A Look Into Online Publishing

I’m fascinated by the appendix to the new Thoughtcrime Experiments anthology. You heard that right. I said appendix. The anthology was a high-quality hobby effort put together at considerable time and expense by Leonard Richardson and Sumana Harihareswara. The appendix, called “How to Do This and Why” details the entire process they went through to make the anthology, and gives a bunch of interesting stats about submissions. It’s got budget information, procedures, and there’s a sample contract in appendix B.

I think this is essential reading for anyone interested in publishing today. Beyond its obvious value to those considering putting together an anthology or webzine, it provides a lot of insight useful to writers:

If you listen to editors complain about unsolicited submissions, you’ll get the impression that pretty much everything that comes into the slush pile is terrible. That simply writing a grammatical story with a plot puts you in the upper half of the slush pile.

This makes beginning writers feel good, and in fact our experience shows the upper-half thing to be true, but it’s an illusion. A story that’s better than 80% of the slush gets rejected. You can’t shoot for the upper half of the slush pile, you have to shoot for the top five percent.

Every story needs an editor to champion it. One thing we conclude from this experiment is that there aren’t enough editors. We were able to temporarily become editors and scoop a lot of great stories out of the slush pile.

It’s well known that there’s an oversupply of stories relative to readers. That’s why rates are so low. Our experiment shows that there’s an oversupply of stories relative to editors. By picking up this anthology you’ve done what you can to change the balance of readers to stories. I wrote this appendix to show that you’ve also got the power to change the balance of editors to stories.

Now that I’ve geeked out about this anthology’s procedures, I plan to check out the stories…

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