Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Short Stories: The Red-Headed Stepchild of the Publishing World

By Angel Leigh McCoy

“Anthologies don’t sell well.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that.

"Publishers are reluctant to publish anthologies.” I’ve heard that one quite often as well.

The fact of the matter is that short story anthologies remain primarily in the domain of the indy publisher. Few major publishers want to hassle with splitting royalties among a dozen or more authors, not to mention all the other hassles that come along with dealing with multiple authors (mailing their copies to them alone can be time-intensive and expensive).

Editors like Ellen Datlow, doing her “Year’s Best” and other genre anthologies (which are anthologies of brilliant work) has managed to attract larger publishers at times, but not always.

What this means is that anthologies must be the love-child of a passionate editor or editors. These editors are often writers as well, and they sympathize with the challenge that short story writers face in today’s publishing environment: these writers don’t have many options for getting their stories out there!

“What about magazines?” you ask. Well, the competition is fierce to get into any kind of magazine or e-zine when it only has between two and ten slots per month or per quarter. You not only have to be a good writer, but your story has to hit the editor square on the forehead for it to be chosen. Often, it has to hit the reader, then the editor, then the editor’s partners square on all their foreheads.

What all this does is it reduces the amount of money that writers can make with their short stories. As a result, short stories are often seen as fitting only in the practice arena, or the public relations arena, or the I-had-a-quirky-idea-and-just-had-to-get-it-on-paper arena. Most writers turn their careers toward writing novels, which is where the money is.

It’s a downward spiral. Indy publishers can’t pay as much as the big publishers, can’t promote as big, and often don’t have the same distribution opportunities. So, short story writers get paid less.

However, I believe short stories are on the rise again. As people’s lives get busier and busier, a short story is often just the right size to fit into a busy schedule. Now, we just have to figure out how to get writers paid more so they will find time to write those amazing stories they have inside them.

With our Deep Cuts anthology, we’re hoping we’ve found a way around that. We’re not the first anthology to use Kickstarter for funding, but we are—to my knowledge—the first to use it to supplement funding on a project that is already paying what are considered “professional rates.”

If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, let me give you the brief run-down. People post their artistic projects there and ask for a few bucks from folks to fund it. In exchange, the folks get goodies (usually a pre-order plus other awesome things). The more you pledge, the more you get. And you don’t have to pay anything if the Kickstarter project doesn’t hit its goal. Thus, it’s democracy in action. If enough people want the project to take off, then it will. If not, then it won’t, and no one pays a dime. Many people giving a little bit each adds up, and soon, at no great burden to anyone, the artistic project is a go! And theoretically, the world’s a better place for it.

Using Kickstarter to help fund anthologies is a great way to shift the balance, to get more money into the short story stream, and to work toward making it a more respected and financially viable art form. It’s revolutionary, and I fully expect to see more and more anthology projects using crowd-funding.

By pledging, you’re pre-ordering your copy of the book, plus purchasing various other goodies, in advance of the publication. You’re taking the role of a patron of the arts as well, putting your money to help starving writers and artists who just need a little different cash flow to see their dreams come to life.

We are currently accepting submissions of horror stories for our Deep Cuts anthology (submission guidelines). We’re paying 5c/word plus royalties, but then we’re also doing our Kickstarter, and hoping that people will pledge to pre-order a copy of the book so that we can pay our writers more for their hard work.

Please do submit a short story to Deep Cuts:

And, please, check out and pledge to our Kickstarter here.

Angel Leigh McCoy (SFWA & HWA member) writes horror, dark fantasy, and doompunk. Her fiction has appeared in numerous media, and in 2011, her novelette “Charlie Darwin, or the Trine of 1809″ was released by Nevermet Press. She also had stories appear in Strange Aeons, Necrotic Tissue, Beast Within 2, Fear of the Dark, and Growing Dread: Biopunk Visions, among others.