Friday, October 30, 2015

Submission progress

We have now responded to all stories sent to us on the first day we opened to submissions, October 15th. So if you sent a story on the first day, you should have received a rejection, a hold request, or an email telling you there was a problem with your submission and requesting that you correct the problem and submit again.

If you submitted a story before 11:59 PM Eastern on October 15th and did not receive a response from us, feel free to send a query to the contact email in the sidebar.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Number games

We opened for submissions a week ago, on October 15th. We did receive a few submissions while it was still October 14th here in Boston, which we allowed since it was the fifteenth in most of the rest of the world. In the first week, we received 119 submissions, and sent 25 responses, shown in the graph below.

You can see how the submissions started very high, and then trailed off. Meanwhile, our responses took a while to ramp up, but it looks like we've hit the point where we're sending out responses at about the same rate as we receive submissions, which is where we want to be. Of the responses we've sent out, 23 are rejections and 2 are hold requests (more on that later). The ratio there is somewhat deceptive, though, as it usually takes longer to get to a hold than to a rejection.

Incidentally, we're seeing a lot of reprint submissions. While we're happy to have them, we don't plan for reprints to be more than a quarter of the anthology, so they're a tougher sell than original stories.

There are three of us doing first round (aka slush) reading: Kristin, Donald, and Hannah. If the first reader decides the story won't work, they can go ahead and reject. Probably about two thirds of the stories get rejected at this point. These are not necessarily form rejections; we might really like the story, but decide for some reason that it doesn't work for the anthology. If so, we'll tell the author why it doesn't work and invite them to send more stories.

If a story makes it past the first round, it's promoted, which means that it now needs to be approved by both Donald and Kristin (although, obviously, one of us may have read it in the first round and won't need to read it again). Either may exercise their veto authority, so it's possible it won't make it to both of us. We try to read one promoted story for every two first round stories we read, which helps us get through the first round faster without falling too far behind on the promoted stories.

If we both read the story and think it would work for the anthology, then we will send a hold request to the author. This means that we want to hold the story until submissions close and we select the final set of stories that we want to publish. We don't know yet how many stories we'll be holding--we suspect at least 50, maybe more. This will give us a good selection so we can get the balance we want of reprints and original stories, and of different kinds of stories.

The good news is that if you receive either a rejection or a hold request, you can then send us more stories as long as submissions remain open (one at a time, though!). This does mean that an author may have more than one story held. We're very unlikely to select more than one story from a single author, but if we do hold more than one story, that increases the chance that one of them will be a good fit when we make our final selection for the anthology.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Commissioning cover art for Mysterion

The beautiful cover art now showing as the backdrop to our website was created by the talented Rob Joseph, whose work we discovered on DeviantArt.  We thought people following our project might be interested in a behind-the-scenes look at how the art progressed from initial concept to final image, and that reading about the process might also be helpful for other independent publishers just starting out, or for those interested in self-publishing.

We looked at a lot of artists on DeviantArt.  We wanted to hire someone whose work we loved, whose portfolio included pieces with spiritual themes, and who had a track record of creating art on commission for other clients, ideally including book covers.  While considering various artists, we also started to develop an idea of what we wanted (and didn't want) on our cover.  Nothing too character-focused (no close-ups of artfully posed individuals acting out scenes from not-yet-written stories).  Christian, but not too Christian.  Must identify the book as speculative fiction, without aligning it too closely with any particular sub-genre (no warriors slaying dragons, or spaceships docking at spaceports).

Rob's work fit what we were looking for better than any of the other portfolios we saw, and happily, he was interested in working on our project.  We still weren't sure exactly what we wanted.  But, since several of the images on his website explored or at least hinted at Biblical themes, we thought he might have some good ideas.

Initially, after our suggestion that we work in the concept behind our company name, Rob came up with the idea of a seeker character, an explorer or archaeologist, searching through an ancient temple and finding a mirror that appears to be a portal to some place more beautiful and vibrant than her immediate surroundings.  We thought that could work, and agreed that he should go ahead and do some preliminary sketches.

Here are the first two concepts.  At first, we preferred the image on the left, although we did worry that it might be a bit too monochromatic.  However, the cover designer we've hired to do the lettering and cover layout thought the image on the right would actually make a better cover, especially if we intended to add text to the back.  He felt that the glowing letters on the temple wall would make it difficult to see the light-colored text.

After thinking about it some more, we realized that the main thing we didn't like about the image on the right was the lion head above the portal.  We wanted some aspect of the cover art to hint at Christian symbolism without being too overt, and in one of our first discussions with Rob, lions were one of the many ideas we offered for incorporating subtle Christian iconography.  But how much of that association is due to The Chronicles of Narnia?  We both have considerable admiration for the work of C. S. Lewis, but he casts as long a shadow over the field of Christian speculative fiction as Tolkien casts over epic fantasy.

We told Rob that we wanted to go with the image on the right, but could we replace the lion head above the portal with something like the statues on either side, from the other sketch?  We also wanted more space at the top, so our title didn't end up too small, or obscuring anything important on the illustration.

While Rob was working on the image we'd chosen, he had another idea that he thought might work.

We really liked both images, but had a slight preference for the new concept, and our cover designer agreed.

Finally, after two more revisions, Rob sent us the final image.

We're really excited about it.  We won't try to interpret it for you, but we think it does everything we wanted our cover art to do, and can't wait to see it on our anthology!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

You can support Mysterion!

You may have noticed the "Support Mysterion" graphic in our sidebar.  This links to our Patreon page, where you can support our anthology.

When we first considered doing this anthology, we asked ourselves how much it would cost and how we would pay for it. We answered the second question first: we would pay for it ourselves, out of our own resources. Of course, then we had to figure out whether we could do that, which brought us back to the first question. So we considered the various expenses--paying authors, cover art and design, interior layout and printing--and talked to people we knew in the industry to come up with a rough estimate. Then we asked ourselves whether we could afford it, and the answer was yes, we could.

Having decided that, we next asked whether it was worthwhile to do any fundraising. Raising money would allow us to have a larger story budget. It would let us pay our writers more. It would give people a chance to essentially pre-order our book.

So, even though we're committed to this project whether we receive funding or not, we've decided to give people the chance to help us make it better, in return for a copy of the anthology and other rewards.

We've decided to use Patreon, not for its monthly campaign, but for the campaign that only charges people when something is produced. In this case, if you donate, you will not be charged until we post the actual ebook anthology for you to download. Paperback versions will be shipped out as soon after that as we can manage.

So if you want to see more stories and you want our writers to be paid more, or if you just want to get the ebook for half the retail price, you can go to our Patreon page to pledge now.

Open for submissions

Mysterion is now open for submissions.  If you have a story you'd like to send us, please check out our Submission Guidelines.  And if you want to know what sort of stories we want, read our Theme Guidelines. We look forward to reading your stories.

Submissions will close on December 25th.