A short story is 'something that can be read in an hour and remembered in a lifetime' (Stephen Vincent Benét), so when we read about a new imprint specialising in short stories and flash fiction we did a little dance for joy. Based in the US, Centum Press launched 15th January 2016 offering authors royalties based publishing model for their work. Each anthology published will hold work from 100 different authors and each author is responsible for propagating 100 pre-orders, projecting that each other should receive $300 on these pre-orders alone.
Centum Press is part of a larger company called the Allegiant Publishing Group, which also comprises of Snow Leopard Publishing and Wizard's Keep Publishing. Christian Lee and Marc Estes run this young, yet rapidly growing, company.
Christian Lee is the Chairman and Chief Marketing Officer of Allegiant. He has previously served as the Marketing Manager at Snow Leopard Publishing and currently works as the Vice President of Distribution and Marketing at Helm Book Publishing and works in all of Allegiant's imprints. Mr Lee is a writer himself with a specific interest in conspiracy thrillers and YA fantasy. In non-business mode, Christian is very interested in rock music, politics, and dressing like a fancy old timey mobster.
Leading Allegiant Publishing Group with Mr Lee is Marc Estes, the President and Vice Chairman. Mr Estes is the award-winning author of the Vendicatori Series. He is a two-time winner of the Vermont Playwright's Award for his plays, What Would Dickens Do? and Glass Closets. His play Going Home was presented at the Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts in the Fall of 2014. Mr Estes is currently at work on the third instalment in the Vendicatori Series, The Dragon and the Phoenix, as well as developing his new 33 series (expected early 2016). Mr Estes is a native of New England and graduate of the University of New Hampshire.
With the launch of their latest imprint they have introduced a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for all three. The funds sourced will go towards a 'Pick Your Own Contract' program from Snow Leopard Publishing, offering a 'Book Family' program from Wizards Keep Publishing, and reading more submissions from Centum Press. The Indiegogo campaign has launched today and Mr Lee has been kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
Why did Centum Press decide to specialise in publishing short stories and flash fiction?
The main point of Centum Press is to get a large group of authors to work together, so we felt like publishing short stories and flash fiction lends itself to that because there are multiple authors represented in one book. It would have been more challenging if we had decided to publish novels or novellas, which isn’t to say we won’t take that challenge on in the future, but for now, as a new startup, we felt that it would be best to take the path of least resistance.
Having launched less than a month ago, how are you finding the publishing landscape as a whole and in regards to your genre?
I’ve actually worked in the publishing industry for a little over a year, and worked in three other imprints, two of which are also part of Allegiant Publishing Group, so Centum Press wasn’t really my first taste. Personally, I find the publishing landscape as a whole far too dotted by gates and gatekeepers. Companies have to make money, for sure, but there are many ways to do that without excluding massive groups of people or making everyone jump through eighteen hoops just to get his or her book in front of you.
In terms of our genre, I think that publishers aren’t doing enough to get authors to work together. Having ten, twenty, thirty, or more authors, some of the most creative and determined people in the world, in one place committed to one project is a huge opportunity, but I don’t think that publishers are taking it, which hurts them and, more importantly, authors.
Have you found interest locally or globally?
I’m a marketing guy, so I look at analytics quite a bit. The majority of our audience is US based, but we do have a strong global following as well, which I think is great. Creativity isn’t something unique to the US, so being able to tap into the genius of people from other countries is a huge opportunity and an equally large privilege.
You’re launching an Indiegogo campaign on Thursday 11th February. This campaign is to help fund new programs across Allegiant Publishing Group?
Yes, we have some big plans for our imprints. On Allegiant’s website, we quote the famed former CEO of GE, Jack Welch, who said 'If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.' Our competitive advantage is giving advantages back to authors. Advantages have been taken from authors by publishers and have seemingly been locked away never to be reclaimed.
Usually the person selling has the upper hand, for instance. Now, however, the people buying, publishers, have the upper hand. We’ll be changing that with our 'Pick Your Own Contract' program, which allows authors at Snow Leopard Publishing to pick the contract that works for them. This will give them the advantage while not requiring them to jump through the hoops required getting an agent and then paying him or her a 15% commission.
Why have you decided to do this now so soon after launching?
Well, Snow Leopard Publishing, Allegiant’s original imprint has been around since August of 2015. The crowdfunding campaign is geared towards growing all of our imprints, so we don’t think that it’s too soon.
Why did you decide to crowdfund?
In many ways, I think that the Indiegogo campaign will send us a very clear message. If we’re successful, we’ll know that authors are on board with what we’re trying to do and that they want to see the same kind of change that we do. If we’re less than successful, it will tell us that we still have work to do. That’s the main benefit of crowdfunding, in my mind. We could, obviously, take on debt, which wouldn’t be a great idea because it doesn’t really add anything to our business other than capital. As for bringing on a venture capitalist, those folks are great people, but they mostly care about the bottom line. Marc, the President of Allegiant, and I are businessmen, and we care about making money too, but we want to change up the publishing industry. If we leave some money on the table in doing so, that’s fine by us because we’re not just in this to make money. We want to see real positive change in the industry.
What contract types would you offer in the ‘choose your own contract’ program and why these types?
Our goal here is to play to an author’s strengths. If a book requires basically no editing, we feel like we should give the author a higher percentage of royalties because our cost will be much lower. If an author is a marketing superstar who is all but guaranteed to sell a huge number of books, we feel like we should reward his or her hard work with more royalties. If an author, for instance, is really concerned about merchandising rights, we’ll have a contract that is very explicit about the fact that we won’t be taking them just to make him or her feel better. Those are just a few examples, and as we go, we’ll hopefully create a large collection of potential contracts.
We decided to go with these types because people care about two things with contracts: not giving away too much and not getting too little. Our focus is compensating authors appropriately based on their strengths and making sure that they’re comfortable giving up whatever rights they graciously allow us to take.
What is the ‘Book Family’ program?
There are tons and tons of authors who don’t get a contract or an agent simply because their books don’t stand-alone. Publishers don’t want to take a risk on a series or trilogy. If the first book flops and they’re obligated to publish a second one or maybe two or three more, they’re going to take a serious bath. It’s understandable that publishers don’t want to take that kind of risk, but we really dislike the fact that it excludes quite a large number of authors. The 'Book Family' program keeps books together. We’ll be offering it through Wizards Keep Publishing, and we’ll use it to include authors who have series and trilogies. It provides them with a contractual guarantee that we’ll publish all of the books in their series or trilogy if they so choose so that they don’t have to worry about having 'orphaned' books.
From what you've learnt from starting your own publishing house, what piece of advice can you give to other publishers?
I think that the primary thing I’ve learned from my time in the publishing industry is that you have to get authors on your side. At the end of the day, if an author is unhappy, his or her book won’t sell well no matter what you do for it. Publishers, keep your authors happy. Give them something unique that they can’t get anywhere else.