Word Riot received 3,415 submissions in the first half of 2013. Of those, 110 pieces were accepted–3.22% of subs. Prose represented 71.9% of submissions and poetry 25.45%. The poetry acceptance rate was 5.64%. Prose acceptance rates were as follows: flash fiction, 4.01%; creative nonfiction, 5.26%; novel excerpts, 1.52%; experimental, 3.66%; and short stories, 1.64%.
I have a short story titled “Debtors” in Redivider 10.1. It marks a pretty substantial shift in style from the stories in The Suburban Swindle. I’m really proud of it.
Redivider is making an ebook version available ahead of the print version for $2 (PayPal or credit card). You can order it here.
Poetry by Jennifer Perrine, Kim Addonizio, Ben McClendon, Meghan Privitello, Nick Sturm, Wendy Xu, Christopher Watkins, Joshua Helms, Dan Boehl, Rob MacDonald, Jeff Alessandrelli, Monika Zobel, Brandon Downing, Drew Swenhaugen
Fiction by Jackie Corley, Diane Cook, Glenn Shaheen, Rae Bryant, Sequoia Nagamatsu, Anne Valente, Emily Kiernan
Nonfiction by Jen Hirt, M. Owens, C. Ronald Edwards
Word Riot averaged 17.42 submissions per day in 2012. The 6,374 submissions are up slightly from 6,216 in 2011.
The acceptance rate in 2012 was 3.88 percent, which is up slightly from 3.68 percent, or 229 submissions, in 2011. We saw a sizable uptick in poetry in 2012–1,747 subs as compared to 1,309 in 2011.
Thanks to the folks at Submittable for the handy stats page available from their excellent submissions manager system.
Not only did Paula Bomer’s short story collection land that coveted star (“This lacerating take on marriage and motherhood is not one to share with the Mommy and Me group”), but PW did an interview with Paula, as well. I gotta say, Ms. Paula has some great quotes in this one:
“In New York, people express their social ambition through their family. To me, that’s a corruption. I feel somewhat critical of just wanting the good life; that’s not going to bring you joy. The one PTA meeting I attended was frightening: the people were so cruel. I find petty unkindness more powerful than people want to acknowledge, and it amazes me on a daily basis how people treat one another. Perhaps people feel it’s not significant.”
“We are not what we write. If you’re not being brave as a writer, it’s hard to care.”
The interest in Paula’s book has been overwhelming and wonderful. (I’m down to a single print galley–I’ve never run out of galleys before.)
What gives me pause is that this book almost never came to be. (Paula was under contract with a small press that folded and then started looking for a new home for it.) It’s sort of the same feeling I got when I was able to put out Nick Antosca’s Midnight Picnic. You have these amazing books you want to shove into the world and they very nearly missed being born. It’s frightening, almost. Strike that–not almost. It is frightening.
Here are Word Riot’s submission stats for August, courtesy of Submishmash. The ones marked “In Progress” were earlier versions of stories we accepted. We have authors resend the edited version (maybe two or three versions, depending) as a new submission, so there’s some duplication in the numbers.
Here are some nibblets of advice I’ve acquired over the years that I’ve found work for me. I’ll be adding to this as I think up more.
1) Distribute galleys four months before the publication date. Outlets like Publishers Weekly and Booklist will not consider reviewing a book unless they’ve received a galley four months ahead of time.
2) Do not be stingy with galleys.
3) Your cover price should be about 5 times the per-book printing cost.
4) Bookland is a free barcode generator program. Works like a charm.
5) If you want libraries ordering your books, make sure you have a Library of Congress catalog control number.
Stats courtesy of Submishmash. “In-Progress” usually means pending acceptance so the acceptance rate, minus withdrawals, is 4.5% for July.
Here are products and services I use for Word Riot and swear by:
1) Offset Paperback Manufacturers
Our wonderful printer is a division of Bertelsmann AG, which also owns Random House. We use their digital printing service. When I received their printing quotes for our first paperback, I was pretty astonished by the low cost. I asked for a sample book to check out the quality and it was fantastic.
You should always do your research on printers and find one your comfortable with. I probably requested quotes and samples from five printers before I decided on OPM. I’ve never looked back.
I know there are a lot of print-on-demand options available and there are ways to use it well (e.g. Electric Literature’s model), but I personally wouldn’t recommend POD. It can be very difficult to get POD books into bookstores and libraries because POD signals “self-published” or “amateur” to them. That’s not to knock self-publishing—I’ve noticed a lot of indie publishing companies have put out books by the publisher that have been very successful and well-received. These books don’t carry a “self-published” stigma because there’s a company behind them with professional printing, distribution and marketing.
POD is cheaper at the outset but I think ultimately you’re not giving your titles an opportunity to be as successful as they could be.
2) Pathway Book Service
Pathway is the only flat-rate distribution service around. What this basically means is that you pay a low monthly fee and they take care of shipping your books to whoever orders them. Pathway makes sure your title is listed in Ingram and Baker & Taylor. You can also go through them for fulfillment to Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Because they’re a distributor, they get a better percentage off of Amazon than you would get on your own with the Amazon Advantage program. Also, because they are fulfilling titles to Amazon for all the publishers they represent, the shipping cost is incredibly cheap.
What I love best about Pathway is their customer service. If I email them, I can expect a response within a few hours. And if I want to know how my titles are selling, their online reports are easy to access and use.
Unlike other distributors, Pathway is not responsible for marketing your title nor do they send out catalogs for the titles they’re distributing. This hasn’t been a problem for me because I feel comfortable handling my own marketing. You might feel differently. I’ve just seen too many distributors close up shop and leave publishers quaking in their boots. With Pathway, I feel comfortable with their years of experience and approach to fulfilling a publisher’s essential need: getting books to stores, libraries and other distributors that order them.
If you are looking for a more traditional distributor that will help with marketing, I’ve heard great things about Small Press Distribution.
Submishmash is a free, powerful submissions manager. What’s great about Submishmash is their responsiveness to input from editors and publishers. I think they’ve taken into account every suggestion my editors and I have put forward to them. When literary enthusiasts are software developers, great things happen—Submishmash is one of them.
Sigil is free, open source ebook design software. If you have basic HTML knowledge, it should be a piece of cake to figure out how to create an EPUB file on Sigil.
5) Google Docs
I use a Google Doc spreadsheet to share sales and royalty information with my authors. It was my way of forcing myself to have an up-to-date record, rather than just updating some spreadsheet on my computer once a month or at royalty check time. When you have somebody else looking over your shoulder, you get to keeping things more tidy. At least I do.
I also use it for any organizational items that require input from both the author and me (e.g. who should galleys, what venues should be approached for readings, etc.)
WordPress is super adaptable blog software. It’s free and easy to install.
1) Sticker Guy
It’s my high school punk rocker coming out: I love vinyl stickers. Sticker Guy has great prices and produce a solid product. When I have a book that I think will benefit from a more guerrilla marketing technique, I always order up some vinyl stickers.
2) Mad Mimi
Mad Mimi is an email marketing service. I don’t send out email newsletters often (once, maybe twice a month) but my email list is pretty large. Mad Mimi offered the best value for the service I was looking for. They’re incredibly easy to use and their tracking stats are very helpful.
I'll probably continue to post some more thoughts and advice under the publishing tips tag.]
Every once in awhile I get emails from folks who are gung-ho about starting their own literary magazine/small press and have questions about how to go about pointing their gung-hoatude in the right direction.
This is some advice for those just starting out with a literary venture. I’ll probably be adding to it as things come to mind.
1. Do one thing and do it well
So you want to start a small press, a reading series, a mag that publishes weekly and a lit blog? All excellent goals, but trying to do everything at once will doom your projects. Start off small. Start off slow. Consider which project is the one really scratching at your brain and start with that one. Pour all your creativity and energy into it. Build the reputation of that one project before taking on the next one.
Word Riot started as the lit section of an online music magazine created by Paula Anderson. When Paula took a leave from running the online music mag, I tried to keep both running strong. I couldn’t. I was a 19-year-old college student and I knew that I couldn’t keep up with my school work and both magazines. I liked the music magazine, but I loved Word Riot, so the music magazine died.
My ultimate goal for Word Riot was to turn it into a small press. Fortunately, I knew I had no idea what I was doing and would need to figure out a solid game plan before I took the next step.
2. Research & build your network
You will be lucky if you break-even your first couple years of your literary project. That’s being generous.
I was ready to throw all my energy and extra cash at Word Riot when I got started, but I was also a broke college student so there wasn’t much money to throw. I had to make due with cheap marketing plans and building contacts while I researched printers. I wanted a printer that was high-quality but not a lot of money, and for much of that first year and a half I couldn’t find one that met both requirements. I didn’t compromise. I kept looking.
In the mean time, I kept an eye on what other presses I admired were doing, So New and Future Tense, in particular. Kevin Sampsell graciously took a phone call from me to answer my questions. I bought ISBN numbers (non-negotiable—get them if you’re putting out books or chapbooks). I started producing chapbooks, first with home-printed covers then with professionally printed ones. I got to know more about various kinds of paper than I could possibly have a use for. (Tip to chapbook publishers: fancy paper manufacturers will send you free samples.) I emailed every existing online magazine I could find to exchange links and ask question after question. I emailed authors from these online magazines and invited them to submit to mine.
I was somewhat frustrated—I wanted to publish paperbacks now!—but in that period where all I could do is research and reach out to other literary types, I was building lasting connections. These relationships have become invaluable to me.
For example, David Barringer was one of those writers I read on Nerve and invited to submit to Word Riot. He was the first person I considered a “serious” writer—meaning not a member of the music magazine staff—to send me fiction. That meant something to me. So when David mentioned a short story chapbook proposal for We Were Ugly So We Made Beautiful Things I was all over it. (Side note: seven years later, We Were Ugly is still selling.) And since then I’ve been able to call on David for his awe-inspiring design skills for project after project, all the while watching David’s tremendous growth as a writer.
With another of my writers, Paula Anderson, I got to be present at her funeral as her family and friends read from the chapbook of hers I published. Nothing will ever humble me quite the way that did. (I’ve made all of Paula’s chapbook, Blood Tender, available online. She was a brilliant writer. I think Blood Tender was the first blog published as a book when it came out in 2003, but all my publicity attempts to convince the world of this back then fell flat.)
3. Moderation and patience (a cliche is a cliche because it’s true, which is also a cliche)
Trying to conquer the world in a couple of months will drain your bank account, your sleep and your sanity. If you are starting a small press, don’t commit to more than a few titles in your first year. Keep your print runs small.
There isn’t a lot of public discussion about print runs but many small press publishers will be more than happy to give you some insight on theirs. With Word Riot, I do small print runs of 200-300 at a time and order reprints when the stock runs low. This means I have to order reprints with greater frequency but I’m also keeping my risk low should a title not resonate with an audience the way I expected. I don’t live in fear of returns.
4. Get thee a social media presence
You need to be a Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Fictionaut, the HTMLGIANT comments section, everywhere. Be insightful and interesting, of course, but be out there. If you’re not insightful or interesting, fake it and eventually you’ll figure it out. Just be visible. Independent publishing and online literary culture is more vital and exciting now than I’ve seen since I got started. Be a part of the conversation.
5. Your printer and your distributor are your life partners
Choose wisely. There’s been many a small (and large, actually) publisher screwed by a bad distribution deal. Find a distributor who is economically sound and responsive to your needs. Same with printers.
Word Riot’s printer is Offset Paperback Manufacturers and our distributor is Pathway Book Service. They are fantastic and I would not still be in business without them—I highly recommend them to everyone. There will be plenty of snafus as you navigate the road to publishing a book. Your printer or distributor should never add to your headache.
6. Start marketing four months ahead of your publication date
You need to have advance review copies and you need to not be stingy with them. Find blogs and magazines you think would be interested in your publication and ask if they would like a galley. Don’t just hurl copies at the biggest book bloggers you can find. They receive more books than they can possibly read. Pitch them on the book. You are passionate about this book or else you wouldn’t be publishing it. Use that passion to get potential reviewers interested in your book.
Many bloggers or reviewers will have specific guidelines about receiving galley copies. Follow them. You’re just wasting their time and yours if you don’t.
Four months sounds like a lot of time. It’s not. Publishers Weekly and Library Journal will not review a book unless they have received a galley copy four months ahead of time. That’s not to say sending galleys guarantees a review, but you want to at least give your book the shot at one.
7. Figure out eBooks
Not just Kindle (you really just need some basic html knowledge to format a Kindle book). Learn how to create EPUB files; Sigil is great free software for building EPUB files. Barnes & Noble is going to open up their nook eBook store later this summer to small publishers. Apple will be opening up iBooks to books with ISBN numbers soon, as well. Digital is a complement to print, but an essential one.
We as independent presses should be at the forefront of new media. We don’t have bureaucratic leviathans. Our strength is that we are agile and innovative, responsive to our authors as well as our customers. We need to be aggressive in the eBook market, and we need to be thinking about how we can advance the medium of digital books.
Stats courtesy of the fantastic Submishmash. “In-Progress” usually means pending acceptance. The submission marked “New” is spam. So the acceptance rate, minus withdrawals, is 3.8% for June.