How does one get from A to XYZ without losing one’s mind?
Simple. Forego the mind altogether.
Actually, that advice doesn’t even begin to explain how putting together an anthology might actually work, so let’s start from the top.
My name is Rachael Ritchey. I’m an indie author who publishes my own work through RR Publishing. I know. Terribly clever name for my publishing business!
I not only publish my own works through my business, I also offer services to other indie authors for cover and interior design.
Someday I’d like to be a small publishing house that has something to offer besides my meager assistance with design work.
How does this relate to the making of an anthology? The short answer is it doesn’t. The long answer is more nuanced, I think.
I have been designing book covers for a few years now, and I regularly design premade covers for sale (but often times it’s an exercise to increase my skill). But every once in a while, I’ll make one that screams “USE ME.” And one such design had a mind of its own. It said, “Wouldn’t I make a lovely writing prompt image? You could invite writers to a competition where I, your beautiful book cover design, could be the focal point of inspiration. Isn’t that a wonderful idea?”
And who am I to ignore the voice inspiration?
I put feelers out on my blog to test for interest and heard back from enough people I thought it would be worth it to pursue the contest further.
Two things I knew: I wanted this to be fun and I wanted it to ultimately support a worthy cause. So, when considering prizes and the anthology that would arise from the contest entries, I had to make it clear that my services and copies of the book would be the only prizes, since the book’s profits would be donated to a non-profit organization: Compassion International.
This also meant the contest would be free to enter. I felt it only fair that since I was asking people to trust me with their stories for this non-profit endeavor that they be able to do so without risk or personal cost. In life I’ve learned it’s better to give than to receive, and this contest and anthology are designed to give and give some more.
Of course, any time I start something new there is a slew of information to learn. I did my best to research how to host a real contest with all the special rules and found out what a can of worms it is. Still … it wasn’t insurmountable.
I searched out two amazing, talented authors willing to be 2nd round judges for the top ten stories. Morgan Wylie and Claire M. Banschbach are talented speculative fiction writers, and I was thrilled when they both agreed to judge!
I couldn’t move forward without also figuring out standards of judging criteria, so I studied that topic and came up with a form highlighting what I felt would be important details to watch for throughout each story; it was my standardized evaluation to help keep things clear and fair.
After putting all the important rules and information into some semblance of order, I announced the upcoming writing competition. Many kind blogging friends shared about the Adventure Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Story Contest (ASF Short Story Contest) which opened for stories the day after my birthday in February of 2018!
The contest asked that writers provide a maximum 5,000-word short story with content appropriate even for young teens (like a PG-13 movie at most) and tweens that hopefully gained some inspiration from The Crux image.
Participants were each assigned a number for their story (no author names were allowed on the stories). I then set the stories aside in a folder until all entries had been received. It was incredibly important to me that the stories stay anonymous to remove any possible bias.
I was thrilled by the entries and the new authors I was going to have a chance to meet through the process!
The contest entry period ended March 16th, 2018, and so began the reading! When it came to that point, I have to be honest … I’ve learned that worthwhile critique is essential to improving as a writer. And I try to give worthwhile critique any time I am given the privilege of reading an unpublished work. Each story received notes from me as I read through the first time. And, of course, the judging criteria sheet was right there too! Over the course of this contest and subsequent anthology preparation, I put these authors and their hard work through the ringer, let me tell you.
When I’d gone through and tallied up the points a top ten emerged which had to be announced! That came April 9th, 2018. And I only gave the guest judges one month to read through the top ten stories! But these amazing women, these hard-working authors, did it. They gave of themselves and shared their helpful expertise throughout. It was such a pleasure having Morgan Wylie and Claire M. Banschbach be a part of the process.
And the last of the when for the contest was the announcement of the winners of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places! That honor went to R. J. Rodda, Joy E. Rancatore, and Audrey Driscoll. All three happen to have submitted fantasy stories. They shone bright.
I chose the 15 stories that would be included in the anthology (the top ten plus five more) and planned to add one of my own. Mine, though, did not go through the judging period of the contest because it was mine, and I didn’t want it to get in the way of anyone else’s hard work.
The process of the anthology began slowly. I read through stories and made more notes for editing and revising. And I did not go easy on anyone. Every author who agreed to be included in the anthology heard back from me about their stories.
I wanted the stories to shine, to be something each author could be proud to have published. I wanted to ensure readers would have something worth their time and that would bring them a variety of talented authors to discover.
But as a busy mom, summers inevitably fill up with family time and summer activities, so most of the anthology work was put on hold. As life switched gears to school preparation, so did my mind toward the anthology once again. I made a promise that we’d get it out this fall, and I intended to keep it. That also meant a time-crunch on everyone, to which they all stepped up.
I can’t tell you how proud I am of this group of authors. They’re all ages and from around the world. Everyone has taken my critique with such grace and even excitement at times, that it did my heart good to know they were thrilled about the project; they were ready and willing to do what it took to make this anthology great. I’m so thankful for the attitudes and generosity throughout the process.
After receiving back all the revisions and edits, I was able to garner the assistance of two very talented editors to assist at no charge with the final proofreading of the stories before publication. My dear friend S. Huggins and Joy E. Rancatore (our 2nd place winner) gave of their time and talents to give the book one last go over!
While that proofreading took place, I was able to format the files for publication. This process has been simplified with certain programs, but it still takes time and attention to detail. And that can take hours (or sometimes days) on a project. It required interior design, looking at how headers should appear, page numbers, fonts, chapter heads, additional links, etc. all needed to be just so. And the book cover, especially for print, has extra steps that require attention. In print, you need to know your page count to appropriately size the spine of your book, and different printers have different measurements.
Once all the edits from proofreading were fixed and the interior and cover files looked good, the books needed to be uploaded and set for proofing before preorder. This process goes into more detail, but suffice it to say, the excitement kept building through the entire process!
In the making of an anthology—this anthology—a major reason for all the hard work and effort that has gone into it is to show support for my fellow authors. As far as I’m concerned, nothing says ‘I care’ more than action and time given. It’s easy to say, “Keep writing! You’re doing a good job.” But words alone don’t carry a lot of weight with me, I guess. It’s in the offering of a piece of myself through time and the doing of something that say more than words ever will.
And offering our writing as a way to raise money for a good cause is a big reason for the why behind the anthology. Writers write for all kinds of reasons, but I think a lot of us want our writing to make a difference in the world. Using the profits from the sale of our stories to support Compassion International does do that … maybe even two-fold.
So, what have you learned about the making of an anthology? Is it everything you thought it would be?
If you want to be a part of The Why today, buy the book!
Barnes & Noble:
OR head right on over to Compassion International and make a donation today. You could even become a child sponsor and make bigger changes in that child’s world than they ever dreamed possible!
Thanks for spending time with us today!
Rachael Ritchey is an author and indie publisher of YA fiction. Her series Chronicles of the Twelve Realms has three published titles with more on the way. She also has a beautiful children’s illustrated picture book bedtime story version of The Beauty Thief. She loves supporting fellow writers and connecting with readers! You can find out more about her, her books, and the monthly writing prompt she hosts called Blog Battle at her websites: rachaelritchey.com and blogbattlers.wordpress.com
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