Monday, March 12, 2012

Here's Another Idea...

I'm not saying I'm seriously contemplating a new publishing venture, but it is quite fun to riff on some of the comments from my Rolling Stream blog post from a few days back, so...

I've been chewing over different hypothetical scenarios, and I've got some thoughts on editorial direction and vision I'll share in a future blog, but since my wife just broke down and ordered our family's first e-reader last night  (I'm still dealing with the feelings of shame, guilt and self-loathing...) delivery systems are on my mind right now, which made me think...

What about taking that original idea of a non-traditional hunting and fishing literary journal that appeals to my fellow 27 weirdos nationwide, and instead of a traditional print mag or a traditional (?) e-zine, instead format it as an anthology and make it available as an e-book download?

I'm not sure how the art would work in that format, but you would then have the option of having it as a print-on-demand print copy as well as the digital version. Heck, with that kind of distribution flexibility, you could even make it a quarterly, or twice a year, or whatever. That would certainly solve some of the thorny distribution issues, but it also raises other issues.

For example, how would copyright work in a deal like that? As a freelancer, I'm completely, absolutely, positively dead-set against any form of work-for-hire or all-rights contracts, and if there wasn't some way for the author to grant first publication rights to the e-book but then retain all other rights, then the idea of an e-book anthology is a dead one, at least for me.

But if there were some way to work out art and rights issues, what do you think of a literary quarterly distributed as an e-book rather than a traditional print mag or e-zine?

Then, of course, there's the issue of funding the project. Obviously there would be some costs associated with soliciting, choosing and editing the stories and art, then putting it all together and formatting the final product, but I would think the lion's share of expenses with such a project would be raising enough money to pay the chosen writers a decent rate for their stories.

Would Kickstarter funding be enough seed money to cover production costs and writer fees for the initial issue, and then I simply hope the money raised from paid e-book downloads would be enough to keep the ball rolling, albeit slowly? Or would it be a one-off issue? Who knows? But it's fun to play "what if" isn't it?

So what do you think? Good idea? Bad idea? Take a critical whack at it, and don't be kind.    


  1. I believe in the Rolling Stream post you said something to the effect of "look at what's out there and then do something entirely different". A literary quarterly, hunting/fishing-oriented, in e-book format fits that bill.

    On the plus side of the e-book:
    - you don't have to sell ads
    - you don't have to maintain subscriptions
    - you can publish on whatever schedule suits you
    - books don't have imputed expiration dates like periodicals

    I'm not an attorney but I don't think it would be difficult to work out the copyright issues. Maybe I'm showing a certain degree of ignorance in this area in saying that it doesn't seem first publication rights to an e-book would be all that different from some other form of media.

    Startup costs wouldn't be oppressive and there's always the option of offering authors royalties instead of up-front payment. You'd get enough takers on that for the first volume anyway. Same with the art. I have no idea what editing and publishing costs are for an e-book but with as much activity as there is in that space I think you could get in the ballpark pretty quickly. Check out the Smashwords site if you haven't already. Between Kickstarter and the barter system you can raise enough for the first go at it.

    Above all, pick a cool name.

  2. Funny, I've been chewing on a similar (but not competing) thought myself.

    Rights are not a problem. You can preserve your rights after e-book publication with the same kind of contract you'd use for regular book printing. What I'm not sure of is how complicated it would be to distribute revenue from e-book sales to multiple authors.

    Funding isn't much of a problem if you go for an e-book. I know this because a friend of mine just had someone in China steal a bunch of work from her blog and turn it into several e-books. Apparently, the guy didn't have to invest much up front, and they started selling like crazy. (I think she has now kicked his ass, btw.)

    I think POD books require some funding, and self-publishing definitely requires up-front investment.

    So, you are not insane. The more relevant question here is what percentage of this audience owns a reader? If you go strictly e-book, the answer probably doesn't matter because the costs are minimal, so any revenue is gravy, and sooner or later, most people who read books will probably have readers. For sure before we all die.

  3. You should take a look at John Barsness' Rifle Loony News, it's close to what you describe. I don't know what sort of readership he has, but I'm a subscriber.

    James in ABQ

  4. James (Sandoval?) is on track, but John's is shorter than yours should & could be and isn't printed. Good thing to look at though.

    I would certainly buy a good POD neo avant gonzo Gray's based on the Plains (is there a title somewhere in James McMurtry?) Hell, if I were rich I'd invest in it.

  5. Just do it.

    I did this Winter, being unemployed from the fly shop and its been a neat ride so far..

    That's me, that's "Moe" (as publisher) and there's a formula to it I think I've sorted out; as we're in like 60 countries so far..(in just 3 weeks)..?!

    So if its a flip-page magazine your thinking of doing Chad, shoot me an email asap (on main-page of the website); as between you and Mark and other writing-contributors on here; I can get something up 'with visuals' within a week if you want;..Was already thinking of putting together an Upland Version soon anyway..

    Our original cost was under $1,000.00 to develop, since we we are the talent essentially, and because of this we're at 4X that already in ad-sales;(all in under a month online) ....and of course the best part is myself and my business-partner are no longer unemployed.

    Funny as it may sound, as long as you're the one producing it, and most importantly have a solid-group of artists to contribute; whats left is simply learning from others' mistakes (that's where I come in).

    We haven't made many, using others before us as a guide, but a few hiccups have only added to our exposure once we figured them out and further help those coming up next to avoid the same.

    I'm - in' on your project regardless, most especially if you need upland-hunting-pics; as I've got lots of fresh stuff - even some never seen online if your serious.


  6. Sorry, been away from the computer for a few days. Thanks for all the comments, everyone, certainly a lot to chew on.

    Mark, the no ads aspect is really appealing. No ads means no pressure to not publish something advertisers might not like or want to be associated with. Complete autonomy. And the name, yes, gotta pick a cool name.

    Norcal, you're right in that I don't think rights would be much of a hnag-up. I do, however, think that a flat fee, either per word or by story just like a magazine, is preferable to a percentage of royalties, because I certainly wouldn't want to deal with mailing out dozens of miniscule royalty checks every year. You could probably just stipulate in the contract that all rights with the exception of that particular e-book revert back to author. In otherwords, the publisher of the e-book retains the right to continue publishing that particular volume (because obviously with e-publishing there's no set print run) but can't publish the story in any other volumes, venues, forms, etc.

    As a freelancer, I could live with that contract. Any freelanceres out there see any issues with it, or something similar?

    Hell, Steve, I was hoping you'd write for it...

    Moe, that's pretty damn interesting. I had no idea you were doing that. Look for an e-mail soon...

  7. OF COURSE I'll write for it-- what I was clumsily saying was that I will write stories or a column, edit if I must, recruit talent and wish I could invest. I love the idea.

    And the contact sounds fine.

  8. "What about taking that original idea of a non-traditional hunting and fishing literary journal that appeals to my fellow 27 weirdos nationwide, and instead of a traditional print mag or a traditional (?) e-zine, instead format it as an anthology and make it available as an e-book download?"

    This sounds a little like what The Pines Review is already doing, although it is more about the business and craft and philosophy of outdoor writing.

    Maybe you should be contributing to it!

  9. Mr. Love,

    An avid hunting friend of mine here in North Dakota reads your blog regularly and he asked me to take a look at this post. A year ago, I started Knuckledown Press ( ), which is a literary press that focuses on publishing fiction and creative nonfiction works in the e-book format. We don't offer advances, but we don't charge for services, either (we're not a vanity press and won't publish just anyone). We partner with our authors to develop and edit their work and offer 50% royalties on a non-exclusive contract. It's a very non-traditional arrangement, as you probably know, but I'm a writer myself and I hate the idea of losing my rights to someone else for my creative work (I do my share of work-for-hire writing, too).

    If you were to pursue your anthology idea, perhaps you could offer your contributors a non-exclusive contract and a certain percentage of the revenue as royalty and then pay out every six months? It gets a little tricky, I know, because you end up having to chase a lot of paperwork and then put together royalty statements for everyone, etc. Alternatively, you could line up a "staff" of regular contributors that you would have under contract. Anyways, just my $.02 cents.

  10. I just ran across this today, and it made me think of your (potential) endeavor:

    ebook only, no ads. not eclectic or particularly literary, but another data point.

  11. "not eclectic or particularly literary..."

    Philip - have you read it yet?

    Here's an excerpt of what Kirk Deeter (Field and Stream, Angling Trade, etc) had to say:

    "In leafing through the pages… well, actually punching buttons to turn pages… I was impressed by the eclectic array of emotion and subject matter. From a candid muse on the “blood sport” appeal of fishing, to a witty essay on the “metamorphosis” of the fly angler, it’s all very gritty, honest, and entertaining work. And I’m pretty sure this “book” contains the first piece in the history of fly fishing writing to include Jai alai as a story element… which might be one of the few genuine “firsts” to happen in fly fishing writing in about 30 years.”