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The Anthology is essentially finished. I have page proofs out to the authors. If you're interested in reviewing this in print or on a blog and would like an electronic copy please e-mail me at warrenlapine@yahoo.com and let me know if you'd like a PDF or an Epub version and I'll send it along to you.

More on the Table of Contents

I spent the day roughing out the layout for Fantastic Stories. Here’s the table of contents as it currently stands. I’ll spend most of tomorrow working on layout aesthetics so I suspect the book will probably end up with five to ten additional pages.

Introduction (page 5 Warren Lapine)
Interface Pattern (page 9 Kelly McCullough)
How Interesting: a Tiny Man (page 29 Harlan Ellison)
A Cry For Hire (page 37 Carole McDonnell)
The Digital Eidolon That Fits in Your Pocket (page 87 Trent Zelazny)
Riding the Bus (page 97 Tom Picirilli)
Sluggo (page 107 Mike Resnick)
The Swap (page 125 Barry B. Longyear)
Starwisps (page 162 Edward J. McFadden)
Custody (page 190 Jay O’Connell)
Haircut (page 202 Shariann Lewitt)
Steaming into Wonderland (page 212 Douglas Cohen)
And What Were Roses? (page 238 Mary A. Turzillo)
The Box in My Pocket (page 250 Amy Sundberg)
Skyblaze (page 262 Sharon Lee and Steve Miller)

Oh and the antho currently comes in at 314 pages, and with this line up I've decided instead of publishing this in just trade paper that I'm going to also come out with a simultaneous hard cover.
It’s been five years since the last project I was the fiction editor of, Absolute Magnitude, saw print. A lot has changed since then. E-books have risen in prominence, e-mail submissions have become the norm rather than the exception, and genre magazines have experienced staggering losses in circulation. Back in 2009, after a four-year hiatus from genre publishing, I decided to return to magazine publishing. I contacted Harlan Ellison to see if he’d write a story for me so that when I made my announcement I could include the info that I had a new story from him in the announcement. He readily agreed and sent me “How Interesting: a Tiny Man,” which I accepted immediately.

Then the universe threw me a curve ball. The top magazine in the science fiction/fantasy field, Realms of Fantasy, announced it would be closing. I know a thing or two about buying magazines on their last leg and turning them around, so I called the publisher, Sovereign Media, to see if they’s be interested in selling the magazine to me. I didn’t hold out much hope as I’d actually tried to buy Science Fiction Age from them back in 2000. At the time, they told me it wasn’t worth the effort to sell a defunct magazine. But they surprised me by being quite anxious to sell Realms. I looked over the financials and decided I could make a go of it.

So now I owned the top fantasy magazine in the field and had a paid-for Harlan Ellison story. The problem was I had decided to keep the editorial staff, which included long time editor Shawna McCarthy. If there’s one thing I believe as a publisher, it’s that you never force an editor to run anything they’re not comfortable with. So I called Harlan, told him that I had purchased Realms of Fantasy, and that I would not be going forward with Fantastic Stories. We discussed what to do with the now-orphaned story. I suggested we could send it to Shawna and see if she thought it would fit in Realms, and if not then Harlan could keep the payment as a kill fee. Shawna did indeed accept the story for Realms of Fantasy; it appeared in the February 2010 issue, and went on to win a Nebula.

As it turned out the magazine industry had changed so much that I simply was not able to turn Realms of Fantasy around. I poured close to $100,000 into it, yet the circulation just kept declining. So after nine issues I announced the closure of the magazine and then sold it. The magazine had brought me back into the genre community, but it had done nothing to scratch the editorial itch that had caused me to want to return to magazines. It did, however, convince me that I wanted no part of trying to publish a magazine under the current market conditions; but I still had the urge to edit short fiction. To that end I announced Fantastic Stories as an anthology. I contacted Harlan to see if he’d be interested in selling me reprint rights to “How interesting: a Tiny Man,” as I’d actually been the first editor to purchase the story. And as you can tell from the table of contents he said yes.

I’m extremely proud of the work I did with Absolute Magnitude and the award nominations were cool. That said, Absolute Magnitude had such a narrow focus that it could sometimes be very frustrating to edit. Right out of the gate I’d had to pass on stories by two of my favorite authors Roger Zelazny and Harlan Ellison. The Zelazny story, “Coming to a Cord” had been set in my favorite literary universe, Amber; and the Ellison story “Chatting with Anubis” went on to win a Stoker Award. They were both top notch stories that just didn’t fit with the hard science fiction theme of the magazine. There were scores of other stories that I passed on not because I didn’t think the stories were well worth publishing, but because they didn’t fit the magazine.

I remember telling many name writers that I loved their stuff, but that it just wasn’t right for Absmag. I don’t think most of them believed me, but two of those writers are in this anthology. When I opened for submissions I’d expected Fantastic to essentially be Absolute Magnitude with a slightly broader subject matter. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Ultimately Fantastic Stories doesn’t read anything like Absolute Magnitude. Really only three or four of the stories here could have been accepted for Absolute Magnitude. It was a hell of a lot of fun watching as the anthology dictated the unexpected editorial terms to me.

Steampunk was just starting to come into vogue when I closed Absolute Magnitude’s doors. I must confess that I never really got it and that I don’t particularly care for it as a sub-genre of fantasy. I know that some people consider it a sub-genre of science fiction, but I think of any story that requires science that isn’t real to work as a fantasy story. Of course, my classification of it as fantasy didn’t preclude my purchasing it for this anthology, and while I expected to see a lot of it I didn’t expect to buy any of it because it just doesn’t do anything for me.

I should also mention that I don’t like stories in the present tense or stories that deal with religion. But over the years I’ve discovered that a good writer can still get stories past my prejudices. Really it’s all about the story. If I care about the characters and I’m pleased by where the plot takes me, I’ll buy it, period. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I purchased not just one but three steampunk stores.

It should be interesting to see how submissions change once writers see what I purchased for this anthology. Over the years I’ve found that a number of writers do a very good job of targeting editors. I remember routinely thinking as I read the slush, oh this one was written for Stan, or this one was written for Gordon, etc. So hopefully I’ll be thinking this one was written for me next time out.

I’d be remiss not to mention that this anthology is in part a celebration of sorts. I plan to release it on what will be my twentieth anniversary in the publishing field. It’s been a wild ride with a lot of highs and lows. Some of the highs were amazing and some of the lows were lower than anything I could have expected. But through it all, publishing has given me an extraordinary life that a working-class kid from a small working-class town had no right to expect. So to all of you who have been part of my publishing life in one way or another for the last twenty years, thank you so much, and here’s to twenty more.

Fantastic and The Post

As people are mentioning here, manuscripts have been, and are continuing to be, returned by the post office. I have no idea what caused this to happen. I spoke with them, but did not come away with an understanding of why most of my mail was being returned and some of it wasn't. Very frustrating. The upshot of this is I'm not interested in dealing with this PO Office anymore. Angela and I are currently looking at houses in another town. So I'm going to close the the Anthology to submissions until we purchase a house and move to another town. When I open up again, I will probably take e-mail submissions for a few months to make up for the postal mix up.

Fantastic Stories #1 Full

The first Fantastic Stories anthology is now full; it has fourteen stories and about one hundred thousand words. When I started reading for it I expected it to be a lot like Absolute Magnitude with a sprinkling of fantasy thrown in. As it turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong. The first anthology has more fantasy than science fiction. I should qualify that by saying I think of steam punk as fantasy. I’m not a fan of steampunk and yet I have three stories here that I would call steampunk. I really like that this anthology didn’t turn out as I expected, that made the editorial process a lot more fun.

Below, in no particular order, is the full list of authors who will be in the first anthology.

Shariann Lewitt
Harlan Ellison
Mike Resnick
Douglas Cohen
Trent Zelazny
Edward J. McFadden
Jay O’Connell
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Tom Picirilli
Carole McDonnell
Mary A. Turzillo
Kelly McCullough
Amy Sundberg
Barry B. Longyear

Fantastic Stories Update

I’ll be having the final slush party for the anthology this Saturday. I expect we’ll get through everything on hand and then I’ll make final purchases. I currently have about 70,000 words of fiction lined up.

I’ll start reading for the second volume immediately so don’t worry if you just missed the window. I’m going to work on getting my response time down for the second one. Also I’m now willing to take simultaneous subs.

I expcet to have another announcement regarding a different anthology shortly.

Thus far we have fiction from (in no particular order)

Harlan Ellison
Mike Renick
Douglas Cohen
Trent Zelazny
Edward J. McFadden
Jay O’Connel
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Tom Picirilli
Carole McDonnell
Mary A. Turzillo
Kelly McCullough

Back to the Constitution

Does anyone else wonder why none of the conservatives who came after me for placing a disclaimer on the U.S. Constitution said a word when the Republican Senators edited The Constitution as they read it on the House Floor? These people savaged me because they believed I was implying people might be offended by some parts of the Constitution. Then when their own Senators edited out what they thought I was implying should be edited out they said nothing. These folks should look up the word Hypocrite.

Fantastic Stories Anthology

Fantastic Stories of the Imagination is a yearly anthology. Edited by Warren Lapine, Wilder Publications Box 10641, Blacksburg, VA 24063
I’m looking for stories that cover the entire science fiction, fantasy, and horror spectrum. I love magic realism (think Tim Powers and Neil Gaiman) and hard sf. I want a story to surprise me and to take me to unexpected places. I love word play, and would like to see stories with a literary bent, though decidedly not a pretentious bent. I could spend some time telling you what I don’t want, but I’ve found that good stories can make me buy them regardless of how many of my rules they violate. Let your imagination run wild, push and blur the limits of genre, or send me something traditional. I want it to see it all. My experience as an editor tells me that over time I’ll develop preferences and that the anthology will take on its own personality. When that happens I’ll change the guidelines to be more specific, but for now I’m going to explore what’s out there before I decide what direction to go in.
Payment: 10 cents per word on acceptance for original stories (maximum of $250.00) or 2 cents per word for reprints (maximum of $100.00). A check will accompany the contract so no simultaneous submissions please. I am purchasing First English Language Book Rights and non-exclusive electronic rights.
Story length, I have no limit on story length but the longer the story is the better it will have to be.
Sorry no e-mail submissions. Why is this? Don’t you know that e-mail submissions is the future? Yes I do know that, but it’s not the way I want to do this. For me the best part of being an editor is having people over to have slush parties and interacting with them during the reading process. Editing on a screen is a thing devoid of fun or joy, I edit for the fun and joy of it.

E-Books My 2 Cents

I’ve been reading a lot about e-books most of it quite vague. To state the issue as I see it. The people who read e-books want the price of an e-book to be in line with the price of a paperback and the publishers want the price of an e-book to be in line with the price of a hard cover. The e-book reader reasons that electrons don’t cost anything and publishers reason that they are losing hard cover sales to e-book sales.

So whose right? That depends on a lot of factors. But the biggest factor is how much money is actually saved by the publisher in the sale of an e-book. Let’s look at that.

If we take a hard cover run of 30,000 or more, it’s fairly reasonable that the publisher can get a 250 page book for something in the range of $2.50 per unit. So that’s about ten percent of the cost of the book if it lists for $24.95. Now there’s the cost to get it to the market. That cost is a lot less than most people think in that there are companies that specialize in combining the shipping of books from different publishers to the market thereby saving a lot of money on shipping. Based on my experience shipping magazines that way I’ll assume a cost of about .25 per copy to get a hard cover to market. So the cost is now up to $2.75.

I keep seeing people mentioning the cost of warehousing, but really the Thol Power Tool Ruling has all but eliminated warehousing. That ruling means that if you have inventory at the end of the year you must pay taxes on it, even if said inventory was on hand last year and you already paid taxes on it. As a result of this ruling most book companies stopped warehousing books; this had a disastrous effect on the back list and the mid list, but that’s another subject for another time. So these days most back list books, from most of the major publishers, are listed through Lightening Source and are print on demand thus there is no cost to keep them in print or warehouse them after they have had their initial book store run. But still, there is some warehousing for a major title that is expected to require some reshipping. At most I’d assign .05 per copy to that. So now we’re up to $2.80 per book.

Now let’s figure in returns. For this we’ll assume a 50% sell through. That means for each two books printed one book sells. So the printing, shipping, and warehousing expense for one hard cover sale is somewhere in the neighborhood of $5.60. That’s what it cost the publisher to make the sale before we figure in the publicity budget, the writer’s royalty, layout and design, and the editorial budget, both acquiring and copyediting.

So how much of that $24.95 belongs to the publisher. That depends on who their distributor is. But the big boys typically get 45%. So that means the publisher gets $11.23 for each copy that sells. Now the writer will be owed a royalty of at least 10% bringing us to $8.74. Now lets subtract the $5.60 and were left with 3.17. That’s about how much the publisher has before they do any advertising or pay any bills such as rent, electricity, support staff, or editorial.

Now lets look at the cost of the e-book. This varies by quite a bit as not all e-book platforms pay the same percentage. I’ll just go with Amazon as it currently out sells all of the others. Let’s place the cost of the book at $9.99 as that seems to be a price point that makes most readers happy. Now unless you give Amazon an exclusive, something none of the major publishers can do, they only pay the publisher 35% of the e-book price. That’s right, Amazon has already taken most of the publisher’s savings from not having to print the e-book before it even reaches the reader. So when the book sells the publisher gets $3.50. The writer still gets ten percent, though many writers, especially name writers, are demanding a bigger percentage of e-books because . . . . well . . . they have no cost to the publisher. But we’ll stay with the 10% so the publisher has $2.50 left after paying the author. What does this mean to the publisher? It means for every hard cover it doesn’t sell because it sold an e-book the publisher loses $0.67. Not a huge loss but it ads up over thousands of sales.

For the publisher to not lose money on every hard cover sales converted to an e-book sale using these figures the correct price point would be around $12.99 and that assumes that the writer is only getting 10%.

If e-book readers want e-books to cost less they really have to stop insisting on getting the e-book at the same time as the hard cover. I have no problem with people wanting to read e-books for amounts closer to $3.99 or $6.99. But why should anyone expect publishers to take a loss and give that discount while the hard cover is the only traditional edition that is available? Throughout the entire history of publishing people have paid a premium to read books first. Why should that change now?