Anthology editing: choices and the mental mixtape

choice, erotica, anthology

weird kink, strange fetishThe call having closed for Rule 34 Vol 2, I’ve spent most of this week going through the submitted stories and picking out which ones to include. This is always a fun job, and even more so when it’s an anthology that will be dedicated to the distinctly weird and wholly unconventional. The first Rule 34 contained stories about dentistry, photocopiers, life-size skeletons and tripe, and there were some equally startling and entertaining concepts in some of the stories that didn’t make the cut. This time round, I was wondering what else authors might have come up with, and was glad to find that there are still very few limitations on the sort of thing people find erotic enough either to incorporate in their sexual activities or at least envisage a way it might be done – and then write me a story about it.

This time, stories came in via Sexy Little Pages‘ anonymised submission method, which meant an added layer of fun for me in guessing the authorship of some stories (I got a few right, as well!).

So I did the usual thing of reading everything through and making myself a list, marking each one as Yes, No or Maybe. While I can’t claim to know exactly how other anthology compilers and editors make their decisions, here’s some of the things that make it easy to place a story in the No pile.

Not having read the brief.

If you send in something that’s much too long, much too short, or completely irrelevant to the theme of the anthology, it’s not going to be accepted. If the call anthology, choice, editingrequested only M/M, or only F/F, and you submit something featuring a heterosexual couple, then the editor doesn’t want it, because that’s not what the editor asked for. Very occasionally, something comes in for anthology a) that I/we know is a better fit for a forthcoming one that we haven’t put the call out for as yet: if that happens, the author is usually given the option of leaving it with us till the relevant call goes live.

Not having edited your work properly, or not having edited it at all.

This isn’t about demanding people pay a copy editor to polish a piece: paying for a good edit is something you should try to do if you plan to self-publish, but that’s another topic. If something comes in that is crawling with typos, incorrect punctuation, missing words or homophones, that’s going to be a lot of work for the person editing the anthology and, mostly, unless the story is spectactularly hot, it’s going to be put aside in favour of something that’s been checked over, at least. Use your spellchecker; read it aloud to yourself; give it a few days between completing it and having a final readthrough before you send it in.

Insensitivity or major inaccuracies

Crude, unnecessary stereotyping or stuff which comes across as contemptuous towards people from a specific culture isn’t going to go down well. And, while we appreciate that fiction is fiction, if you make honking great factual errors such as having a character view Internet porn in a story set in the early 1970s, then it Won’t Do.

choice, erotica, anthologyGoing from the Maybe list to the Yes list is a bit more vague and nebulous, because one of the factors is what other stories have been chosen. Sometimes, two authors will, quite independently, have a similar idea. The stories they send might be sufficiently distinct for both to be usable without boring a reader but, if they are similar in pace, tone and plot points then only one will be accepted. It might be the case that the selections already made have set a particular ‘feel’ to the anthology, and the editor might consider whether having your story, which is the only HEA one, or the only paranormal one, or the only menage one, will strike a jarring note – or serve as a palate cleanser if it goes somewhere in the middle.

Because once the selection has been made, the running order needs to be done. Now That’s What I Call A Mixtape…


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