Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Notes from an Anthology Editor

I started One in the Hole in 2012, receiving the C3 Storytelling Grant to cover the costs. By June this year, I will have fulfilled my deal with myself to make at least five issues of the thing before deciding what to do with it. Which is—DA DA DA!—To end it.

Of course, I’ve finally gotten the hang of it, and time management with my numerous self-imposed deadlines in general. I have started the formatting process with plenty of time. I am so ahead of the game this May, I don’t know what to do with myself.

Yet, I spent this week, instead of copy editing and fixing margins, doing pain in the ass, trivial style corrections. One of the things I didn’t look at while proofreading, however, was the fact that several of my submitters formatted their stories… strangely.

I don’t know why this hasn’t come up before. Was everyone just more precise in earlier years? Did I just not notice as much? Maybe I was more patient in my youth, or my previous depression wiped away the memories of my grievances.

I spent the day deleting excess hard enters and inserting indents. Not only that, but one gentleman used three spaces WITH a hard enter AND did so in the middle of paragraphs as well. This wasn’t noticeable until I found and replaced the triple spaces and came across huge holes inside the text. I would prefer to fix actual plot holes, in truth.

For anyone who is interested in being an author, I actually recommend becoming a literary editor yourself. I offer up complimentary copies for the authors and buy some stock, but many people successfully run ebooks completely for free. Some may say, “Isn’t that kind of scammy?” Well, yes, actually. It can be. A huge form of scam is to accept everyone into an anthology and then have them pay for your overpriced book. But with the way that publishing is going these days, it starts to become less about focusing on certain standards and more about being clear what you’re looking for. As in, if a journal isn’t asking for copyrights, and if they’re not charging 40 bucks a copy, there are certain benefits to submitting to low-reader journals. Mostly, the fun of it, the learning experience, and a small sense of community. I started the anthology specifically to give local authors a place to put their work and see their name in print. I did it for the enjoyment, and even though I respect anyone who doesn’t believe in writing for free, I still think it’s a good idea for writers to take a moment and try being an editor or contest judge.

You learn a lot about what it’s like to be on the other side and it becomes clear really quickly why some people are so anal about their submission procedures. You can learn how impersonal or silly some rejection is. You start to know how to work with people—and how not to work with people. (Over the years, whether it be my author interviews or the lit journal, I’ve had quite a few people erroneously insult me while asking me for favors, for instance.) But, right now, my main consideration is how what I thought was previously petty irritations, things that prematurely dismissed as naivety, actually are frustrating and problematic.

The quickest way to get ahead in a job is to figure out how to make your boss’s life easier. Sometimes it’s merely just about asking if you can help them, noting they’re stressed, or saying, “How are you doing today?” Acting like you give a shit is powerful.

It doesn’t bother me that some of my submitters didn’t know how to go about sending me their work. (I had one who didn’t put her name on the email in one single place.) Sure, I’m not going to say that I’m not influenced by a person’s understanding of submission guidelines—you have been doing this for a while, there are certain mistakes you don’t make—but it’s never been like a, “You used an adverb?! Begone!”

Maybe it would be different if I had a higher number of submissions to get through, admittedly.

But if I had noticed the hard entered paragraphs when I first accepted the submissions, if I had realized how time consuming it would be just to format it earlier, I would have sent it back and requested the author do it himself.

Oh well. You learn.

Once I was on a writing forum and a person asked if, while using a typewriter, was it acceptable to hyphenate words at the end of a margin. As in, you got to the end of your line and realized “homogenized” wasn’t all going to fit.


The question was odd because, well, submitting a manuscript on a typewriter was the bigger concern. Most agents and publishers want electronic in the first place, but at the end of the day, you’ll have to type it up on the computer eventually. The writer insisted that they had means to easily get it into a document, but if that was the case, why did it matter what the standards of protocol were? You’re not going to be submitting it in that form anyway.

Truth was, I’m not sure the person had thought that far ahead. A lot of the time, writing forums are just a means to connect with other writers, talk about what you’re doing with someone who might care. Which is great. It just also makes for strange questions like that.

When questioning the best way to do something, it’s useful if you ask, “What would I want as an editor?”

The point of these journals were to connect with other writers, which I am excited to say was successful. The project was stressful, but fun, and, more to the point, I realized that I got a lot more out of it than just to see if I could do it.

If you are considering starting your own literary journal and have any questions about how to do so, don't hesitate to send me an email at info.daveler@gmail.com.

One in the Hole, the fifth and final issue, will be coming out June 1st, 2017.

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