MICHAEL S. COLLINS is a Glasgow-based writer and researcher, who is fascinated with horror and the supernatural. He has recently launched www.the40p.com, “a online fiction market designed to bring you new stories from writers, new and old”. We had a chat with him about the project.
SPOOKY ISLES: First off, congratulations on the website – it’s an interesting concept – selling stories for 40p. Why did you come up with it?
MICHAEL: It always seemed one of those ideas that might work. I was heavily inspired by The Blizzard (a football magazine run by the wonderful Jon Wilson) which runs along the same lines. Only it’s about football. The whole “pay as you go” style market works for music and other creative arts, so why shouldn’t it work for short fiction? Well, there was only one way to find out, and no one else was stepping forward to offer it, so I got together with a web designer friend, Gavin Mills, and sorted out the current website. We launched a month ago (September 2015).
But why 40p? That is very cheap for a short novel, which some of these stories seem to be! And they are also high quality.
Fair enough, so what has been the reaction?
The response has been encouraging. The slush pile gathers pace at a steady rate. We – me and Gavin – were taken aback by some of the writers promoting the site and considering writing for it in the future, even at this early stage. Of course, starting up a writing market from scratch is a long game indeed, but the early signs are promising!
I see you have long-time Spooky Isles writer Jon Kaneko-James writing for you and you yourself have written for us. I imagine there will be a lot for spooky fans on this site?
Yes, we had Jon Kaneko-James signed up as soon as possible. He’s a very good writer, isn’t he?
Thankfully, I’m aware his story is the first in what will hopefully be a series. It’s rather like the John Silence stories of Algernon Blackwood and so there is a lot of scope for future tales. Very busy writer, though.
I myself tend towards ghost stories in the Jamesian tradition. (I’d say Burrage tradition, or AJ Alan tradition to be more strictly accurate, but they are a bit obscure these days, sadly.) Whilst I tend towards the spooky genres, we’d publish all sorts. As it is, we currently have a ghost story, a fantasy story (by Interzone books editor Jim Steel) and a Science-Fiction ghost story, very Bradbury-esque, by former astronomer Vaughan Stanger. So yes, I imagine there’ll be a fair bit for spooky fans on the site – and more to come!
Ooooh, that sounds spook-tastic! What plans for you have for the site once it gets off the ground?
There are plans for expansion in the future. At the moment, we’re just trying to make our name as publishers and not the ten a penny fly by nighters (we’ve got five months to go before we can qualify for a Duotrope listing, for example!). The website will keep expanding. Gavin already has a lot of exciting ideas we’ll be testing out in the near future to improve the system for readers and writers alike. And we’ll have many new writers – some entirely newcomers, others well known faces. In theory, the sky’s the limit.
So how can writers get involved?