Enter The Mammoth: Guest Column

Karl Whitney, co-founder of newly formed The Mammoth, writes about the site and the logic behind it.

Instead of the internet reducing your attention span, we think it provides an opportunity to publish lengthier, more in-depth work – in short, what we are saying is: go long.

Our new web venture, The Mammoth, is an online journal of narrative non-fiction writing. I co-founded the journal with Joe Kennedy, a writer and editor who contributes to the Times Literary Supplement and The Quietus among many other publications. I’m a co-editor at the online literary journal 3:AM and have written for the Guardian, The Irish Times and the White Review.

We’ve just put out a call for proposals and submissions on The Mammoth website. What we’re looking for is writing by authors from any background: journalistic, creative writing, the arts, sciences, humanities – anything. All that matters to us is that you want to focus your attention on some aspect of reality and work it into a compelling written narrative.

There are a couple of ways of looking at it – one would be to call what we’re seeking ‘long-form journalism’. And there’s a certain truth in that description: a lot of the work in narrative non-fiction may not be immediately visible on the page – the intensity of the research process can be comparable to the legwork of the reporter or the academic researcher. However, I suppose where it differs from both those processes is that what one produces must be compelling in a way similar to a short story or novel. But there’s no single formula, and we’re very interested to see what proposals are sent to us. If you send a brief query email suggesting a topic you want to focus on, we’ll write back with a response and – if we like the idea – ask for a longer proposal.

A willingness to give writers an engagement with the editorial process is one of our main values. While we can see the benefits of light-touch editing in certain cases, we also think that the collaboration involved in working closely with an editor invariably results in a better quality of writing that both parties can be proud of.

Initially, we want to focus on publishing short blog-style pieces of 800-1000 words and longer pieces of 2000 words and over. Beyond that, we’re examining a model that involves publishing even longer pieces in a short ebook format in the manner of the Kindle Single. There are a couple of examples of this kind of approach already, mostly American: Byliner and the Atavist were major influences when we initially discussed The Mammoth. Both sites sell long-form articles through aggregator sites like Amazon and Kobobooks.

The intention is that a good portion of the revenue from these sales will go to the writer, while another portion will be reinvested in the site, allowing us to pay the contributors of the shorter pieces; we’re also looking at multiple other forms of funding to allow The Mammoth to expand.
The realities of contemporary Ireland both enthrall and repulse me; I’m particularly keen to see how other Irish writers of non-fiction deal with the present state of the country.
For more information, go to our website, Facebook page or Twitter feed.