I have noticed that THP is rather unique when it comes to small furry publishers in that we publish a crap-ton of anthologies. Between three and six a year. And this might seem especially odd given a number of factors: 1) many furry publishers have publicly announced within the past year that they're stepping back from antho publishing; 2) this is because it's pretty universal among the furry pubs that anthos don't sell anywhere near as much; and 3) THP is no exception.
Last year (2018), SPECIES: Foxes sold about eight copies. Total. For the whole year. Our biggest selling antho was Furries Among Us, and it sold about thirty copies. That is almost nothing. Especially when you take into account how our numbers work. A third of the cost of a book goes to printing and distribution. Let's say...well S: Foxes is what? Ten dollars? So three or four of those dollars go straight to Amazon. It can be five or six if you buy it through expanded distribution. So I get royalties of between four and seven dollars for that copy. Then a quarter of that goes to the illustrator. A quarter goes to the editor (except me; I just don't pocket money for projects I work on personally; and even that's something we're changing, working on having more volunteer-only editors). Ten percent goes to the book formatter. So THP itself pockets maybe, MAYBE, a dollar for a copy. And the book cost us...200 dollars to make? That includes the illustrations and the contributor copies. So the house made about 8 dollars last year for a book the house spent 200 dollars on.
The publishers are right. Anthos do not make much money. So I've had a lot of people asking me, especially within this past year, why I haven't slowed down on these anthology calls. And my answer is very, very simple. Unique maybe, but simple.
The anthos I publish are geared toward writers, not readers.
What? That's heretical! That's blasphemous. I hear you.
When I joined the fandom, several writers complained to me that there weren't enough "fun" anthologies to write for. Occasionally, Fred (rest his soul) would have a themed anthology. But most of the time, there were just the "greats": ROAR, FANG, HEAT. And I knew a lot of novice writers who felt intimidated by the larger publications anyway. Don't get me wrong, I call those three anthos the "greats" for a reason. They're fucking awesome. And they're all handled by fucking awesome publishers and editors.
Where I saw a need, a niche, was in anthologies that were designed to be fun for writers, a challenge. I'm not saying the "greats" aren't challenging or fun! But as their own back-cover blurbs have often attested, they attempt to be a "powerful collection" (ROAR 9), the "finest modern gay erotic furry fiction" (FANG 1), or the "finest in furry erotica" (HEAT 15). While the volumes of ROAR and FANG often do have themes, they are often very broad and not genre specific. One of their recent themes was "resistance," something that pretty much covers the literary element of "conflict." And again, these are not bad qualities. I have loved reading so many volumes of each of these series, and I highly recommend them! Highly! My point is that the goals set for these anthologies is very different than the goals for mine.
So, what do I mean with this whole, "anthologies designed for the writers" spiel? Well, early on for me, in a conversation I had with Fred Patten - rest his soul again - he told me that "every furry anthology idea has already been done." I responded to that with "challenge accepted." And over the years, one of the things he really praised THP on was our diverse anthologies. He had such a fun time editing the What the Fox collection, and he praised it as one of his favorite anthologies he got to work on. In our history, we have published a furry comedy anthology (What the Fox), a book based on a furry hell (Infurno), species-specific books (SPECIES and BREEDS), and even have the upcoming trans furry anthology (Trans-furmations).
No, our anthologies don't sell for shit. They really don't. For most of them, over 50% of the readership is the authors in them. And I'm fine with that. I see our anthos as an outlet for our dedicated writers. A challenge maybe. At least a creative exercise. I want THP to grow to the point where we can one day pay our anthology authors as well as we pay our novel(la) authors. I want to get to that point. I really, really, really, really do. Last year, I did one paid antho. And this year, I think we have two. There is very clear, evidenced progress for us. But I still felt the need to chip in to that discourse. It's not like THP is hoarding all this money from anthos and then keeps the authors bankrupt. I have edited over fifty books by today, and I have not received one cent for that work. And that's my choice. I don't have an interest in that. For me, it's a labor of love.
And yes, I have had numerous...no...the opposite of that...countless requests to pay more (or at least some) for all of our anthologies. I have had emails saying, "I have this great idea for your anthology. How much do you want to pay me for it?" And yes, all authors deserve to be paid more than they currently are. And I can't speak for any other house when I say this, I really can't, but for me, it's a matter of not having the money to give. I hear the cynics: "Then don't publish so many anthos if you're not going to pay the authors." To that, I ask you to remember who my audience is. It's not a capitalistic supply and demand situation. Barely anyone is buying and reading these. Our horror anthos and nonfiction collections get some interest, but that's about it.
You wanna know what really drives my push for these anthos? These comments:
"Wow, you guys have an anthology called Infurno? That's awesome!"
"I only write stories for you guys. You have really cool anthology ideas."
"Of course! Your anthologies are so fun to write for!"
"I've never seen someone so committed to new writers as you."
"This is getting fancier and fancier!" -Fred Patten, upon seeing the illustrations for What the Fox?!