Sunday, October 08, 2006

Talking with Anthology Editors, Part Five

Continuing the talk with editors Hanne Blank, Susie Bright, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Jewel Scott, we discuss some of the myths about anthologies and editors:

Editors are only looking for established authors in the genre.

Susie: Editors may need a few famous names for the publicity, but most of their chapters are going to be "unknowns" or reliable, if unheralded, working authors.

Jewel: If an editor is only interested in established authors, s/he should be issuing only invitations to an anthology. A general call is for all writers; if the editor does not consider all writers, s/he is narrowing the pool of potentially excellent stories.

Hanne: I personally don't care, being that I'd rather publish good writing, and have published many new writers. However, there is always publisher pressure to make sure you have some names in there that will sell books through name recognition, so that's a factor for a lot of editors.

Rachel: I like to have a mix of writers and am always happy to discover writers whose work is new to me, though I do often approach authors I've worked with previously because I know that when I see their submission, more than likely, it's going to be a great one. So I'll have my wish list of writers I'd like to include and then many others; and you have to send your call to many more people than you could accept for a given book because not all will be able to submit a story. Sometimes I like a story but there's no room or a repeat theme, so if I do a sequel down the road, I might want to include it later.

Editors receive huge advances; editors get larger royalties than single author works (i.e. "Editors get rich.")

Hanne: Um, no. No, no, no, and no. And I'd love to know where these "huge advances" are for anthology editors, so I can apply to do a book for them.

Writers need to realize that most anthologies capitalize on the desire people have to see their names in print and/or their commitment to producing a particular collection of work; anthology authors are not paid particularly well, and neither are the editors. Smaller and midsize presses offer somewhere between $1000 and $4000 advance for an anthology. Usually editors end up using at least 50% and sometimes considerably more of an advance to pay the authors. So let's say you have a $2000 advance (not unusual for erotica collections) and you have 18 contributors and you're paying each of them $100. That's $1800, which leaves the editor with $200 of that advance to his or her name after s/he writes the checks to the contributors. Divide that $200 by the number of hours that editor spends working on the book and you get something far, far less than minimum wage. They call these things "a labor of love" for a reason.

Seriously, if you're trying to make money, anthologies are the completely wrong place to be trying to do that. Try journalism for the national magazines instead -- their per-word rates aren't bad at all.

As for royalties, I have not gotten better royalty rates for edited volumes than for my own single-author titles. In fact it has been the opposite.

Rachel: Unless you're working for a major publisher, this is absolutely not true. With the smaller publishers, usually the editor pays the authors out of their advances and you might walk away with a little bit extra, and then wait to see if the book sells out and you get royalties. One of the publishers I've worked with, Alyson, handles the contracts and payments to authors instead of the editor having to do it.

Susie: If the book sells over 100,000 copies, then you might imagine the editor receives a healthy advance. Otherwise, they are toiling in privation, along with everyone else.

Editors typically get royalties on a book, whereas authors get a rights fee. Some authors are involved in royalty deals, but it is such a management hassle for editors, on books that remain in print for years, that it's not common.

The reason most authors agree to reprints or anthology deals is that they want the exposure. The money is not terrific, although it can add up if you're popular.

Editors get rich... hmmm. Well I guess Anna Wintour does. That's really an uninformed point of view.

Editors pay author compensation out of their own pockets

Rachel: It depends; I've done both, usually paying them out of my advance and then hopefully getting royalties down the road (I've yet to receive royalties from any of the books I've edited).

Jewel: No, editors do no pay out of their own pockets. Nor do they get the lion share. Compensation is generally stated up front. If the author is not willing to accept the compensation offered, don't submit to the anthology. The editor's work is only beginning with the editing. Publishers and distribution have to be secured.

Hanne: Smart editors don't. I suppose stupid editors might, though. Editors should be paying author compensation out of the advance for the book, which is not a salary to the editor. It is an advance on the book's sales -- the best way to think of it is as operating capital, money that the publisher
gives you so that you can get the book done, and in the case of anthologies, getting the book done partly means paying the authors. The editor's "salary," insofar as s/he gets one at all, comes in the form of royalties, down the line.

Susie: Sometimes they do, but that would typically be because the publisher is paying the editor a sum to package the book, and the editor pays for everything out of that sum. More typically the author payments are a separate line item from the advance. There's a budget. But it's harder and harder to say "typical." A contract is anything you can get two people to agree to.

Editors no longer need to query or pitch works -- 'everyone' comes to them.

Susie: Uh, no.

Rachel: I send out queries and get rejections (or non-answers) all the time, especially with nonfiction, but with erotica as well. It's the same process even if you've edited books. Sometimes I'll get invited to submit to anthologies via a private call for submissions or other solicitation from an editor, but for the most part I still review calls for submissions and write my own stories and submit them the same way I've been doing since I started in 2000. I consider my writing and editing separate; they access different parts of my brain and personality; editing is a little more businesslike for me while the writing is more creative.

Hanne: Untrue. It took me three years to sell the book that's coming out in March 2007, ya know?

Editing is easier than writing.

Susie: Again, uniformed.

Rachel: It's just a different kind of work; writing is a lot more solitary while editors need to be able to deal with people patiently and tactfully and also have ongoing relationships with authors. The actual editing, in my experience, is mostly about compiling and gathering the best stories I can find, and often that means asking several times and tracking down favorite authors and stories that fit a given theme. Editing is more time-consuming than writing because to some extent it's out of your control; you're relying on authors to send in fabulous stories, and if you don't receive the stories you were hoping for, you have to dig for them, but it's also incredibly satisfying to get to pay writers and compile the stories together and see them in their final form.

Hanne: Editing is different than writing. It uses a different set of skills. Personally I find writing, generally speaking, to be far easier than editing, and I would much rather write than edit.

Being an editor is 'better than' or a 'step up' from being an author.

Rachel: I disagree. I think many, if not most, editors of anthologies are also authors so there's an understanding of what authors are dealing with. It's not an either/or proposition.

Susie: Really? Every author is an editor, on some level, and vice versa. You have to know both hats pretty well to work in the trade for any length of time. Magazine editors are certainly in roles where they supervise groups of authors, so in some hierarchies, yes, an editor might be above an author on the corporate ladder. But freelance editors are not "above" anyone, in that sense.

Hanne: They're symbiotic relatives to one another. Without writers editors have nothing to edit, without editors writers have a hard time getting their writing out in front of the public. I don't see it as a hierarchical arrangement but a codependent one.

Jewel: Being an editor is not better, easier or a step up from writing. It is different. The skills I use as an editor are different from those as a writer.

Editors of anthologies do not need to promote themselves or their books like authors of individual works do.

Susie: My God, where do you get these imaginary notions? They're all so funny, or sad. Anyone who believed in any of them would never get anywhere.

Rachel: Since your royalties are based on how much the book sells, I think it's up to an editor to do their best to promote their work, and it also benefits you because if your books do well, other publishers will want to work with you in the future. I do my best to track any reviews or blog mentions about my books and also send authors any reviews that favorably single out their work. The more you do to promote your books the better it is for your reputation as an author and for your sales, and it helps build for whatever you're going to do next. I think it'd be a fallacy to say that anthology editors don't need to work hard to promote their books. I try to target specific blogs, publications or communities that might like a particular book I've edited. For instance, I just sent Naughty Spanking Stories from A to Z to Katie Spades of the blog and she, predictably, really enjoyed the book. You have to be creative, especially with erotica, about how you spread the word but it can be done. That book's been mentioned in my college newspaper as a gift guide recommendation as well as on erotic sites. You can also use blogs, MySpace, etc., to reach out to potential readers.

Hanne: In some ways this is true, since the editor of an anthology should by rights be less of a persona within the work than the writer of a single-author work should be within that work. But any book benefits from promotion, and it also won't kill you, as an editor, to have more people know your name.
People do buy books (both on the publisher level and the reader level) to some extent based on name recognition, so you might as well.

Jewel said to say she was "too busy laughing" at the question to reply. ;)

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