Monday, February 25, 2013

Anthologies...a peek behind the curtain.

This is a "replay" of an old post, but since I am away celebrating my 11th Anniversary, I thought this was as good of a topic as any. Read on and enjoy.

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. 

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