Why we love Anthologies (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

“Oh! The Places You’ll Go!” Dr. Seuss quite famously wrote, when he wrote about the potential great adventures that await us just outside our door. Publishing is an adventure, one we love and are pleased to be taking, but one that is has its Bumps and its Slumps like any other path. As we expand into publishing novellas, novels, academic writing, and story collections by individual authors, Dagan Books will always publish one or two open anthologies a year. Many people have asked us why? since anthologies are notoriously bad at making back their initial investment. In our case, because we insist on paying our contributors as much as we possibly can with each book, we go into the printing of anthologies knowing we’re unlikely to ever completely make that money back. Why, then, would we be crazy enough to do it?

You’ll be on your way up!

Dagan Books is, admittedly, a tiny little company with only, by the end of our first year, a handful of books to our credit. We started as the pet project of one lonely writer/editor, working in her living room, editing the prose from the porn while she put together Cthulhurotica. We’re growing and we’re getting out there, but we don’t quite yet have the name recognition that would encourage readers to give our books a chance simply because we published them. We need to reach the greatest number of new readers, and publishing anthologies allows us to do that because we’re offering a larger number of authors for your consumption.

You’ll be seeing great sights!

Anthologies give us a chance to see not one person’s vision, but dozens, all at once. Within the pages of one book are 20 different worlds or more. Cthulhurotica took us across time and space, setting stories in:

  • modern-day Innsmouth, Massachusetts
  • Ashland, Oregon, in the 1960s
  • Ancient Greece
  • Mars, sometime in the distant future
  • scientific laboratories, motel rooms, co-ed college dorms, creepy old houses, lonely mountaintops, and over and over again … the sea

IN SITU takes the idea that alien cultures can be studied, with the same (well, let’s call it “academic rigor”) that our own species’ artifacts have been unearthed and cataloged with. If you think that would limit the settings, think again. Stories in that collection range from the past through the present and into a future on our planet as well as out in space. We unearth strange mysteries in Egypt, visit lonely old men in England, explore the alternate history of a South American dig site, hide the truth in Africa, leave our small blue planet behind for the vast wonders of space. The characters in this book find aliens, treasure, fear, death, glory, riches, and eventually find they’ve left being human far behind.

You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.

Publishing anthologies gives us a chance to accept work from emerging writers and place it alongside the writing of those authors who are a little better known. If you love Ken Liu’s crisp and lovely work from Lightspeed or Fantasy and Science Fiction magazines, you’ll want to pick up IN SITU when it releases in July. If you know Cody Goodfellow’s creepy stories from Permuted Press, you’re going to want to read his offering in Cthulhurotica. Know Kenneth Hite from Call of Cthulhu? He’s got an essay in Cthulhurotica too. While you’re reading those pieces, you’ll also see stories from first time authors who’re getting their start here at Dagan Books. Other authors who were accepted to our first collection have continued to work with us, like K. V. Taylor, whose brilliant writing appears in both Cthulhurotica and IN SITU, who has written for a future project, and who has come on board as an editor for the upcoming FISH anthology.

Why do we love anthologies? They’re an introduction to our world. Dagan Books has a vision, a way of doing business, and a style we aspire to, and our anthologies are a window into us.

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Duotrope Interviews Us!

Duotrope.com, an excellent resource for writers seeking markets for their work, recently interviewed us about our books, our taste in stories, and our submissions process. You can see the full interview at http://www.duotrope.com/interview.aspx?id=4969&act but we’ve posted a few of our favorite questions below:

Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.

A: Weird, wicked, lovely.

Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?

A: We have great respect for Small Beer Press, Lightspeed Magazine, Weird Tales magazine, Elder Signs Press, and Clarkesworld magazine, to name a few.

Q: If you publish fiction, who are your favorite fiction writers? If you publish poetry, who are your favorite poets?

A: Of course, we adore our writers, including Cody Goodfellow, Simon C. Larter, Ken Liu, Don Pizarro, Steven James Scearce, K. V. Taylor, and many more. We’re also big fans of Kelly Link, Ted Chiang, Neil Gaiman, Sean Stewart, Joe Hill, Karen Joy Fowler, Bruce Sterling, China Mieville, Seanan McGuire, H.P. Lovecraft, and William Shakespeare.

Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

A: The biggest mistakes are not reading the submission guidelines, assuming we won’t realise when they’ve turned in a rough draft, or those that attempt to be “modern retellings” of famous stories or characters without adding anything new to the story.

Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

A: Short story submissions require less of a cover letter than do novel length subs, but the accompanying email still needs to include your real name (note a pen name if you have one but never, never, submit under your pen name alone), contact information, and whether the story has been previously published.

Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?

A: We accept email submissions, maintain websites, have Twitter feeds and Facebook pages dedicated both to Dagan Books proper and various individual titles, and use both PoD and traditional print services. While we would never give up the printed word, we find a great story reads just as well on an e-reader too.

What I love about being a Publisher

With Cthulhurotica only a few days from going to press, I’ve had a chance to reflect on the process of creating, editing, and publishing an anthology. While working on this collection, I also founded Dagan Books, and have been simultaneously expanding my knowledge of the publishing industry while I learned how to be a better editor.

Neither of which I would have been able to do without the lovely contributors, both artists and writers, who made this anthology possible. Though the editing process can be stressful on both sides, each of the writers responded to my questions and suggestions with an evolving tale which ultimately expressed itself in the best possible way. They were, as a group, engaged and polite throughout the last few months, and I have found a core group of writers I would gladly work with again. The artists, each one, produced work which was exactly what I needed before I was even sure what I was going to need. I thank all of them.

As the publisher, I’m responsible for the decisions. There have been quite a few things that I’ve learned to do a different way in the future, and I’m grateful for what I’ve learned. The number of aspects that fall under my domain are staggering: web design, accounting, working with a printer, a distributor, planning convention attendence, hiring and (sadly) letting people go, putting out open submissions calls, advertising, membership in various guilds and groups, and a lot more. While it might seem like too much, to me it seems like heaven. I love being able to be involved in so many aspects of this business. There is never a day where I feel like I don’t know what’s happening with Dagan Books, and I hope it always feels this way.

A few months ago, Cthulhurotica was an idea. Most people saw it as an excuse for tentacle porn; I saw it as something much more – an opportunity to expand on Lovecraft’s Mythos, a fictional universe I love so much, and also as an opportunity to kick off the publishing company I’ve always dreamed of having. I believe I’ve done both.

If you don’t like the book, or wish something had been done differently, talk to me. Ultimately I’m responsible for any failures in Cthulhurotica, or any Dagan Books title. If you loved the book, and I think you will, thank the writers and artists, without whom this wouldn’t have been possible. Their vision is what you’ll see in the pages of Cthulhurotica – I only helped it along a little bit. I love that they’ve allowed me to do just that.

– Carrie Cuinn, Publisher

Ask the Publisher

We’ve put together some questions for our Publisher, Carrie Cuinn. The questions were asked by people on Twitter, or via email, or from our own staff members. Feel free to post additional questions in the comments.

Q: What is the reading process for submissions?

A: Every story is read at least twice. Acceptances are ultimately read (and commented on) by at least three people. For the most part, the stories I love and want to print are also loved by other readers, and the stories I don’t think are appropriate for us usually get the same reaction out of others. To date, there’s only been one story that I didn’t want to print but which was adored by another reader, and we bought that story.

Q: How important are submission guidelines?

A: Very. Reading the guidelines is most important thing that you can do to get into the pages of a Dagan Books publication. If you don’t read them, you won’t know what we’re looking for. More importantly, if I can tell by reading your submission that you don’t know what we want, it gives me the impression that you’re just shopping a story around randomly, one which had nothing to do with our specific publishing needs.

Q: Do you pay professional rates?

A: Not yet, though that’s definitely our goal. At the moment, and beginning with our very first title, we’ve been paying semi-pro rates. Writing rates are listed in the description of each open project. Our art rates are available online here. As Dagan Books grows, we plan to eventually become a SFWA and HWA qualifying publisher. That may take a few years, but in the meantime we guarantee that we will always pay our contributors to the best of our abilities.

Q: Are you going to publish something other than anthologies?

A: Absolutely. While I love anthologies for their ability to showcase the work of several different writers at once, we also plan to publish book-length fiction and academic non-fiction by select authors. Our plan is to start mixing in the longer titles with our anthologies, so that we eventual publish some of each kind during the year.

Q: Why aren’t you open to book submissions now?

A: We would rather spend all of our time and budget promoting one book than be spread too thin trying to publish and promote a variety of books. Because we’re a new company, we have to be extremely careful to make sure that the titles we print reflect on our brand in the way that we want. It’s terribly important that we establish who we are, what we do, and how we do it. By putting together the first couple of books ourselves, we are assured that what we create is sending the message we want it to. Soon, we’ll be established enough to take a chance on new writers of full-length works, but we’re not quite there yet.

Q: What’s your next project? How did you come up with the idea?

A: Our spring title will be In Situ, a science-fiction anthology. The collection will tell stories of alien archeology – other-wordly artifacts dug up on Earth, and mysterious ruins discovered off-planet. The idea comes out of my background in history of art, where the phrase “in situ” refers to the examination of an object “in place”; namely, still lying in the spot that it was found. By investigating the site before the object is removed, art historians and archeologists can piece together a better picture of the time and culture which left that object behind. I’m looking forward to seeing the submissions, and especially to see how writers work in the idea of theoretical mistakes … Throughout history, historians and other learned folks have incorrectly identified found objects, minimizing or mistakenly emphasizing some aspect of the culture as they imagined it should be, only to find out later how wrong our assumptions can be. When you’re talking about uniquely alien objects, I think the mistaken identities might be even worse.

Q: Last question – how did you come up with the name for Dagan Books?

A: I’ve had several people ask if it was mispelling of the name of one of Lovecraft’s famous monsters, but in truth Dagan is my son’s middle name. I always thought the best thing I could do with my life was to make his world a better, more educated, and more interesting place. I hope that by creating this company and printing these books, we’re doing exactly that.

Why Printed Books Will Always Matter

“The Renaissance and the Reformation were rendered permanent by the very permanence of their canonical texts… nationalism developed thanks to the stabilization of laws and languages, and science itself became possible on the basis of phenomena and theories reliably recorded.” – Adrian Johns, The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making, 1998

Printed books have allowed us to record human history and knowledge in a format that resists death and disease, survives traumatic brain injuries, can be passed on (without revisions) to others, can be shared with readers in another city, state, or country from the author, and can be reliably reproduced. Print materials took knowledge from the mouths of oral historians and rote teachers and made it available to the eyes and minds of students from any religion or social class. While the digital format of electronic “books” allows for instant dissemination of material, that information lacks the solid characteristics of a printed volume: digital information must be fed electricity to stay alive, it cannot survive under conditions that might damage but not destroy a book, and it no longer includes the right of ownership which the purchase of a physical text represents. A digital text can be altered online, and those changes can filter down through all the derivations of that work, while a physical book can only be reprinted with “corrections” – it cannot be retroactively edited. A digital text can be rescinded from all readers simultaneously, while a printed text represents knowledge that can only be stolen from individuals, never from all readers at once. A book remains, solid and sure, where a electronic body is ephemeral and impossible to hold.

Dagan Books remains committed to the promotion of both technologies, print and digital.