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:
- In opening up to novels, I have to answer the question: why not POD as well.
- In opening up to novels, I have to answer why I didn't just do so in the first place.
- 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.