Saturday, September 22, 2012

A few words about anthologies.

I guess it was bound to happen. When May December Publications started, it was with the release of my own title, Zomblog. Shortly after, we wanted to produce an anthology. It was mostly done out of frustration. After being rejected for a (now defunct) Indie's anthology and then seeing a person post in that "publisher's" forum that she hadn't gotten her story in by the deadline and the "editor" told that person to just send it in and not to worry, she was in, I was "unhappy". (All words in quotes are dripping with sarcasm in case you needed clarification of my tone.)

I have no problem being rejected. Every writer gets told "no" in his or her life. It is part of the business. But to accept a person's story based solely on a personal relationship is a discredit to the reader. You aren't selecting the best. You are filling the pages with your friends. I am not equating that to "invitation" anthologies (a subject I COULD easily place on a tee and shank into the rough, but I will save that for a later date) which usually consist of a publisher placing a call out to "established" (no sarcasm, just a matter of varying opinion) authors to contribute. Those usually work because the authors being invited bring their own reader base to the party. These let people get exposed to names they might not be familiar while still getting a fix from their fave. What I have a problem with is anybody accepting a story sight unseen or accepting a story simply because of "knowing" the author. I have to admit, I have written a few shorts that DO NOT deserve to see the light of day. Now, when I first penned them, I thought they were golden. However, after further review...they were lame.

Recently, MDP has been afforded the luxury of offering more than just a contributor's copy for some of our anthologies. Some give a flat rate, others offer a sales percentage to be divided between the contributors. What many people who do not PRODUCE anthologies fail to realize is that they are not cash cows. More like a dripping faucet. Over time, they can earn their keep, but they are time consuming and expensive for a publisher even if "ALL" they offer in compensation is a contributor's copy. However, with this new development at MDP, I have found that, while our submissions are WAY up...the quality has not changed much. And in some ways, seems to have slid as we get inundated with people who blanket the market with submissions (often while completely IGNORING the submission requirements).

Now, to be fair, I have been blessed to read some exceptional submissions when we were strictly a contributor's copy pub. I will admit that I have some favorites. I have one anthology that I am most proud of, I even have one that I feel was some of my shoddiest work as an editor. (And no, I will not divulge which is which.) What I will say is that now that we have carved out a tiny niche in the market and more people have become aware, I have to wade through four or five stories to find one that I like and am willing to PAY for. This is coming on the heels of my final selections for our second installment of Midnight Movie Creature Feature. The first one was like a perfect storm. In fact the selection process was so difficult that we ended up with 18 stories instead of the planned 13. The writers "got it." The stories were quirky, fun, and so damn unique. Seriously...I defy you to find a better anthology. (Yeah, I may be letting the cat out of the bag about my fave...) Revenge of the Zombie Pussy Eaters. Need I say more. Okay...Spine-Tingling Tale of the Crystal Golem. I am guessing that very few people who submitted to the second edition read the first. Now I realize that taste is subjective, but I will go on record as saying that I almost cancelled MMCF 2. Fortunately, there were some real quality stories in the 11th hour.

This brings me to the real point. I think that there is a certain magic about writers who pen stories for love versus money. I get that nobody wants to work for free. I could go on for hours about the value behind being in a contributor's copy anthology versus one that pays a few bucks. But I look at some of the authors I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with in our anthologies and actually regret offering up money. Say what you will, but the writers sending me stories "just to get exposure" are some of the best work I've ever read. We will continue to do an annual "first timers" anthology each year to give unknowns a shot at being noticed. We will continue to offer up an annual all-for-charity anthology (The Sick and the Dead is this year's and ALL proceeds will go to The V Foundation.) Also, we will produce one or two more each year, but the era of 8-10 a year are done. It is bittersweet.

I will continue to have EVERY story submitted for consideration stripped of all personal information about the author to keep my bias removed from the selection process. I still think that should be a rule. Editor's who make excuses about selecting familiar names as "part of the business" are lazy and should go into something like event planning where a "friends" list has its place. 


  1. I was rejected for MMCF 2 and while disappointed can't wait to read what was selected. As a writer I love the opportunity to produce a story for a selection process that I think (in the case of MDP) is fair and thorough. Thank you for requiring quality work from your authors and thanks for all the authors out there willing to produce quality work no matter where the story goes. I love the variety of your anthologies and the sweet rejections you send out. Keep up the great work in encouraging authors. We need more products like what you produce in the market.

    1. Thanks for the comments and the compliments. I do believe I left out one component in my post: subjectivity. I can not say how many times the story that I scored LOWEST of those accepted is mentioned as a favorite from a reviewer. The scores and acceptance are based on what appealed to ME as the editor. I am NOT the "be all, know all" when it comes to a good story. Just because it didn't make my cut does not mean that it won't thrill another editor.

  2. I love anthologies... you are right they introduce us readers to writers I would have never have tried out, some are now my firm favourites. Maybe you need a circle of readers to give votes on what goes in and what does not??

  3. I'm sorry I missed submitting for your MIDNIGHT MOVIE CREATURE FEATURE anthologies. That's something I would enjoy. :) Well, it sounds like you're doing a great job with them. In my experience, anthologies are mainly about exposure (and sometimes for a good cause, which makes it even better). But another reason I will do one is because the theme inspires me to push aside projects I already have and squeeze in something new that I probably wouldn't have taken the time to write otherwise. Accepted or not, it's always a good thing to have a new story. Plus, you get to share a book with some authors you might not know. As well as with some you do know or at least respect. Those are the reasons I will detour and submit on occasion.

    I have been invited to submit now and then, and I felt honored by the invitations, but the stories would not automatically be accepted. I don't see anything wrong in that case. It was for the sake of bringing quality submissions, and that should always be the priority. :)

  4. I just picked up your series and I ave to tell you that I absolutely LOVE your writing. I am sure you get that alot, but know that you have a fan in me. I have always watched zombie movies, ever since I was a child and have an odd fascination with them. I never picked up a zombie book until three days ago. I couldn't stop reading all your Zomblogs - got through those in a day and a half and am now onto your Dead series.
    As an avid reader and writer I am very picky about what I read - if I'm not caught in the first few pages I will set the book down and never pick it up again.
    Keep doing what you're doing and thank you!

  5. So does this affect the "Round the campfire with..." series? It is a sign of the unfortunate times that the average reader has forgotten the pleasure of the "quick kiss" of the short story. Instead it seems they have turned monogamous with their relationship of the good old tale. Not a bad thing, going steady with a tale, but still I will miss the quick kiss in the dark from a beautiful stranger that is the short story as a writer, things like anthology's are a godsend for the beginner between works of their art; it was how I came to be in the world of readers as a writer myself. However I can completely understand the decision, a rose can only grow if it is pruned. As for the standard of work, it is down to the writer to break the bonds of his imagination and become a pioneer, otherwise he will become lost and forgotten very quickly. So I urge my fellow writers to up their game and in doing so bring a little more respect for the Indie community. Forgive the ramble, I could go on forever(as you well know, ha ha.) so I'll take my leave. Keep up the great work.