If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.


Check out our February author interviews: 2/7-debut author Keenan Powell (Alaskan lawyer), 2/14-Leslie Wheeler (Rattlesnake Hill), 2/21-bestselling author Krista Davis, who unveils a new series, 2/28-Diane Vallere answers my questions about Pajama Frame. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


Our February Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 2/3-Saralyn Richard, 2/10-Kathryn Lane. WWK's Margaret H. Hamilton will blog on 2/17, and Kait Carson on 2/24.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.


In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Editing a Themed Anthology


Jay Hartman of Untreed Reads returns to give us a little more information on the process of coordinating and editing an anthology.



Back in 2010 I had the idea of putting together an anthology of humorous mystery and crime stories based around Thanksgiving and popular Thanksgiving dishes. I never would have dreamed that seven years later we’d be releasing the fifth volume in the series and that people all over the world would, even in countries that don’t celebrate our US version of Thanksgiving, be so excited for the books to come out. I still remember when a television station in the northeast declared one of the volumes to be a “must-read” for the holiday season.



Although those accolades are great, putting together an anthology is an insane amount of work and is more time-consuming than any other project we create in the course of a year. In fact, from the time we start accepting submissions to the final product coming to market sometimes over six months may have passed. In the case of our latest volume (The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fifth Course of Chaos) the process was nearly nine months.



Everything usually starts with me trying to come up with a title. Once you start numbering a series you realize you have to be original with each release. The late Sue Grafton had it pretty easy using letters of the alphabet. I’m already having to figure out what “six” is going to be.



Once the title is decided, I put out a call for submissions. This initially goes to all of the agents I work with, current Untreed Reads authors and the Short Fiction Mystery Society newsgroup. Then, I typically add a Duotrope listing to get more submissions and follow it up with postings in appropriate Facebook groups. Evidently I’m a glutton for punishment, because these days I’ll receive around 150+ submissions with room in the final volume for no more than 14 stories (plus my sister Lisa’s vegan recipes).



I don’t actually start reading submissions until the window for submitting is closed. A lot of people think I’m crazy to leave so much work until later, but during the call for the first volume I did a bunch of reading ahead of time and decided on a whole bunch of stories. Then, later, I discovered that there were some terrific last-minute entries and I had to start over. I should also add that I originally had one vision of the flow of the anthology, but it was the submissions that made me decide to take it in another direction.



Some submissions I can decide right away just aren’t going to
make it: it’s a mystery but they forgot the humor, it’s humorous but they forgot the mystery, it’s humorous and a mystery but they forgot the theme. I can’t tell you how many people don’t read submission requirements. My gut usually tells me which titles are the right ones to include, but sometimes it gets ridiculously agonizing. This is especially true when you’re down to your last couple of slots to fill but you have four equally terrific stories to choose from. I have a board where I put the finalists’ stories up and move them around to figure out the order of the book and which ones to include. I have literally woken up in the middle of the night to make adjustments to the board or switch out one story for another. Fifth Course of Chaos was supposed to have 13 stories initially, but I couldn’t sleep two nights in a row because there was a story I wanted to include, and it didn’t make the final cut. Finally, I broke down and expanded to 14 stories and got some sleep.


Contracts come next, and that’s (fortunately) my business partner K. D. Sullivan’s domain and not mine. It’s a long process to get all those contracts out, answer all the questions, get signed copies back, etc. We pay royalties rather than paying a one-time usage fee because we feel that if everyone is invested in the success of the book then everyone will work to promote it. From a royalty standpoint, collecting royalty statements from 20+ retailers (who all have their own format) and splitting up the pie between all the authors is so time-consuming that K. D. has pretty much banned me from doing any anthologies other than Killer, and I honestly can’t blame her.


Finally, it’s time for production which, surprisingly, seems to take the shortest amount of time. K. D. proofreads all the stories and coordinates all the changes with the authors, then formats them into their final version for both ebook and print. During this time we’ve coordinated with Ginny Glass of Wordsugar Designs to get our ebook and print cover templates done. I handle the conversion of the ebook and the uploads of all of our print and ebook files to our retailers and distributors around the world and on every continent (yep, we have readers at a science station on Antarctica but that’s another story…)



The last step is the step that truly never ends for as long as the anthology is available: promotion and marketing. Whether it’s social media, traditional print or some other unique avenue, the promoting never ends. There’s this feeling among authors that if you have a publisher the publisher should be doing all the promoting. It’s absolutely a 50/50 game. Think about it this way: if you see a commercial from Ford telling you how fantastic a new car is, that won’t have as much of an influence on you purchasing it as hearing actual stories from other car owners about their experience. Nobody wants to hear the publisher shill for a book because the reader assumes “he’s out to get a buck.” But the reader WANTS to know the author and what drove them to write and would much rather hear what the author has to say. So it has to be a two-pronged approach. With so many authors in an anthology, that’s far more help we can get for promotion than just a single author.



It’s January, and the holidays are over. But there’s still time to read The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fifth Course of Chaos. As well as the four previous anthologies.



And for me, it’s time to think about the sixth installment of The Killer Wore Cranberry.



                                                Jay Hartman

                                                Editor, Untreed Reads







The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fifth Course of Chaos and the previous anthologies in the series are available at https://www.untreedreads.com/store/ and through the usual sources, including Amazon.

9 comments:

Kait said...

Jay, you are a glutton for punishment!

The Killer Wore Cranberry is an annual must-read event for me during the holiday season. In fact, it's more of a tradition than eating turkey. Never guessed at the time-consuming process of putting it all together. Kudos. And keep up the good work.

Margaret Turkevich said...

looking forward to the next anthology.

Tina said...

Thanks for sharing the process, and congrats on a great anthology!

Warren Bull said...

Jay and K.D. are a joy to work with.

Gloria Alden said...

Very interesting, Jay. I don't think I'd have the time or patience to do this. However, it did get me to thinking maybe my local writers group could come up with an anthology and publish it.

Shari Randall said...

Thank you for the peek behind the curtain. It's a great series!

KM Rockwood said...

Kait--I always suspected there was a lot more to being the editor than I could imagine. Sort of like a kid wondering what in heavens' name the school principal had to do all day.

Margaret--I agree with you! Looking forward to the next one!

Tina--Jay has been generous with his time to share this with us.

KM Rockwood said...

Warren--you're right. I find Jay and KD a pleasure to work with.

Gloria--anthologies are fun!

Shari--it is a great series! I was so pleased to have a story in the last one.

Jay Hartman said...

Kait: Thanks so much for the kind words, and I hope you get a chance to read and enjoy it!

Warren: Awww. As one of the authors that's been with us the longest, I still love reading stuff by you!

Gloria: It's all about the team you surround yourself with. There's no way I'd be able to achieve anything with the anthologies without K. D., Gin the authors and the readers. Putting something together with a writer's group is a GREAT way to leverage everyone's skills to have a successful anthology.

KM: So glad we got to welcome you to the family this year!