I’ve been thinking, off and on, about doing this for the last 6-18 months or so. I’ve just updated the Submission Rules page at modernevil.com though, so I guess I’m going to try to make this thing happen. With any luck, the 20th (or so) book I publish will be an anthology of mostly/all other people’s work. If the first one works out, and authors continue to submit, additional publications will follow.
My ideal would be for the anthology to include a short novel (20k to 45k words), one or two long short stories (7,500 to 20k words each), two to five short stories (1k to 7,500 words each), three to eight flash stories (under 1k words each), and a whole mess of very short things: six word stories, poetry, haiku, probably at least five and up to a couple dozen such very short works. (Actually, I’m open to longer (epic?) poetry, but it would fit into one of the other length categories.) This would bring the book to about 250-350 pages, and I could price it at about $12.99 for paper and audio versions and $6.99 for the eBook.
I’d eventually like to release it under Creative Commons and for free, but depending on the attitudes of the authors might compromise and not put out the free versions until everyone’s paid at least a little (i.e.: at the projected $1500 earned level). Philosophically, it just doesn’t make sense to me not to offer a free version for those who are either unable to pay or too unethical to pay. I’ve long-since lost my illusions about a free audio version bearing any relation to eventual paid purchases, or free eBooks being good marketing, except in the sense that some fraction of a percent of downloaders will become fans – and it’s a good thing that “as a good marketing technique” was never the reason I released my work for free.
“What genre of work are you looking for,” you may ask, “what theme?” Right now I haven’t specified one. If you’ve read my work and think I’d like to publish yours, submit it. “How should I format my submission? Double-spaced? Some specific font?” Look, if you know the standard formats, great, use them. If you don’t, just be sure your work is readable and in a universal format. Worst-case, I’ll copy/paste it into a new file and format it myself; I’d have to do that to publish it, anyway. If you send me unreadable, inaccessible garbage, keep in mind no one will publish you until you get that part figured out on your own.
I’m rambling, already? I’m not even 500 words into this post, and I’m rambling? I guess this is part of why I’m launching this project now: I’m taking some time off from writing my own stories to focus on some other projects (art, mainly, for now). I’d rather be reading and editing other people’s work, right now, than trying to write my own – at least until my mind gets a few of its current kinks worked out. Let me try to finish covering the bases of this project:
Why I can’t just pay authors up-front for their work: I don’t want to have the whole thing hanging on a successful Kickstarter, and paying $0.05/word makes a book-length anthology cost me around $3k-$5k. I don’t have $3k in my business to invest in that sort of gamble, right now, and I’ve never had a title earn more than even $1,500 in total revenue (before expenses!) so it would be a ridiculous risk to make such an investment. If the eBook/digital-audiobook earn enough to cover the setup costs (about $100) for a print version, I can afford to put up the money to have the first 50 copies printed (for direct sales, about a $400 investment). I could even then sell paper copies to the authors at cost, for them to hand-sell for their own profit (above and beyond the maybe-payouts of $0.05/word).
Unfortunately, even paying a paltry $0.01/word would cost me another $800-$1,500 (depending on lengths) … so as I’ve outlined on the Submissions page, I’m planning on paying authors as the anthology’s sales reach various earnings targets. If it earns $500, I can pay the novelist $0.01/word. If it reaches $1,500 I can pay everyone $0.01/word – and I’d still be up to $400 in the hole, myself, at that point. If it earns $3k I should be able to pay the short story authors the other $0.04/word their stories are worth, and if it reaches $5k I’d be able to pay the novelist their remaining $0.04/word. Now, for some people $5k in earnings for a title (about 1,000 copies, if I can price them to earn an average of $5/copy – I’m projecting $12.99/paper and $6.99/eBook) is easy to reach. For me, that’s more copies than all the copies of all the books/ebooks/shorts/audiobooks I’ve ever sold, put together, and it’s more money than all the revenue from all my combined book sales, as well.
So chances are, the novelist would never get their big payout. And the short story contributors probably won’t get their big payout either, and might never get paid at all. Heck, even the novelist might not get their initial payout, based on my past sales of short story collections.
On the other hand, with 12+ authors promoting the anthology, with their paychecks depending on it, perhaps it would do better than my own books do – I’m only one person, and I hate marketing and am uncomfortable with blatant promotion; imagine what a dozen or more people, some of whom might not be uncomfortable with promotion/marketing, could accomplish. Perhaps it’ll pass 1k sales quickly, and I’ll actually make some money in the end.
Realistically, unless this thing passes those big numbers (1k sales, over $5k earnings), this project represents a net “loss” of both time and money for me. I’m not doing it to make money for myself. I’m doing it because it’s something I think might be worth doing. Because it sounds interesting to me. Because I think it will be a good use of my time, even if it never earns me anything but grief. And because I’m me, I know that if the first one goes over those numbers, I won’t be taking money for myself – I’ll be reinvesting it. That’ll pay for advance payments to authors for the next release, and the next one.
So if you’ve a short story, or flash fiction, that you think I’d like, or you’ve read my stuff and think you can write something I’ll like, go ahead. Submit. Or if you wrote a novel for NaNoWriMo, and already have edited out the worst of it and found it to be too short, perhaps when you finish editing it you’ll have something the perfect length to submit as a short novel. Or perhaps you think you can write a particularly good six word story. Or you’re a poet. Or whatever. If you’ve read my work and think I’d like yours, submit it. Unless you’re just looking for a big payday; that may never happen. But a moderate one just might.