Editor’s Gripes

“We are pushing our ourselves to do more.”

I sent an update email to the other editors. It included a spreadsheet with the status of all the stories, and a break down of everything we still had to do.

A lot of our tasks are dependent on previous things. For example, we can draft the table of contacts but we cannot finalize it until the authors have signed the contracts. Authors can easily change their mind in the last minute and its certainly their right to. Once we have their approval, we can finalize the table, which is the blueprint for organizing and formatting the book.

Thus it’s difficult to get a head start on a lot of the end-game aspects of publishing. Our challenge is magnified by the fact that we’re doing illustrations for the anthology too. The con is we can’t rush the art. It’s done when it’s done. But on the pro side, that time can also be spent getting advanced copies to reviewers. And there were a few other issues to deal with. Some marketing opportunities, contract writing. Andrew has to write the introductory letter.

There’s so much we’re doing that’s ground breaking for us personally. I am grateful that, at the very least, we are pushing our ourselves to do more. To try new things and grow, and not be stuck in the complacency of the same thing as the last two anthologies.

But there comes a time one needs a break from it.

I am managing the finances for three separate anthologies. And although one of which comes to an end this year, I want to avoid the potential of grave errors. Once the slate is cleared, I might do a new anthology. It won’t be involved with the Bolthole however.

Anyone who fancies themselves a writer, try it. Try editing. Put together an amateur anthology, learn from it. Discover your mistakes, figure out what sells. You’ll learn so much. Even if you find out it’s not your thing, you’ll walk away from it with improved writing skills and understanding of the business.

You have to get out there. You have to make business if there isn’t any. You can try forever and face a wall of preformatted rejections, or you can find out yourself what sells and what doesn’t.

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Biting the Bullet

I’ll feel better writing, I tell myself. And I know it’s true.

That’s what I told myself this morning when I received another rejection letter. It was fairly blanket rejection, the reason being that the story wasn’t quite right for them. In retrospect, I could imagine why. I got somewhat confused by their ‘looking for’ section with regard to themes. They were okay with dark fantasy, but say they’re not fans of swords-and-sorcery and epic fantasy. This can be… a little confusing. There’s usually a very thin line between swords-and-sorcery and fantasy.

But I tried and now I know what they mean.

I have confidence in the tale. It’s extremely possible that the story is good, and that I just misunderstood what they want with regard to genre. I’ll feel better when I submit it elsewhere, and get back to writing.

But between work and the holiday season making intense demands, and editing for an anthology (which takes precedence) I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to write. There is still research to be done for my last three short stories this year. I will find time to research, write, proof and submit all three, but it will truly be last minute before the year ends to beat my own resolution for this year.

At least the deadline isn’t the same as the submission deadlines. Submitting work right at the end of a submission window tends to be an easy way to get rejected. Not that the story is bad for being so last second (I’ve heard that Necropolis, my favourite book by Dan Abnett was rewritten at the last minute when the original draft was lost), but by the time it arrives, the editor’s mind can often be made up by people who finished their drafts earlier.

The anthology, Far Worlds, takes precedence however. We’re parsing through the first wave of drafts. We have three editors giving the drafts a firm eye over. Thus far, we have some definite winners, a few that need some polish, and a couple that are in the unlikely bin.

12 days left before the new year.

Culling Lessons

A review of our recent anthology can be found here. Right now, we’re hacking away at our third anthology, and my last with the Bolthole. Although I do intend to very a more in depth analysis of the last two anthologies, I want to wait until we finish Far Worlds before I do so.

But here are my notes on it so far:

The Black Wind’s Whispers

Pros: Unifying plot device linked stories. Niche, easily identified horror theme. Relatively modern setting eased world building.
Cons: Bad submission methodology. Very late print edition release. Early formatting errors.
Notes: Our first attempt. We tried something different with accepting submissions, where as we got a certain number and ‘locked it in’. This was almost the anthology’s undoing when authors dropped out due to time constraints. Will not repeat this method again. Other issues included formatting problems when going to publishing. These were found and fixed and the lessons learned paved the way to a better second anthology.

Marching Time

Pros: Vastly improved submissions method. More stories of surprising diversity. Faster formatting and swifter print edition.
Cons: No unifying plot device. Time travel theme made for transitional difficulties between story worlds. Time management.
Notes: We definitely learned from our previous anthology with regards to formatting, printing and submission methods.  Our synopsis approach saved time both for writer and editor, as we could weed out stories with bad ideas early. It also helped us create a more diverse anthology. On the downside, we let time get away from us and the anthology ended up being late. There’s also no connecting aspect to the stories. None of them are set in the worlds of any other.

Far Worlds

It’s too early to give Far Worlds a full appraisal as we are not done. Our synopsis submission method really paid off though, as we weeded out and suggested improvements to many potential stories, sparing us dozens of similar tales. We’re entertaining the thoughts of it being two books, but we need to see how many drafts we get first before making those decisions. We’re also trying new ideas to help with transitions between stories.

Once Far Worlds is finished, I maybe tempted towards one ‘final’ anthology, independently published and not of the Bolthole, to round out everything I’ve learned. Work for it will not begin until after Far Worlds is published, as then I can examine the new ideas we implemented and decide what works and what doesn’t. I’ll bring that up in the new year.

Writer’s Scars

“Today was not a possibility. It was an inevitability.”

 

So long since my last post, and so much news.

The Black Wind’s Whispers is (finally) out in print edition. Still working on the same for Marching Time, although the Kindle version of that is available. And we’ve been making strides towards Far Worlds, our next Bolthole anthology which is currently in the works.

I’m also stepping down from the Bloghole. I enjoyed my time there and learned so much about the business, but I want to return to writing and writing related projects.

But the whooping news is that a particular publishing company is shutting down. Their printing ends in February next year. And with it, fellow writer Jonathan Ward and I are losing over half our published works.

As I spoke to him, I learned final warnings from the owner. He told me stories of queries from contributors and new authors, trying to find out when the next opening was. Gauging if they could openly submit a novel. He told me how disheartening it was to turn people down and dealing with points of reduced sales.

But despair and I are old friends. Few people know how to hold onto lost causes better than myself or Rhett Butler, and the education given to me by others only serves to enhance my zeal.

But the former point the owner mentioned is a lesson. I’m spoiled because so many new writers dive after novels instead of trying their hands at short stories and mastering their craft. I did a novella once, and have learned that it is better to do as you are asked than try your hand at something unexpected and not requested.

It seems that future writing projects will need to have some kind of buffer. We’ll have to draw our line carefully and find a means to filter that which we do not ask for.

Well, that’s a concern for a future day.

But there’s a coming-of-age lesson here and it starts with the title. Today was not a possibility. It was an inevitability. Every writer who held on has to deal with the moment that the publication containing their works goes out of print somehow. Maybe the one-time rights expire. Maybe the company shuts down, or violates some agreement and has to stop the book from further circulation.

Maybe you knew it was coming. Maybe it’s a bolt out of the blue. But those stories you crafted, the tales that wowed editors enough to be printer worthy, are given back to you. And it dawns on you that, for the first time, your pieces of work must be submitted with the word ‘reprint’ stamped to it.

All of a sudden, this great tale is no longer quite as valuable. Sometimes, companies flat out refuse reprints. Other times they’ll take them… at 10% the cost of what they would pay for an original. “Our normal rate is $.05 a word. But since this has already been published once, we can only offer you a flat rate of $25.”

Or less.

But like I said. Anyone who holds on long enough has to deal with this. Stories do eventually become homeless. I think of accomplished guys like Josh Reynolds, who have or had well over a hundred short stories published. There’s no way they could all remain in circulation.

It’s a day to remember at least. But for now, the following stories are available for only another five months. Get them while they’re hot…

“On Ne Passé Pas!” from War is Hell.

“Happily Ever After”from Under the Knife.

“The Child of Iron” from From Their Cradle to Your Grave.

“The Eyes from 100 Horrors: Tales of Horror in the Blink of an Eye.