Cemetery Gates’ Upcoming Releases and Some Insight Into Small Press Publishing

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This is our biannual update about where our press is at and where it’s headed. This is kind of a companion piece to our presentation at the Buzz Book Expo that will take place September 17-18 https://www.buzzbookexpo.com/. If you’re a writer, editor, publisher, reviewer — involved or invested in dark fiction — it’s probably worth checking out at least some of the presentations to see where the genre’s at right now.

Release schedule:

September saw the release of Chandler Morrison’s #thighgap novella, #2 in the My Dark Library line. Paul Michael Anderson’s collection Everything Will Be All Right in the End: Apocalypse Songs was released soon thereafter. September 27th will see Kelsea Yu’s Bound Feet get its release, My Dark Library #3.

October 4th is Michael Harris Cohen’s collection Effects Vary release date. October 11th will be the release of Campfire Macabre: Volume 2.

November 8th will see the release of Wesley Southard’s collection They Mostly Come at Night, with introduction by Brian Keene. November 22nd is Tim McGregor’s Taboo in Four Colors release day, My Dark Library #4.

Early December our editors will announce the details for a 2023 dark academia themed anthology, with the open call coming sometime in early 2023. Tyler Jones’ novella Full Fathom Five will come out not long after.

Jan 2023 should see the release of P. L. Watts’ The Bonny Swans, My Dark Library #5. Our unique four author mini-collection anthology featuring Tantlinger, Farrenkopf, York, and Lagoe should also see its release in January.

Feb/March we wrap up the first series of My Dark Library with R.A. Busby’s Corporate Body, MDL #6.

April will likely feature Kenneth Cain’s collection.

Liminal Spaces: Strange Geographies ed. Kevin Lucia should be announcing the details for an open call around this time.

May will see the release of Stephanie Parent’s debut novel The Briars.

Late-August we aim to release Gemma Amor’s novella tentatively titled The Once Yellow House.

Salacious Behind the Scenes Stuff:

A project that has changed time and again, a compendium of non-fiction and fiction regarding original creepypastas, urban legends, folk horror, folklore essays, interviews with horror artists, and real creepy locations outside of N. America has enough material right now to release a neat book, but we want it to be exceptional, so there’s no release date set yet for that one. Jeff Provine is working on that book with us.

The goal is to begin an open call for Places We Fear to Tread: New York sometime in 2023. The first volume recently made back its $5500 investment, right around two years following release. Typically we pay about $4000-4500 to put out an anthology, but that one was especially pricey due to the number of stories we bought.

The formula for anthologies to break even seems to be about 60,000-70,000 words at $.05/word, then you buy your cover art, maybe have an editor or additional specialists to pay, spend a few hundred on promo. You need your four or five writer invitees that draw eyes to your book, sometimes you get them a little more for their trouble. We stopped doing invites for our main anthologies because it seemed like everyone else was inviting the same people and it was getting kind of stale. However, we still encourage the editors running our additional anthologies to invite folks and also do a broad open call.

Starting out a press by doing an anthology, or just doing one for fun, is probably the easiest way to lose a couple thousand dollars.

Publishing single-author collections largely of reprints is a terrible investment, though we love short stories so we’ll be looking to purchase some single-author themed collections. Basically, cool themes that would work well for anthologies also work well for collections. So if you’re going to write a dozen stories with shared characters or at least a cool setting, we’d be interested in hearing about your project. We want to put out mostly unpublished material.

There’s a certain amount of window dressing that we’ll continue to do, though begrudgingly, because it makes our authors feel good. The small press world is still trying to mimic our much wealthier brethren in big corporate publishing, and you honestly don’t have a chance doing it their way.

We’ve made most of our revenue through digital sales since 2020. We share our sales revenue with one other partner, not multiple. The Kindle Unlimited program is the Netflix for books. There’s no competitor. You can see books being read cover to cover, daily. There’s nothing comparable for tracking reader interest.

We sold 500 hardcovers of one title in 2017-2018. I’d give my first, second, and third born to sell another 500 hardcovers at $30+ — before taking into account paperback and electronic revenue — but we’re not PRH or a limited edition business, so why would we chase that? We’re a digital book seller because that’s where we can grow and that’s where PRH refuses to grow.   

We’ve done deals directly with independent booksellers since we started in 2015. We don’t do consignment or accept returns. A distributor who doesn’t provide you a salesperson to sell your books into stores is most likely going to cost you revenue. No offense, but the handful of cool book people who like horror aren’t going to change the business culture of the corporate behemoth who crushed indie booksellers in the 1990s.

Any small indie press less than 3 years on the scene offering an author less than 50% of paperback and eBook royalties is a huckster who couldn’t sell your book to your own mother.

Every single-author release (collection, novel, novella) is a minimum $1000-2000 investment. The new pub that puts out a couple books over the course of 18 months, then all of a sudden signs a dozen books for the following year, doesn’t seem to realize they need to actually have $12,000 in the bank in order to put those books out. There’s this weird idea that there are just thousands of people anxiously awaiting SpookyOoky Press’ entire catalog and they can sorta just float along and rely on sales to put out those next 8 books.

If you’re able to make an average of $3-4 per unit sold you only need to sell about 500 copies to break even on a book. Only 500 copies…release after release. 😉

Every press and author is going to have a book that tanks. When a couple of those happen in a row the smart small press types stop putting out books and reimagine themselves. There’s this hubris and excitement and a wanting to be on par with presses that have been around for 10, 15, 20+ years — when you know next to nothing about the business and have gotten some social media excitement for releasing a handful of books. The lifecycle of every press ends in either flaming disaster, sale to a bigger press, or more often than not, petering out and becoming utterly forgotten.

There’s been a spate of pubs not paying authors and canceling contracts for no good reason. You don’t have to make it public, but let some other pubs and editors know what’s going on so we don’t work with them and we’ll warn our authors about them.

To end on a good note; we’re putting together our final say on 20th century urban legends and folklore, our final homage to the scary stories we grew up with. We’ve picked out a dozen or so archetypical tales that we’re going to ask/beg certain writers to make their own. Such Things Happen: 13 Classic Tales Retold. We’ve been planning a book like this for years, and it might take a couple years to do it properly and release, but it’s going to be tremendous.

Get your stuff out there, cultivate your own readership, and enjoy what you write/publish/read/create!

Joe

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