Spotlight on Joshua Palmatier

Kickstarters and Open Calls

I’m stopping by Spotlight today to tell you the story of my small press, Zombies Need Brains, because it highlights some of the good and bad changes in the publishing world over the last ten years.  Before I created ZNB, I was writing fantasy for DAW Books (and I still am).  But along the way, Patricia Bray and I got interested in editing anthologies and through a series of coincidences and hard work, we managed to pitch a few ideas to DAW Books.  They were interested in two of our projects, which were then produced … and we were subsequently hooked on editing anthologies.  They were too much fun to do.  We didn’t want to stop.

Unfortunately, there was an upheaval in the industry at this point.  Ebooks were coming into play.  Print-on-demand was becoming more and more affordable, and thus more and more a “thing”.  Traditional publishers were attempting to adjust and react to the new technology and new ideas … and one of their reactions was to take a hard look at their current products and do some major trimming.  One of the big items trimmed from nearly every traditional publisher list:  anthologies.  In general, they don’t make big money for the publishers, so they were on the chopping block.

So suddenly I had a driving urge to produce anthologies, with tons of ideas, but no interest from the traditional publishers.  I waited a few years, hoping that the traditional publishers would relax and bring the lines back, and during this time print-on-demand evolved even further and, most importantly, a new tool entered the market:  crowdfunding.

At this point, I had an epiphany.  I could create and publish the anthologies myself!  If I could crowdfund for the base funds (which also proved that there was interest in whatever the theme of that anthology was), I could then put the anthologies out in ebook and print-on-demand myself!

And thus the small press Zombies Need Brains was born.  Using the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform, I could raise the funds needed to pay the authors a professional rate, pay the artist a professional rate, pay professionals to design covers and interiors and ebooks, and get the anthologies I wanted out into the world.  It was genius!

I wasn’t the only one to have such an epiphany.  Crowdfunding changed everything, because now you didn’t have to rely on the big guys to provide the money.  With enough effort and work, and with enough support from fans, you could get the backing for the project yourself.  There was a surge in small presses … which produced a surge in new SF&F on the scene, from voices that you might not have ever heard from simply because of the dynamics of the traditional publishers.  Not just a deluge of more markets for short stories, but also new markets for novelettes and novellas and even full-length novels.

Crowdfunding opened up whole new markets for new writers—anthologies, magazines, podcasts, and more.

Zombies Need Brains is proud to be recognized by SFWA as a professional market and even has two stories up for this year’s WSFA Small Press Award.  We’re running a Kickstarter right now for three new anthologies:  PORTALS (stories of worlds connected to each other by a portal), TEMPORALLY DEACTIVATED (stories about … whatever you decide “temporally deactivated” means), and ALTERNATE PEACE (alternate history stories where the divergence from our timeline comes from some kind of peaceful change).  We’ll be doing an open call for submissions as soon as the Kickstarter funds.  None of this would have been possible ten years ago, before the rise of crowdfunding and print-on-demand and ebooks.

If you’d like to see how much work goes into a Kickstarter, and maybe support ZNB latest effort, check out  You can also find out more details about the three anthology themes, in case one of them has sparked an idea for a story.  Once our Kickstarter funds, we’ll be putting up information on how YOU can submit a story and perhaps end up in one of our anthologies.

So put on those writerly thinking caps.  And then get writing!

Zombies Need Brains is a company created by epic fantasy author and OWW alum Joshua Palmatier.  ZNB is a small press that focuses on producing themed SF&F anthologies, funded by Kickstarters.  You can check out ZNB at and their current Kickstarter at


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