For the last five years, I have participated in an anthology of science fiction short stories and poetry created by editor Jude-Marie Green. The writers all used to be part of a science fiction writing critique group in the Los Angeles area. While the critique group has dissolved, Jude-Marie continues to invite us to participate in the anthology. My fellow writers are WOTF award winners, clairon graduates, or people involved in the sciences. I’m honored to be included in the project.
In previous years, Quantum Visions was printed and stapled by hand chapbook style. Each year, the annual would be launched at LosCon in Los Angeles, CA. Many of the attendees look forward to purchasing and having all the authors sign the book at the convention.
I have sold these chapbook issues at various book tables for the last few years. This year, our editor has decided to place the anthology on Amazon, both as an ebook and as a paperback. It looks quite professional and the stories this year are the best we’ve offered to date. At last Quantum Visions is available to all my readers.
This year’s edition features my flash fiction, We Can Rebuild Him, and five of my illustrated scifaiku poems.
Could you, should you, dare you, put together an anthology for your writers’ group?
In this age of Internet and computers, we all know how easy it is to publish online. Just hit “send.” However, putting together an anthology (ebook and/or paper) for your writers’ group may take a bit more effort.
For me, a love of learning led me to take classes from Dean Wesley Smith http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/online-workshops, in how to create a book cover and how to format a book interior. Easy Peasy? Hmmm. Well, there are many You Tubes that teach you how to do formatting and design, so yes, with a little determination and time you can do it.
Although the how to’s is something that almost anyone can do, coming up with material—that’s where having a pool of creative people is vital.
The first anthology I put together was inspired by our local community garden, along with two stories about gardens from writers I knew. I’ve been involved in SF, Fantasy and Horror workshops since the early 90’s, both on-line and in real life and so would read many, many stories a year to give crit. In return I also got my stories reviewed.
Once the idea to put together an anthology came to me, I asked of the writers in my circle if they had any stories about gardens, gardeners or gardening. I pulled together six stories. Not a lot of material, but I was thinking this could be a promotional item. I included excerpts of material from the writers. Six stories transformed into twelve! I’d seen samplers from all sorts of publishing houses.
Besides years of critting, I was an editor for Damnation Press. This rewarding work allowed me to get to know an even larger circle of writers than from my writing groups.
My second anthology was again inspired by events in my life. Cronehood isn’t for the fainthearted. This time I had ten stories to go together. Instead of photoshopping a cover all by myself, I enlisted the work of Dirk Strangely. I have long been a fan of his Tim Burtonesque style, and I figured why not splurge and send some money his way? I’ve used his artwork for four of my covers.
We all know that a cover can make or break a book. Of course, what’s between the covers matters a great deal, but it’s the cover that lures the reader in to crack open the book or read an on-line sample.
Wonderful cover art, great stories, a formatter, and an editor. That’s it. For ebooks, Smashwords is extremely user friendly. Createspace’s customer service is great (though I always fight with them about the spine—that’s for another blog).
I haven’t mentioned publicity, maybe because that’s my least favorite bit. Word of mouth, blog hops, reviews, all of this needs to be done both leading up to release and after publication. Since this is being done not to get rich, but to promote your writing group, that you really need to have group support in getting the word out that your anthology is a must-read among a sea of other self-published works.
Another thing needed is a theme. Most anthologies have one. So far the Hell’s series has focused on gardens, crones, pets, and music. All the stories are more dark fantasy and humor than horror and can appeal to a wide audience.
Recently I was fortunate enough to be co-editor of our local Horror Writers Association’s anthology, New York State of Fright. It’s at its publisher right now and should be out in 2018. I’m very excited to see that work of so many writers who I have known for years and greatly respect. The theme is centered on New York and it is a varied and exciting read!
I hope that this has gotten you thinking about your own writers’ group. Great stories and cover art are the biggest factors. If you have that, then you should consider this as a great project for the new year!
April Grey’s short stories are collected in The Fairy Cake Bakeshop and in I’ll Love You Forever. She is also the author of two urban fantasy novels: Chasing the Trickster and its sequel, St. Nick’s Favor.
She edited the anthologies: Hell’s Bells: Wicked Tunes, Mad Musicians and Cursed Instruments; Hell’s Garden: Mad, Bad and Ghostly Gardeners, Hell’s Grannies: Kickass Tales of the Crone and last year’s, Hell’s Kitties and Other Beastly Beasts.
She and her family live in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC in a building next to a bedeviled garden. Gremlins, sprites or pixies, something mischievous, lurks therein. Someday she’ll find out. Please visit www.aprilgrey.blogspot for her latest news. Follow her on Twitter and FaceBook
It is with great pleasure that I announce that five of my poems and illustrations have been published in the magazine “Quantum Visions 5” edited by Jude-Marie Green. It is a chapbook featuring science fiction stories of the Orange County Science Fiction Club’s Writer’s Orbit. I am the only poet in the edition. This magazine used to be print only, but this year Ms. Green is offering online versions. You can purchase an online chapbook at the following link:
Next month, the first issue of Nonlocal Science Fiction, a quarterly short fiction anthology, will launch. Publisher Daniel J. Dombrowski has been working on the project since last summer, and finalizing the last piece of the puzzle for Issue #1 is a Kickstart campaign currently underway. I’ve asked Daniel to come to No Wasted Ink and tell us a little about what goes on during a kickstarter to fund a magazine.
During the first half of 2014, I was floundering. I had been working on starting a topical editorial magazine with a nonprofit in Pittsburgh, PA for about four months. Long story short, the whole thing fell apart because my partner, who had come up with the idea and recruited me in the first place, had failed to find any funding while I had managed to assemble about 70% of the first issue without spending a penny.
I walked away from that project with one thing: knowledge. I would never again throw myself at a project without fully knowing what I was getting into.
It has been a long and winding road since that miserable day when I was forced to shelve a project on which I’d spent hundreds of hours. I’ve detailed that journey on my blog and elsewhere, but the point for today is that I didn’t let my initial failures stop me. The only way to truly fail is to stop trying. And that isn’t just some stale platitude. It’s the nature of working with startups.
Doing things my way
I knew that if I was going to be successful, I’d have to take full possession of a project. Maybe that sounds controlling or egotistical, but it’s harder than you’d think to find a reliable partner. If you don’t have a history with someone or they don’t have past experience on similar projects, you probably don’t want to jump into a long-term project with them.
I thought about what I wanted to do, what I thought I could do. I toyed with a few different ideas before settling on Nonlocal Science Fiction as an initial project of a new digital publishing company, 33rd Street Digital Press, a decision that seemed fairly safe at the time as I knew the genre and I’d been working as a freelance editor for a large self-publisher for six months by that time.
The important bit here is that I didn’t try to identify a project that I thought would be instantly popular. I didn’t try to adopt someone else’s idea as my own to try to duplicate success. I came up with an idea that I liked, and I ran with it.
Success by any means necessary
Every person who starts something new hits the same wall eventually. It happens when you realize that no one else (or at least not that many) has ever really done what you’re trying to do. There’s no manual, no how-to book, no helpful blog post. There’s just you, and you have to be able to improvise while acting like you know exactly what you are doing. I had a boss as a crumby sales job years ago who used to say it as, “You’ve gotta’ fake it ‘til you make it.”
So I threw up a website and posted a call for submissions anywhere and everywhere. My biggest success was with Craigslist, where I had a daily ritual of canvassing half a dozen “Writing Gig” pages across the country. The submissions were a trickle at first. Then they picked up speed. My best month was November when I averaged more than one submission per day.
And some of it was good. Really good. At that point, I began to think that my plan might actually work.
Crossing the finish line?
All told, I received close to 60 submissions before I filled the slate for Issue #1. Once the stories were collected, I moved onto the hard bit, the stumbling block I’d hit once before: funding.
It remains to be seen whether or not the Kickstarter will go anywhere. Perhaps by the time this article is published, the outcome will be a bit easier to predict. Online crowdfunding is a marvelous modern invention that has helped many thousands of projects get off of the ground, but you can’t just expect a project to take off on its own. Nothing worth having is ever gifted to you. You have to go out and earn it. (Another platitude, I know. But it’s true.)
Daniel J. Dombrowski is a writer, editor, and upstart indie publisher. He studied anthropology at Penn State, graduating with an MA in 2009 and for some reason believing that “Indiana Jones” was a valid career path. He got married to his high school sweetheart, moved to Pittsburgh, and decided he would be a writer while stocking shelves at a Petsmart at 5:00 A.M. to pay the bills while his wife finished grad school.
He has written for startup magazines and entertainment websites, edited thousands of pages of raw manuscripts from self-publishing authors, and worn out three keyboards in five years. He is a halfway decent blogger, recently a podcaster, and a student of Guerrilla Marketing. His long-term goal is to impact digital publishing in some meaningful way and to help indie authors thrive.