Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Talking with Anthology Editors, Part Three

Continuing the talk with Hanne Blank, Susie Bright, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Jewel Scott about editing erotica anthologies:

In general, what is the process and time line for you as an editor of an anthology?

Rachel: For the anthologies I've edited, it depends how much time I'm given by the publisher. I'll first create a call for submissions and then I'll make a list of people to send it to. I'll try to set the deadline for a month or two before my deadline with the publisher so I have time to read and compile the submissions and ask for any necessary revisions and scramble for extra stories if need be. Then as the stories come in, I'll read and consider them and start to make a tentative list of ones I want to include, and also highlight any gaps in the anthology or topics/scenarios I'd like to see covered. Then I'll wait until the deadline passes and sort through the submissions and see if I have enough in my yes pile. If I do, then I go about ordering the stories and inputting my editing changes and ask the authors any questions I have about their stories, then I carefully copyedit the final manuscript and submit it to the publisher and wait to make sure they approve all the stories.

Susie: Oh good grief. Well, I publish an annual anthology that comes out in February. I collect and read materials for it all year. Between Jan and April, I start to contact authors and license stories, nail stuff down, prepare manuscript. In the Summer, we copyedit and proofread it, and enter production. In the fall, we begin promotion work.

Jewel: Ever since the first publication I first edited (a literary magazine of my students' writings) I have pretty much followed the same procedure. It has carried me through several publications for both state and special project journals. As soon as the deadline arrives I start reading everything that has been submitted. They are then sorted into three piles: Yes, No, and Maybe. Once the first selection sort has been done, I go back and look at the themes that are in the works that are in the "Yes" and "Maybe" piles. There are times at this point when one of the stories in the "Yes" pile get moved to the "Maybe" pile and the reverse. At this point I am looking at number of items with a particular theme. Also, I am looking at tone at this time. If the tone of too many stories is similar the reader becomes bored or exhausted with the reading. When working on an anthology, I ultimately look at the entire compilation to tell a story as well as each piece.

When editing the works of a single author, this is the time when I look for holes in the manuscript. When working on the SubDiva book, this was when I realized that she had written about her daughter but not her sons. I also realized at this point she had not varied the tone. I knew she had written about the death of her mother, but there was nothing in the book about this event. We ended up including the piece on her mother and one where her son talks about talking to his grandmother on the wind.

Hanne: Assuming a one-year work period before I have to turn anything in to my publisher (none of this is fulltime work, incidentally, more like a handful of hours here and there over the course of any given week during that year) it usually goes about like this:

First 6 months are submissions, slushpile, acquisitions, rejections.

Next 2 months are editorial, revisions.

Next 2 months or so are manuscript preparation, things like ordering, copyediting, having beta-readers go through the ms. and getting their feedback on structure and so on.

As for the remaining two months, I always try to build in a substantial chunk of time for the rest of the schedule to go to hell in a handbasket, because it generally will. Holidays, contributor vacations or illnesses, etc. can play merry hell with one's ability to get things done when one wants to.

Is it any different when the work is a collection of your own works? If so, how?

Jewel: It should be no different when working on my own work, but it can become so. The primary reason is that as an editor of my own work, I am too close to the writing. The ideal is to work with an editor who has the aesthetic distance I cannot get with my own writing.

Susie: The licensing part is eliminated, but I am often involved in negotiating my own contract for months.

Hanne: Of course it is. If it's a collection of your own work, it's your editor's responsibility to do most of that work. All you have to give them is a relatively pruned pile of likely suspects, which presumably you've already written, since single-author short fiction collections tend to be retrospective rather than compilations of new work.

The self-editorial end of things is usually more in depth with a collection of your own work, because you're the writer. But given that you can dispense with collecting submissions, reading slushpile, etc., that's not extra work, it's just different work.

What percentage of the stories submitted make it into an anthology?

Hanne: Obviously this depends on the number of submissions, but I have typically had somewhere between 100-200 submissions for any given book I've edited, out of which I've been able to publish somewhere between 15 and 20 books. So 10 -20%? That sounds roughly right.

Rachel: Roughly 20-40% when I do an open call for submissions; probably 80% when I do a private call for submissions.

Susie: Ten percent or less, for BAE, where I have a tremendous number of unsolicited contributions. For an anthology where I am making queries and am seeking out talent, it's almost the opposite. I approach people I probably want to work with.

Jewel: The number of stories submitted that make it into the anthology depends on the number of submissions. Authors, of course, want to see their names in print. "Big Name" anthologies are ways to get an author's name before the public. For those anthologies, I would estimate that only about 10% of the submissions are published. For smaller publications the acceptance rate is 50%.

Next time, we get into more specifics on how to be in that small percentage...

If you missed it, here's Part Two of the talk.

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