Just Say No To A Bouchercon Anthology That Doesn’t Pay Contributors

UPDATE (2/28/19): Ugh, it seems like after making great strides last year in paying authors for their contributions to the Bouchercon anthology, this year’s organizers have returned to a non-paying model and I’m not cool with that. I wrote this two years ago and I’m disgusted it’s relevant again. This is my opinion as a writer and as a fan, but you can guaran-damn-tee that as a Bouchercon board member I’m making my disgust known as well.

Disclosure: I have stories in two anthologies published by Down and Out Books, the publisher of the 2019 Bouchercon anthology and I didn’t receive payment for either. All of the proceeds for both anthologies were donated to causes I care about, which is why I contributed. I like the editors of both anthologies and I like the folks at Down and Out Books. But there is a difference between a publisher offering anthologies like this within their brand and their business model and an organization like Bouchercon making the official anthology for it’s conference a non-paying publication.

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I’m incredibly disappointed that once again the Bouchercon anthology is a non-paying publication.

The proliferation of non-paying publications is reaching epidemic proportions and HAS to stop. To see it from an organization that advocates for the mystery fiction community is particularly harmful.

Last year there were 21 stories in the anthology, let’s assume there will be that many this year as well. To pay each contributor a fee of $150, the minimum I consider a worthwhile fee,  would take a total of $3,150. At $15.95 for print copies and $9.99 for e-book copies (the current going price on Amazon for last year’s anthology it would take between 200-315 copies sold. All proceeds after that could then be donated to charity (the expressed intent of the anthology). If an anthology of mystery stories attached to a conference of roughly 1500 die-hard mystery fiction fans can’t sell at least 315 copies than maybe there shouldn’t be an anthology.

Instead of just relying on book room and Amazon sales for the anthology, why not add a box at registration for folks to order a copy? Or better yet, why not raise the registration fee $10 and include a copy for everyone? In fact, you could raise the fee just $5 and with the average of 1500 attendees you’d have $7,500 to pay the writers. Or what if you don’t raise the fee and take some of the money left over from the previous Bouchercon to fund a pool to pay the next year’s anthology contributors?

According to the St. Louis meeting minutes (which are the only ones I could easily find online – a whole different set of issues that need to be raised) there was $20,000 left over after the conference. Why couldn’t $3,000 of that be used to fund the next anthology? Can anyone think of a better use for $3,000 that came from mystery fiction fans and authors than to pay mystery authors for their hard work? I can’t.