Dostoyevsky Wannabe is Changing
Well it’s always been fairly fluid but here’s a bit of news about some new directions that we’re committed to taking as we come up to the fifth birthday of Dostoyevsky Wannabe (tbh we don't exactly know when the fifth birthday is as we can't remember when it started exactly but know it was up and running in March 2014) and enter the second phase of its existence. First though let’s answer the question of what Dostoyevsky Wannabe has been up until this point. Surprisingly, we’re finding that people have started to have their own ideas and answers to this question, and we’re flattered (we didn’t think anyone was interested), but we also wanted to state how we have seen the first five years of Dostoyevsky Wannabe. Up until this point, DW has been two main things: an experimental design project and an exercise in “publishing”.
1) DOSTOYEVSKY WANNABE AS AN EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN PROJECT
We have always been as much designers as “publishers” and in some ways the first few years has been an experiment in cover-design, typesetting (i.e. book production) where we set ourselves the challenge of producing as many books as we could in a five-year period. Fellow designers amongst you will know that, when starting out (and even sometimes when you’ve been doing it for ages), a designer likes to see what they produce out in the world and not tied up in endless corporate development or worse as endless ‘student-work’ (i.e. imaginary book covers for imaginary books). Design, like writing, is about communication and whether you’re a web designer, a book designer or any kind of designer, you want what you do to be out there attached to real authors and real readers.
In many ways, the design/book production challenge that we set ourselves was ridiculous. Produce as many books as possible in a short period and get them out there on a zero-budget. For every book we’ve produced, we’ve foregone the standard design rates that we’d normally be paid commercially, and we’ve done it all for free because we said we would and because we wanted to see the books out there. The whole experiment has been an exercise in the real-world problems of design and book production and often we’ve taken a sort of hybrid DIY-high design approach to it. On the one hand, we’ve been limited by time and by the print on demand medium (there are no colour profiles to work with for most print on demand production, no spine text under a 100 pages, printing and production variance gone mad, not being able to choose cover weight or paper quality, screen proofing and not print proofing and a whole load of other limitations), and many of these limitations have sometimes sailed closely to a slightly rough and ready approach more associated with a DIY ethic (nothing wrong with that); on the other hand, we also strived for a high-quality design aesthetic that was as good, within the limitations, sometimes better, than books produced over a lot more time and for a lot more money.
Since 2014, we’ve produced books involving over 100 writers (many single-authored but this number also includes writers in anthologies). Across five different Dostoyevsky Wannabe imprints, we’ve produced 68 books (and there’ll be more this year) and all designed in the fashion described above and all done for zero-budget, giving our time for free, time that could have paid us back more handsomely if we'd have given it to commercial work, but it was our choice so that’s fine. The thing is, whilst we might have behaved a bit eccentrically to take on such an experiment, we’re not rich. Dostoyevsky Wannabe is no rich person’s folly/plaything. In truth, it’s the folly of two not very well-off working-class people who like to make things. Suffice to say, phase one is over and phase two is on its way (phase?). We don’t want to produce books at that crazy rate anymore and we also want to produce different types of books and design different types of things.
So, is Dostoyevsky Wannabe over? Nope. It isn’t but it is changing course and it is growing outwards in scope. You probably won’t notice much difference until 2020 as there are so many books already planned to come out in 2019, including a whole range of Dostoyevsky Wannabe Cities books. Beyond that though we’ll retain open submissions and we’ll solicit other books just as we've always done, that won’t change, but we will produce fewer books per year and also produce books of different kinds, all giving our time and design skills for free (same as ever), but all of this will work alongside Dostoyevsky Wannabe’s commercial design side. A side that already exists behind the scenes, though less visible. This side is intended to move beyond the production of books (although we’re available for hire for typesetting and cover-design to the publishing community more generally) to the design of different types of thing both in print and digitally. This will be commercial client work basically and it will sit alongside a scaled down Dostoyevsky Wannabe “publishing” side that we hope will be just as innovative and interesting (or stupid and annoying, depending on whether you like Dostoyevsky Wannabe or not) as all of the many books that we’ve been involved in during the first five years. . Surely, after five years and 68 books (and counting) nobody will begrudge us our choice to do something a little bit different.
2) DOSTOYEVSKY WANNABE AS “PUBLISHER”
Since 2014, we’ve been interested in publishing books by way of alternative publishing models and the vast majority of our books have been produced by virtue of print on demand, by using Amazon/other print on demand providers as giant photocopiers to put out high-quality books that can be bought online from many countries in the world and that, sometimes, can be bought in physical brick and mortar bookshops. The main two publishing models that we’ve worked with have revolved around print on demand. The most popular option an author could choose has been what we termed Option 2 (some genius terminology, there) but really what we have been interested in has been devising different publishing models, print run types, and configurations of royalty, we don’t just publish experimental work but we experiment with publishing models themselves.
Dostoyevsky Wannabe's Publishing Models Explained:
In our first five years, Option 2 has been the most popular publishing option sought by authors. Option 2 basically meant that we would price the book for sale online at some outrageously low price (around £4, sometimes even less, the first Dostoyevsky Wannabe Original is still for sale and is priced at around £2.84), this meany that by the time Amazon (or whatever print on demand provider) had deducted the production costs and the amount that they charged for providing the print on demand service, there was little in the way of royalties (pennies and cents usually) but those royalties were effectively donated to Dostoyevsky Wannabe in return for our free labour in producing the books (either that or because the author who we were working with didn’t feel like filling in the Createspace/KDP tax questionnaire). Often these books fell into the poetry or literature genres, often slightly experimental, sometimes first-time authors, and thereby often books that might traditionally sell in only small quantities. The idea was (still is) to help gain some kind of readership for these books by designing them nicely and pricing them inexpensively (‘take a chance on a Dostoyevsky Wannabe book, collect them all’) and this has often worked quite nicely and writers have found readers, other times people have sold hardly any, and, in some cases, certain books have flown out and found a massive amount of readers and even been shortlisted for prizes. We confess that we have little idea why one book sells more than another regarding what might be termed literary fiction and poetry but that’s what we did - we made it and we put it on sale.
It should be noted that at any time, an author who did Option 2 can switch over to Option 1 (see below) with the change of circumstances (financial and otherwise) being dated from the date that the change is made following an emailed request from the author. Obviously, we can’t backdate any royalties from the period that the book was on Option 2. Also a book will remain on sale until an author wants to it removing and they don't need a reason to remove it, they just need to request that we do so.
An alternative publishing model to Option 2 (imaginatively titled Option 1), was basically the same as Option 2 but instead of Dostoyevsky Wannabe uploading their book to the print on demand provider and determining that the book be sold at an inexpensive price, the author themselves were invited to set their own prices and take their own royalties and to create their own print on demand accounts and to upload their books for themselves, some stayed with our inexpensive retail price idea, some chanced their arm with a higher price that was more in keeping with the price of a typical book on the high-street, with Option 1 the author got to experiment and was backed up by Dostoyevsky Wannabe who provided the cover-design and typesetting for free.
Dostoyevsky Wannabe Cities
Books on the Cities imprint have quite a specific publishing model. Whilst they must be uploaded to Dostoyevsky Wannabe's print on demand account, they are priced at EXACTLY cost price so that the only effect on price will be tied to the costs of the physical production of the books (namely how many pages it has). As ever, Dostoyevsky Wannabe will offer typesetting and cover-design for free (thereby losing around £1.10-1.50 per page depending on the type of text content for typesetting and around £150 per cover-design (the covers are deliberately designed to be similar which means they’re a lot less expensive than the usual commercial rate for a book cover which tends to total a lot more).
Most Cities books are designed to weigh in around 110 page-200 pages but the odd one has been a lot larger and, in terms of retail price, a 500 page book is a lot more expensive to print than a 110 page book and is therefore a lot more expensive to buy. Whatever the size though Dostoyevsky Wannabe Cities books are sold at cost price and so make zero-money for anybody involved, including Dostoyevksy Wannabe who, as we've already stated, are often happy to lose money in order to get an interesting book out there.
Dostoyevsky Wannabe Specials
Our recent Berfrois and Queen Mob’s Teahouse books, our forthcoming Hotel anthology and our partnership with the Simon Lee Gallery and the artist, Dexter Dalwood for the book ‘What is Really Happening’ are more collaborative and the details of publication are worked out with our respective partners regarding royalties on a bespoke case by case (book by book) basis. They fall neither under Option 1 or Option 2. One aim in the future is to move into the publication of non-fiction books and this, again, will require a different model of publishing and different arrangements with relevant writers/editors.
When are submissions for Dostoyevsky Wannabe "Publishing" Open Again?
As a few of you are aware, our open submissions closed for the first time towards the end of last year and we’ve not read a single submission since that time as we’ve been preparing a new website (to be revealed in the coming weeks) and musing on the next direction for Dostoyevsky Wannabe. A few people have queried when the “publishing” side will be open for submissions once more and, at the time of writing, we think that it will be around May 2019. For the sake of our sanity, the system will be a little more organised than in the past and, as stated above, it will effectively be more competitive as we’ll be producing fewer books. This means more rejections than previously, as there will be less capacity, but we look forward to reading your work and, as ever, we will be interested in open submissions whether agented or non-agented (the vast majority of books that we’ve published have been from writer’s without agents but we don’t care either way as we are just as committed to writers who don’t choose to follow that path than ones who do).
For those of you who we do choose not to collaborate with we’d like you to know that it won’t be based on our imagining ourselves able to assess a submission on the basis of literary “quality”. We don’t profess to be experts on such things (or to necessarily believe that such things even exist) and if we reject your submission, we suggest you continue to submit it to other presses because there’s every chance that we’re totally wrong in our decision and the book will be accepted somewhere else and will sell hundreds, thousands, millions (who knows) and it will leave us with egg on our face as we wonder why we passed up such a good opportunity. For books that don’t find homes elsewhere, or for authors who want to go it alone or set up with some friends, and given our commitment to alternative publishing models, we would also suggest that writers may be take the path less travelled and start their own print on demand presses but all of that is your business and not ours. For the writers, who we do choose to collaborate with in “publishing” their books, we look forward to working with you.
What else will be up to?
Lots of things. We'll be working with the International Anthony Burgess Foundation to put on a more regular Manchester Indie Book Fair and maybe talking to other indie presses for an interview series when our new site is ready. We're also broadening out the scope of Dostoyevsky Wannabe so similarly, we'll be interviewing designers and bands who we're into and just speaking to people who we're interested in really.
Kathleen and Kathleen aka the Dostoyevsky Wannabe Invisible DJs will be doing a bit more. We'll also be working with the Contemporary Small Press at the University of Westminster. Basically all kinds of new things really, lots more that we don't want to even speak about until things are a bit further along.