Hunting Anthology Blues

So a while back (a few months) I decided I’d pick up the gauntlet that had been thrown regarding a hunting anthology. The challenge involved is a simple one: hunting stories tend to be short. Like… really short. Of the submissions in my spreadsheet I have one that weighs in at a hundred words. Balance that with another story at 7500 being the longest I received and yes, this is a problem. I did have something unique to offer the anthology as a publisher, though. I can illustrate it. Which I am doing, and seem to be hitting the right notes with the simple line-art work picturing the various creatures in the stories.

I’d closed out the submission window on June 30, and started to read on July 3, and it’s July 16 and I sent out my last emails for acceptance/rejection late last night, so yeah. Life has been nipping at my ankles and slowing me down, and the contracts were delayed by a week because I simply could not come up with a title to save my life… But there’s another problem.

Look, anthologies can go one of two ways. They can either be a fun idea, but not enough stories come in to fill out a book that will get authors paid, or they can go the other way. The hunting anthology went the other way. I have, in the spreadsheet this morning, some forty stories, from about twenty authors (I solicited multiple submissions, due to the length considerations). Which is amazing, and wonderful, and there are stories in the anthology which are hilarious, or dead serious, and sometimes both in one tale. I’m blown away by the quality of the work sent to me. Seriously, every anthology I’ve done has been a learning experience, and this one just cements my conviction that there are some great writers and storytellers I’m proud to know.

All this is fantastic. I think you can tell I’m a happy woman. However, there’s a problem. It’s a big problem. Anthology is a way to cross-pollinate fan bases. Authors can use this as marketing, to find new fans, and grow their audience. So, in theory, we can justify using anthologies as loss leaders. You might not make any money off that short story, but you will bump up your overall sales. And a lot of publishers front load anthologies with costs, such that the contributors never see a dime in royalties. They will charge for cover art, editing, formatting costs, etc, etc. I don’t do that. I can afford to carry this load, because I’m me, and admittedly most publishers cannot afford to do this, so that’s fine and dandy. But when I say royalty sharing, I mean it. I don’t take off the top for the cover, etc. I just do those things, and I get a share like the authors. Which brings me to the next thing I feel strongly about in anthologies. I want my authors to Get Paid. That’s kind of the point of doing this. It may not be much. The hunting anthology is a wild-eyed experiment. However, if I can maximize the pay for the authors, especially given some of them are first-time authors and the greatest way I can encourage them to write more is to get a royalty check in their hand?

So what I am going to have to do is to make this not one anthology, but two. They won’t be long in words, a mere 30K or so each. However, there will be 15+ stories in each anthology. They will be fully illustrated, and I can set the pricing at a level that will ensure some royalties to authors, where if I have one book with the ebook at, say, 4.99 split 20+ ways, there’s not a lot of meat on the bone for each one. If I do two books, each of them at 4.99, we lose less to the ‘Zon for file transmission costs (downside of illustrating is a larger file size), each author gets a bigger cut, and I’m a happy publisher. The other alternative, of setting the initial price higher… you know I can’t ask 9.99 for an unknown anthology. And paperback? I can set that at, say, 9.95 a copy and fall into the ‘impulse buy’ price band, which would not be the case with a book starting at 19.95.

The first volume of the hunting anthology will be titled How Not to Shoot a Fish and Other Deer That Got Away. I’m open to suggestions for volume 2! Volume one will be published on September 1, the first day of Texas dove hunting season.

Now, I have to figure out publication pacing. And… do I open back up for submissions? I could do that. Hmmm….

24 comments

  1. Does Kindle support different image formats? Since you are doing black and white line drawings you may want to experiment with which image format is smallest for the quality level you want.

    BMP gray scale can be surprisingly tiny for true black and white images.

    1. I’ll have to see what I can do. Usually I’m starting out with png (for lossless and transparency) but there’s flattening involved in the conversion to ebook. I’ve successfully put a couple of illustrated books into ebook now, so I know it can be done. I also know that full color is silly expensive to get printed, so even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t. Fortunately, the line art suits this style, which I’m using to evoke the old magazines and serials.

      1. Definitely worth experimenting. The file sizes can vary dramatically.

        And that doesn’t count the junk drawer. The company I work for rolled out new PowerPoint templates a year or so ago, and they’ve got 5mb of cover page images buried in the slide masters. It’s something like an individual cover page template for each business unit, and each one with a huge jpeg in them.

        It’s bad enough that whenever I’m making a new presentation, I’ll start by opening up the slide master and deleting every single business unit coverpage. Thing go from 5mb to maybe 100kb.

        The resizing thing is a pain too. I’ve seen some image heavy presentations hit 200Mb+ because they’re loaded with giant photos that have just been grab/shrunk to fit the slide deck.

        Sometimes that’s worth it: having the full picture means you can harvest it for other stuff later, but if you need to email it out to a customer or vendor, even a simple convert to pdf can cut it down by a factor of ten.

        1. Oh god, I remember when that was a problem on the web, in the days of modems, when people would use enormous images and think they had created a thumbnail just because they had set the size parameter on the image link. Looked fine on their computer, but literally took a minute to slowly appear line by line on anyone unfortunate enough to visit the page.

          1. May favorite was the time we accidentally printed out the entire floor schedule for the month, onto a single sheet of A4 paper.

            We were trying to just print out a bit from that evening, but didn’t quite set it up right.

            The hilarious thing was at the time there was some legal stuff going on so we had to retain everything for possible review. All I could picture was the lawyers having to go through this page of half-point font text to figure out if it held anything of significance to anybody.

      1. I like “The Deer Shot Back” for volume two. And open for more submissions only if you need them.

          1. Hi Cedar,

            I have four “amusing” hunting stories that I have experienced/written … the only roblem is that two of them are set in the UK and two here in New Zealand.

            I have an off the wall, jaundiced sense of humour but of you are interested in reading them. drop m a line via the e-mail …

  2. I try to keep a journal as I hunt. (Maybe the kiddos will want to read it someday? Also, it’s a good way to pass the time waiting.) I never really got my act together to ask how to submit on this volume, but I’d be happy to humbly submit my story of the pig I stalked that had climbed a tree if you reopen submissions for volume 2. (It’s my favorite crazy hunting story to tell, personally, and even all true.)

    1. Yes, please do send it along! I need maybe 2-3 stories to flesh out volume 2, and this one sounds like good fun. If it’s 1500-3000 words that would be ideal.

    2. Submission can be made to cedarlila at cedarlili dot art. docx file, or rtf, is fine. Please include your name and the story title in a header, thanks!

  3. It might be fun to title “The Turkey, The Eagle, The Dove” just to see who gets it.

  4. Well, if you do open for more suggestions, I have another one written (The Curse of the Bumper Pull) 🙂

  5. Any SF hunting anthology needs one of the earliest and best: H. Beam Piper’s “Police Operation” from 1946. And it’s in the public domain now.

    https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/19067

    It’s one of Piper’s earliest Paratime stories, and introduced several characters that recurred in later stories.

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