Short Story Anthology

So, as many of you know, I released the System Apocalypse Short Story Anthology (Volume 1) a while ago.

It was an experiment to expand the world, tell a few stories and learn a few things. I was inspired by this by Dakota Krout doing his own short story anthology and stole the idea wholesale from him.

Since it’s been over a month since the release, I thought I’d do a quick overview.

Basic Facts

To discuss this properly, we need some basic facts. Here’s what you need to know:

  • I had to extend the deadline once due to a lack of appropriate submissions. Some were not good but inappropriate in theme / setting. Others just broke the System too much. And then there were others that weren’t a real ‘story’ but more of a start.
  • Overall, I started asking for 10-20k in length. Some of the stories went under, one over.
  • I paid $0.06 per word (what the SFWA suggests as a good ‘industry standard’) for both ebook, audio and print first run rights (& exclusivity for a certain time period). That’s actually cheap, since most cases it’s just ebook & print rights.
  • Final book was 6 stories long, 5 bought. With a total payment for around 100,000 words.
  • I paid for editing for everything and proofing for all the work.
  • I released the entire series on Nov 1, 2019; about 7 months after start I think.
  • Audiobooks are in production right now.

Total Cost

Perhaps one of the biggest things about this project was cost. Here’s the cost that I can recall which are approximately correct.

  • Payment to authors @ US$0.06 per word for 100,000 words = US$6,000
  • Editing & proofreading cost for 110,000 words (including mine) = approx. US$1,000
  • Cover costs = US$350
  • Total cost: US$7350

This cost does not include audiobook costs which should come out to around US$4,000 on top of that.

Sales Results

All right, the things you are really curious about are the sales. Now, you should know that I have the book in Kindle Unlimited so any numbers you see for that are approximate.

Sales until Nov 30, 2019: 186 ebooks, 13 print copies and 378 borrows.

Approximately US$1,740 in revenue.

Sales from Dec 1 – Dec 11, 2019: 14 ebooks, 6 print and 63 borrows.

Approximately: US$220 in revenue

Total Revenue in 1.5 months (slightly less) = US$1960

Total loss = US$5,390.

Assuming December sales stay on trend, we can assume about $450-500 a month (unlikely as sales will likely drop after month 2 even further). But let’s go with that. That means, I can expect to breakeven between 11 to 12 months from now.

And that’s not including the hours I spent reading, editing and commenting on stories as well as formatting. More on that later.

Lessons Learnt

One the things I learnt later, after starting this entire thing is that most anthologies are built around themes, with one major headliner. And while I’m technically the headliner, I wasn’t ‘big’ enough to draw more readers. If I were to do this again, I might reach out to someone like Dakota or James or another big name author to write a story in my universe. That’d bring in a couple of their fans (hopefully) while introducing my fans to them.

Or maybe, even more interestingly, someone who isn’t already writing LitRPG but is relatively big named. Anyway, the lack of additional marketing draw hurt.

Secondly, many anthologies draw their funds for the anthology not from internal production but via Kickstarter. I missed out on the marketing opportunity there.

Thirdly. You really need a clear series bible. Especially in LitRPG, it was hard for people to write into the series when there wasn’t a series bible in play. It’s why I’m building out the wiki right now just so that the series bible is a little clearer.

Fourth. Anthologies for a world (like mine) just aren’t going to cut it unless you force people to read it (guessing. But that’s by putting a really ‘important’ plot point in the anthology for the series) or you have a much larger fan base than me.

Fifth, make sure you are very, very clear on the formatting guidelines. I spent hours fixing formatting for all the books. It was painful.

Sixth. Editing is hard. But it’s also a nice lesson. I learnt a lot being forced to choose among stories, both from what I liked to read and wanted to the kind of things that made a story good / bad. Forcing myself to look at things with a super critical eye was a lesson in itself.

Seventh. Surprisingly, a bunch of people mentioned they didn’t even realise I was doing this until it was too late. So I need to market the call for stories better.

Lastly, be willing to wait a very long time to get the capital you laid out on the anthology. 🙂

Next Steps

Of course, the next question is what next. As mentioned, there’s an audiobook coming. I’m committed to getting that one out, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, having purchased the rights, it’s no point not doing it. I will, eventually, breakeven I’m sure on this whole process so it should be good to do this.

Will I do a second anthology?

Surprisingly enough, it’s not a no, never.

For one thing, I expect we’ll eventually see a return on the anthologies themselves. For another, the anthology showcased some great stories and aspects of the world, some of which I’d never touch. I’d love to see them fleshed out, whether as short stories or more. I know another anthology would see more areas tied in. And I’ve mentioned to others before, I tell / write these stories to learn the ending and what happens. This world still intrigues me, so having other authors involved is really cool.

That being said, I’ll see how the audiobook does first before committing to a 2nd anthology. Even if, eventually, I expect to breakeven, 10 months of waiting is long.

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