Sorry this is going up a little late. I was on set yesterday as an extra in a commercial and was completely exhausted when I got home. That was my first ever “extra” gig, and I had a good time. Several friends were on the set as well, so we hung out in the holding area most of the time BS’ing. But even with that, my call time was 7:30 AM, and I didn’t leave until 7PM, and when we weren’t in holding, we were outdoors in the bajillion degrees heat. So I were a tired boy when I got home.
But that’s not what you’re here to read about, is it? No, you want to hear some of the nuts and bolts and dirty secrets that went into creating The Big Bad: An Anthology of Evil, recently released by Dark Oak Press. This anthology of 30 of the most awesomest horror-type stories you can imagine, was created and edited by yours truly and our own Emily Leverett. if you don’t have it already, you should get one, it’s awesome. And I promise there is some stuff in there that will make you laugh, and plenty that will make you shudder.
But here’s the evolution of the anthology, in a nutshell. And I’ll be as open and honest about this as I am about most things, so if there’s a question on anything, feel free to ask in the comments.
I created the anthology in the beginning of 2012 as a self-published antho. I decided that I could afford to pay $50 for about 20 stories, pay for a cover, pay for an editor, and still probably make a few dollars. I sent out the open call, put the listing up on duotrope.com, and sat back hoping to get some submissions. Fortunately I know a lot of writers, so once I put some things out there on Facebook and Twitter, submissions started coming in. And they were pretty good, too! By the time the six-month submission window closed, I had nearly 200 submissions for 20 slots in the anthology.
This was going to take a lot of reading.
Then last summer happened, and I went to Fandom Fest in Louisville, Kentucky. Emily approached me and said “Hey, If you need help with this anthology, I’d be willing to help edit.”
I thought to myself hmmm . . . an experienced editor who’s a grammar nut who’ll work for a piece of the take? Sounds like a win!
What I said was “Sure! That sounds great!”
Then she volunteered to put up some cash to get the thing moving, and we became kinda-partners in the process.
Later that weekend after an epic Literate Liquors panel, then an amazing Pied-Piperesque stroll through downtown Louisville looking for a restaurant with open seating for 30, and finally a legen – wait for it – dary Mexican meal, complete with unconsciousness, I looked over at Allan Gilbreath, publisher of Dark Oak Press and said “Hey buddy, you want to handle the print rights for this anthology I’m doing?”
I knew that Dark Oak did hardback and trade paperback, and I really wanted a hardback with my name on the spine.
Allan looks right back at me and says “Sure, but why don’t I just publish the whole thing?”
And that’s how the anthology went from self-published to small press. One dinner conversation. Preceded by two years of conversations, panels, con attendance, long discussions on the industry and friendship, just so you don’t think all it takes is one conversation. It was one conversation between people who knew for a while they wanted to work together and had just been looking for the project.
So as we’re walking back from dinner I walk alongside Emily and say “So you remember that anthology?”
“The one we were talking about less than two hours ago?”
“Yeah, that one.”
“I think I recall.”
“Well, I kinda just sold it to Allan. You wanna be my co-editor? I’ll give you half the money he’s paying me.”
“…Well, okay.” *
And that’s how that all happened.
Then Emily and I started going through stories.
THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART FOR WRITERS.
Yes, I’ve heard the term “burying the lede.” But since I don’t work in journalism anymore, bite me.
Emily is a much better editor than me. She is the Randy to my Simon. She read the vast majority of the stories. By that I mean that for most stories, she read all of most of the story. I at least started to read all of them. I gave up a lot sooner. My cutoff most of the time was the first paragraph. If nothing was happening by then, I rejected the story.
Go back and read that again.
I rejected most stories in paragraph #1. Because they were boring. There isn’t time to set up a wonderful world in a short story, especially not in a horror story. You better creep me out or draw me in fast, because I have 200 submissions and 20 slots to fill, so you only have a 1 in 10 shot to begin with. Come out of the gates roaring and you’ve got a way better chance of getting your story into an anthology.
The biggest note I give to beginning and unpublished writers is that they aren’t starting their stories in the right place. It was almost a universal critique we gave at JordanCon when several of the writer guests dropped in on a critique session and people read their work aloud to us. Sometimes there were as many as three pages before the story started.
Okay – this is obviously a multi-part post, so we’ll come back to this next week, and over the next couple of weeks we’ll talk about the “secret folder” that some stories made it into, the ratio of men to women in the anthology, the percentage of people I know in the anthology, and the remarkable success of the Wednesday Night Writer’s Clutch in the anthology.
Hit me up in the comments with questions!
All conversations are not real quotes. I made the words up. I was drunk when I cut all these deals, and it was a year ago to boot. But they went basically like that. Everyone but me probably sounded smarter in real life.