Two years ago I put together my first anthology, My American Nightmare – Women in Horror Anthology. I had always wanted to put together an anthology, and finally, after much thought and trepidation, I decided to bite the bullet and launch myself headfirst into this project.
The experience was both overwhelming and fulfilling. I got to read a lot of awesome horror short stories and in turn, meet new authors and become acquainted with their works.
Many people may not understand what exactly an anthology editor does, or may think that we simply select the stories, check for typos, and then slap our names on the cover. However, there’s a lot of work involved in the whole process and it’s a process that takes up several months, if not almost a year before the book is ready to be released to the world.
Now, for the second time, I’ll be putting on my anthology editor hat on and selecting stories for my upcoming anthology collection: Strange Girls – Women in Horror Anthology.
Below are the Ten Steps I do while putting together an anthology.
Step One. Select the Theme
For both anthologies, I knew that I wanted to help promote the writing of women in horror. Why am I closing the doors to the other half of the writing population? Simple. The horror genre has always been noted to be male-dominated, but women too have written some notable horror novels and short stories (from Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, Anne Rice, and Poppy Z. Brite just to name a few). For my first anthology, I knew that I wanted all the stories to have the U.S. as the setting, hence the title, My American Nightmare. For my current anthology, I knew that I wanted to explore the theme of Strange Girls, and what exactly it is about these girls that makes them strange.
Step Two. Advertise the Call for Submissions
After I select the theme, I write up an open submission call on my official author website and share the link on all my social media venues. Also, Stuart Conover from Horror Tree has been invaluable in his support by posting my submission call on his website, which has helped word of mouth travel extensively fast because of this. In the submission call, I not only state the guidelines and theme but also set a deadline and state the author’s compensation.
Step Three. Read the Short Stories
Once the stories start pouring in I begin reading right away (so that I’m not overwhelmed by reading a ton of short stories all at once) and also have found that this way it gives the stories time to marinate in my head and allow me to see which ones have remained memorable and which have become forgettable. By the deadline date, I usually have an idea of which stories will make the cut and which will not.
Step Four. Select and Reject Stories
This is where I make two lists, Accept vs. Decline, and start compiling which stories go where. Sometimes, I’ll put some stories in the Maybe file and read them over another two or three times before I decide if they’ll be a good fit for my theme. Once that’s complete, then I send out rejection and acceptance emails.
Step Five. Contracts & Issue Payment
Whenever you’re putting together an anthology it’s important to have each author sign a contract so that they are aware of their compensation and what to expect. This helps things become official and allows both you and the author to hold each other accountable to keep up both ends of the contract.
For payment, since it is an anthology and trying to figure out how to divide royalties evenly amongst a large group of people, I have found that a FLAT FEE is the best way to go. This is not to skimp out on the authors, it’s actually more in the authors best interest as if I were to divide the royalties, depending on sales they’d only be making a few cents. Besides, all money I made from My American Nightmare was used to cover expenses for the cover art, formatting, and promos, and to fund new future anthologies.
Step Six. Editing
Now the editing begins. Usually, there are three rounds and they go like this:
Developmental Editing: This is where you look for plot holes and what doesn’t make sense.
Line Editing: Checking if all sentences make sense.
Copy Editing: This is where you check grammar, spelling errors, and typos.
And then once the editing is over, that’s when you have to decide what order the stories go in. Again, this is kind of an art form that needs mastering. For my first anthology, I decided to start and end the anthology with what I thought were the strongest stories. Then I arranged others where I alternated between a long and short one and also if one was too similar in theme to another, I would space it out.
Step Seven. Choose The Cover
For my previous books, I’ve relied on James’ (goonwrite.com) graphics expertise. I can’t state how crucial it is to have an attractive book cover, cause people DO judge a book by its cover (at least on the first impact). The majority of the times, the cover alone will sell the book (not everyone reads the blurb or looks inside the book!). So, if you’re not competent or don’t have the means to design a book cover yourself, delegate this job to someone else who’s a professional. I REALLY RECOMMEND THIS.
Step Eight. Formatting the Book
Both ebooks and print require formatting the original file. I can’t stress how important this part of the process is, because if the book isn’t correctly formatted, then readers will have trouble reading your work, and if readers are having trouble reading, then you can bet they’re going to give up and leave a poor rating to boot! So, again, if you’re not competent with formatting digital or print files, then pay someone for this service. I’ve always done this and it’s one last thing I need to worry about.
Step Nine. Book Promos Ahead of Time & Send ARCS
Even before the book is released I begin contacting book bloggers for interviews or reviews, I book a book blog tour in advance (especially if you want them to coincide with your release date), sent out ARCS to reviewers, send out promo kits to the authors to help promote the book in their area. With My American Nightmare, I had both business cards and postcards made and also bought merch for an author in the anthology since she had gotten a table at a Halloween con in her area to help promote the book.
Ten. Upload & Publish the Book
Upload the book to retail sites (in my case I prefer to use Amazon) and contact any indie bookstores who may be interested in carrying a couple of copies of your book in their stores.
PHEW! So that’s the TEN STEPS required to do to publish an anthology! So if you’re interested in putting your own anthology together, this is pretty much a rough estimate of what you need to consider before you take the plunge!
Oh! And just as an FYI, I have funded these anthologies on my own (I know some like to have crowdfunding to help with expenses and that’s fine), but I don’t like having to worry about trying to raise money while also doing all those other steps in between!
Let me know if you’ve put an anthology together or are planning to put one together!