Thursday, May 28, 2009

Salute Your Shorts

We are in the process of making an important decision with regards to our submission guidelines. It's something I've pondered for a long time and, oddly enough, not an issue that's easily decided by sales research. Since Phaze Books launched in 2004, we have accepted a minimum word count of 5,000, priced at $2. Reaction to the pricing versus the content has been mixed for a while, yet depending on the work, genre, or author, sales of works at this length are pretty good.

So, what's the problem, then? Truthfully, there isn't really a problem, only a desire to foster long-term relationships with authors, as well as offer quality works to readers - priced more accordingly to length. Far as I can tell, we are one of the few publishers accepting works this short (at least through our remaining HeatSheet theme calls), and in the past when I've proposed upping the minimum I've heard protests. While I realize it's great to give authors who write shorts the opportunity for a forum, it brings up the question of what I call "drive-by" publishing. I am realistic, and I like to think I provide a good environment for our authors, but I do wonder if the low minimum may be looked upon as a means of shopping that one work nobody else will read, publishing it, then disappearing. It happens too often, and suddenly you're a mill. I don't want that.

I support the goals of authors. I am an author myself. Many of the authors I know constantly grab for the gold ring - I want that for myself as well. I would love to see my name on a mass market paperback one day, nestled next to other bestsellers. The editor in me, however, wouldn't mind seeing authors submit more works, because they like our company and wish to keep the ties strong. Longer works, too, could mean more royalties in the end if the sales are good.

So the question is, raise the bar or not? Bring in new authors under a new minimum count and allow in-house writers to submit 5K stories? Let everybody submit at the old minimum and lower the price on 5-8K works? We have a number of works already discounted on our sales page, and we do plan a number of sales this summer, along with our new Reader Rewards program which kicks off in June. By then we'll have made a decision about shorts, so look for the guidelines to be tweaked.

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