Anthologies are a great way to get your stories noticed. Caffeinated Press sponsors an annual house anthology titled “Brewed Awakenings,” with a new volume released every autumn.
The first volume, released on March 2, 2015, contains the work of eight invited authors from West Michigan who penned stories under the loose theme of “all goes dark.” The second volume shipped in September 2016; subsequent volumes will follow each October. The anthology ships in print format (vol. 1); print and ebook (vol. 2); print, ebook and audio book (vol. 3 and subsequent).
We are currently in the reading window for vol. 3. The window closes 5/31/17.
We recommend that you read the Q&A that follows, then visit our Query page to read our formal house editorial guidelines. The submission form for proposed Brewed Awakenings content is at the bottom of the Query page. It will be to your advantage to read both of these documents in their entirety before you consider whether you should submit to us.
[Revision 35, 05 March 2017]
When can I submit stories? What’s the deadline?
We accept stories year-round. The cutoff for each autumn’s volume is May 31. Submit before then, you’re in consideration for that year’s copy; submit after that, and you’re in the pile for the following year. You obtain neither benefit nor disability from submitting well in advance of the cutoff, but technical errors in the submission are more likely to be redirected to you for correction (instead of resulting in your manuscript being summarily excluded) if we have time to review it before May 31.
How much does it cost to submit?
Nothing, silly. Reading fees are The Devil. Never, ever accept the premise that you must fork over some greenbacks to get a fair review of your manuscript.
Who can submit?
Anyone who is authorized to work in the United States may submit to Caffeinated Press, provided that the submitter retains full rights to the work intended for our consideration and that the work itself is complete and not published anywhere else. In other words: You must own what you’re pitching, and what you pitch must be a finished product, not just an idea or work-in-progress. If your work contains copyrighted material within it that you do not own, you must prove that you have appropriate permission for us to reprint that material.
Our mission is to connect readers and writers in the West Michigan community. We do not bar non-local submissions that present compelling content with literary grace, but local submissions will always receive preference. We define “local” as including residents, former residents, students, or frequent visitors to the area roughly west of US-127 between The Bridge and the Indiana/Ohio state line.
If you have no connection to West Michigan whatsoever and you’ve never been published before, we ask you to think carefully about whether it’s appropriate for you to submit to us. We encourage aspiring, unpublished authors to look to presses within their home community to get a feel for the publishing process, before reaching out to non-local markets.
Can I submit to more than just you? Or more than one thing at a time? What about reprints?
You can submit anywhere you like, and as much as you like — but we only accept new material that has not already been published somewhere else (including through self-publishing channels or through online serialization).
If you submit your material to several different publishers, it’ll be exclusive to us only at the point we sign a contract. Until that point, we don’t care if you’ve submitted to just us, or to every publisher in Writer’s Market or Duotrope. If you later elect to remove your material from our consideration, please let us know by using the Contact Us page to send us a note. And if you want to pepper us with a salvo of your work — go for it.
How much will I get paid, and when, and what rights do I surrender?
Our anthology content is considered normal artistic work product. We’ll pay you a one-time fee for a time-limited exclusive license to print, distribute and sell paper, audio and e-book copies of the anthology, in English, in any country where our wholesale partners and distributors operate. The license expires when the volume goes out of print — about 14 months after it’s released. Such date is stipulated in the contract. The terms of our rights license are not negotiable, because we must operate under the same contract terms for every participating contributor.
We’re contractually obligated pay in the first week of the next calendar quarter after the anthology is released to market, although we often pay earlier just on principle and to avoid “bunching” of accounts-payable liabilities.
As of 9/1/15, we’ve established the following price points for Volume 3 (the October 2017 edition), offered with the caveat that the final printed version’s word count governs, not the count at the initial submission:
- Novels (40,001 words or longer) — not accepted for the anthology
- Novella (17,501 to 40,000 words) — $150 + two print courtesy copies
- Novelette (7,501 to 17,500 words) — $100+ two print courtesy copies
- Short Story (2,501 to 7,500 words) — $50 + one courtesy copy
- Poetry (one or more poems; 100 lines total) — $25 + one courtesy copy; additional $25 for each 100 lines
- Micro Story (less than 2,500 words) — $10 + one courtesy copy
Essays and narrative non-fiction pay at the same word-count lengths as fiction work.
These rates are slightly higher than what we paid for Volume 2; these rates are unlikely to be what we’ll pay for Volume 4.
What’s the required genre, theme or word count?
Our anthology neither requires nor recommends a specific theme or genre. We intend to balance material within each volume to provide a rich diversity of content for our readers. We do not accept stories of more than 40,000 words for the anthology, and both exceptionally short and exceptionally long pieces may face stricter scrutiny given our two-pronged desire to target the overall volume size to a reasonable page count and to ensure stories of appropriate substance.
Wait. You didn’t answer the word-count question.
The Goldilocks Principle governs — we want the story to be “just right,” not too long and not too short. Specifying an arbitrary word count usually diminishes a story in favor of an artificial criterion that brings no obvious benefit to the reader. You tell your story, we’ll read your story. If it’s good, it’s in; if it’s not, it’s not. Length isn’t really germane unless you write like either you’re tweeting or you’re Dostoyevsky.
That said, we aim for volumes that make for a satisfying experience for our audience. We’ll probably include more standard-length short stories than novellettes or flash fiction. Given the complexities of contracting and editing and managing a pool of authors for a story collection, the quality bar for stories shorter than 2,000 words or so, or longer than 20,000 words, will be correspondingly higher — from our perspective, the return-on-investment for flash fiction and novellas isn’t all that high. You may find that pitching flash stuff to our literary journal makes more sense. (Hint, hint.)
Can I submit poetry or personal essays?
We accept collections of poetry, and fictionalized biographical or autobiographical essays that share a compelling story.
Anything you don’t accept?
Nothing is categorically prohibited. However, we are less likely to accept for publication within this anthology any material that’s straight nonfiction (how-to stuff, journalistic pieces), unsourced opinion commentary, religious testimony, partisan rants or conspiracy-theory-tinged “thought experiments.” Stories with a clear didactic bent on subjects rancorously debated in the public square are unlikely to be considered for Brewed Awakenings. This anthology is intended for the entertainment of a broad audience; The 3288 Review literary journal offers a more appropriate venue for controversial subjects.
Because our target market is, in many ways, culturally conservative, content that may inflame indignation by the locals, without any redeeming literary merit to offset the ire, will evaluated with a more discerning eye.
What format should I submit in? What about internal document formatting?
Our home-grown submission tool requires the pasting of a plain-text version of the file into a box in your Web browser. If your submission includes a lot of italics or other formatting, we ask that you render it in Markdown before you paste it. Tools like the free Word to Markdown Converter are easy to use. We are not responsible for de-italicizing stuff you wanted italicized unless you performed the Markdown conversion first.
Apart from a PDF’d cover letter, we do not accept attachments. You must use the online form to paste your cleaned-up content in the box. If we can’t read what’s in the box, or it’s a pile of formatting gibberish with run-together paragraphs and goofy tabs, we will reject the submission. We realize it’s a bit of a pain to have to submit plain-text copy this way, but we ask you to do it because we have quite a few editors reviewing submissions and we need to maintain contributors’ anonymity. This procedure streamlines submissions and reduces rework for us. We recognize that it’s a bit of a pain for you — but on the bright side, we don’t charge reading fees!
The parts of your submission related to the synopsis and sample should not include any identifiable information on it — no names, no addresses, no email addresses, etc. Just de-identified copy.
We prefer online submissions but also welcome pitches by snail mail. See our Query page for the online form and for our postal address. If you submit a paper query, please also answer the questions asked on the online form within your package; they’re an important part of our evaluation process.
Please avoid structuring your story to rely heavily on typographic or spacing conventions. It’s the text, not the formatting, that needs to do the heavy lifting. We may pass on stories (excluding poetry) that rely too heavily on subheads, italics, hard paragraph breaks, font changes, etc., because such content is a pain in the buttocks to lay out in our InDesign-focused copy flow.
And speaking of poetry: Heavily structured poems almost surely will not fit within the margins of our anthology (you might have an 8.5×11 canvas to play with, but we don’t). If we can’t fit the content, we will reject the poem(s) without further review. So if you want us to consider poems with irregular line structures, you must send a plain-text Markdown file using spaces instead of tabs to effect the poem’s structure. No exceptions.
How will my submission be evaluated?
By angry robots.
NO, really. How will my submission be evaluated?
All submissions follow our standard Query process that includes a cover letter, synopsis and writing sample. For the anthology, please give us the full story, not just a sample, even if your story is a novelette. Carefully follow our rules about de-identification. Let us repeat: DO NOT INCLUDE PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION ANYWHERE IN YOUR SYNOPSIS OR SAMPLE. Content with author identifiers will be immediately excluded from consideration.
The anthology series editor reviews all inbound queries to ensure compliance with our minimal technical requirements. Unless the query is obviously junk — e.g., spam — the de-identified sample and synopsis are presented to the members of the Caffeinated Press editorial committee who participate in the anthology project, whereupon they are reviewed by each editor and voted upon. Each editor brings his or her own criteria into the mix. Some look at the quality of the story, others look at the quality of the prose. Usually, a consensus about each piece results; however, the series editor retains the final right to accept or reject any given submission.
Our first and highest value is literary merit. A compelling, well-written story trumps, no matter its length or the author’s ZIP code. But ceteris paribus, the work of local authors takes precedence over non-locals, and standard-length short stories will probably take precedence over very long or very short stories.
When will I hear whether I’ve been accepted?
We will acknowledge receipt of your submission within a few days; the submission form briefly flashes its acceptance, but if you don’t get a confirmation from us within a week, it’s fair to follow up through our Contact Us form. However, because we review the entire pile of anthology submissions in one go-around, you won’t get a definitive answer until the mid-to-late June, regardless of when you sent it. Remember, too, our May 31 cutoff-date for each year’s volume. For example, if you submit on May 15, you’ll be notified roughly four weeks later; if you submit on June 15, you’ll hear from us in 52 weeks. We do not send status updates.
We may provisionally accept some stories as a backup in case some authors cannot commit to our schedule. These stories aren’t second-place finishers; they’re worthy stories that we’re interested in, but may not have fit the overall “feel” we aimed for relative to the totality of the volume. Those provisionally accepted stories — if not included in the volume — may be re-tasked for other purposes, including (paid) appearance in our quarterly literary journal, in consultation with the author.
We reserve the right to occasionally review the pile of pending manuscripts to offer authors the chance to re-direct the submission from the anthology to the journal. The author, of course, has the right to refuse; such refusal in no way diminishes the odds of acceptance into the next anthology volume.
What should I expect if I’ve been accepted?
Accepted manuscripts will include at least one developmental edit offered by our in-house editors. You will receive those edits by mid to late June, or be notified that your work does not require substantial revision. From there, you will have until the end of the first week of August to review the requested edits and to prepare your revised draft. During that window, we will sign a contract that confirms payment, licenses rights and sets the official calendar for that year. We require a completed IRS Form W-9 or equivalent, as well as some method of verifying your identity to us. That method can vary — e.g., you can have your contract witnessed by a notary, or visit us in our office, or connect with the series editor on LinkedIn, or Tweet to us from a verified Twitter account, or send us email from your own long-established custom domain — but our legal counsel advises that we must make appropriate due diligence to verify that you are who you say you are. Some authors chafe at being asked to verify their identity; if you fall into that camp, please refrain from submitting to us.
Over the month of August, we’ll perform final line edits and prepare the manuscript for printing and distribution. We reserve the right to make relevant edits to style, diction, punctuation and grammar without review or approval by the author. However, changes to the content of the story will always be effected in partnership with the author. When each author’s final production file is complete, a PDF proof will be transmitted for final review.
While we proofread, you will work with our marketing team to obtain a professional headshot, an author bio and a basic online platform, if you don’t already have those things. We expect that by September 1, you will be prepared with a headshot and 250-word bio, as well as a one-sentence and 125-word teaser for your story.
We intend to release the book in print and ebook form in early-to-mid October. Authors local to West Michigan are encouraged to be present for certain launch events to sign copies, meet readers and perform readings.
The anthology compresses a great deal of work into a very narrow window of time. As such, we will not grant deadline extensions for any reason, including illness or deaths in the family. Missed deadlines will result in immediate discontinuation of your manuscript’s consideration, without appeal and without compensation to you. However, we reserve the right to adjust deadlines in light of the company’s overall editorial calendar and production requirements.
To whom should I address my cover letter?
The series editor for the anthology is Jason Gillikin. He’s also the chairman and CEO of Caffeinated Press, and he delights in receiving appropriate cover letters.
Gillikin is ably assisted by deputy managing editor Murphy d’Cat, who occasionally sits in judgment over the quality of query packages.
What should I do if I have questions?
You’ll find it useful to register for our community discussion forums (you can log in with a local account, or with your Twitter/Facebook/GitHub credentials) and request access to the “Working with CafPress” group. It’s locked down. Please avoid disclosing the title of the work you’re pitching, to protect our blinded review process.
You may also use our Contact form to register general-interest questions. We welcome these questions if you use the form. We do not recommend calling or emailing, because you’ll wait a very, very, very long time before you receive a response by phone or email, and you may just get a response asking you to file an inquiry using the Contact form.
Do you have any general advice for authors interested in submitting to Brewed Awakenings?
Brilliant question! You saved the best for last, you sly dog, you.
First, aim for compelling content. Make us laugh, or cry, or sigh. Invite us into your world and make us care about your characters. Give us something to think about. The difference between a great story and a mediocre story is that the latter reads like the Cliff’s Notes version of the former.
Second, consider the audience. We’re compiling a general-interest anthology for a community based in West Michigan. Certain subjects and fusion genres may not work as well in our market as they might in San Francisco, Manhattan or Topeka. Viability matters! Such concern is one reason we favor local authors: They know the audience.
Third, find a beta reader or five. Many a good story has died for lack of a good proofread before submission. Although we at Caffeinated Press are more tolerant of linguistic slips than most other publishers, even we have our limits. Under no circumstances whatsoever should you think it acceptable to send us your first draft — doing so is effectively a slap in the face to our editors. Instead, when you think you’ve nailed your story, give it to three to five friends who will tear it to pieces. Then review their feedback and adjust as indicated. We writers are often blind to our own weaknesses; sometimes we need the prod of someone else’s comments to help us hone our craft. (Incidentally, one of the biggest drawbacks of flash fiction is that it’s so short that most authors don’t give it the edit they need, which is why so much flash is so mind-numbingly awful. No story is too short to benefit from beta readers!)
Fourth, honor the spirit of our editorial process. We de-identify manuscripts for a reason, so if you widely trumpet your story in a way that may cross the paths of even one member of our editorial team, then your story will be removed from consideration. We recently rejected a piece for which the author shared the submission title on Twitter, @mentioning us. You poke the bear, you get mauled.
Thank you for considering Caffeinated Press for your next short-story submission.