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.