Building an Anthology, Part 2 – “The Special Folder”

John G. Hartness
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Yep, we’re continuing a series where I pull back the curtain on the creation of  The Big Bad: An Anthology of Evil, the latest collection that I co-edited with the lovely and talented Emily Lavin Leverett. 

Today we’re going to talk about invitations, the “special folder” and how you get into one of those. There were several people who were invited to place a story in the anthology. These were folks that I knew had bandwidth to create a story, could write well, and had some facility for promotion. Jim Bernheimer was an early invite because I love his book Confessions of a D-List Supervillain. Obviously just by the title you can tell he knows how to write bad guys. And he does! Jim’s awesome, and I knew I wanted him for this anthology. Sean Taylor’s story “Another Pleasant Valley Sunday” is an awesome look into the real life of superheroes and villains, and I knew I didn’t just want Sean to put a story into the collection, I knew I wanted that story. So that became the only reprint in the collection. James Tuck is one of my favorite writers as well as one of my best friends, so of course I asked him. Bobby Nash is a great writer, a great friend, and one of the most shameless promoters I know (besides myself), so he was invited to send in a story. 

That’s it. I didn’t offer up invites to the other folks here on Magical Words because I knew they didn’t have time. David, Faith and Kalayna were all launching books while I was trying to make the anthology happen, and David was launching a whole persona! Misty was in the middle of heavy rewrites, and A. J. had more on his plate than a fat man at a buffet line. So I only sent out four invites, which coupled with the story I was putting into the anthology, meant that 25% of the stories I’d initially planned for were taken. That left 15 out of a planned 20 slots for open submissions. It ended up being 25 out of 30 slots, because a lot of the stories ended up shorter than expected. But that was fine, because it meant more open slots for other people! 

But I talked about the “special folder.” There really was a “special” folder. When submissions came in, they all went into a folder on my Dropbox account, which I later shared with Emily when she came on board. If it was a submission from someone I’d never met or heard of, it went into the general folder. If it was from someone I knew, it went into a folder labeled “Special Consideration.” This didn’t mean that the story was going in, it just meant that the story was going to get a little closer look than a blind submission. Because a lot of those stories were from other professional writers, some with several books published. Folks like Brad Carter, H. David Blalock, Selah Janel and S.H. Roddey are all pros working in the business, and I knew that a story from one of them would have the basics right. And each of those folks have stories in the anthology. I knew that stories from Jay Requard, Sarah Adams, Darin Kennedy and Eden Royce would have a level of polish and professionalism because I know them, have critiqued their work at some point, and know how serious they are about their craft, even without a ton of publishing credits to their name. 

And even with the “special” folder, almost half of the stories in the anthology are from people I’d never heard of before they submitted their story. So you don’t have to get in with the editor to get a story in the book. But it doesn’t hurt. 

And how do you get in the “special folder?” Go to cons and meet writers. We’re people, just like you. Ask questions at panels, and after panels. Participate in discussions on websites like this, and KBoards.com, and Absolute Write. Get to know people. Be genuine, because nobody wants to feel used. But at the same time we all understand the importance of networking, and we’re all doing it all the time. And every little bit of an edge helps. Being in the “special folder” for The Big Bad only meant that I promised to read at least the first page of your story instead of just the first paragraph, but it was a little extra consideration. And sometimes that’s all you need. So put yourself out there, even before you have something published, because we all want to help our friends. 

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8 comments to Building an Anthology, Part 2 – “The Special Folder”

  • Thanks for the explanation of this process! Anthologies are largely a mystery to me — on the reading, editing, and writing end of things. It’s good to learn new things :-)

  • John, I am considering (strongly) an antho that I’d pitch to an editor or agent this winter, so I am making copious notes. Your process is the usual one, I’m thinking, and the path I took for Kicking It was a cheater’s way. (rolls eyes) Or maybe a beginner’s way. Anyway, I am learning! Thanks!

  • I think that John’s last paragraph might be the most important part of this post. I would simply add this to what he said: There is a difference between networking and imposing yourself on others. The former means being polite, being poised and self-assured, and knowing when to join in a conversation, and when to recognize that the person you want to meet simply can’t spare a moment just then. In other words, networking is a matter of mastering simple social skills. We love to meet new writers; we contribute to this site because we believe in giving back to the profession by helping out those who have not yet enjoyed the good fortune that has come our way. But we are people, and sometimes we need our space, our privacy, and time with our friends. Understanding that will go a long way toward helping with the whole networking thing.

  • David raises a point that I often neglect, because I’ve worked in sales for a long time and am very comfortable meeting new folks. But networking isn’t for the faint of heart – it’s a process that takes time to learn, and forethought. The bar is a great place to network. The bathroom – not so much. :)

  • Thanks for the mention, John. :) Following up on what David said about manners – a faux pas doesn’t have to end your hopes and dreams of making connections. I’ve put my foot in my mouth on more than one occasion and had to apologize. I once blocked an agent’s exit b’c I was fascinated by the conversation we were having and just didn’t realize, until I saw the look of concern on her face, that I was standing between her and the only path to the door. What saved the moment from becoming “creepy ambitious fan stalks agent” was a quick “I’m sorry. I just realized I’m standing in your way” and a step to the side. The relief on her face was visible and the next time we met she was happy to talk to me. So I’d say, if you make a mistake, don’t blow it off or try to pretend it didn’t happen. Don’t grovel and make a scene either. Just apologize and move on.

  • It seems most of my con networking occurred at the oddest places when I least expected it and wasn’t looking for it. Sitting on the floor in a corner of a hotel lobby after midnight, just hanging out and chatting; kicking back in the bar at an “amoeba” table that grew and split and grew again as people joined and left and more people gathered; waiting for the slowest elevator in history with a senior editor and well known author who invited me to settle a good natured argument they were having.

  • Johnathan Knight

    So much for all the bathroom jokes I’ve been perfecting.

  • Vyton

    This is a very interesting series. I never knew how anthologies came together. Thanks for lifting the curtain.

    Creepy is waiting at the elevator so you can get on with an agent/author/editor in order to present your “elevator” pitch.