Our Big Secret Project: The Evolution of Ploughshares Solos

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If you have been following the happenings at Ploughshares for the past year or so, you’ve probably heard us talking about Ploughshares Solos, our series of digital-first longer stories and essays, published individually.

When we first launched the series in July 2012, it was called Pshares Singles. After we heard the first hundred jokes about how it sounded like we were running a dating service for our staff members, we came up with a new name: Ploughshares Solos. We uploaded new covers for the stories we’d already published, and broke the news gently to some disappointed suitors.

That experience shows what’s so great about a digital-only series: nothing is ever set in stone (even its digital-only status, as I’ll soon explain). If we find a typo, we can fix it. If we change our mind about the cover, we can upload another. If we want to add something to the description, we can edit it.

When Ladette Randolph and I first started discussing the series in early 2012, we intended for it to be digital-only…but then once we started publishing them, we changed our minds.

Here are some reasons why:

  1. Many literary readers still do 100% of their reading in print.
  2. It’s really handy to have a physical product readers can take home after we meet them at in-person events like AWP or book festivals.
  3. We think the stories and essays in the series are amazing, and so we want readers to be able to collect them in a more permanent way.

One thing print does well as a technology is package content into a beautiful physical product that can be shared with others and also appreciated for the long-haul; meanwhile, digital technology is wonderful at getting content into readers’ hands quickly and efficiently on a tighter schedule. We decided that by adopting a hybrid model, we can keep the advantages of digital publishing by making the series digital-first while embracing the advantages of print with our annual printed collection.

So, without further ado, let me introduce to you the Ploughshares Solos Volume 1 Omnibus! The Omnibus is a collection of the nine long stories and essays that we published digitally as Ploughshares Solos between July 2012 and June 2013. We weren’t keeping it a secret on purpose, we were just so busy making it happen that we forgot to mention it before now. We sent it off to the printer today, and we can’t wait to have the first copies in our hands in a couple of weeks.

You might have heard a bit about the radical transformation the publishing world is in the midst of. At Ploughshares, we see it as our responsibility to try new things and remain nimble. We have no idea what will happen in the near or far future—what we do know is that we’re always going to evolve and try new things.

Here’s how Ladette Randolph, Ploughshares editor-in-chief and the editor of the Ploughshares Solos series, put it in her introduction to the Omnibus:

Here’s something I think I can say with confidence: Stories—and whatever it is stories mean to us, their place in our lives—aren’t going anywhere. Stories are uniquely capable of showing us ourselves. The story is the only art form that allows us deep access into another human consciousness. Stories make us less lonely than we would otherwise be in our human journey. Here’s another thing: Whether we’re reading the same story on paper between cardboard covers, on an e-reader, a smart phone, or a computer screen doesn’t change that story’s power to touch us. I’m neither an evangelist for nor a critic of these new forms of delivery. They’re simply a fact of our lives, and Ploughshares being, well…Ploughshares, we want to make sure the writers we publish are available to interested readers wherever they are.

Thank you all for taking part in this experiment with us. Having such wonderful readers to serve is powerful motivation. I welcome your feedback, here on this blog post or via social media: How do you prefer to read? What do you value about different formats? What are your thoughts on this new project?


Andrea Martucci

P.S. If you’re as excited about the Omnibus as we are, you can sign up for our email newsletter list and we’ll let you know when it’s available.