Have you ever noticed that most short fiction publications are variations on a narrow approach, especially if they are a revenue generating magazine? Most are simply extensions of the traditional publication model: a group of stories are assembled by an editor and sold as a cohesive unit. Generally all the stories and artwork are delivered at the same time (i.e., a magazine), but sometimes the selected stories are delivered in small chunks, say a single story, at more frequent rate. Whatever the approach, an editor selects the stories and sends them to the reader. It’s a model that’s worked for a long time, and I assume will continue to be the preferred model well into the future.
Recently I learned about Quarterreads, a new “publication” that is promoting a different model of distribution—I like it when someone thinks outside the box! Quarterreads takes story selection out of the hands of an editor and puts it into the hands of the reader, which I think is potentially genius. The way Quarterreads works is authors submit short stories (which if they meet fairly minimal requirements are accepted) that then enter the Quarterreads environment and are made available to readers at the rate of US$0.25 per story. Readers can search, sample and choose to “purchase” any story on the site, which places it into their personal Quarterreads library. If they aren’t interested in the story, they don’t have to buy it. There is no gatekeeping editor; the only limitation is authors must decide to make their stories available on the site, and at this time, the stable of writers is quickly growing, with many well-known speculative fiction writers (e.g., Ken Liu, Cat Rambo, etc) making their work available.
So what does the writer get out of it? For every story bought, the writer receives 88% of the proceeds, or US$0.22. Not bad, especially for the shorter-length works the site is promoting. I’ve submitted several stories that have been previously published, several of which are no longer available anywhere (out of print, so to speak). They were sitting around collecting dust, anyways, so I thought, “What have I got to lose?” To my pleasant surprise, they’ve already accrued some modest “royalties,” which is more than any of these stories were earning on my hard drive.
Quarterreads is new, and to be honest, I don’t know if it will succeed. I’d don’t know the plan to attract new readers or how many return-readers they have (i.e., loyal customers). As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t really matter because I’m excited by the idea of reader being their own short fiction gatekeeper, and the Quarterreads developers seemed to be investing in upgrading and improving the site, showing they are dedicated to giving this a series try.
If you weren’t aware of them, check Quarterreads out. If you’re a writer, consider submitting some of your work (read their submission guidelines first). If you’re a reader, type “MINTON” in the search window and read every story that pops up.