Interrogation—Christian Lee (Centum Press)

Who: Christian Lee

What: Founder and Publisher at Centum Press. He also currently serves as the Chairman and Chief Marketing Officer of Allegiant Publishing Group, Centum Press’ parent company. He previously served as the Marketing Manager at Something or Other Publishing, and briefly as the Vice President of Distribution and Marketing at Helm Book Publishing.

Where: New Hampshire

I came across Centum Press on social media and was intrigued by the concept. How did you come up with it?

Centum Press is actually an idea that I had been thinking about for a while. Probably for six months before I even shared it with Marc Estes, the other co-founder of Allegiant Publishing Group, which owns Centum. Essentially, I came up with the idea for Centum Press by trying to answer a both simple and complex question: how could we get dozens of people promoting a single title? I chose doing an anthology because it’s a lot less “corporate” than having some kind of referral program and because I’ve always enjoyed shorter fiction. I also wanted to do something that would allow authors to get a lot more from their work. I think it’s really pretty deplorable that we don’t think twice about paying four or five bucks for coffee but don’t even think about the fact that authors get paid next to nothing, in many cases, for their work.

rsz_screen_shot_2016-05-01_at_73753_amWeb and print publishers have tried to monetize flash fiction before—usually with limited success. What sets Centum apart?

I think that the biggest thing that sets Centum apart is the fact that we actually incentivize authors to promote the anthologies. If you offer a low, flat fee, there’s not much motivation to promote the book, but if you’re offered a higher than usual royalty rate, there’s a lot of motivation. I think that authors can make or break a publishing company. If you keep them happy, you’re going to do well if you have a little bit of business savvy. If you treat them poorly, you’re screwed as you should be, to put it bluntly.

The main reason is because it’s about the maximum we can fit into a book while still being reasonable. I wanted our books to have a good amount of substance, I wanted as many people as possible promoting them, and I always want to deliver a good value to readers. This may sound funny, but to be honest, a secondary reason is because the math is a lot simpler when calculating a variety of things.

Is there a specific genre focus to the stories in Centum’s planned anthologies?

In our first anthology, ONE HUNDRED VOICES, there isn’t a specific genre focus simply because we wanted to make it as accessible as possible for authors. In some of our forthcoming anthologies, there will be genre focuses, but we’re not planning to just do one or a handful of genres. As much as possible, we’d like to accommodate just about anything reasonable.

rsz_screen_shot_2016-05-01_at_80933_am

Will there be themes for specific anthologies?

Yes, we’re currently accepting submissions to ONE HUNDRED TAILS, which is an anthology with an animal theme. We’re hoping that this anthology will be a fun way for authors and readers to move away for just a few minutes some of the weightier stories that are out there. There’s nothing wrong with stories that aren’t exactly rays of sunshine, and I actually typically prefer those kind of stories, but every once in a while, much lighter pieces are a nice refresher.

When is ONE HUNDRED VOICES going to be available? 

We’re hoping that the anthology will be published in August. We want to take our time on this first one to make sure that we get it right, so hopefully the turn around time for future books won’t be quite as long.

rsz_screen_shot_2016-05-01_at_81341_amHow does the royalty structure work?

We pay each author a 15% royalty on the list price of books that he or she sells through our website then divide up a 10% royalty on all other books sold among the authors. We really wanted to reward authors for their hard work, so we thought that the 15% royalty was fair. Depending on what we learn from our first anthology, we might shift things around if we can provide more benefit to our authors, but everyone seems to really like what we have now.

In addition to author referrals, how will the books be marketed and distributed?

Mainly by social media and our websites for now since our Twitter accounts have about eighty thousand followers, but we’d also like to get into more bookstores in the future and are working on landing a deal with a distributor. With one hundred authors and all of our imprints promoting our books, I think that we can make a lot of noise on social media. Social media certainly isn’t always the answer, but in this case, I think we’re positioned well for it.

Find Centum: WebsiteTwitter

Previous Interrogations:

CROSSWISES.W. Lauden’s debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, is available now from Rare Bird Books. The second Greg Salem novel, GRIZZLY SEASON, will be published in September 2016. His standalone novella, CROSSWISE, is available now from Down & Out Books.

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