Providing a helping hand to authors is something I've spent a lot of time at. Long before my installment "Authors Helping Authors" I've written hundreds of blog posts and articles, not to mention numerous panels at conventions. Those have been great at providing helping to a lot of authors from a standpoint of education, but I wanted to do more to get them noticed.
My wife, who is brilliant, came up with an incredible idea. "Hey, why not include the short story from a new or unknown author with your book." Generally, my sales run from 30,000 - 100,000 per story, so that's a lot of eyeballs.
While that alone would be enough incentive, I'm all about authors earning money. I've written for a few anthologies before, many of them for free (like Unfettered - to raise money for Shawn Speakman's medical bills). The "paying" gigs usually result in a few hundred dollars. The pro rate as dictated by the SWFA is somewhere around $0.06 a word, which is ridiculous. We're going to pay $0.15 a word for up to 5,000 words.
But money isn't the only thing that an author gets when being "published" by someone other than them. They also get structural editing support and copy editing. So, we're going to be doing that as well. For structural, both Robin and I will work with the author to make the story as good as it can be. For copy editing, we'll pay the same editors who are working on the larger novel to put that extra polish on the apple.
Now, as far as "whose" short story we'll bundle, and "which author" will get picked, we'll handle that in the time honored tradition of...well traditional publishers. Along with the short story, the authors will submit a query letter. If the query piques our attention, we'll read the short. The best short will win. Pretty simple really.
I'm the first to admit that writing queries is (a) no fun; (b) hard to do, and (c) authors rarely get feedback on them. For this contest, we're going to critique every query received, so even those that don't win will get something for entering. Plus, if we do send you on to round two and read your story, we'll provide some feedback on it as well.
Now, the next question most people have asked with regards to this contest (I've posted about this online at various places such as Amazing Stories, Reddit, SffWorld, and Fantasy Faction) revolves around the content of the shorts. I'm open to any genre. What I want is a really good story, period. That being said, the audience reading it will be those that like my work, so you may (or may not) want to take that into consideration. The only thing I'm going to disallow is erotica or stories with explicit sex. That won't go over well with my audience, so it's not going to provide the "leg up" I want.
Now as impossible it is to believe, there are probably some people who hear about this contest that have no idea about the type of work I write. No problem, I have put together a sample of some short stories that star Royce and Hadrian (the two main protagonists of the Riyria books - the series this short will be bundled with). They range from 3,400 - 7,200 words and will give you a good feel for my style. You can get a free copy of these samples by signing up for the contest at this link.
Oh, which brings me to the last thing...submission deadlines. To be honest, I don't know when I'll be open for submissions. I'm going to be launching this with my Kickstarter for the hardcover printing of this book (no purchase is necessary to participate). The big issue is I have a tight deadline for the novel that can't be pushed back because of the short story, so I expect the submission window to be rather short. For this reason, I'm having people start their stories and queries now. That way, when the submission does open up, you'll be ready. To be notified when submissions are open, here is a link to sign up (same one as above).
That's about all I can think of for now. Full details can be found by clicking on the link, so check it out before asking questions here, but if you do have any questions or comments, by all means share them here. Oh, and speaking of sharing. If you are part of a writing community, share this post or the link to the contest details within it. The more the merrier!