The Price is Right

For reasons I'm not going to go into just yet, I went to one of those sites that allow you to punch in the specifics of a print job and get back bids from multiple printers.

The first ones are starting to come and they are all over the place, like whoa!  I'm talking a difference of thousands of dollars.  Canadian printers are the most expensive, so far.  Printers from India and China are the cheapest (which shouldn't be surprising).  But with such a wide range of prices it's a little bewildering.

Submissions Log: Previously Published Novellas

One thing I have noticed is that I've received a notable number of queries or submissions for novellas that are either 1) currently published by another small press or self-published or 2) were until the recent past published by another small press or self-published.  By notable number I mean more than three, less than a dozen.  I haven't kept a submissions log for novellas, and so I'm just going with the rough count I kept in my head.  This doesn't seem that sizable until you take into account the low number of submissions I have received.

The cover letters go something like this: "Yes, hello.  I am submitting my novella, My Novella, which was previously published by XYZ Press.  It is no longer published by this press and so I am submitting it for your consideration."

or: "Good day!  I have a novella for your consideration. My Novella was previously self-published until August 2013.  I took it off of publication, completely edited it and am now submitting it to your company."

I'd go and check, and sure enough, there would be My Novella on Amazon, listed as out-of-print.  I'd also see when it was first published, and several times the book would have been published early in 2013 or late 2012.  The publishers I remember looking up were still in business so it wasn't always a case of a press going under.

What does the above mean?  I don't really know.  It could mean the authors were disappointed in their sales and decided to go with a different press or stop self-publishing.  It could mean that their goals changed, or that they had a falling out with their publisher.  I never asked as I rejected all of those submissions for one reason or another.

I suppose the only thing one can take from it is, as I keep telling people, publishing is a weird business.  Seeing how convoluted writing can be, is it any wonder?

Pushing the limits

I've been mulling this over for a while.  The idea has been sitting in my back brain taking shape, forming out of a vague sense of disappointment over the last year and a half.  It's only been the last week or so that the idea has moved to the forefront of my mind, and now that it has taken up residency, it won't budge until I address it.

I don't think focusing solely on novellas is going to cut it for Eggplant.

Back when I started publishing e-books it made sense.  There were no dedicated e-readers.  People were either reading e-books off their computer or laptops (some off of Palm Pilots) or printing them out to read.  I figured novellas, those most unloved of tales, too long for magazines, too short for book publishers, would be the perfect length for e-books.  They are short enough to read off a computer screen, also short enough to not cost an arm and a leg if printed out.

Coming back to publishing after the hiatus, e-books and e-reading has changed.  I thought there was still a niche to be served with the novellas, and I still do, but it has been a struggle to find great stories to publish.  And the struggle is keeping me from getting Eggplant running at full speed.

In the almost two years I've been open I've received about 100 submissions.  Of those I've accepted ten.  Some of the rejected submissions have been wildly unsuited: literary novels, children's books, non-fiction religious memoirs.  About a half dozen have been stories that showed promise but need major revisions and I didn't have the time to go back and forth with the author.  The rest ... well they've been what you would expect from unsolicited submissions.

Maybe it's time to look beyond novellas, to open up to novel-length fiction.  This is the thought that keeps nagging at me.  It's not an idea that I've been eager to entertain.  I set up Eggplant's business plan partly with keeping it as author friendly as possible.  I'm basically starting fresh, a brand new company with no proven track record, so I have to make sure my terms are fair for the chance authors are taking in agreeing to my contract.  The $250 advance was calculated to be reasonable for a novella, if the author never earned out her advance at least she got something up front for the publishing rights.  And that puts the onus to make sure sales are there squarely on my shoulders.  I don't take print rights because I never plan on using them: even with the availability of POD technology, novellas don't make great stand alone print books.  Besides, to do print right requires distribution and other things that I don't have the time or resources to do right now.

So, I've gone with the mantra: stay small, stay niche and spend the next three years building from that.

Which makes sense if I'm getting a steady stream of great submissions ... or even a steady stream of submissions ... which I'm not.

Which brings me back to the novel idea.  Most of the e-book production costs are fixed, and those that scale up could be covered by the increase cover price I would charge for longer books.  That's not a reason not to increase our word limit.  The reasons are mostly psychological on my part:

  1. In opening up to novels, I have to answer the question: why not POD as well.

  2. In opening up to novels, I have to answer why I didn't just do so in the first place.

  3. In opening up to novels, I have to answer why the advance stays the same.

Those really aren't reasons ... excuses I guess.  But in a world where there are 300 bajillion other e-publishers out there, some that are very successful, why would anyone want to go with a micro press that is still in its first year of operation?  (This isn't asked out of a sense of low self-esteem or self-doubt or to get people to rush in to my aid, this is asked in earnest.  Authors should only be submitting their work to publishers they feel can do more for them than they could do on their own.)

I'm still mulling this over.  But I have to figure it out soon.  I've only got 6 slots filled for next year and three months remaining this one.  The clock is ticking.

Week of Get Stuff Done

I've been falling steadily behind.  I'm finally beginning to accept that no, I can't do everything.  I'm beginning to understand that tasks just take much longer than the time I allot them due to life stuff getting in the way.  I'm beginning to face up to the fact that I just really, really hate talking on the phone and the reason so much of my To Do list has been sitting undone these past few weeks is because they require me to talk on the phone.

Other things I'm beginning to accept:

  • I can get work done when Ben is awake, as long as I choose tasks that don't require more than one minute of attention at a time and that I don't mind being interrupted.

  • That Charlotte just moves at a different pace than me.  That I can either get annoyed by her lackadaisical speed, or I can adjust my own plans to take it into account.

  • With regards to the previous bullet point, that I need to help Charlotte have tools and plans to navigate an outside world that won't be so forgiving of her different drum beat.

  • It's okay to take an hour each night to go through all the seasons of a TV show.  Sometimes, when that's all you are capable of doing at the end of the day, it's okay to have that be your downtime if it will keep you sane.

  • It's okay not to be able to do everything.  It's okay to ask for help.

  • Writing has become important in my life again, and rather than be annoyed at yet another pull on my time, I can make room for it and feel good about it.

I've got thoughts about submissions and the like ... but those will have to wait.  This is the week of Getting Stuff Done.  Everything that has been put off for far too long, everything that has reached critical mass is getting taken care of.  By this time next week I should be in a place where I'm not overwhelmed by my To Do list.
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Real Life Catching Up

I'm all sorts of sore right now.  After a couple of months away from the gym, I've started going again regularly.  My body isn't as on board with this new fitness regime.  I've been trying to do it slowly, not pushing myself, but it seems I'm in worse shape than I thought.

Stephan is once again employed outside the home.  He took a job that pays about half of what his previous did, but at least after a three month probation period we'll have health insurance.*  So that means things will continue to be tight, but you get to a point where they've been tight for so long that you just get used to it, you know?  You get used to saying to yourself, "Okay, I've got three socks left, so I'll just wait till we get groceries again and I'll divert $5 from food to socks, NBD."

Despite the above, I'm not depressed or upset about things.  If this is how life is going to be right now, well, then I'll just deal with it.  I've got a roof over my head, food in the fridge, and I'm working at what I love.  Things could and have been so much worse in the past.

Also, I sold a waist cincher last week and am using that cash to take Stephan and I to see Pacific Rim tonight!  We haven't had a proper night out since last year.

Now back to digging myself out from under the pile of work that piled up over the last few weeks.

*I wrote that to a friend living in the Netherlands and just about cried.
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Spellbound & Spindles: Guidelines!

So...the Kickstarter is over.  We raised our goal amount and then some.  Which means we can pay pro-rates to contributors.  I'm excited (and tired and more than a little intimidated to make this something fantastic). As promised I have posted guidelines.  If anyone has questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments on the site.  I've never written up guidelines for both e- and print books, let alone for two related projects at once.  I'm sure they'll need some tweaking and clarification.

Feel free to spread the word far and wide, too.  We don't open to submissions until October 1, 2013.  That should give us enough time to spread the word and also get ready to read.

Thank you to everyone for your support!

Who has ten thumbs and gets to publish two anthologies of retold fairy tales?

That would be Sam, Marcie, Sarah, Stephan and me.  :D

I've got a whole post about this later, but right now I'm just stunned and agog over the support we received.  We reached our initial goal and we have about 24 hours left on the campaign.  I'm going to push through to the end and see if we can reach one of our stretch goals.  If we get to $15,000 we'll up our pay rate to pro rates. Wouldn't that be nice?

Really, I'm flabbergasted and gobsmacked and all sorts of other words I've never used to describe myself.

Thank you all so very much!

My Pretty Dice Bags

These dice bags have four interior pockets, a reinforced bottom so they stand upright, and a drawstring closure. They are fully lined. They are approximately 7 1/2" x 7 1/2" wide and tall.

I made the first dice bag because I needed a larger one and I wanted it to have pockets to keep things neat and organized. I decided if I was going to make a bag, it was going to be pretty. This is how the name came about.

I took some to a convention to sell at my booth. From the first day I had guys coming up to me saying, "We hear you have dice bags with pockets on the inside."

"Yes, here they are." The guys would look at the bags, look at me and then ask, "Why are they all so girly?"

Hands on my hips I would tell them, "Because I'm a horrible sexist and I only make gaming supplies for girls. What?"

The guys would give me quizzical, sometimes shame-faced looks while their wives and girlfriends would shove them aside to pick up ones for themselves.

I've been making these bags for about five years now. I have sold them at steampunk, anime and general science fiction conventions as well as craft fairs. Although I call them dice bags they have been used for jewelry, crystals and runes, as reticules and as purses. At LARPs they've been used to hold character sheets, phones, make up and other items for hands-free gaming.

I am adding these to the backer rewards for the Spellbound & Spindles Kickstarter. Everyone who backs us at the $35 level or more will also get a bag.

When I reopened Eggplant Literary Productions I was looking forward to retiring my sewing machine for a while. As much as I enjoyed the costuming, it wasn't my passion. Publishing is, and if I need to return to the sewing mines for just a little while longer to entice people to support us, then I'll do it. Because I believe in this project so very much.

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