Okay, so, one of the things I’ve been saying since I revitalized my writing career is that when my Patreon reaches $400 a month, I’ll start buying and publishing other people’s works on a budget of $25 a month, increasing $25 for every full $100 I’m getting above that. Call it a combination of sharing the wealth, networking with other creators, and continuing my experiments in blurring the line between self-publishing and traditional publishing.
Well, my personal Patreon is not at $400 yet, but I’ve had enough growth in that sector that last night I started thinking about my plans, and I realized it would be hard for a one or two person operation to be fielding submissions and putting together a publication every month in the first place, and with that in mind I could start putting my plan into effect on a more limited scale, like a one shot, or irregular, or quarterly publication.
So I thought about it some more, and decided to aim for quarterly, and if it doesn’t quite work out, it doesn’t quite work out. This is an experiment, so the potential failure is part of the process of creating. Anyway, if I put out one issue I’ll still have succeeded in my goals of shining a spotlight on some other creators and adding another item to my DIY resume.
One of the things that I argue against in my artist advocacy is what I call the STOP syndrome: Special Type Of Person, as in “it takes a Special Type Of Person to…” make a comic, write a novel, edit a zine, etc. Now! I do not mean to suggest that it does not take skill or effort or experience to do these things, because it does! It most certainly does! The STOP syndrome is when someone who has the talent stops short of doing some of the work (publishing, promoting, or even creating in the first place) because in their head there is some objective or external signifier that they lack.
I loved poetry as a teenager, but at some point in my early twenties I decided I “realized” I wasn’t a poet and I stopped. For more than a decade, I didn’t write any verse that wasn’t part of a story, and didn’t think that counted as real poetry. As soon as I got over that, I became a published poet and now I’ve placed in an SFPA poetry contest and been nominated for two Rhyslings.
The world is not divided into normal people and special types of people. There aren’t writers, poets, editors, and publishers on one hand and muggles and squibs on the other. There are simply people who do the work of writing, do the work of creating poetry, do the work of editing, and do the work of publishing.
My single big experience with editing and publishing so far taught me many things, including how hard this work is and how rewarding it is. I daresay it will be a bit easier for having had that experience. Not easy, but not a nightmare. Certainly something I can do. The real practical barriers to being a publisher—access to the means of production—are a lot easier to circumvent in the digital age.
So it’s my goal to help show this, and to provide one more venue where people can sell their fiction and poetry in order to hopefully help more people see themselves as poets and authors. I’m not saying that I’ll have a restriction for new talent, but I’ll certainly be looking for it.
A lot of details are still pending since I just committed to this at 2 in the morning last night on Twitter, but here’s the (tentative) skinny:
- The name of the venue will be Ligature Works. The title will make sense when I come out with my first issue of my personal patron zine later this month. The domain ligatureworks.com has been reserved, thought here’s nothing there yet. I almost went with Ligature Quarterly but decided against committing to a name that has an implicit schedule.
- The focus will be on material with a speculative or fantastical element, but it need not be any particular degree of “hard” SF or “high” fantasy; I’m fully open to magical realism, impossible hypotheticals (like Rachel Swirsky’s fantastic Hugo-nominated short “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love“), and poems that reference mythic elements, such as my own “Falling: A Part“.
- I’m a lot less prescriptivist about things like the structure of a story than many editors. I don’t look for an act structure. I don’t think a story needs to have conflict. I am dubious that it needs a beginning or a middle and I’m quite sure it doesn’t strictly require an end. It does need to have a point, and conflict/resolution models are certainly a reliable means of arriving at one. But I’m very fond of vignettes, slices of life, and enigmas. In terms of standards, mine mostly run towards readability. I’ll care much more if I can’t tell who is speaking or if there are great big walls of text for eyes to slide off of than I’ll care if the gun on the mantel ever did go off.
- Make your story as long as it needs to be. Figuring that out is part of the craft of writing. I think most short stories need to be around 3,000 words, but there are plenty that need to be around 6,000 or 9,000 or even 12,000. If you cut something, cut it because it doesn’t add anything, not because it makes the story longer.
- Because it’s me doing the judging, I expect there might be a slant in the material chosen towards the humorous, the clever, and the witty. Your work need not be funny to apply, but if you have something you love and you’re concerned it might be a bit silly for other venues, this would be a good place to apply.
- Ligature Works will have open submissions for poetry and fiction, and maybe occasionally solicited non-fiction pieces. It will be a paying venue. Initial rates will likely be $25 for short fiction and $5 for poetry. I will hope to improve on that as I go. For now, my criteria is the bare minimum I myself would accept (and have accepted) for work of which I am proud and willing to sell. But this is an experiment; if I can’t attract enough short fiction submissions at below the SFWA-approved professional rates, I may simply refocus on poetry until I can afford to offer more.
- Previously published material not accepted; previously shared with a personal subscriber list does not count as publication for this purpose. Exact details on the rights purchased will be hammered out exactly before I open for submissions officially. Everyone will know in advance what they’re getting into.
- All submissions will be accepted as email attachments with no identifying information in the document and the attachments forward to me separately, so I can make my decisions impartially. Any relevant information insufficient to identify the individual submitter may be included in the document (e.g., if you are writing about a character who shares your disability).
- While I don’t think anyone should settle for being paid in exposure, it can be nice if you know how to leverage it. Accordingly, I will also offer all featured authors and poets a brief consultation on how to best capitalize on the appearance of their work and promote their other endeavors around it, so that everybody involved gets the absolute most out of it.
The sensible thing to do here would be to take some time to get things in place, figure out what I’m doing, and plan an issue for the end of Q4 2016, if not some time in 2017. However, I follow the Moist von Lipwig school of thought in these things: no time to learn how to walk, must run, must fly! and move quickly, you never know what’s catching you up.
So! Submissions will officially open shortly after I return to Maryland (the week after next), with a window until September 1st, for publication at the end of September. If it is even a marginal success, we’ll repeat and improve upon the experiment for the fourth quarter.