Tag Archives: Nikki Baird

So You Want to Publish An Anthology? Read On…

By Nikki Baird, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Anthology Chair

nikkibairdAnthologies have experienced something of a renaissance, thanks to the indie publishing market. Lots of writers have short stories that they’ve written over the years, and in a lot of cases, the publishing rights to those stories revert back to authors fairly quickly, so there aren’t a lot of legal reasons that get in the way of republishing.

Plus anthologies can be great marketing tools. They can help promote a collection of authors by making the workload something you can share, and they can provide a way for readers to try a lot of new authors for a low entry price. For single-author anthologies, they can also serve as a “try before you buy”. Anthologies are also great books to give away for free when promoting a new novel, especially when they are stories you’ve already written.

So what goes into making an anthology? Well, a lot, trust me. But I’ll give you three big ones, with a primary focus on multi-author anthologies, since that’s where my experience lies.

A Theme. An anthology needs something to hold it together. For single-author anthologies, the theme is simple – it’s the author! However, even then, you might want to think about selecting a collection of short stories that relate to each other.

When you come up with a theme, probably the biggest challenge is to make sure that it is rich in possibility. The core conflict or tension needs to be easy to grasp and yet also deep and/or broad. Also, the theme should relate to your group. Sometimes this means genre – for example, you wouldn’t really want to throw a blood-and-guts zombie story in with a bunch of regency romance. But if you’re looking at a collection that crosses genres, then a core subject or theme becomes particularly important in helping readers understand what to expect from the book.

For the RMFW anthology, particularly because we chose open submissions, we put theme front and center: Colfax Avenue. We could’ve chosen Sunset Boulevard, or Madison Avenue, or some other historic/infamous street in America, but as we are the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, keeping the location close to home seemed important. Plus I was dealing with a precedent set by previous RMFW anthologies. Dry Spell and Tales of Mistwillow were both based on themes important to the Rocky Mountain region – water, and life in a (made-up) mountain town. RMFW’s third anthology deviated from this theme (Broken Links, Mended Lives), and we may stray from a Rocky Mountain angle again in the future, but this year the Colfax idea quickly took hold and became a slam-dunk.

 A Submission Process. If you’re soliciting submissions, you need a well-defined submission process. We had to navigate several choices. Do you want to invite specific authors to contribute? Famous authors, when you can get them, can help sell the book. But their time is very precious, especially writing time. If you’re looking to hook a famous author, it helps to either have an existing relationship or to have a cause that they support as a beneficiary for anthology proceeds.

For Crossing Colfax, we opted to not pursue specific authors. One, people like Carol Berg, Mario Acevedo, and Jeanne Stein have already been very generous in the past. Two, we specifically opted to open submissions only to RMFW members in order to feature and promote the writing talent within RMFW. So it didn’t seem quite right to hold spaces in the anthology for select authors when what we really wanted were good stories no matter who they came from within our community. In the end, we had about the right mix: 3 stories from established authors (Linda Berry, Warren Hammond, and Thea Hutcheson) and 12 from newbies.

We held open submissions with only the membership requirement. We also had a blind reader panel, rather than a committee. There were a couple of reasons for that. One, not everyone was co-located, so trying to have meetings was going to be difficult. Two, and this one’s all on me, I liked the idea of getting basically as much reader input as I could. A small selection committee can fall into group-think mode, where everyone ends up reinforcing each others’ opinions, and radical new ideas get lost. With blind readers, this was in some ways like stopping people on the street who like to read and asking their opinions. Stories that I didn’t particularly like at first came back with thumbs up from readers, and stories that I loved didn’t do nearly as well as I thought they would. In the end, we ended up with a collection that I think is the better for it – with a wider appeal, and a more varied set of stories than we otherwise might have.

A Contract. This one’s always the fun part. The last RMFW anthology was published in 2009. That contract included no provisions for e-pub. In fact, that is why you don’t see any past RMFW anthologies in e-pub format in the market today, because we only have print rights to those books. Someday I’d love to go back and get the e-rights to bring the past anthologies online, but that is work for another day. Since we are writers helping writers, it seemed silly to have the kind of contract that makes agents wince, so we tried to be very open and fair. We asked for exclusive rights for one year, and perpetual rights to the story as long as it was published in the anthology. Outside of the anthology itself, RMFW has no rights. So after the year is up, the authors are welcome to publish their stories in other anthologies or stand-alone or however they choose. I will say, though, that we had our contract reviewed by Susan Spann, who volunteered her considerable legal services. And I would not recommend skipping that step!

Is it all worth it? From an editor perspective, you bet. It’s hard work, and multiplied because you’re working with multiple authors, but I get a smile on my face every time I see the Crossing Colfax cover. I’m so proud of the variety, the freshness, and the imagination that sits within those pages. Over the next year, I hope I’ll also be able to say that it was a valuable experience for our authors too – because, while a lot of the work is over, a lot more work has only begun!

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Originally published at Patricia Stoltey blog September 18, 2014

You can find out more about Nikki by reading the RMFW Spotlight post from the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Blog.

Crossing Colfax is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

RMFW Spotlight on Nikki Baird, Anthology Chair

Our second spotlight of the month features Nikki Baird who is serving as anthology chair. Nikki was happy to join in the fun because she wants to see a large number of RMFW members at her workshop tomorrow and is hoping for lots of great member story submissions for Crossing Colfax, the first RMFW anthology since 2009.

The workshop is called Short Story Breakdown: Prepping for Anthology 2014
Saturday, January 25
1:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M.
Bel Mar Public Library
555 S. Allison Parkway
Lakewood, CO 80226
Members Only

The deadline for submitting to the anthology is March 14th. For more information and the submission form, go to the anthology page on the RMFW website.

nikkibaird1. Nikki, tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I am the anthology chair, which means that I shepherd the production of RMFW’s short story anthology. The organization has produced 3 collections so far, and this will be our fourth – and my first in this role. But it will also be the first anthology produced in this wild west of self-publishing, which is very exciting.

It’s been awhile since RMFW has produced an anthology, and I’ve increasingly realized the importance of short stories both in advancing a writing career as well as advancing craft. So I became passionate enough (or just plain crazy enough) to decide that a) this is something that RMFW should do again and b) I will volunteer to lead it. So here I am!

2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available?

I’m actually in the process of putting out my own short story collection, as a way to dip my toes in the water of self-publishing. The collection is called Uncanny, and I hesitate to give a publication date because every time I do that, life gets in the way big time. But I’m in the process of designing covers right now, so it should be available “very soon.”

3. We’ve all heard of bucket lists — you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish– what’s one of yours?

To go to St. Petersburg, Russia and experience a white Russian night. I was a dual-major in college, and Russian was the second major (which is a really long story all on its own), but I never got to spend a semester there because that happened to be right as the Soviet Union fell apart and it became very inadvisable to travel there. Would’ve definitely helped my language skills. But St. Petersburg is a city with a fascinating history, built by one of the most enigmatic leaders of Russia, and it is absolutely on my list of things to see in my lifetime.

4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what’s yours?

Saying the same thing twice. Granted, I say it differently each time, and I usually like both ways – which is why I end up leaving it in on the first pass. I’ve had to learn to give myself some time to let the love fade, and then I can go back and ruthlessly delete all my over-writing. Either that, or my wonderful critique partners will not hesitate to point out the repeats.

5. What do you love most about the writing life?

When my story surprises me. I think I will never know if the connections that suddenly emerge out of nowhere were actually planned long ago deep in my sub-conscious, or if I really did only just see the opportunity, but I love that little jolt of “Of course that’s what should happen next! How did I not see that before?”

6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?

Get over the whole grammar over-reaction (you know, the mind-numbing high school lectures on sentence structure followed by the verbal beatings and grades when it was clear I absorbed nothing). The vocabulary of grammar can be confusing and challenging, but every craftsperson should know the tools of their trade, and grammar is the tool of the writing trade. I resisting learning the language of my chosen profession for too long, and I would say it prevented me from quickly learning the “why” behind a lot of the rules out there. It, to be repetitive, slowed me down.

7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it?

You really want to see this? Just remember, you asked!

The first thing you should know is that, yes, I have a treadmill desk. I just found out that I walked 1,722 miles in 2013, which also wasn’t a full year of walking because I didn’t set it up until February. I will confess that most of my heavy writing is not done on the treadmill – it’s hard to walk, think, and type all at once and I’m always worried I’ll mess at least one of them up if I try all three. So the treadmill is only running a couple hours a day, not all day, and usually when I’m thinking or checking email, not when I’m writing.

Baird Desk1.jpgThe very colorful picture leaning against the wall is a wax art piece created by my son, and the larger black & white drawing is one my husband made in high school.

Baird_Desk 2A.jpgThe second thing to know is that the image above is missing its usual occupant, which is the family cat, Katara (named after the Water Tribe girl from the Avatar cartoon series). Next to her is the one thing I always have on my desk, which is a picture of my husband sticking his tongue out at the camera (in the heart frame). It is a reminder not to take myself too seriously.

8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?

I am reading The Atlantis Gene, by A.G. Riddle. I’ve recently bought or downloaded a bunch of different fantasy/scifi/horror e-books on Amazon at different price points to see what the quality of each price point is. This one is pretty good – I will definitely finish it.

Exciting Events Ahead from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers

Attend the 2nd Annual RMFW Writers Retreat

With Special Guest, Agent Kate Schafer Testerman
Organized by Angie Hodapp
March 16-21, 2014
Table Mountain Inn,
Golden, CO
REGISTRATION CLOSES FEBRUARY 15TH

The 2013 writers retreat was a smashing success! It’s back in March of 2014 and will become an annual spring event. How much does it cost to attend the retreat? We are pleased to introduce flexible registration options. Attend for two days (minimum), three days, or all four days, and pay only for the days you attend. How do I register? Go to the RETREAT EVENT PAGE for more information and the link to register.

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Attend an Online Class

Heroes, Henchmen, and Sidekicks:
The Characters-First Approach to Plot
Presented by Angie Hodapp
2 Week Course
Start Date: Monday January 6
End Date: Sunday, January 19
$25 Members – $30 Non-Members
MORE INFO

Editing and Revision
for Fiction Writers
Presented by Cindi Myers
3 Week Course
Start Date: Monday February 3
End Date: Sunday, February 23
$35 Members – $40 Non-Members
MORE INFO

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Attend a Free Program in January

Denver
Short Story Breakdown:
Prepping for Anthology 2014 Crossing Colfax
Presented by Nikki Baird
Saturday, January 25
1:00 P.M. – 3:00 P.M.
Bel Mar Public Library
555 S. Allison Parkway
Lakewood, CO 80226
MEMBERS ONLY
MORE INFO

Western Slope
Writing the First Pages of Your Novel
Presented by Shannon Baker
Saturday, January 11
8:45 A.M. – 1:00 P.M.
Grand Junction Business Incubator
2591 Legacy Way
Grand Junction, CO
Please RSVP to Vicki Law at vruchhoeft@gmail.com
MORE INFO

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New events and other announcements are available on the Home Page of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers website.