Wednesday, January 14, 2015

AiIP: The Times They Are A-Changin'

But first, a message from our sponsors:

 Well, not a sponsor, exactly. But as A) an author and B) someone who pays quite a bit of attention to publishing in general, and self-publishing in particular, I see a lot of book covers. And, man, do I see a lot of bad book covers. I want to take a moment here and plug the guy who did the cover for 3024AD, over at Atomic Covers. If you're an author looking for an artist, here's why you should consider him:
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  • The time. Turnaround in fourteen days, and in my personal experience (and his) it's been much faster than that.
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I'll leave it at that. Suffice it to say that if you need a cover, you could do a lot worse, and you'd be hard pressed to do better.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

 Recently, on this very blog, a few of us discussed a few pieces by Jonathan McCalmont, wherein he makes the statement that:
the genre short fiction scene is becoming a literary niche in which readers are entirely optional
Which, I think, is 100% true (he, incidentally, seems to have misunderstood my points in that post. Suffice it to say, while I found his tone somewhat off-putting, I agreed with what he said, and basically said we need more of that. But I digress). Readers have become optional in many ways, as short fiction authors sell and read other short fiction authors.

But, we live in the fun* age that we do, so there are options. One option that has recently appeared is QuarterReads. Basically, you pay $0.25 per story, and you get to pick what you read with it. But it's not and open field like, say, Amazon- there are some basic editorial standards, for quality and basic subject matter. You can read their whole 'about' page here.

Founder Ian was kind enough to take a few moments and answer some questions about QuarterReads for us:

1) What gave you the idea for QuarterReads?

Like most great and terrible ideas, this one came up over drinks with friends. We were lamenting the fact that short story publishing felt like a binary choice: submit to the professional markets or self publish. We started talking about what something in between those poles might look like, and eventually came around to the idea of a market for individual stories, sold at a low price with most of it going straight to the author. Everything grew from there, and that simple idea is still central to every feature we add to the site.

2) Where do you see QuarterReads in a year? In five?

I am a terrible prophet, but here goes. We are about two and a half months old right now, so a year is a long time and five feels like an eternity. In a year, I'd like QuarterReads to be a more mature market, with not only many more writers and readers in the system, but with features that make the very most of every story. That includes things like smartphone apps, the ability for readers to interact more with writers, etc. In five years, at the rate that we change, the site itself might be completely unrecognizable from what it is today, with the exception of the mission, which is carved in very solid stone. Sell stories for a quarter, 22 cents of which go to the author. Everything other than that is negotiable and subject to change based on what is best for our writers.

3) The process is extremely author-friendly, and you listen to feedback and implement it quickly. Can you speak a little to your working process and philosophy?

Everyone who works on this site is a writer first. Before I do any development work on QR each day, I make sure to hit my word count goal as a writer, and I'm a stickler for everyone who works with us having at least one story for sale on the site. We can talk about being writer-friendly all we want, but the best way to stick to that is to be constantly seeing the process from the writer's side as well as the business one. Our philosophy, if we have one, is very simple and absolutely unoriginal. Yog's Law is our first unbreakable rule: money flows always to the writer. If we make a cent, we make sure that one of our writers has made about seven cents first.

4) Do you foresee a longer-form version of QuarterReads, or always stick to the 2,000 word limit?

If we ever deal with longer stories, it will be with a partner site, and I think that very well might happen. But QuarterReads itself will always be for flash and the shorter end of short stories, as well as poems and essays. I won't guarantee that 2,000 will never turn into 2,500, but for the most part, we are happy with our limits. To go back to your previous question, I can all but guarantee that a year into the future, we will still have a 2k limit in place.

5) Much has been made of the Terraform launch, and the market for short fiction- How do you plan on attracting more readers?

That's certainly the big question. We have taken the strategy of being very good to our writers first and letting the readers follow. We're well aware that this only works to a point. One of our biggest challenges, which we share with every single market on the planet, is reaching out to readers and convincing them that their $5 is best spent with us. Our advantage, I think, is a low barrier to entry in terms of price, and a huge variety of content. Show me another place where you can choose 20 stories from a catalog of 600 that gets bigger every day, encompassing everything from high fantasy to romantic poetry, for five dollars. I think we've created a good product, but can we get the critical mass of readers to join? We'll certainly try.

On a slightly less rambling note, we will be making one story each week free to all visitors, starting in the next week or so. This was a somewhat controversial move, because it threatens our core value of always paying writers. But I think we've done it in such a way (paying the writer ourselves and encouraging tips) that Yog is still satisfied, and I hope that will help new visitors see what we do and convince some percentage to join up.

Thanks for the chance to talk about QR. If your readers have any questions, I'd love to hear from them by email at ian [at]

We now conclude with another message from our sponsors:

Actually, from me! Just a reminder, in line with the above on the changing face of publishing, that I have an ongoing (free!) choose-your-own-adventure running over at The Venturess! I'd love it if you read it & voted!


Dean is the author of 3024AD and other stories, engineer, and geek about many things. He lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest. You can listen to him ramble on Twitter and muse on his blog.