Pretty soon now, I’m going to need some help.
It might begin as voluntary help, but could quickly resolve into a job with an income in some cases, for anyone interested.
Basically, the art (and science) of producing a high quality anthology using the technology and tools broadly available these days has been established, through research, experience and simple hard work, over the last two years. Eleven years ago, I knew nothing about self-publishing really; three years ago, I had published several of my own books, but little else; but over the last two years, having published almost 30 books and a monthly magazine, I have much of the process ‘nailed’. Parts of this process can be reduced down to simple technical procedures which almost anyone can do, without much thought.
The areas where I think I will need the most help are as follows:
1. Reading submissions
As Clarendon House Publications became better known and trusted, more and more submissions poured in for each new anthology announced. Not only did the quality of these submissions noticeably improve over time, the sheer volume of them quadrupled. What that meant in terms of a production line is that bottlenecks began to develop, and the first of these was in reading what is commonly known, without charm, as the ‘slush pile’: the stack of raw submissions.
Reading through this takes time. Latest anthologies have gleaned something in the order of 150,000 to 200,000 words of submissions each, which all have to be carefully read through to the end — a story which starts badly, unless it’s very bad, needs to be read through to its conclusion to be fair to its author. When there are three or four anthologies running concurrently, that’s a lot of reading — and a small proportion of it is tortuous, even when the vast bulk of it is quite a pleasurable experience.
Deciding which work to include requires a little education. Most stories submitted are workable as pieces of fiction; selecting between them often needs a particular way of looking at stories, which I call ‘vacuum vision’, based on the principles of How Stories Really Work: you have to be able to ‘see’ the vacuums, the gaps, holes, missing things, mysteries and varied incompletenesses which make up the fabric of a successful story. As readers, most of us do this on a subconscious level anyway, so it’s not that hard to teach — but making it a fully conscious and analytical tool might take a short while.
2. Formatting anthologies
The next step involves taking the raw text — which, despite submission guidelines, often arrives in various forms — and standardising it to fit into a fixed anthology template. This doesn’t require a great deal of thought, but does need attention to detail. Everything has to be as close to perfection as possible, including any gaps between story titles and the first sentences, or the way an author’s bio looks, or the end papers at the back of the book.
This is a fairly obvious one. No story I have ever published has been error-free upon arrival; some still contain errors, unfortunately, after they’ve been published. Reading carefully through each accepted submission in such a way as to pick up and fix any mistakes is a real skill and takes practice and effort.
4. Putting anthologies through the line
Having set up the format of an anthology, and fixed its contents technically, the process of actually publishing it follows a set procedure, one simple step after another, which needs to be followed exactly each time. Being able to follow instructions precisely is the key here. It’s not exactly a time-consuming job on its own, but it is a vital one.
Small-scale promotion, usually to existing writers’ groups, is something that needs to be done on a daily basis. It’s not very demanding, but it is essential in order to give Clarendon House Publications and its featured authors a certain minimum profile within a certain small reading public. Knowing when to do it and when not to do it are key functions: it’s possible, in the sensitive world of social media, to overdo it fairly easily, and in that way inadvertently close off a channel of communication. Again, this is fairly easy to learn.
A single anthology earns very little money — an amount so small, in fact, that many would wonder whether or not it’s a viable business model. The point is that money earned from anthologies should only ever be part of a larger income plan. There’s enough money in certain types of anthology to be able to pay someone to do some of the above, once they know what they are doing, while I concentrate on the bigger picture of creating a better future for all involved.
If any of the above sounds of any interest to you, please let me know: