Old wine in new bottles: Fiction River, Story Bundle, et al.

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

As I’m sure you know, it’s been a chaotic few years in publishing, and I feared there would be casualties, such as the delicious fantasy short story anthologies that DAW used to publish with great covers and amusing themes. (Constellation of Cats contained my first published short story, so I have a special fondness for the anthology.)Constellation of Cats

But there have been winners emerging from the chaos, including a revival of the traditional Regency, which had a real but widespread audience, so print books were killed by the distributors, who wanted higher profit items.  Now many of those great classic Regencies are available as ebooks at Regency Reads, and some authors have started writing new traditional Regencies. 

Plus, it turns out that short stories are alive and well on the internet.  Better yet, there are now new ways to deliver stories to readers.  Today I want to talk about some new story delivery systems, since networking and word of mouth are essential aspects of discoverability.  So I'm talking directly to two people who are producing new ways to buy stories.

First up is Fiction River, a new short story publication from the very experienced Kristine Kathryn Rusch and her husband, Dean Wesley Smith.  Both have written  a zillion books, more or less <G>, in multiple genres, and they both have a lot of editing and publishing experience as well.  Plus, Kris is a widely read blogger on aspects of the New Normal in publishing. 

I asked Kris to tell us a bit about a great new project she and Dean have launched: 

FR-Christmas-Ghosts-ebook-coverFiction River 

Kris Rusch: Writers can go directly to readers now, which I’ve always preferred. I don’t have to work for anyone else in order to edit—and I didn’t have to find venture capitalists or take out huge loans to start a publishing company. When it became easy to go direct to readers, Dean and I got the editing bug all over again.

We wanted to do a new anthology/magazine series that would cover all genres. We wanted it to grow over time. So we called it Fiction River. And because we’ve made all kinds of business mistakes in the past (and learned from them!) we decided to see if we had a market for the anthology series before we started publishing.

We did a Kickstarter in August of 2012, and we funded within hours. We were so excited. (You can see our goofy video here.  Because this meant we could have the series we wanted.

The series I wanted had different voices as editors, with Dean and I as overall editors. We would also do our own projects. I picked two: Christmas Ghosts and the upcoming Crime volume.

I wanted Christmas Ghosts to be a romance anthology. I write romance under the Up-on-the-Rooftop-cover-web-200x300names Kristine Grayson, Kris DeLake, and Kristine Dexter (and Rusch too), and I read a lot of romance. The sf field, when it was run by traditional publishers, looked down on romance, and I always thought that a mistake. I slipped romance into F&SF when I was editing, and into Pulphouse as well.

This time, though, I announced that I was doing romance, and I invited some of my favorite authors to participate. Everyone I asked writes in more than one genre, but they have one other thing in common: they write spectacular romances.

Everyone who has read the volume agrees. We sent the book out for review, and Publisher’s Weekly called it, “A sugary Christmas treat for those who love romance.”

RT Book Reviews was even more enthusiastic, saying:

“Cuddle up next to a crackling fire with some holiday music playing softly in the background, and lose yourself in eight amazing Christmas stories by a gang of super-talented, cross-genre authors. Not only are they heartwarming, but they incorporate mystery, science fiction, romance and ghosts!”

I am thrilled. I can finally share my love of multi-genre storytelling with other readers who love the same thing. Which, I personally believe, is most readers. Most of us never pay attention to genre. We look for good stories.

People can subscribe to Fiction River or buy individual issues everywhere books are sold. These volumes won’t go out of print.  Audible carries audio editions, available a few months after the initial publication.

There will be another romance-focused volume down the road. But every edition I edit will have at least one romantic story in it. Even Crime has a touch of romance.

I’m a romantic at heart. I hope it shows.

MJP:  Thanks, Kris!  Christmas Ghosts will be released on October 15th, and I had a lot of fun with my contribution, "Toasted," which is set in my Guardian world in New York City at Christmas.

In some ways, Jason Chen’s Storybundle concept is even more unusual, so I’ll let him explain it.  Jason, over to you!

Story Bundle:

Jason: StoryBundle is, in my slightly biased opinion, the best way to get quality reads at a low price. We work with authors to bundle together a collection of works in various genres–romance bundles, fantasy bundles, thriller bundles, etc.–and offer them at a price that the READER sets. Not only does the buyer (that's you) get to decide how much you want to pay for the books, they get to decide how much of their purchase goes to the author, how much goes to StoryBundle, and whether or not they want to donate to a charity as well.

Why's this great for readers? Not only do we and our curators hand-select all of the books we include in our bundle to make sure they're quality reads, we offer the books DRM free in multiple formats. This means that you can read our books on any ereader, smartphone, tablet, laptop or computer that you have, and you're not locked into one single store. So if you have a Nook now but want to get a Kindle later, you'll be able to take all your StoryBundle books with you without a hitch.

MaryJoPutney_TheChristmasCuckoo800We're currently featuring a bundle with seven phenomenal romance novellas, but we have new bundles every few weeks with all kinds of genres to appeal to every type of reader. Because the reader sets the price, they decide how much these books are worth to them, meaning they never feel like they're paying more than they want to. But for those who pay a little more to support our authors and reach the bonus level, we always offer extra books as thanks!

MJP:  Thanks, Jason!  The romance novella storybundle is only available for ten days that will end October 10th, so if you’re interested in an unusual gathering of romance novellas, you’ll need to look sooner rather than later! 

My storybundle contribution is a favorite traditional Regency novella, “The Christmas Cuckoo,” which has a sensible young lady going down to the coaching inn, and accidentally bringing home the wrong Jack Howard. <G>  And once he sobers up, he doesn’t want to leave!

Jo Beverley’s “The Trouble with Heroes” is an award winning futuristic romance, while Stephanie Laurens has contributed a classic Regency novella. "Melting Ice.  Kris Rusch has a story under her Kristine Grayson name, along with Laura Leone, who has visited the Word Wenches under her real name of Laura Resnick.  There are also two high action two military romances a la Suzanne Brockmann from M. L. Buchman.

MaryJoPutney_ChristmasRosesNovella_200Other delivery systems include friends getting together to create a volume, as Susan, Pat and I did in Christmas Roses, which Susan blogged about last week, including a Scottish tale, a Regency, and a Victorian.

Of course traditional anthologies, like the Word Wenches' Mischief and Mistletoe  haven’t gone away, either.  But there are many more ways for stories to be available.  I think what doesn’t change is that word of mouth is still the best way to find good new reads.  That’s why book blogs like this exist! 

What next???

MischiefandMistletoe--MassMarketI imagine that there will be still more new ways for stories to appear, though I won’t try to predict what they’ll be!  How do you choose your books?  Do you stick mostly to long time favorites?  Try stories recommended by friends?  Try a new author from the library and buy if her writing is to your taste? 

Can you think of other ways you might like to find books?  In the New Normal, we’re all learning from each other!

Mary Jo