The Sample Box is Ready!

I’m pretty excited about the selection we have here. The theme is Slightly Spooky Stories. It ranges from Halloween to Christmas, from the deliciously creepy to the downright chilling. Each piece has something different to offer, including:

Until Mount Etna Speaks, a poem by David Rounds, will take you to the treacherous side of an active volcano. You may remember poetry from school as being opaque, boring, or overly dramatic. But good poetry is none of those – it’s the distilled essence of human experience. Read it and see if you don’t agree.

and to calm the waves of mismapping is a powerful excerpt from Jennifer Derilo’s memoir-in-progress, as performed at this year’s LitQuake. This piece juxtaposes the intense battles to survive that join together a grandfather and granddaughter, fighting 50 years apart. i can’t do it justice, you’ll have to go read it.

Bus Ride, by Annie Gowan Stone, is another memoir excerpt. This one, however, combines campfire-style storytelling with chillingly clear childhood memories.

The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain is our novel this month. While usually we’ll be featuring powerful new and emerging writers with our novel selections, for a spooky box at this time of year there was no other option: it had to be Charles Dickens. I was surprised to learn that “A Christmas Carol” was just the beginning for him: he actually wrote five ghostly novels set during the holidays. This one was his last.

Although some of his language is a little archaic after 164 years, the terrific balance of comedy and emotion keep “The Haunted Man” very readable. On the surface, it’s a supernatural romp reminiscent of “A Christmas Carol”. But underneath, he addresses many questions about how we deal with grief, resentment, and fear – without losing our humanity. This special edition features an array of classic paintings and photographs that bring Victorian London to life.

Spooky Recipes: And for dessert, a mini-cookbook from PeaceMeals, full of creepy and cute recipes for festive fun. These dishes are Halloween-themed, but who doesn’t love surprising playful kids or friends with “worms in a bun” and real “finger food”?

Phew! Pop them into your e-reader or just open up right here as a PDF, and enjoy! And thanks again for checking it out!

– Dani


For Adventurers:

Window Seat Stories is a monthly box for book lovers. A feast of delicious poems, short stories, letterpress art, books, and more will arrive at your door every month.

* Enjoy an escape into lush, innovative storytelling

* Support the arts

* Discover rare and talented new authors and artists

* Read new books before anybody else can get ’em

* Never suffer from that dull, aching “nothing-to-read” feeling ever again!

For Authors & Artists:

Help create a new publishing model that’s immediate and artist-driven. Shorter pieces will receive a dollar per each box that goes out with their piece in it; books will receive two dollars. That may not sound like much, but if we have 500 subscribers, your poem makes $500 right away; if we have 10,000, your book makes $20,000. You can then sell your work in our online bookstore for a much larger royalty, without waiting (or hoping) for an advance to pay out.

* Keep your copyright

* Don’t wait for royalties, or struggle to negotiate an advance

* Get help with marketing – we’ll be promoting this work as hard as you do!

* Be a part of a curated, cutting-edge community of artisans

Get updates along the way and find out when we launch! No spam, total privacy. We promise.

Rules of the Game

We are standing on the shoulders of giants. The following rules are adapted from those suggested by Joe Konrath for estributors.

1. We cover all costs of book production and do the work involved, whether it’s done in-house or whether we have to do the footwork and communication to get an independent professional on it. Artwork, editing, proofing, formatting, layout, everything.

2. We do all of the uploading to various sites (Kindle, B&N, Kobo, Apple, Smashwords, Createspace, etc., as well as our own site and, in the future, app.)

3. We pay royalties monthly, and our accounting is transparent. (Konrath suggests immediately; at this point that’s more of a goal than a reality. But we will strive to get there.)

4. We get a cut of no more than 15% of royalties, just like an agent’s commission. (The monthly subscription box functions more like an advance that you don’t have to “pay out”, not like royalties; a substantial amount of that revenue goes into marketing your work as well as preliminary editing, formatting, and uploading. We will provide and maintain clear, up-to-date information on our website about how much of that goes to each writer or artist involved.)

5. When we get big enough, we will facilitate translation, the uploading to foreign ebook sites, and the development of audiences in other languages.

6. We are committed to marketing the ebooks above and beyond what authors can do on their own. (This can include, but is not limited to, blurbs, excerpt exchanges, sending out samples in boxes in which the author is not already featured, online and print advertising, creating online book clubs and discussion areas, developing relationships with online and print book reviewers, contests, giveaways, blog tours, and more.)

7. The author retains all rights to the work, and works with us to set the price of the work.

8. Either the author or Hand-Picked Words can dissolve the relationship at any time. The author keeps any formatting and artwork that we provided. (Can you tell this is a company founded by writers?)

We Love Libraries

We’re going to do something quirky here: we’re going to let libraries have our e-books for free.

Yeah, I said that. Libraries can have them for free. (And hopefully, someday the print books too!)

There are lots of strong marketing reasons to do this. Plenty of library patrons, like me, check books out there first before deciding whether to buy them. Or discover new authors in the stacks, and then go buy their entire backlist. It doesn’t always translate into sales. But as author J.A. Konrath has noted, making books available for free tends to increase actual sales.

But there are more important reasons as well.

Right now, the big publishers are struggling with how to price and distribute e-books. There are frequent complaints from authors and readers about how close most publishers’ e-book prices are to the print prices. But the libraries are where the struggle really plays out. As I write this, some publishers (Macmillan, Scholastic, and Simon & Schuster) won’t even sell e-books to libraries; Hachette will only sell its backlist, not newer titles; Penguin now sells their titles, but in a format that blocks use on the Kindle; and Harper-Collins will sell them e-books, but once a book has been loaned out 26 times it has to be re-purchased.

Only two major publishers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Random House, make their entire catalog of e-books available to libraries. But even there, there are problems. Random House tripled the price it charges libraries for its e-books this year, and Hachette raised theirs by an average of 220% only two months ago. (Avid library-lovers can follow this trend through the Monthly eBook Price Comparison.

As a reader, I think this is nuts. I may have googled those details, but I knew to look for them because I’ve heard all of this already, straight from my librarian’s mouth. It’s not just e-books, either. Major publishers routinely charge more to libraries than to the individual reader. All those used books you drop off at your local library are like gold to them, because it wouldn’t cost them $7.99 to get their own copy of that paperback – often, it would cost them more like $26. Add to that the fact that at least here in Oakland, California, the library can’t use its own cash donations. Any cash, or even any paid library fines, goes straight to the city, which then decides how much budget the libraries deserve each year.

I’m a strong believer in both libraries and librarians. I say we reverse the trend. They’re basically advertising our books and authors for us, any time they make them available to their crowds of patrons. Why charge them for the privilege?

To quote author Spider Robinson:

“Librarians are the secret masters of the world. They control information. Don’t ever piss one off.”

Or, to put it in Michael Moore’s words:

“I really didn’t realize the librarians were, you know, such a dangerous group. … You think they’re just sitting at the desk, all quiet and everything. They’re like plotting the revolution, man. I wouldn’t mess with them. You know, they’ve had their budgets cut. They’re paid nothing. Books are falling apart. The libraries are just like the ass end of everything, right?”

What Is Hand-Picked Words?

It’s like….

It’s like a CSA box straight from your local farm. Hand-picked words. Fresh. Seasonal. It helps the farmers, because they know they have an audience for each new harvest. It’s a CSL: community-supported literature.

It’s like a small press, with a difference: strong marketing plans and guaranteed sales.

It’s like a fun grab bag at a really great party. How great? The bag is full of books and bookish treats!

It’s like self-publishing, with editing and marketing help… that you don’t have to pay for.

It’s like those monthly subscription boxes for beauty, snacks, and kids’ projects… except that this one is full of fun and entertaining stuff to read.

Get a Sneak Preview!

We are putting together a free sample box, full of short stories, a book, and maybe even some poetry and art. It’s in PDF format, so you can get it as soon as it’s ready, and read it on your computer or e-reader! The theme is Slightly Spooky Stories, for these longer colder nights….

[a red curtain rising on a black stage filled with golden stars and one huge red question mark]

åPop your email address in below if you’d like to be the first one to dive into this box!