Anthology Update

June 23, 2016

HumanityARC

This has been an especially busy six months for me when it comes to anthology projects. My writing has suffered (though I’m getting back on the horse now that the significant bulk of anthology work is done for the year.) Today shiny print copies of the Advance Reading Copy of HUMANITY 2.0 showed up at my office, and so I thought it might be a good time to update readers on my various anthologies published, in progress, and planned for the future:

Funny Fantasy

FunnyFantasyCover

I began work on this book in late 2015 and it was published this Spring. The turnaround on reprint-only anthologies is really fast. There’s only minor editing; the bulk of the time investment is in selecting the stories. This was a follow-up to the popular Funny Science Fiction antho from last year and it’s doing quite well. If you don’t yet have a copy, grab it here.

Humanity 2.0

Humanity20-400

 

I’m really excited about this book as it is my first hard SF anthology. I turned the manuscript in to the publisher (Arc Manor/Phoenix Pick) a couple of months ago and the book was copy edited, proofread and laid out. The ARCs (advance reading copies) are being sent out to reviewers as we speak and the book will be published in October.

Unidentified Funny Objects 5

image description

The book is in the very final stages of copy edits, about to be sent out to the layout designer in the next few days. I’m falling a week or two behind schedule on this one, but not severely so (UFO4 was delivered to the designer on June 30 and was published on schedule.) I’m hopefuly we will once again have it in time for a Capclave launch in October.

Funny Horror

This project I’m really behind on. I’m sitting on a number of stories I consider for inclusion, but there’s a lot more reading to do, and I haven’t had the chance to do it yet. My goal is to allocate some time to this in the coming month. I would rather push back the release than publish the book with less than 100% of the stories I really like, so the amount of great content I find will dictate the release date for this one.

Secret Project

I’m weeks if not days away from announcing another anthology project, and I pretty much guarantee both the fans of my writing and fans of my anthology work will dig this one. I can’t say more until the ink is dry on the contract, but as soon as that happens, the announcement will be made! This anthology will likely be released in late 2017 or early 2018.

Funny Science Fiction 2

This is slated for sometime in 2017; I haven’t done much work but I’m sort-of passively collecting great stories. I hope that, by the time I roll up my sleeves on this project for real (likely late this year) I will have a good chunk of the book filled.

Unidentified Funny Objects 6

There will, of course, be more volumes of UFO for as long as I have the health and the financial means to publish them. I’ve done no work on this one at all, as I typically begin inviting headliners and laying out other groundwork once the previous volume is off to the printer. So I will begin contacting headliners later this summer or early autumn.

UFO6 will definitely have an open submission window, while most other projects will be filled by invitation and/or recommendation when it comes to reprints. If you know of a funny story that was published elsewhere and fits the science fiction or horror genres, I’d love to hear about it. If I like it enough, it will make it onto my consideration list and eventually I will solicit FSF2 and FH anthologies from the stories on that list.

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The Art and Science of Anthology Editing

July 5, 2015

This post originally appeared at Locus Online, on February 1, 2015.

Now that I have five completed anthologies under my belt, the number of questions I get–from friends and strangers alike–about various aspects of anthology editing has turned from an occasional drip to a steady trickle. And while I would love to presume it’s because I’m such an awesome anthologist, the truth is, there’s fairly little information on the web regarding this niche topic. I thought it might be a good idea to collect some basic suggestions in one handy blog post. (Also, I’m incredibly lazy, and pointing people to a link is easier than cut/pasting chunks of this between e-mails!)

So, here goes:

Develop a Unique Concept

The optimal place to start is to develop a theme that is narrow yet appealing to a sizable readership, which your professional or life experience can somehow contribute to.

There are three primary reasons for a reader to pick up an anthology:

1)      It contains a story or stories by some of their favorite authors.

2)      They’re interested in the concept of the anthology.

3)      They trust the editor’s selections.

Unless you’re Gardner Dozois, Ellen Datlow, or anyone else who knows a lot more than I do about this subject (and therefore wouldn’t be reading this post), you probably won’t be able to capitalize on #3. And while we’ll cover headliners later, anthology concept is what you have the most control over.

There are plenty of space opera, zombie, steampunk, and Lovecraftian horror volumes edited by well-established anthologists. And while it’s possible to produce another quality entry into any of these sub-genres, you’re much better off exploring a narrow topic that will appeal to a large enough number of readers for the project to succeed.

My inaugural project as editor was Unidentified Funny Objects, an anthology of humorous science fiction and fantasy. I felt that there weren’t enough pro-paying venues that seek out humorous and lighthearted stories. I did some digging and discovered that no similar volumes exist or had existed in recent memory; most humor anthologies cover a specific theme (Deals with the Devil, Chicks in Chainmail, etc). As a reader, I would gladly buy an annual volume that collected wide-ranging humor stories. Happily, other readers agreed: I’m at work on the fourth annual volume. Similarly, Coffee: 14 Caffeinated Tales of the Fantastic tapped into a large, unexplored demographic; there haven’t been any coffee-themed speculative anthologies before. The book is easy to market as a present for anyone who enjoys both reading and coffee.

4books

When Neil Clarke, award-winning editor of Clarkesworld magazine, decided to launch his first anthology, he found a subject that was near and dear to his heart. Literally. A year before he announced Upgraded, an anthology of short stories about cyborgs, he survived a heart attack and had a defibrillator installed, effectively making him a self-proclaimed cyborg. Clarke wrote:

As I began looking into the possibility of a cyborg anthology, I quickly noticed that the cyborgs most people think of are villains (Cybermen, Darth Vader, the Borg, etc.). My people make excellent villains, but that only represents the tip of the iceberg. The more I thought about it, the more certain I became that this was the anthology project I had been looking for…  a cyborg-edited cyborg anthology. I don’t think that’s been done before. Besides, cyborgs are cool.

So, what unique idea do you have, and how can your life experience contribute to the project? An architect might collect tales of fantastic cities and structures. A real estate agent could gather urban fantasy and ghost stories involving houses for sale. (Plus, they’d be able to market these books to other architects and real estate agents, in addition to SF/F fans.)

Have a Plan, Have a Budget

What’s your strategy for producing an anthology? While it’s possible for a first-time anthologist to sell their project to an established publisher, this is perhaps even more difficult than selling a first novel.

Your agent could contact publishers and pitch them your idea. You will need a brief write-up of the concept and a list of headliners who are tentatively willing to contribute stories. The more appealing your headliners, the more likely you are to land a deal. There are a number of (mostly much smaller) publishers whom you can approach without an agent. Even so, it’s a long shot unless you have some sort of a pre-existing relationship or a resumé.

If a publisher accepts your proposal, they’ll pay you an advance against royalties (usually upon delivery of the manuscript) which you can use to pay your authors and cover some of your time and effort. The amount can vary greatly and is extremely unlikely to exceed $10,000.

Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter are perhaps the best solution for such fledgling niche projects. Not only can you raise some or all of the funds needed to produce the book, but the level of interest during your funding period will be a good indicator of how well the book might sell upon release.

In recent years I’ve seen more and more “hybrid” projects, where an anthology would raise its initial funds on Kickstarter, then become picked up by a publisher who would handle subsequent sales and print distribution. For example, Bryan Thomas-Schmidt’s space exploration anthology Beyond the Sun was crowd-funded, then published by Fairwood Press.

Whatever your strategy, please be sure you are able to fairly reimburse your writers, cover artist, and everyone else involved in the project. Your contributors should be paid at least $0.05-0.06 per word, perhaps more for your headliners (some won’t write for that little). If you plan on including reprints, you can pay $0.01-0.02 per word for those. Always provide at least one contributor copy to each author.

“I can’t afford to pay much” is not only a common excuse I hear from token-market publishers, but also a terrible business strategy. Most of the accomplished authors will not submit their work to penny-pinching projects. In the end, you will have a much weaker pool of stories to select from, and the project will be far less likely to get noticed by readers and critics alike.

cover-hi-res#SFWAPro

Headliners

As I mentioned above, headliners are the top reason a reader might buy your anthology. Established authors will each have sizable fan bases who will gladly cough up a few bucks for their story alone; they might discover new authors as a bonus, which is an excellent reason to combine works from well-known authors and talented new writers alike.

Once you’ve established your anthology’s concept, think of popular authors who are especially good at writing the sort of stories you seek. Reach out to them directly. Send a polite query, including your pay rate, desired word count, and deadline.

If you plan to crowd-fund your project, be sure to mention that. Don’t ask them to begin working on the story until you’re certain you can afford to pay for it, but it’s okay to ask for tentative commitments. The same applies to anthologies you are shopping to publishers: so long as you don’t ask the author to begin the work, soliciting tentative interest so you can present your list of authors who are “on board” to the publisher is fine.

Keep in mind that popular authors are incredibly busy. Many won’t be able to commit to the project. Some will never respond to your e-mail. That’s okay–there are lots of great authors to approach, and some of them will say yes. If you’re having a hard time coming up with potential headliners for your project, you may not be quite well-read enough yet to edit an anthology.

Your e-mail should be brief, personal, and professional. Here’s a sample:

Dear Mr. Melville,

I’m in the process of putting together an anthology of short stories about whales. I greatly enjoyed Moby Dick and was hoping you might consider writing a short story for this project.

I’m seeking original stories of 2000-6000 words for Whales, Whales, Whales, and am able to offer $0.10/word for First Print and Electronic English language rights exclusive for 6 months after publication and non-exclusive rights afterward. Each contributor will also receive two paperback copies of the book and a lifetime supply of whale oil.

The submission deadline is December 31, 2015 and the publication date is August 1, 2016.

Thank you very much in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Hopeful Editor

Other Contributors

Once you have a few solid headliners lined up, it’s time to fill out the rest of the book. There are two ways to go about this: you can open to submissions from the general public, or you can invite a bunch of authors directly. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach.

Opening to submissions will likely allow you to find gems by little-known authors. Who knows, you could be the editor who discovers the next Octavia Butler or Robert Heinlein. Nothing about this process is more satisfying than nurturing and promoting brilliant new authors. However, this approach is extremely time-consuming. By posting the submission call on sites like The Grinder, Ralan, and Duotrope, you’ll likely receive hundreds of submissions. By the time you’re finished, you might sink enough hours into the project to earn less than minimum wage, but your anthology will be stronger for it.

The second approach is to identify and invite a number of authors whose work you’ve enjoyed to contribute directly. (Shameless Hint: I very much like getting invited to projects). These would mostly be neo-pros, not established best-selling authors.

The trick here is to catch people who are on their way up. Two years ago, any decent anthology could’ve gotten a story out of Ken Liu, who is one of the most brilliant short story authors writing today. By now, he’s too busy with bigger projects and has to turn down most anthology invitations. Be sure to approach authors whose work you already know and enjoy: they’re much more likely to write stories you’ll want to accept.

Cast your net wide: it’s important to solicit stories from a diverse group of authors. Let your potential contributors know that you welcome material from authors of all backgrounds, and actively seek out promising authors from traditionally disadvantaged groups. There is a ton of talent there, but even if you do an open submissions call, don’t just assume that you will get enough diverse submissions; be proactive about encouraging them. Also, I’m partial to encouraging the submission of translated stories, so English-speaking readers may be exposed to works from other countries and cultures.

Finally, it’s important to note that an invitation to submit is not a guarantee of acceptance. In fact, closed anthologies will generally invite more authors than they have room for, so that the editor can select and buy only the best of the available stories.

Selecting & Editing the Stories

If you do your job right, you will end up with more great stories than you can use. This is a good thing. An anthology isn’t just a random collection of tales united by theme: it is a work of art. The interplay of voices, styles, and plots should fit together like a symphony performed by an orchestra with you as the conductor.

To this end, most editors will whittle the submissions down slowly and only send out acceptances at the end of the process. They’re looking for material that isn’t just good, but fits well with the rest of the accepted stories.

Once the stories are in, don’t just spell-check them and throw the ones you like into the book. A good editor will work with an author to polish their story like a gemstone. In many ways, this process is similar to beta-reading and critiquing stories for fellow authors, except your opinion has more weight and you must be more careful to help rather than hinder the story. In addition to selecting the best stories, this is where your own skill and talent will matter most to the quality of the project.

Finally, there’s the devilishly difficult task of assembling the table of contents (TOC). There are many schools of thought on the subject. Some editors subscribe to “open strong, close long”–they place their one or two strongest stories at the beginning and close with a longer piece. Others prefer to mix up lengths and close on a light note, with their one humorous story at the end of the book.

This process is more art than science and no two editors will build the TOC in exactly the same way. Ultimately, it will come down to the interplay between stories, as described above.

I recently had the pleasure of designing the TOC for my own short story collection, Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories. This is generally a bad idea, because authors are famously poor at judging the quality of their own work. Fortunately, most of the stories in this collection are reprints from pro venues, which means they were vetted by other editors. For this TOC, I took a rollercoaster approach: hopping from humorous to dark, from space opera to urban fantasy, in an effort to emphasize fun and enhance the sense of wonder for the reader. Did I succeed? Can you deduce my reasons for story placement? In a shameless act of self-promotion, I invite you to pick up a copy and find out.


Announcing the FUNNY SCIENCE FICTION Reprint Anthology

June 8, 2015
Funny Science Fiction

Funny Science Fiction

I will be editing another anthology of science fiction humor over the summer.

Tentatively titled FUNNY SCIENCE FICTION (Hey, it gets the point across, okay?), I envision it as being “just like the Unidentified Funny Objects anthologies, except it will all be reprints.” There are lots of funny stories out there that I love, and would have published in UFO without hesitation, except other editors got to them first. Still, it’s virtually impossible for anyone to read all the magazines and anthologies out there, and so I’m confident the anthology will feel fresh to the fans of the UFO series. You can expect the same variety of voices, styles and lengths, and the same wacky and occasionally difficult-to-peg down sense of humor.

The awesome picture displayed above is by Argentine artist Flavio Greco Paglia will be the cover art for this book.

Those are some of the similarities to UFO, but lots of things are different, too.

For one thing, this will be an e-book only release, at least for now. UFO books sell way better as e-books than in paper (partly because UFO Publishing is a tiny company with limited distribution). Also, e-books are way cheaper to produce. I can afford to do this on a shoestring budget and without a Kickstarter campaign or causing undue emotional harm to my wallet.

In case the book is super successful, I’m optioning the Print rights from authors. (As in, I will pay them a bit more money and be able to release the book in a print version.) Authors will be paid $0.01 per word for non-exclusive electronic rights outright, and another $0.01 per word if and when I want to exercise the print option. It’s not a lot, but unfortunately $0.01-$0.02 per word is pretty standard as reprint rates go. Ultimately I do not expect to make a ton of money from this project, but to use it as a way to promote the UFO series.

The second difference is that this book will include science fiction stories only. No fantasy. However, if it proves to be successful, the FUNNY FANTASY volume won’t be far behind! I have a fairly broad definition of science fiction, which includes superheroes, steampunk that doesn’t include magic, etc.

Also, there will be no submission window for this project as such. About half the stories will be solicited by me directly — they’re stories I’ve already read, I already love, and I will definitely include in the book if the authors let me. For the rest, I’m asking readers (and authors themselves) to recommend reading material to me.  I’m looking for stories of 500-7500 words that are SF and that are funny. Please feel free t0 e-mail me, or simply post  your favorites in the comments of this post. If you’re an author, it’s OK to recommend a few of your own stories. I’ll do my best to read everything that’s suggested, and may reach out to some authors directly and ask them to see their stories if they weren’t published online.

I’m looking to mostly include stories that were published in the last few years. (Original publication date of 2010 – present.) I may go back a few years more for my absolute favorites, but will include nothing from the 20th century. The idea is to showcase some of the best humor SF being written today. Go far enough back and the book will become filled with time-tested classics by Brown and Asimov and Sheckley, leaving little room for modern stories.

I began the process of reaching out to authors about their stories yesterday and already have three tales under contract:

“Observation Post” by Mike Resnick (Beyond the Sun anthology, Fairwood Press, 2013)

“Flying on My Hatred of My Neighbor’s Dog” by Shaenon Garrity (Drabblecast, 2013)

“Whaliens” by Lavie Tidhar (Analog, 2014)

I’m super excited to share these stories (and several others I’ve already solicited and am waiting on responses and/or contracts) with my readers.

I’ll be reading and slowly acquiring stories for this project over the course of the next month or so. Again, if you have a (recent) favorite, please let me know about it in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook, by carrier pigeon, or at a convention. Thanks!

#SFWAPro

 

 

 

 


Announcing Dark Expanse anthology TOC

February 25, 2014

Dark Expanse cover

Announcing the table of contents and cover for Dark Expanse: Surviving the Collapse, edited by yours truly and William Snee.

This is a collection of 18 short stories set in the universe of the Dark Expanse video game.

  1. “Castles in the Sky”” by Nancy Fulda
  2. “Dominoes Falling” by Alex Shvartsman
  3. “The Ten Suns” by Ken Liu
  4. “Betrayal, Clear as Kanzai Glass” by Deborah Walker
  5. “The Price of Escape” by David Walton
  6. “Hellfire Unleashed” by Simon Kewin
  7. “Breaking Down” by Michael Haynes
  8. “They Cannot Scare Me With Their Empty Spaces” by Deborah Walker
  9. “A Small and Secret Freedom” by Matt Mikalatos
  10. “Lightspeed Back to You” by David Wayne
  11. “Escape from Planet Error” by Michael Greenhut
  12. “Jump” by Deborah Walker
  13. “Loud for All the Stars to Hear” by Alex Kane
  14. “To Soar on Winds of War” by David Wayne
  15. “Fires of Night” by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
  16. “Gorlack the Destroyer’s All You Can Eat Adventure” by Robert L. Russell
  17. “Ghost Ship” by Nancy Fulda
  18. “The Shadow Conspiracy” by Nancy Fulda

This book will premier on Amazon in March 2014.


UFO3 Kickstarter Ending Soon

February 16, 2014

image description

UFO3 Kickstarter campaign will be ending on Tuesday evening.

As of the time I’m writing this, we raised just about $5500 but there’s still a long way to go. If you like the series and would like to see it continue and prosper, please consider pre-ordering your copy of UFO3 through the campaign instead of waiting until the book is released. Getting access to the funds early will allow me to invest into buying more stories, promoting the book and the series better, and commissioning more pieces of interior art.

In addition to all the UFO books there are unique cool rewards available, such as becoming a character in stories written by Gini Koch and by me,  getting a critique for one of your own stories, or even having your name mentioned in the foreword.

There are also prints of the gorgeous cover art above, which can be added to any pledge level for an additional $10.

I really enjoy editing the UFO series. Although I hope it will turn a profit someday, I have not taken any pay to date, and have invested a lot of my own money on top of what’s been raised via Kickstarter to publish and market previous volumes. UFO is growing, but at this rate it will be a few years yet before it becomes self-sustained (especially since I want to keep raising the pay rate for authors as aggressively as possible).  So if you’re able to help out — whether by pledging any amount, or letting other readers know about the campaign — please do. Thank you!

#SFWAPro


Getting Short Fiction Published & a Coffee Giveaway

December 20, 2013

Coffee_Cover_v1r2

I was recently interviewed at SF Signal on the subject of getting one’s short fiction published. Really, the answer is very simple and straightforward: write a good story and keep submitting it until it sells somewhere. But if you want a more elaborate version full of snark, or to learn what sort of bribes I accept, or to see me slam non-paying  markets (again), then go ahead and click that link!

And speaking of getting short fiction published, I recently sold a humor flash “Bedtime Story on Christmas Eve, 1,000,000 AD” to Spark: A Creative Anthology and it will appear in the next issue., which launches on January 1 and features a foreword by Kevin J. Anderson.

A reprint of “Life at the Lake’s Shore” will appear in an upcoming “Outpouring: Typhoon Yolanda Relief Anthology,” a charity projected edited by Dean Francis Alfar. No link yet, but I will post one as soon as it’s available.

Not much else to report on the acceptances front at this time, but then things do tend to slow down around the holidays.

Meantime, I’ve been laboring away on Unidentified Funny Objects 3. I’m very happy to report that I already have three stories from three huge names in SF/F, and a fourth story in final edits. I have a really cool cover, too. Expect more information on this in January. A number of folks asked about the next submission period: we will have one in the Spring, most likely in March.  I am absolutely committed to keeping each volume of the UFO series open to subs from the public alongside the stories solicited from the top pros.

Meantime, there are a few days left to enter the giveaway for a signed paperback copy of COFFEE: 14 Caffeinated Tales of the Fantastic. Over 700 people already entered this giveaway, but it’s free to enter, so why not give it a shot? Just click here to participate.

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Your Coffee is Ready!

December 4, 2013

#SFWApro

 

Each time a new book is released into the world is a little bit like a birthday. Today I had the pleasure of e-mailing the COFFEE e-books to our Kickstarter backers, and folks who were kind enough to pre-order them. Tomorrow I expect to spend much of my day packing physical copies. I’m very excited about this book,  and can’t wait to share the end result with the world.

For those of you who didn’t back Coffee on Kickstarter (and why not, I ask?!), you can order your very own copies at UFO Publishing Buy Our Books page. It’s only three bucks for an e-book, which is cheaper than an actual cup of coffee, if you like yours Venti or Grande.

And if you do not already own copies of UFO1 or UFO2 (and why not, I ask again?!), we have a Holiday Bundle special where you can get all three physical books for $30 or all three e-books for $12. Follow that same link to take advantage of it. The special will only last until December 9th.

And if you absolutely must get it on Amazon, here’s the link to the paperback. E-books should be popping up on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Smashwords by the weekend.

Remember: books make great holiday presents!

OK, I’m done with the hard sell now. Really.