, or at least take a break. Also, you don’t need to spend money on finding out if a YouTube channel is right for you. Most phones these days have a perfectly adequate video camera, and even if the video itself is not perfect, so long as the sound is fine, you’re all set.

For me, when I started my channel, my main challenge was in getting something I was happy with. I’m an introvert, so getting on camera and talking, even about something I’m passionate about, was (still is) way out of my comfort zone. I recorded a couple of sample videos that I knew I would never upload anywhere, just to get a bit of a feel for it, and then just went for it.

I totally respect that. I hate talking in general, so I avoid all cameras like the plague. I feel more comfortable with typing, and I kind of envy those who can do YouTube. I also agree with you about taking a break when it starts feeling like a chore. Boy, do I have feelings on that one ????
What would you say are the pros and cons of reviewing/blogging?

It’s a difficult one. I would certainly say that the access I get is fantastic – with review copies and advance copies of new releases, but also in getting to know authors and other readers and reviewers. On the flip side, sometimes I have to disappoint people. I only read a book if I’m genuinely interested in it, so I would say I decline more review offers than I accept and I have to respond and tell an author I don’t think their book is for me.

On a professional level, those contacts I’ve made through being an active member of the SFF reviewing community have also been great for my business. I’ve been fortunate to work on books for Palmer Pickering, Zack Argyle, Tori Tecken, Michael S. Jackson, Phil Williams, James Lloyd Dulin and more, and I also got asked to work with Angry Robot, so I’ve proofread books like The Judas Blossom, Chasm, Gogmagog, and Toxxic for them.

That’s pretty cool!
I believe this year was your second when you took part in SPFBO as a judge. How did you find the experience? I know you’ve been following the competition before. How did you learn about it? What do you think it should or shouldn’t do differently? What do you think it makes it popular?

I actually first learnt about SPFBO on Reddit, when Mark Lawrence put out the initial call for blogs for what would be SPFBO1. I’ve only followed it closely the last few years though. It’s a fantastic competition and I love how so many authors have gained more exposure as a result of people talking about their book in relation to SPFBO. I personally have had a great experience twice now, with two really good batches of books to read for Team Bookborn (and picking her finalist both times!), but I know I’ve been lucky in being allocated books that I know should work well for me.

Being an established competition, and having such a great presence in the community are the two things that I think really work for SPFBO in terms of its popularity. Mark is a great advocate for self-publishing and having a big name not only attached to it, but actively involved, really helps. For me, I wouldn’t really change much (why change it if it isn’t broken?) but there are probably only two things I can think of – one is the million-dollar question: how would it be possible to give more people a chance to enter, without expanding it beyond the current 300-book level? The second is something I’ve seen a couple of times with our books for Team Bookborn, which is follow-up books that are actively listed as “book 2” in a series and follow on from “book 1” but are entered into the competition as standalones. I’d much prefer to see a debut author take that place instead.

You recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign for an anthology titled THE ADVENT OF WINTER. Tell me a bit about it! How did you come up with the idea and what it’s all about?

Yes, this has been my life for the last little while! I’m so overjoyed with how the anthology has been received and how well the Kickstarter performed. It’s an “advent calendar of short stories” – last year I was talking about advent calendars and I thought it would be a good idea to find 24 short stories and read one each day during advent. The idea kind of snowballed from there, really. So now I have 24 self-published fantasy authors who have all written a new story for the collection. These will go out by email daily from December 1st, and then we’re also putting together a gorgeous hardcover (and an ebook) featuring all of the stories.

How did you pick the authors who contributed short stories to the anthology? Did you have a concept in mind?

I wanted a good mix of authors, so I just put together a “wishlist” and went through that alternating male and female to get roughly a 50/50 split. I made sure that there was a range of experience, so we have some pretty big names, and alongside them, some “smaller” names who will hopefully find some new fans as a result of the anthology.

Being an advent calendar, I wanted a theme of winter, but otherwise left it largely up to the authors – so long as it was a fantasy story. As a result, I have some new settings, and some existing settings as well. Among others, the stories will revisit Tim Hardie’s Brotherhood of the Eagle, T.L. Greylock’s Godforged Chronicles, Quenby Olsen’s Miss Percy, and Ryan Cahill’s The Bound and the Broken. There will then be first looks at a couple of new series, and I won’t steal the authors’ thunder by spoiling those, but since it’s already been advertised, there’s a short story from Zack Argyle’s new Symphony in the Skies series as well.

Oooh! Sounds intriguing!
What were the challenges of putting together an anthology and then a Kickstarter campaign? Did you do everything by yourself or did you have help/advice from others?

I’ve never published a book before, so getting everything together was pretty difficult, to be honest. Fortunately, I had a great bunch of authors who have helped with input, advice, contacts, etc. The first thing I did was sit down for a chat with Virginia McClain, who had put together The Alchemy of Sorrow, and I got some useful tips there. The main thing for me was trying to juggle 24 authors who are all on different timeframes for their writing (as well as actual timezones), while also looking at the print side of it, and working full-time too! I did all the admin side of the Kickstarter, but as well as the support and advice from the authors, I also had a great team of beta readers for the stories, and The Broken Binding have been my saviours in terms of distribution, and also as a link to the printers.

I certainly don’t envy the amount of work and time that went into this…
Now the Kickstarter campaign is over, how could someone who only hears about it, get their hands on the short stories, and then the book later on? Will it be available online somewhere?

Yes, the plan is for the print and digital anthologies to go on general sale once all the Kickstarter rewards have been fulfilled. The short stories won’t be available individually, however they remain the property of the authors, so I know some may be shared in newsletters, for instance, or otherwise distributed via the author.

What are your plans for 2023/2024? Any particular events you plan to attend? Goals you’d like to work for?

I actually don’t really have plans outside the print part of The Advent of Winter. That will keep me busy for the first couple of months and then I’ll treat myself to a nice rest! I have a few proofreading projects lined up at the moment, but otherwise, it will be just a case of seeing what else comes my way. I’m not planning any conventions or anything like that, although I’d like to be able to get some under my belt at some point.

While you are locked in here for eternity, we will allow you to invite one visitor (fictional and otherwise) – who would you invite? And no, they can’t help you to escape.

Well, if we’re going to be here a while, I’ll have to go with one of my old favourites – Bruenor Battlehammer from R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt books. He’s seen plenty of adventures and will be able to keep me entertained telling all of his stories!

Well then, it was a pleasure to have a chat with you! Please allow these nice attendants to escort you out. We hope you’ll enjoy your stay in the Asylum! Any last words? 

Thank you so much for chatting with me, have a great rest of the year!

*locks door*

Keep an eye out for The Advent of Winter edited by Dom McDermott!

The Advent of Winter edited by Dom McDermott
The Advent of Winter edited by Dom McDermott full cover

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