Sunday, December 23, 2012

Agency Pricing?

A discussion on a private mailing list reminded me that there seems to be some confusion about just what agency pricing is, and whether it benefits writers, and particularly indie writers. Some prominent folks in the industry seem to think that indie writers should want an agency model when they do business with their vendors.

I disagree, and I think the confict exists because some folks are confusing a couple of factors. From the POV of the NY publishers, agency pricing is about controlling the final sale price. They were actually making MORE money under the retail system than they were under agency. They didn't want e-book buyers to get used to low-priced e-books on Amazon, and they were willing to take a hit on their e-book profits to accomplish this.

Under the retail model, the vendor essentially buys however many units of a product, pays a certain price for them, then sells them at whatever retail price they want. That's what produces price competition between vendors, which is good from the consumers' POV -- the fact that some vendors are willing to accept less profit per unit sold in an attempt to sell more units, by undercutting the store up the street (or online). The manufacturer (publisher) still received the same amount of money per unit sold regardless of the actual retail price, even if the vendor chose to use that product as a loss leader, losing however much money on each sale to get customers to visit their store and hopefully spend more money on other items.

So suppose I publish a book and I'd like to sell it for $6.99. I want 70% of that as my wholesale price to the vendor, so I offer it to the vendor for $4.89. So long as the vendor pays me my $4.89 for each copy they sell, I literally do not give a damn how they price my book. They can sell it for $9.99, or for $12.99, or for $7.99, or for $0.99, or give it away for free if they want, so long as I get my $4.89 per unit they move. That's the retail model.

Under agency pricing, the book costs the same everywhere. Buyers have no particular reason to shop at Vendor X instead of Vendor Y, and no particular reason to buy a book this week instead of next month, because it's the same price now that it'll be next month; the price doesn't change. And if you're going through a NY publisher, that price is probably ridiculously high, so you're selling a lot fewer units; even though you're making more money per book, you're selling fewer books and have less money at the end of the quarter.

Agency pricing was about protecting the publishers and furthering their attempts to slow down adoption of e-books. That's it -- that's what the whole fuss was about. Agency pricing offers nothing to the indie writer. (And actually offers even less to the NY published writers, but anyway.)

Unfortunately, what we have now, particularly with Amazon, is the worst of both worlds. We can suggest a retail price, but the vendor can change that price whenever they want to (usually lowering it) and we get 70% (or 35%, or whatever percentage a particular vendor offers) of that actual retail price, which we don't control in the long term. All we can do is suggest a price and hope the actual sale price stays somewhere in that neighborhood.

The solution to this problem is NOT agency pricing, which petrifies the whole equation and sets up a bad situation for the buyers, our readers. The solution is a true retail model, where the vendor pays us $X for each sale they make, and then they decide how to price the item in their store, setting up promotions and sales and loss leaders as they choose. If they think $X is too high, they're welcome to decline to carry our product, and we can decide whether we want to adjust the price, or not. If we want to have some control over our own incomes, though, while maintaining a dynamic market that encourages sales, we don't want agency pricing -- we want retail pricing. We want to know that we're going to make a certain amount per sale (which benefits us) and that it's up to the vendors to fight it out amongst themselves in setting their retail prices (which benefits our readers, encouraging them to buy more books).

Agency pricing is about controlling the retail sale price. Wholesale pricing is about controlling the wholesale price. If I could control the wholesale price, I wouldn't care about controlling the retail price; let the vendor control that, so long as I get my desired wholesale price. Arguing that indie writers should fight to control the retail price is ignoring where our money actually comes from, which is the wholesale price.

Agency pricing only looks good compared with the twisted, non-wholesale model we have now, and if we consider only OUR needs, ignoring the needs of our readers. The wholesale model supports both our needs, while still giving the vendors reasonable flexibility to create their own pricing and sale strategies.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Duotrope Transitioning to Pay

For anyone who uses Duotrope and hasn't seen yet, they're switching many of their features over to pay-only on 1 January. According to their announcement, they've been trying to keep the site completely free, supported by voluntary donations, but the fact is they haven't made any of their monthly goals since 2007. They've been saying for some time (at least as long as I've been using the site, almost three years now) that if they couldn't fund the site through donations, they'd have to switch to charging a fee, and that's what's finally happened.

On another page, they talk about how the change will affect their statistics collection, and it sounds like they won't be taking much of a hit there.

After our subscription model was agreed upon, we went back to those numbers and determined that while a significant drop in the user base was fully expected, we should be able to retain somewhere between 75% to 80% of the submission reports we normally receive.

Equally important is the fact that we will also decrease the amount of unreliable data. On average every year, 28,000 submission reports get ignored in the statistics for a large variety of reasons. Once again, looking at the type of user submitting this information, we predict the unreliable data could decrease by as much as 90%.

It sounds like they were getting most of their good data from people who were voluntarily donating money anyway, so that shouldn't change.

I love Duotrope. I use it as a major source of my anthology listing posts, and I also use it to track my own submissions, and to find markets for my work. I've signed up for a year's subscription, which cost $50 if paid all at once; paid month-by-month, a subscription is $5/month.

I encourage anyone writing, particularly anyone submitting short fiction to magazines and anthologies and webzines, to support Duotrope. They're an awesome resource for writers, and I look forward to using their services for many years.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Anthology Markets

If you've just wandered in off the internet, hi and welcome. :) I do these posts every month (except last month, but anyway), so if this post isn't dated in the same month you're in, click here to make sure you're seeing the most recent one.

Markets with specific deadlines are listed first, "Until Filled" markets (if there are any -- none this month) are at the bottom. There are usually more details on the original site; always click through and read the full guidelines before submitting. Note that some publishers list multiple antho guidelines on one page, so after you click through you might have to scroll a bit.

Note that per editor Steve Berman the deadline for Queering Edgar Allan Poe has slipped from 31 October to 31 December, so if you were working on something for that book and missed the cut-off, you still have some time.


31 December 2012 -- Where Thy Dark Eye Glances: Queering Edgar Allan Poe -- ed. Steve Berman; Lethe Press

The canon of Edgar Allan Poe, one of the foremost writers of dark and atmospheric fiction and poetry, offers readers haunted shores teeming with various erudite men brooding in the waning light over their feelings for unobtainable women. Yet, whether the tales or verses are grotesque or sinister, Poe's narrators are Outsiders, dealing with emotions that so many queer individuals feel: isolation and abandonment as well as loneliness and lost love. Editor Steve Berman wants to breach the chasm and offer an anthology that replaces the heteronormative aspects of Poe's work and life with a different range of identities.

Regardless whether you make Roderick seduce the unnamed narrator visiting Usher, or have a woman fall under Ligeia's sway, the story should be dark as well as fantastical. Stories that involve Poe the author are also acceptable.

Think both Gothic and gay. Obviously, dependent on the time period, the term homosexual might not be apt. Sexual identity is partly labeling, partly sexual experience, and partly attraction. But do not think of this as a romance or erotica anthology; first and foremost, these are stories that should be at home in Weird Tales as much as Strange Horizons.

Fiction or prose, the rate of pay is 5 cents a word for original material. Reprints must query and the pay will be significantly less. Any length for poetry but fiction should be at least 1,500 words and no more than 12,000. Payment is upon release in the spring of 2013 from Lethe Press, a publisher around for over a decade--and who has released the last two winners of the Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBT Fantasy/Horror/Science Fiction.

Please send all submissions to sberman8 at yahoo dot com as RTF files.


31 December 2012 -- Suffered from the Night: Queering Stoker's Dracula -- ed. Steve Berman; Lethe Press

Who is one of the most filmed, most admired characters in English Literature? Yes, Sherlock Holmes. And Lethe Press did release an anthology of queer-themed Holmesian fiction, A STUDY IN LAVENDER. Well, we’re taking on the next such character in a forthcoming anthology.

I want to see historical fiction that expand both major and minor characters from Stoker’s novel. What really happened to Van Helsing’s wife? Did Renfield like to nibble on waifs as much as flies? And so forth. I don’t want characters from the endless cinematic versions. Use Stoker as your Bible, the events of the novel as if they happened.

Stories can range from 2,000 to 10,000 words. No reprints please. No erotica please. I advise you to email me with the scenario you are writing about so I don’t have to read twenty Seward tales. As of now, no stories about the sailors aboard the Demeter or tales about Dracula’s “brides” — they have already been done for the book. Deadline is December 31st. Payment is 5 cents a word for original fiction.


31 December 2012 -- Shades of Blue & Gray: Civil War Ghost Stories -- ed. Steve Berman; Prime Books

Never before had some much blood been shed on American soil as the period between 1861 and 1865. I'm seeking ghost stories, tales of those that died during the conflict, though the story itself may take place decades after the war. Seeking stories no less than 3,000 words in length, no more than 15,000. Deadline is December 31st. Payment for original fiction is at least 3 cents a word. Reprints at least 1 cent a word.


1 January 2013 -- Night Terrors III -- Blood Bound Books

As with all great trilogies, the third one always changes something we thought we knew. And now it’s up to you to help us forge this new direction.

While this third installment will continue to plague readers with restless nights and sweat-soaked sheets, we’re now offering 5 cents a word for your best nightmare-inducing tales.

As always, this anthology is open to the wide gamut of horror and all its subcategories. Remember, evil has no boundaries and neither do we! Science fiction and dark fantasy will also be considered as long as stories contain strong elements of horror. Third person stories are strongly preferred, but we’ll read first person as long as they are extremely well done or the POV is integral to the plot.

Stories may take place in any setting or time period, as long as it’s well written, powerful, and original. Most importantly, scare us. We want to be haunted by your story long after we put it down. Gore and sex are acceptable, as long as it serves a purpose.

If you want to see the type of material we prefer, check out Night Terrors II on Kindle.

== Stories can range from 750-5000 words.
== Previously unpublished stories only.
== No Multiple submissions

Stories must be formatted in the following manner:

== 12 point font
== Times New Roman or Courier New
== Double-Spaced
== Contact information in the upper left(name, address, phone number, email)
== Word Count Upper Right
== 1 Space after a punctuation
== Underline everything you would like to italicize at publication.
== Submissions should be sent as attachment in .Doc or .Docx

Submission Dates: November 1st to January 1st. Selections will not be made until after the submission period closes.

Payment: All stories will receive 5¢/word

Send submissions to Subject should read: Night Terrors III: story title/author last name


1 January 2013 -- Zombies: Shambling Through History -- ed. Steve Berman; Prime Books

Now this anthology is a memento mori for zombie fans. Starting in the B.C.E., follow zombie attacks through history. What happened to the colonists at Roanoke? Who prowled the burning streets of Rome while Nero fiddled?

All the stories should be historically true in terms of setting and demeanor (but you can change events as needed, as in one story I bought, Oscar Wilde is an action her in 1900). I am currently not seeking any story that takes place after the 1800s. All zombies must be the carnivorous kind. No Voudo zombies please--these are undead slaves and not predators. In fact, I am seeing too many tales with necromancy as the source of the zombies; needless to say, it's tiring. Be inventive. Word length is flexible (I am accepting some short short stories to be the "connective tissue" between main tales). Payment for original is at leats 3 cents a word; payment for reprints at least 1 cent a word. All stories are due Jan 1st.

[Note from a later journal post:]

So I'm still open to reading new stories for the zombie chronology anthology I'm editing for Prime Books. Deadline is January 1st. I'm no longer interested in tales that take place after 1800.

I would really love to read a story where Archimede's heat ray or claw was designed to kill zombies. Or that was the rationale behind Zhuge Liang's primitive land mine.

Or perhaps something with the fallen Colossus of Rhodes - imagine a broken gigantic body that is infested with zombies. Symbolic?

Or in Antigone, Polyneices rises from the dead as a zombie because of necromancy.

I want Antiquity. I want Dark Ages.


15 January 2013 -- Black Apples -- Belladonna Publishing

Black Apples is an anthology of gothic fairytales starring the classic fairytale princess -– but her ending is maybe not so happy, her quest is perhaps more grim and the darkness of the tale might just come from within…

The Princess might be someone we know, but she can also be a princess we’ve never heard of before. She may come from ancient times, or far into the future. She can be the heroine, or we might not see her on the pages at all –- but the story must somehow evolve around the fairytale princess and/or her role as such – and have a dark twist… We’re looking for the beautiful, sensuous and sinister.

Find fairytale inspiration our blog. Tags: Fairytale Friday and Black Apples.

What we want: Originality is treasured, so is strong storytelling, clever plot and a polished manuscript.

Don’t be afraid to experiment –- we do like the strange.

Read more about what we want here.

What we do not want: Straight forward retelling of fairytales, pointless gore or splatter horror, plotless porn (sex is ok – but all in good taste) or poetry.

Submissions: We will accept submissions until January 15th 2013, e-mail submissions only.

Submission should have a standard manuscript formatting and be attached as .doc, .rtf or .pdf.

A few words about you in the body of the e-mail would be nice.

You will hear back from us within 8 weeks.

Length: 3,000–10,000 words.

Language: We will read submissions in English, Norwegian and Swedish.

Rights: We buy First Worldwide English language rights, First Worldwide Swedish language rights and First Worldwide Norwegian language rights.

Publishing details: Print and e-book

Publishing date: 2013

Payment: $120 upon publication and royalties on e-book sales.

Multiple submissions: Yes.

Simultaneous submissions: Yes.

Reprints: No

Send your submission to:

Subject line: Submission, Black Apples: name of your story.

Important: If your story does not have a princess or princess-like character, or does not relate to princesses or/and their role in any kind of way, it is not for Black Apples.

Please name your file author’s last name and story title. Example: meyer twilight.doc/rtf/pdf.

We’re looking forward to your submission!


10 February 2013 -- Love, Lust and Zombies -- ed. Mitzi Szereto, Cleis Press

A trade paperback to be published by Cleis Press, USA

Publication date: Autumn 2013

Let’s face it: zombies are hot, and baby, they’re getting hotter. Although not the most traditional of sex symbols, zombies are truly coming into their own, even landing on the silver screen in romantic roles, not to mention ambling and shambling across the pages of novels and television screens. Gone are those one-dimensional gut-munching characters from George Romero’s grim and gruesome flick Night of the Living Dead. Zombies now have a lot more to offer, and thank heavens we non-zombies are finally beginning to recognise this.

From the bestselling novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to the hit TV series The Walking Dead, zombies are infiltrating and enriching our daily lives. So isn’t it about time they had their more…err… romantic and sexy sides showcased? It’s my goal as editor of Love, Lust and Zombies to help make this happen. And here’s how you can help.

I want you to write some fun and steamy stories featuring sexy zombie characters and send them over for me to chew on (in a literary sense, that is). Can zombies be sexy? Why the hell not? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all. So can you do it without grossing us out too much or being too gory? Sure you can. And you know you want to!

Submission deadline:

Feb 10, 2013

(I’ll be selecting stories on a rolling basis, therefore earlier submissions are strongly encouraged, though I’ll still consider stories that make it in by the deadline).

Word count:

3,000 to 6,500

What I’m looking for:

Well-developed story lines and well-crafted prose told in a unique voice and containing interesting characters and settings. Stories may be set in the past, present, or future. Stories from female and male writers are welcome, as are those written from the POV of characters of any gender and containing characters of any sexual orientation.

Note that sexually explicit content is acceptable as well as a more subtle approach; however, absolutely no stock sex scenes or formulaic writing/terminology. Please refer to my previous anthologies to get an idea of the variety and style of content I look for. No excessive gore or violence. No reprints.


One-time payment in the range of USD $50-70 (payable on publication) and 2 copies of the anthology.

Submission requirements:

Stories should be formatted as follows: double-spaced Arial 12-point black font Word or RTF document. Indent the first line of each paragraph by half an inch. Do not add extra lines between paragraphs or any other irregular spacing. American spelling and punctuation only (i.e. quote marks, etc.). Include your legal name (and pseudonym if applicable), postal address, and a fifty-word maximum author bio written in the third person. Contract is for one-time, non-exclusive anthology rights with one year’s exclusivity from date of publication. (This may be waived if your story is selected for a “Best Of” collection). No simultaneous submissions please.

In the subject line of your email, please state: Love, Lust and Zombies

Send to: submissions @

I look forward to reading your work!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Definitely Not an Oncoming Train

Jim is reading paper books. We didn't have to wait for his new glasses; his vision has cleared up -- literally -- enough that he can read paper books again. It's a huge relief, like the best Christmas present ever, almost three weeks early.

He's currently working on Bujold's latest, Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, which I already read and enjoyed a lot. Jim sits in his chair reading and periodically laughs or snorts or snickers or whatever, because Bujold is great at inserting a steady stream of low level humor into her writing, even when the book isn't a Humor Book. I'm on the couch doing whatever on my laptop and enjoying his enjoyment, because damn, he can read paper books again. :)

Awesome stuff, had to share.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Aicardi Syndrome and a Pose-Off

Fantasy writer Jim Hines did a blog post asking fans to donate to the Aicardi Syndrome Foundation, an organization that raises research money for Aicardi Syndrome, a disease that affects 1 in 105,000 little girls. He says, "It causes brain malformation, visual problems, seizures, developmental delays, and other medical complications. Most research puts the life expectancy for people with Aicardi between 8 and 16 years."

The Aicardi Syndrome Foundation is the only source of funding for research into this disease. It also helps families with daughters who've been hit with it. It's a great cause, and I urge everyone reading this to throw some money their way, even if it's only a few dollars.

If you do donate, and report your donations to Jim, he'll do another set of book cover poses at each milestone. If you haven't seen this post before, check it out -- Jim demonstrates the ridiculousness of the positions SF/Fantasy/Paranormal female characters are twisted into on book covers by attempting to get into those positions himself, and having his picture taken. It's hilarious, and also underscores some serious shenanigans on the part of the big publishers, 'cause seriously dudes, this is stupid, and it's all based on the idea that the men who buy these books just want to see boobs and butts, and the women who buy these books will go along with stupidly impossible objectification on the covers, because women will sigh and shrug and buy whatever makes the men happy. [cough]

[If you're still going, "Wait, what--?" then check out this pic, parodying one of the Avengers movie posters. In the real poster, Black Widow is doing the boobs-and-butt pose, but all the men are in normal, tough-guy-ready-for-combat poses. This artist turned it around, giving Black Widow a normal pose and putting Captain America into the standard female boobs-and-butt pose. The other men are just displaying their butts. It's awesome. :D ]

And as if that weren't enough, Jim is challenging John Scalzi to a pose-off at two of the milestone points, $1000 and $2500. I really hope they make the $2500, because the pose-off should be great.

Aside from which, Aicardi Syndrome sucks, and deserves support. Please help out.