A Q&A with 'Electric Literature'

In the summer of 2009, Andy Hunter and Scott Lindenbaum published the first volume of their literary journal, Electric Literature. By offering more than the paperback option—in fact, by making their journal available on multiple mobile devices—its founders have not only built a reputation and a business: they’ve also been able to pay writers $1,000 per story.

Q: You still pay well for the stories you publish, and so you’ve attracted big names like Rick Moody, Lydia Davis and Javier Marias. Has it been a challenge with their agents to get agreements to publish across every medium?
A: One thing we come up against again and again, in the industry, is that everyone is at a different point with their assumptions. You’ll get an agent saying “oh we love what you guys are doing; we want you to publish one of our authors.” Then they pause over the international electronic rights. But, you know, electronic rights, by default, are not bound to space. It’s confusing for them, because they’re trained not to give away anything for free—and to sell other rights again and again. So they’ll ask, “What, are you going to make a video game out of this?” And, I don’t know, you have to say: “You may be slightly confused about the demand for a video game based on the work of Javier Marias. Like: don’t worry, this is not going to cannibalize your hardcover sales in Spain.” But it also makes sense; everybody’s afraid of “doing it wrong.”

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