IN A NUTSHELL: The Existential Smut series is seeking fiction, poetry and visual art for Volume 3 (due in 2026). Hapax Legomenon will be the editor. Call for submissions will go out in 2025 (on Duotrope, etc) with a specific deadline. Compensation: a modest advance (25-75$) + a share of earnings. Payment for ebook cover design will be higher.
Copyright: Submissions can be published or used previously, but creator must agree to allow the ebook to be distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) license. This applies to fiction, poetry, artwork and photography.
Nonexclusive License. There is no requirement that art or poems or stories be exclusive to this Existential Smut project. You are free to reuse and/or sell it elsewhere.
ADVICE TO CONTRIBUTORS: Don’t spend too much time pondering the statements below or wondering whether your work meets the criteria. Just send it to me, dammit! The statements below hint at general preferences. Obviously no story will meet the criteria exactly;
WHEN TO SUBMIT: A deadline will be announced with the “Call to Submissions.” But you can informally contact the editor Hapax Legomenon at any time. Final editorial decisions probably won’t be made until 2025. (Content is already lined up for Volume 2 due in Dec 2024, but it still needs some illustrations).
What the Anthology is Seeking
Volume 3 will feature stories (primarily), poetry and artwork.
Guidelines for Fiction
Story should be capable of being read and enjoyed on its own. It’s important for the characters and the erotic situation to be memorable and meaningful and use rich and evocative language. Ideally the story should be between 1000 and 6000 words. Minimum/Maximum word count is probably 300 words/12,000 words.
Stories don’t need to use sexually explicit language, but they must feel “erotic” to the reader. Vulgarity is okay, and so are physical descriptions, but I’m especially interested in style and tone and psychological insights. Consistent with the “Existential” theme, it would be especially nice if a story tries to deal with existential questions (i.e., what is the purpose of life, what is love? What must 2 people have in common to connect? What do we need most in this world? What harsh truths do people ignore? What is the role of sex in this world? Why do people feel alone? How easily does sexual desire change? How does desire change us? What’s the difference between living and existing? What one thing should every human experience at least once in their lives? Is it easier to love or be loved? What makes someone beautiful? How can you give yourself without losing yourself? How does hardship or trauma change us? How much should we pursue sexual adventures?
Almost all the stories for Volume 1 and 2 could be called “couples erotica” or “arty erotica,” but material for Volumes 3 and beyond can involve different themes and situations.
Subject matter: There is no prohibition about subject matter (BDSM, LGBTIQA+, etc) or taboo/transgression, but the publisher will need to consider whether the subject matter of a particular story will cause the entire anthology to be blocked from an ebookstore. Sci fi/fantasy/supernatural themes are generally ok — though it is important that the story have characters who are psychologically interesting. The editor is inclined to avoid stories with trauma or violence in favor of things with more sex-positive vibes. At the same time, stories which tackle tough subjects with sensitivity and psychological insight will always merit consideration. This editor has a special fondness for stories with a humorous or satirical angle — although it should have other things going for it as well. More importantly, contributions should “feel” like a classic short story rather than simply one episode in a longer story.
Guidelines for Poetry
You can submit erotic poetry, but ideally it should be more than 20 lines. Also (ideally) it should be a narrative poem (with characters, dialogue, etc.) Prose poems are also great. Submitting multiple poems is definitely okay, and it’s definitely possible to have several thematically-related poems to be accepted together. Payment will probably be less than that of a short story. Full disclosure: This series was originally intended to be 100% prose, but after the editor Hapax Legomenon came across some great erotic poems for Volume 3, he decided to expand the submission criteria to include poetry.
Guidelines for Artwork
If you have art that might work for this project, feel free to forward your name and portfolio samples.
This ebook will need both interior illustrations and a custom-designed ebook cover.
Art Compensation: Compensation for ebook cover art will be a modest advance + a modest percentage of earnings for nonexclusive use. Compensation for ebook cover art will be within the range of compensation for indie book publishing. It will also include a percentage of earnings.
Interior Art. Volumes 1 and 2 included a variety of art and photography to accompany the stories and to highlight certain pages. (See the Illustration List for Volume 1 ). Some of the images came from public domain sources. Some of the images were original images by contemporary artists with creative commons license.
Ebook Cover. The cover for Volume 1 included a mysterious and surreal collage that seems more art magazine/art school. It was created by surreal artist Eugenia Loli. Covers for future volumes should be tasteful, mildly provocative and colorful. If you design ebook covers and think you could do a good cover, feel free to contact me and share parts of your portfolio. A 100% photograph cover is okay, but it would need to be amazing.
About art subjects
Cover art should be sexually suggestive, but not too explicit. Ideally it should relate to the volume’s theme (i.e. “Shameful Attractions” for Volume 2, “Alternate Ecstasies for Volume 3), but it’s more important that it be compositionally interesting and arouse curiosity. Even though the cover for Volume 1 was incredible and abstract, at least one bookstore blocked it because it had nudity(!)
Color. All images must render well both on color screens and high resolution greyscale e-ink displays.
Most Interior art is paired with individual stories. Sometimes they can relate thematically to the story in some way. Images often occupy 65% of viewport width (for wide landscape images) or 40% of viewport width (for tall portrait images). That amounts to about 30% of screen area. (Here’s a sample page layout).
Some interior art is used interstitially between chapters and book sections. Typically they can be wider and occupy 50% of screen area.
Avoiding cliches of sexy imagery. A good illustration should intrigue and arouse curiosity. It doesn’t always have to involve classic portrayals of pretty women though it could be idealized. Some images aren’t sexy at all but thematically related to story elements. For example in Volume 1 one image was a photograph of a famous door mentioned in the story. Another image about a love affair of an entomologist involves a quick sketch of an insect. It also helps to involve classical characters or pictures of couples in love or in the throes of passion.
Photography: If the model is identifiable, then a model release will be needed.