More on Short Fiction and Multi-author Anthologies

This is kind of a followup to my last post on short fiction.

As I said, I think that short fiction is important. And I think that short fiction collections with stories from multiple authors are important, too.  I think that some of the best ideas come from cross fertilization, when different authors each put their own spin on a common theme.

I also believe that self-publishing is the future of fiction (at least, the current future–things always change).

Putting those things together, I want to encourage the creation of an economically viable model that encourages the self-publishing (or “peer-publishing” as I said in the other post) of multi-author anthologies. Writing for the love of the craft is all well and good, but getting some beer money from the time spent would be great, too.  Plus, getting some money into the short story game is going to improve the quality of the product, encourage competition, and allow for higher production values.

I see two main challanges to self-published multi-author anthologies, one on the supply side, one on the demand side.

On the supply side, paying out royalties on an ongoing basis to multiple authors is a headache, particularly when the payouts are likely to be quite small. On the other hand, paying authors upfront takes a fair amount of liquid capital. The second option is probably better, since it would give the publisher the skin in the game that would encourage promotion of the anthology, but would put publishing such a work out of reach of many self-published authors.

On the demand side, there are a lot of books out there, and the quality is uneven.  When the book isn’t just one unknown author but a group of unknown authors, there is going to be a fair amount of sales resistance. Consistent sales rely on a consistent brand, and if each anthology is a unique product it’s going to be hard to get any traction.

I can see both problems being addressed by having an already successful author as publisher for a collection–banking on the name recognition of the author to promote the collection.  Kind of like “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” or “Asimov Magazine”.  I’m not sure what’s in that for an already successful author, though.

I don’t have solutions, but I do think this is a topic that deserves some discussion and hopefully some thought from people who understand the business better than I do. I know that there are a lot of talented authors who want to write short fiction, and are good at it, but, like me, don’t know how to get it to market.

About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle.
This entry was posted in Artists That I Admire, On Promotion, On Publishing, On Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to More on Short Fiction and Multi-author Anthologies

  1. Tomas says:

    What’s in it for that author? Glory and ambition. At its worst, it what’s makes construction mogul and reality TV stars want to become political leaders (oh no, my anti-Trump is showing…). But often enough, such ambition is for some greater good. It’s what Larry Correia does with his Book Bombs. It’s what makes rich folk pay out the nose to have their name on a building.

    We don’t like this, mostly because it’s mostly out of our control. But it’s actually a very natural and good kind of patronage.

    What the PulpRev needs to do isn’t control this, but begin courting the stable of known names, making sure their own involvement will redound to them in righteous praise – at the moment this means those who are published and liked among our own – Mollison, Hernstrom, Nyanzi, yourself. Cirsova regulars (and hopefully soon StoryHack Regulars). There are some on the outskirt who could be brought in – David J. West seems a good guy, though I haven’t checked out his work. JD Brinks looks like a good bet.

    Sadly, the puppy fiasco, for all the good it’s done, has also left some tar and feathers behind. Otherwise we could have some access to some bigger names. Even guys like Correia (and the other Sad Puppies), who I think would be pretty comfortable in our wheelhouse, are somewhat distant because of the vitriol around the brouhaha. Hopefully some time separate from the major flashpoints will allow this.

    Apologies for being so long winded. One more point:

    Would a kind of self-publishing/Traditional Publishing hybrid be a model to seek out? I’m thinking of a publishing house which focuses on epublishing, but doesn’t buy rights, only certain portion of the proceeds – say a certain % royalty [grrr] until a specific amount is reached – but the author still does most of the publishing legwork. The house would offer editorial services (thus the % required) and it’s name as an editor – basically a guarantee that this work is worth your money (because we edited it and vetted it). Basically, the author would get an editors aid and then become part of a soft-gatekeeping network – the place could also help in connecting cover artists and authors, or authors with authors for anthologies. The whole apparatus would be more of a middle-man between creators (instead of between creators and consumers) and a glorified review house.

    I’m kind of talking out of me ass as I don’t know the publishing world as well as others. But I’d rather someone correct me and learn rather than just stay quiet and never figure it out.

    I’d really like to see Jeffro and some of the other major Pulp players talk Beale et al. into giving us a specific Castalia House Imprint to try out some of these sorts of publishing models. I’d also like to see some ebook rights purchased to older pulp stuff (or just pull the public domain stuff) in order to create some nice easy-to-find ebook editions. Reading pdf scans of pulps in awesome, but having an ebook I could carry on my kindle would also be nice.

    Alright, enough from me.

  2. Cirsova says:

    To be honest, one of the major reasons I went the Zine route is that I don’t have the skills or wherewithal to track author royalties, and I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ and 20 years down the road have authors who are now important and famous regaling folks with tales of what a heel I was about making sure checks were in the mail on time.

  3. feralplum says:

    Another reason short fiction is important is the readers’ side. A young person learning what sort of fiction he likes is able to read short stories and novellas without having to invest a large quantity of time. I felt betrayed as a child when I put the money and time into a long, popular book and realized after a hundred and a half pages that there was nothing in it for me.

  4. My thinking is along the same line as Cirsova’s. I believe authors deserve payment for their work, but just am not at a good enough place, business wise, to handle ongoing royalties.

    I also love short fiction for the whole discoverability angle. I see several multiauthor box set bundles of novels doing well these days. I’ll never buy one, though. I mean, I read, but there’s no way I’m going to plow through 20 novels from authors I don’t know. But a collection of shorts? Sure.

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