Now, after reading a post on SFWA's site, I'm wondering if perhaps I haven't made Aqueduct Press's drawbacks clear enough. Could it be that the writers sending their mss to me don't understand how little we have to offer? Could this be the reason we're getting so many submissions? I certainly don't want other writers be drawn in under false pretenses. That would certainly be as bad as exploiting them (something I know pretty well how to avoid doing).
In SFWA's Writer Beware section, Richard White has posted An Open Letter to New Publishers. This is ostensibly directed to any tiny publisher who happens to wander into SFWA's site, but is actually intended to be read by other writers. Reading his checklist of questions, I see that Aqueduct Press must surely be among the "new publishers" he sees as harming writers. He begins with this stern warning to us:
Publishing is a unique critter. Even so, one thing it has in common with other businesses is you need experience. Period. This cannot be overstated. If you have no experience in the industry (and being an unpublished or even a published author does not equate to publishing experience), what are you offering your authors?My only experience, when I started Aqueduct, was as a published author. Period.
Sorry, good intentions are not enough.
# Have you ever run a company before in any capacity?
# What’s your business plan?
To publish books, sell them, keep them in print, and use any profits to publish more books; to infuse money from our savings into the business when necessary, to the extent possible. (I'm sure that's too general to be the correct answer.)
# Have you secured sufficient funding to get this business off the ground?
We see borrowing money from a bank (presuming a bank would lend money to anyone just to publish books) as too personally risky, and so we never even tried.
# Who’s handling publicity for your company?
Um, me? And our managing editor?
# Who’re your sales reps? How many do you have?
# Who’re the artists you have lined up to do covers?
Good question. The answer varies. Sometimes they're dead. Sometimes (as with Ursula Le Guin's cover) they're nameless/unknown. Sometimes they're artists who don't usually do cover art. Sometimes we don't use cover art.
Of course, my answers to a few of the questions White poses would probably be answers he'd approve of. Our contracts are very close to SFWA's model; we pay advances; we pay royalties on retail, not net; our editors have previous editing experience. But there's one that he didn't pose, that perhaps he should have:
Do you have a paid staff, or are your production, business, and editorial tasks performed by volunteers?
We're volunteers. Not a single one of us is a paid employee of Aqueduct. Obviously this is a MAJOR drawback.
In short, my writing friends, if you're thinking of submitting to Aqueduct Press, please realize that if we do decide to publish your ms, we can't give you what the major publishers routinely offer. Your book will likely not be stocked in chain bookstores, you won't score advances big enough to live on, a big-name sf/f artist won't be doing the cover art of your book, we won't be able to finance a book tour for you, and distribution (and therefore print runs) will be modest.
And above all? We're not business people. Just people who love fine, challenging writing and books that we personally find aesthetically appealing. Just so you know.