VCU alumni launch the “Metaphysical Circus Press”

Daniel Parker
Contributing Writer

Photos Courtesy of Melanie Lamaga

Writers of fantastic fiction have a new publishing outlet courtesy of VCU alumni. The Metaphysical Circus Press, a publishing company by writers for writers, launched in January and focuses on metaphysical stories. Metaphysical Circus Press combines elements of both traditional publishing companies and independent publishing companies.

Like traditional publishing, Metaphysical Circus Press pays for producing the books and marketing them. Similar to independent publishing, Metaphysical Circus Press puts an emphasis on the ebook and uses social media to market the book to customers.

“You could talk to most authors and they’d complain about the old model,” said Mary Boyes, assistant professor at VCU and editor for Metaphysical Circus Press. 

Boyes said the recent startup seeks to publish fiction with fantastic elements and “a philosophical core” instead of realistic fiction, which is the “tried and true content in this country,” Boyes said.

The company began a year ago as a personal writing blog for Melanie Lamaga, editor-in-chief at Metaphysical Circus Press.

“I thought if there’s such a steep learning curve, why should I not also share that knowledge and publish other people as well,” Lamaga said.

Eventually Lamaga hired fellow graduates of VCU’s creative writing program Mary Boyes and Dennis Danvers, an award-winning science fiction writer. Currently, Lamaga is the only author published by the company.

A perk of the Metaphysical Circus Press is that it will offer more compensation per book sold than larger traditional publishing companies. According to Lamaga, larger publishing companies offer 8 percent of profits for books sold. This means for each $10 book sold the author would receive a cut of 80 cents. Metaphysical Circus Press will offer a much higher cut to their authors.

The company’s recently released online magazine, “See The Elephant,” also pays higher rates than most startup online magazines, who sometimes only offer exposure to published authors. 

“Even though we’re a startup and poor we pay professional rates to the writers for new work,” Lamaga said.

While most publishing companies are for-profit, Metaphysical Circus Press calls itself a not-for-profit company. Instead the company will give most of the money to the authors and use the rest to produce books. The idea is to have a collective of writers who cross-market each other’s books.

“We want to give as much of the profit as we can to the individual authors,” Lamaga said.

Ownership of their creations is another benefit that Metaphysical Circus Press wants to give to writers published by them. Generally lifetime copyright contracts are given to books under traditional publishing companies, and these copyright contracts last about 70 years.

“If your book is not selling, you have no recourse at that point except buying your rights back,” Lamaga said.

Instead, Metaphysical Circus Press gives copyright contracts that last only 10 years, giving the writer the ability to own their work again sooner. The startup also gives authors power over the cover, title and marketing of their work.

“We offer the creative control you have with self-publishing,” Lamaga said. “But you don’t have to actually do it all yourself.”

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