Tips for editing an anthology

We’re a little under a month out from publication on Perchance to Dream! I’m excited for it to be released, but I’m also excited for it just to be done. This project has consumed so much of my time, and I will be really glad to be able to go back to working on my regular projects (poor Fourth World and its sequels have been quite neglected the past few months! I miss Isaak, Nadin and the gang).

I’ve been thinking a lot about how everything came together, and how I could streamline the process if I ever do something like this again in the future (which doesn’t sound too appealing right now, but I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune once I have some time to recuperate). Here are some thoughts I had about the process I used, and tips for anyone who might be editing an indie anthology themselves at some point:

Give yourself a big time buffer! I gave myself a cushion of about two months from when I anticipated revisions would be done and publication. I’m glad I did that, because the breathing room disappeared quickly. Things always take longer than you think they’re going to, so I recommend scheduling all your tasks out and then giving yourself at least an extra month (preferably longer), in case something unexpected comes up. It always seems to!

Make sure you’re very clear about what you’re looking for! There were some things that I assumed people would know, because they’re “standard,” but I’ve definitely learned my lesson about assuming. For example: drafts need to be complete when they’re submitted. I assumed that this was a given, since it’s standard for almost all open calls for magazines, anthologies, and publishers in general, but apparently it wasn’t as widely known as I’d thought. A lot of time was wasted on major revisions, which is why I’m so glad I gave myself a big buffer. In future, I’m going to make sure I specify upfront that major revisions won’t be accepted—the anthology editing phase should be for line edits and copy edits only*. The last thing you need is an unexpected surprise a week before publication!

* And while I do recommend that other anthologists make sure they’re clear about that in their submission requirements, just to save yourself a potential headache, I should point out to fellow writers that this is an industry-standard expectation. Most short story submission calls don’t specifically come right out and say this (I’ve only seen one that has), but it is always expected. Don’t submit a short story that’s in need of a developmental edit. The majority of magazine editors and anthologists don’t have time to work on edits of this magnitude, and there is very little worse than receiving a story you love only to have an author want to revise it beyond recognition after acceptance. Stories need to be complete when they’re submitted, so make sure you get it just how you want it before you send it in!

To propose or not to propose? (Answer: probably not.) For this anthology, I used a method that had been used on another collection I collaborated on, which was to accept proposals for a story just based on a synopsis and a writing sample. On the one hand, it’s hard for me to knock this, because it worked out really well for the most part. And there is an advantage in that it saves the authors some time—that way you know ahead of time whether your story is accepted, and it saves you the trouble and cost of having to write a full story on spec. But the flip side is that a proposal can turn out to be pretty different than the story that winds up being written. Is that a problem? It depends on the story, the anthology, and several other extenuating circumstances. That’s why, even though this method worked relatively well for this anthology, I will probably not be using it again. Any effort the author is saved from not having to write a story on spec might wind up lost if the finished product turns out too differently from what was initially pitched and accepted.

Invite diversity! I am so incredibly happy with the diversity in these stories, and this came simply out of asking for it. At the end of the day, I didn’t post the open call for submissions in all that many places—one writers’ group mailing list, on my personal Tumblr, and as a request to two YA-lit related Tumblrs. But I made sure to specify in the open call that we were looking for stories that reflected a “modern, diverse young adult audience.” That was all it took. I am so pleased to have received stories by and about people of color, queer people (and queer people of color!), people with disabilities and more. This goes double considering that, ultimately, this really was a very small project with not an overly-huge reach when it came to recruiting submissions. It definitely shows that wonderfully written, quality diverse stories are very readily available—if you’re willing to look for them.

Hopefully these tips will be helpful to other indie anthology editors out there. Oh, and one last thing! Guess what? The preorder link for PtD is now live! You can find it here. 😀

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