As a writer or an editor trying to find their way in publishing, an anthology provides a great opportunity to develop your skills.
Further, the production, or the submission to, of an anthology is one way of getting your name out there and your work in front of readers.
There are however a number of challenges, and varied pros and cons, which I’ll discuss here.
The main purpose of this post is the editing of an anthology, but it would be remiss of me not to talk briefly on the advantages of submitting to an anthology for the writer.
As I’m sure all writers know, the competition is fierce, embittered, and often ink-stained. Finding your way through the morass of the slush is the subject of countless other posts. But, writing for an anthology is one way of getting your name out there that has less commitment than say a novel, and less competition of the big name markets. If you belong to a writing group, or you socialize with other writers, it’s quite an easy task to club together and produce your own anthology. You just need to have someone volunteer as the editor.
By working collaboratively with other writers, you have an inherent safety net. You can critique each other’s works and polish your stories without fear of rejection. It should still be as best as you can make it, but a good, well-focused anthology project is a great way to get your work out in the market place.
From an editing perspective — this is where my main role has come from on this project — there are a number of benefits to the ‘new to the game’ editor. The first being recognition. If your aim is to gain employment within the publishing industry, or simply to hone your skills with the intention of extending your services to the ever-growing market of indie authors, then editing an anthology provides you with a low-cost way of meeting authors and learning about the editing process on a real project.
The Pros of editing an anthology:
- You get to meet and develop working relationships with new authors
- You are responsible. Not only to your reputation, but also to the work of your contributors. This breeds the necessary professional attitude required.
- Confidence. Seeing the project come together and take shape is a great confidence booster.
- You have a real-world project to show perspective employers/clients.
- The warm snuggly feeling of a completed project.
However, there are, like many of these kinds of projects, a few cons, too:
- Pressure. You are where the buck stops. Ultimately, the quality of the product rests on you and you alone. This can be a little scary.
- Pressure. If you set deadlines, you absolutely cannot miss them. You need to lead from the front and show your contributors you are serious and professional.
- Pressure. There is a lot of work that goes into editing an anthology and unless you outsource these, they are down to you to get right.
Challenges of Editing an Anthology & How to Overcome Them
For a first-time editor, and perhaps even for existing editors who have not yet worked on anthology, you’ll be presented with a number of challenges:
1. The Project Theme
All good anthologies should support a central, recognizable theme.
This could be a keyword, a specific event, time, or place, or something less tangible and more conceptual. Whichever it is, having that central focus will not only help with the editing of the project, but will help your contributors write stories that naturally sit well with each other.
By having a strong central theme from the outset you will avoid having to reject too many stories because they don’t fit.
2. Keeping Your Authors Happy & Providing Editorial Feedback
Okay, you’ve just received some stories, and with some changes and edits they’ll work, but you have to be careful with how you provide this feedback.
Some authors will react differently than others. Some prefer brutally honest feedback, while others prefer a more gentle, constructive approach. It can be hard to know which direction to take, and you may find yourself upsetting some of your contributors if you have misjudged it.
The best thing to do, is talk with the author, and explain your approach. Try and come to an agreeable way forward. Like with any project, working with people can be difficult, but the key is communication. It’s not easy, but with practice you’ll learn how to tackle this.
3. Enforcing Deadlines
Regardless of how visible the due dates are before you embark on a project, unforeseeable circumstances will mean that some of your authors won’t meet your deadlines. This can throw a spanner in the works of your finely crafted schedule.
One way of dealing with this is to set yourself some ‘buffer’ days outside of the schedule given to your authors. Of course, if you communicate with your contributors on a regular basis, you’ll find they’ll usually meet your deadlines as you can deal with problems as they arise.
The other way to deal with missed deadlines is to just carry on.
For example, one story has missed the deadline date – you could just move onto the next phase such as line-editing, or formatting of the book with the knowledge that you’ll have to plug the last story(s) in at the end of the next process. It’s not ideal, but it means your project carries onwards.
4. Editorial Policy
Do you Americanize British English? Or Anglicize American English? Do you have the serial comma, or remove it, or judge it on case-by-case basis? What about names for common things in your project? Do you have them the same in all stories, or do you allow your writers to voice it in their own way?
Don’t make the mistake of dealing with this after the stories have come in because retrofitting a policy can be a lot of work.
Spend some time before soliciting stories thinking of how you would like to present the work and write a ‘style manual’ for your authors to follow. This will greatly cut down on the amount of line-editing you’ll need to do.
Those are the main challenges you will come up against. You’ll no doubt find other obstacles that need your attention, but if you plan your anthology correctly, and give your authors as much information and guidance as you can, you will create a solid, tight anthology that shines.
You can find Colin at: http://www.colinfbarnes.com