Staying in? How about reading a good story from a local author right here in New Mexico? That is the idea behind the new subscription service that brings a new short story by a New Mexican author to the tablet or other such e-reading device every week. Author and publisher Sonja Dewing came up with the concept after working with writers to develop their work for years in workshops and then not seeing it get the attention it deserves. Dewing decided to skip the middleman and bring this work to readers directly. It’s a bold idea, but one that’s perfect in this time of staying home. Weekly Alibi spoke with Dewing from a safe distance about the stories, the subscriptions and a bit about the De Anza Motor Inn. The following is an edited version on that conversation.
Weekly Alibi: How did the stories subscriptions begin?
Sonja Dewing: My company Plot Duckies holds an event called the Short Storyathon and idea behind that was to get people to come to an event, write a short story in a weekend and publish to Amazon. I know a lot of people who've written a story and they're concerned about publishing it, like, they don't want anybody to see it. So, the whole idea is to get people all the way through the process, but it's not an easy weekend. By Friday night, you have to have your idea. Saturday is writing, editing and then we review each other's work. We edit again, then it gets sent off to professional editors. Sunday morning, we edit again from what the editors sent us. We either hire a cover artist, though one person usually wins a free cover, or we design our own covers for the stories, and then we publish to Amazon.
I started realizing we have all these great short stories from all these writers. Some of these have made Amazon Hot Reads for weeks, so they're pretty fantastic stories, but a lot of these writers don't have their own ability to advertise. They don't have the time or they don't know how. I decided it would be great to share their stories to a wider audience by offering this subscription and I would do the advertising for them. The royalty—I'm actually going to be paying them a 50 percent royalty during this month and next month just so hopefully they get a little more income from their stories.
These are all New Mexican authors?
Yes, they are.
How long are these stories?
Anywhere from 3,000 words to 5,000. It's a 15-to-30 minute read.
What kind of kind of stories are they?
There are all kinds. The first story everyone gets is a fictionalized story, but it came from someone sharing a true story. It’s about two people traveling and deciding to stay in Albuquerque about 10 years ago. They stopped at the De Anza Motor Inn. That one was fun because it was a conversation between a cover artist and a writer. The cover artist was talking about, “Oh yeah, me and my husband did this thing and we showed up in Albuquerque at midnight at the De Anza. Then we were like, we don't know if we're going to stay.” It ended up changing their lives. So, the writer wrote the story. That's the first one. The next story they get is a roller derby mystery [titled] “Deadly Derby: Heads Will Roll.” It’s a big mix of different genres.
These are delivered once a month?
Normally, yes. If they want, they can pay $1.99 a month and they'll get it once a month. But if they want [to] and they pay $23 upfront, they'll get one story a week for 12 weeks. I'm thinking people might want more content right now.
Have you seen subscriptions increase since we've been homebound?
I have gotten more purchases of the subscription. I emailed those people who purchase the subscription already and most of them do want it weekly. There's also a gift option if someone wants to gift it to family and friends.
How many authors do you have?
I think I have 17 different authors.
So, this is an ongoing process of finding new local authors and stories?
Correct. It’s a bit stalled right now.
How do potential authors get involved?
If they're interested, they should follow our Facebook page or sign up for our newsletter on our website. We'll keep them updated on the next event because they need to come to the Short Storyathon. I know that if they can make it through a Short Storyathon, they can write a great story.