This is the third 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.
Once you have your theme nailed down [see http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/490112.html
], and you have some or all of the authors lined up (unless you’re doing an anthology where you find the stories purely through an open call) [here http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/490491.html
], the next question you really need to ask yourself—and it’s the most important question of all really—is how you’re going to fund the anthology. There are TONS of costs involved in an anthology. Producing one isn’t even remotely close to being cheap. Not if you want a professional-looking product in the end, anyway. And Zombies Need Brains is all about producing professional-quality books. Here are some of those costs laid out for you:
Payment of the authors: No author wants to work for nothing. If you can figure out a way to pay them something, do so. ZNB has a policy that we will always pay the authors a minimum of what SFWA (the Science Fiction Writer of America) deems professional pay. Right now, that’s 6 cents per word. If it goes up, we’ll increase what we pay. But whatever you decide to pay the authors, and whatever they agree is fair, YOU NEED TO PAY YOUR AUTHORS! On time. No excuses. ZNB is proud that we’ve been prompt with advances and royalties since we started and we intend to continue.
Payment to the cover artist: Your anthology really needs good cover art. Readers can spot Photoshopped covers from across the bookstore and the general reaction to them is, “Not a quality cover, there can’t possibly be quality stories inside.” This may or may not be true, but books are unfortunately judged by their covers. You need to invest in high quality cover art, and you need to pay your cover artist. The same principles apply here as for the authors above. And no, good cover art isn’t generally cheap. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be exorbitant either. But it’s another cost you need to factor into your funding.
Payment to the ebook and print designers: Again, what the ebook and print books look like on the inside MATTERS! It pays to pay someone to do a professional job on both. And again, this costs money and needs to be factored into your funding. Same principles as authors and artists.
Payment for a cover designer: Same principles as above. Pay for quality cover design. You want the book to stand out on the shelf, right? That doesn’t all come from the cover art. The title, back cover copy, etc. are all important as well.
Payment of editors and copy editors: This is starting to sound redundant and you probably get the point, but again, PAY FOR QUALITY SERVICE! No one wants to read a book with grammar errors and typos every two sentences. Hire someone to find and fix all of those errors! You want to put out the best product possible.
OK, enough of that, you get the idea. Quality matters. Pay for it. But HOW do you pay for it? Well, if you’re independently wealthy then this is a mote point, so you should just skip to the next step in this process. However, I’M not independently wealthy. Which means that I needed to find a way to raise the funds for these project dreams of mine. If you happen to have an “in” with a traditional publisher, perhaps you can sell the idea to one of them, or even perhaps a small press. Basically, for both of these, you’re going to have to pitch the anthology theme to them, along with any authors you have lined up, and perhaps they’ll be interested enough to offer you a contract. (This is how Patricia Bray and I sold our first two anthologies—AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR and THE MODERN FAE’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY--to DAW.) Another simple (HA!) way is to get a loan—from a bank, from a friend, whatever. I have no experience with this, so leave that to you to figure out. I chose not to do this because I fear debt and don’t want to “owe” anyone anything, whether it’s a bank or my mom or a friend or whatever. So if you don’t just have the money, or you’ve pitched it to a publisher with no success, and don’t want to get a loan, what’s left? Thankfully, we have this new social entrepreneurial (holy s**t I spelled that correctly on the first try) thing called crowdfunding. Seriously, ZNB would not exist without crowdfunding. Ten years ago, what I’m doing now would have been impossible. So:
Crowdfunding: This is what we’re doing right now in an attempt to fund three new anthologies. Basically, you work up a write-up of your theme and your authors (if you have some) and you post your project on one of the crowdfunding sites out there, such as Kickstarter (what we use), Indiegogo, Patreon (if the project fits), GoFundMe, etc. Then you hope your project gets funded. Trust me, this is no cakewalk. There are hundreds of factors playing into whether a crowdfunded project succeeds. One of the reasons I think ZNB has been so successful (although we haven’t succeeded with all of our projects) is that we have the anchor authors helping us reach a large number of people. And that’s key. You need to reach a large audience, and hope they’re excited enough about the theme to hand you some money to make it happen. If you’re going to rely on just your friends and family to fund your project with crowdfunding, then why aren’t you just asking them for a loan? Besides, don’t you want to reach out the fans anyway? Don’t you want the book to get into their hands so they can read it, love it, and talk about it to other fans? The only way to do that is to somehow figure out a way to go BEYOND your own friends and family. I use the help of my anchor authors and the contacts that I’ve made through attending conventions, through my own published novels, through the previous Kickstarters I’ve run, etc. I’m slowly building up an audience that knows and trusts ZNB. But that takes effort and work and a ton of stress. When you start from scratch, it’s going to be difficult and you really need to plan ahead.
How can you get word of your project out there to others? Anchor authors, of course. Write a press release and send it to your local newspapers, radio stations, etc. Join some forums online ahead of time that might be interested in your project and participate in those forums; then when the project goes live, talk it up in the forums. Same for chat rooms, groups on Facebook, Yahoo!, etc. Go to conventions and talk about the project with people you meet in a friendly, casual way. All of these things need to be worked out AHEAD OF TIME, not after you’ve started the crowdfunding. It takes preparation and planning and, again, hard work.
There are also crowdfunding companies out there that attempt to specialize in bringing backers to your projects. ZNB has not used any of these companies, so you certainly don’t NEED them, but if that’s the route you want to go, then let me just say: be careful. Many, MANY of these companies are just scams. Do your research, find out about the company, look at some of the projects they say they’ve helped, contact the people running those projects and ask them how it was working with that company. Basically, make absolutely certain that the company is legitimate. Otherwise you’re wasting your money and your time. (As an aside, as soon as you start your crowdfunding campaign, you are going to be deluged with these companies contacting you—by message, by email, by phone [yes, phone]. Prepare yourself ahead of time.)
In the end, you need to find a way to get the money to make this anthology happen, and again, this is the most difficult and stressful part of the project. If this doesn’t happen, the project is dead in the water. Treat the funding of the anthology seriously, whether it’s getting another publisher to back your project, getting a loan, or using crowdfunding. In a beautiful world, we wouldn’t have to worry about the money, but we just don’t live there.
Let’s now take a breather and say the stress of funding the project is over. You’ve got the money, you’ve got the theme, you may even have some, none, or all of the authors lined up and ready to go. What’s next? Well, this is an anthology, isn’t it? You need STORIES. The next two posts in this series will be about reading that slush pile (if you have one) and then editing those stories once you’ve got them in hand. Stay tuned!
And now a word from our sponsor:
Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (tinyurl.com/ZNBPortals) 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 http://tinyurl.com/ZNBPortals
! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!
"Portals" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios