It’s a story that many of our regular readers will be familiar with: way back towards the end of 2008, a group of us – four writers and one illustrator/photographer – bandied about ideas for a new anthology. Frustrated by the lack of opportunity for mainstream writing, we wanted something open to popular fiction. If you look at a lot of the existing journals, you don’t really see stories that might’ve been penned by a popular fiction author, such as Stephen King, JK Rowling, Lee Child, Matthew Reilly, Di Morrissey, and so on.
So that was our goal. We wouldn’t exclude literary fiction, but we ultimately wanted to be open to everything as long as it was an enjoyable read – the sort of read where you wish you could sink right into the story, where you want to keep reading just a bit more, and where you feel regret and loss when you know you’re coming to the end.
The size of the book was meant to resemble the old paperbacks. Nobody else was doing that. All the anthologies were (and are) big. So we’d be novel (no pun intended) that way. As for the name? We bandied lots around, until our director of publishing, Blaise van Hecke, suggested we just call it ‘untitled’. It worked not only out of frustration of trying to find this title (I can’t convey how mindlessly long this search went on), but because it embodied that the anthology could be about anything.
The first issue launched in 2009 – a learning process for us, as we liaised with authors, edited stories, and dealt with printers and distributors and bookshops. There’s a lot of work that goes into any anthology – a lot of work. And it’s continued to be a lot of work throughout, with an issue almost every year – until this last one, which took longer.
Here’s an insight into putting together an anthology:
- Advertising for submissions. We put a submission call out through all forms of media – Writers Centres, Facebook, word of mouth, etc.
- The initial reading of stories. This is an ongoing process, too. You don’t just read twenty stories, pick ten, and away you go. Sometimes, hundreds and hundreds of stories are read. At least two editorial interns read every story. Everybody reads the longlists. An editorial intern also has to log all the stories into a database.
- Content meetings. We meet with interns and discuss stories. Interns often learn here what makes a good story from an examination of prose, a study of character, a dissemination of structure, and an exploration of causality and motivation. Often, we might come to a content meeting with twenty longlisted stories, and pick one.
- Editing. We go back and forth with the author to edit their story and get it to a place that we’re all happy with. Some stories only need an edit or two. Some go through ten or so edits. (As a note, most authors are brilliant through this process.)
- Order determination. A lot of people probably don’t realise this goes on, but we try to work out a balanced order for the stories. For example, we mightn’t want two tragic stories in a row. So it’s important to get this right.
- Layout. The anthology is laid out in InDesign.
- Cover Design. Usually, one of the stories inspires the cover.
- Proofreading and taking in corrections. This is done repeatedly so, hopefully, you don’t find any errors in the pages. (And we don’t want to know if you do!)
- Off to the printer. We wait for the final product.
- Organising the launch. This means organising the space, organising the catering, coordinating who’s going to come and read, finding somebody to launch the issue, working out the order of the launch, and the list goes on.
The launch is a culmination of all the hard work – a lot of it anonymous, much of it unpaid for interns (other than for what they learn) – and becomes a celebration of the achievement, a proclamation that we’ve succeeded.
We’re fortunate enough to have award-winning writer Laurie Steed launch issue of [untitled] on Saturday, 27th August at 3.00pm. If you’d like to join us, please drop us an email, as it helps with catering. Or you can check out our Facebook event here.