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This is the second of a series of blog posts that I wrote last year in order to show how I create the anthologies for Zombies Need Brains. It's basically a behind-the-scenes look at the process, which will be covered in multiple parts. Obviously, this is only how I produce an anthology and there may be other roads to follow in order to produce one. Keep that in mind.

So, in Step 1 (which you can find here: we discussed finding a good, solid concept for the anthology. If you’ve got the theme nailed down, the next thing that I consider is what authors I might want to invite to have stories in the anthology. For ZNB anthologies, I like to fill up about half of the anthology with authors that readers will recognize. The main reason is marketing: I’m going to be running a Kickstarter to fund the anthology and backers are more likely to back a project if they recognize some of the authors involved. Also, it helps to be able to call upon the fans of the authors participating. I’m realistic enough to know that my own fan base wouldn’t be a large enough pool of people to get the funding I’ll need. But it’s more than just to help get the funding. I include known authors because AFTER the anthology has been produced, readers are more likely to pick up a book and buy it if they know a few of the authors in the book. So there are multiple things to consider when I look at authors to invite to be what I call “anchor authors.”

You have to take your theme into account when inviting authors. Find authors who’s books are related to your theme, because their fans are likely to be interested in an anthology about something close to what that author writes about. This is probably the most important aspect to consider. If someone writes fantasy, but it’s a sci-fi anthology, you probably shouldn’t invite that author to participate. Their fans aren’t likely to back or buy the anthology. But if they write urban fantasy and your anthology deals with fae creatures, then add them to the invite list. Even if they’re writing about werewolves and vampires, their fans might be interested in seeing what they can do with the fae.

On a purely marketing level, you should also consider how large their fan base is, and whether or not they’re going to promote the book and/or Kickstarter once it goes out into the wild. Will they be enthusiastic about the project? Will they want their fans to know? Do they have a presence on social media so they can get the word out to their fans? Do they attend conventions and are they willing to wave around cover flats of the book when they’re there? All of these things must be taken into account when deciding who should be invited and who should not. It’s just the nature of the business.

Once you have your list of possible invites, of course you need to ask the authors if they’re interested. Be prepared for many of them to say that they can’t participate, because many authors are already extremely busy and extremely overbooked. It helps to have a personal connection to the author, of course, which is how I find and generate most of my own anchor authors. I talk to authors at cons, tell them about the small press, tell them about the anthologies we’ve already produced, and see if they’d be interested in being invited to future anthologies. If they’ve met you in person, they’re more likely to take a chance on your project. That’s not always possible of course, but it helps. Once you build up a name for yourself or your small press, then maybe you’ll have authors approaching you asking to participate (which has started to happen for ZNB), but until that point, you’ll have to do some legwork in order to find the authors that you want.

That’s how ZNB approaches finding its anchor authors. For the other half of the anthology, we do an open call for submissions and then sort through the resultant slush pile for the best stories. These can come from other known authors or from people who’ve never been published. One of the founding principles of ZNB is that we want to do an open call whenever possible, because often our best stories come from the slush pile. At this point, we’re small enough that we CAN do this, and we intend to continue this practice for as long as possible.

There are, of course, other ways to find your authors for the anthology. Perhaps you already know people who want to work with you on the anthology, such as friends, etc. Perhaps you want to do an open call for submissions for ALL of the story slots in the anthology. Or maybe you already know a bunch of professional writers who are dying to participate and you have your pick and can fill the whole book with known authors. Obviously, the model I use (half anchor authors, half open submissions) might not be the best fit for you.

However you find the authors for your anthology, you need a good strong showing of stories. But suppose you’ve got your list of authors (or anchor authors). What comes next? Funding. How do you intend to pay those authors, the cover artist, the interior designers, the cover designer, the ebook designer, etc. Creating an anthology isn’t free. That will be the next post in this blog series.

And now a word from our sponsor:


Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter ( to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

PORTALS: In the blink of an eye, the familiar disappears as you step into the unknown. What new creatures will you meet? What strange planets will you explore? Will you find happiness, or doom? Open the pages of PORTALS, the newest anthology from the small press Zombies Need Brains, and you just might find out. From wardrobes to monoliths, wormholes to fairy rings, there is a rich tradition of stories in both science fiction and fantasy that explore what happens when--by accident or design--characters are transported from one world to another. Join fourteen of today’s leading science fiction and fantasy authors as they offer fresh takes on this classic theme. Whether a routine trip or unexpected journey, each tale will explore new worlds of adventure, mystery, humor, and horror, with stories for every taste and fancy. Edited by S.C. Butler and Patricia Bray, PORTALS will contain approximately fourteen stories with an average length of up to 6,000 words each. It will include short stories by: Jacey Bedford, F. Brett Cox, James Enge, Esther Friesner, Nancy Holzner, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, Jaime Lee Moyer, and Ian Tregillis.

TEMPORALLY DEACTIVATED: In our spam boxes today, we both received notices that our bank accounts required resolution, and the content of the spam contained the following sentence: "We have noticed that you need to resolve important security issues on your account to prevent temporal deactivation." Of course, our immediate thought was of a new anthology called TEMPORALLY DEACTIVATED! For this follow-up to 2015’s TEMPORALLY OUT OF ORDER, we are looking for stories that take a person, object, event, or phenomenon and somehow, during the course of the plot, “temporally deactivate” it, whatever that may mean in the context of the story. “Temporal deactivation” should refer to something more than a simple death, malfunction, or termination, and instead should touch in some way on issues of time — its flow, distortion, dislocation, etc. Edited by David B. Coe & Joshua Palmatier, it will contain approximately 14 stories with an average length of up to 6000 words each. It will include short stories by: C.S. Friedman, Faith Hunter, D.B. Jackson, Gini Koch, Stephen Leigh, Misty Massey, Jenna Rhodes, and Edmund R. Schubert.

ALTERNATE PEACE: All too often, alternate histories are based on a battle or assassination. We’re looking for stories where change grew out of more peaceful activities…science, business, and culture. Imagine a world in which the branch point from our own was caused by scientific endeavor, social change, natural forces, or other points of divergence which don’t rely on military activity or violence. Edited by Steven H Silver & Joshua Palmatier, it will contain approximately 14 stories with an average length of up to 6000 words each. It will include short stories by: D.B. Jackson, Stephen Leigh, Ian R. MacLeod, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kari Sperring, Harry Turtledove, Rick Wilber.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!

"Portals" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios


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Joshua Palmatier

March 2019

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