Previous Entry Share Next Entry
E-books and other thoughts on publishing & editing
Bella
ellen_datlow
I've just received a royalty check for Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror--this check is mostly for e-book sales for the Kindle: 540 copies to be exact. This has helped the anthology earn out. It gives me hope for the future of e-books and for my continued career as a short story editor/anthologist.

The market's really tough right now and selling anthologies (at least mine) seems harder than ever.  The market has always been tight but for a few years it seemed to open up a bit. Now it's contracted again, more writers are dabbling in anthology editing and publishers want BIG NAME AUTHORS editing anthologies for them (or at least co-editing them) sometimes with the actual editor named as "co-editor" and doing most if not all the heavy lifting. There's nothing inherently wrong with this. It's the perception that readers will see BNA under the title of the book and buy that book because his/her name is on the cover (and possibly but frankly less likely) that they'll buy the book because there is also a story by that BNA in the book). Does this work? I've no idea since I've never co-edited an anthology with a BNA. 

I love editing anthologies and have no intention of stopping--unless the market no longer allows me to. The market is you.  Just like any writer, my books have to sell enough copies to earn out or publishers won't commission another one. There's a constant juggling act of "how much advance must I get in order to pay contributors fairly and continue to pay my rent"? How many low paying anthologies must I edit in order to make a living? (too many, which is why I need a few higher paying ones).

Editing anthologies exclusively is like any freelance gig: feast or famine. When my tax guy asks how much I think I'll be earning this year I have to say "well I know I'm getting a big chunk of money mid-year from such and such" but that might be it. Depends on what I sell and for how much. Which is a roundabout way of saying that I'm really glad these royalties from Tachyon came in when they did --and I'll bet my contributors will be happy as well.

Oh yeah, and if someone offered me a regular job editing a magazine/webzine for a real salary, I'd jump at it. I love editing sf/f/h stories. I hope that never changes.


  • 1
Here's hoping you can continue to do the editing thing!
I really want to get into anthology editing, but as you've pointed out, it's a tough nut to crack in good times, and right now it's tougher than ever. After speaking to editors or representatives of just about every major YA publisher, I now have a much more realistic view of how these things happen, or don't happen. Your work impresses me all the more as a result. :) (Though it does astound me that even you can have trouble selling anthologies. It's like, if Ellen has trouble, what does it mean for the newcomers who aren't BNAs? Aiie!)

On the bright side, I have one ebook anthology coming out through Circlet Press this year, and another print one coming out sometime soon, if I can just get the constellations to line up properly in the right color of "miracles happen...."

Thanks for sharing these thoughts. They're actually quite useful.




Michael,
It's not meant to discourage but I do come across a lot of terrible anthologies which are not edited at all--the worst are often from the micropresses (which even I have never heard of). They're thrown together by people who want to publish their own and their friends' stories, not comprehending that this is not how one edits a "good" anthology and indeed one that sells. (even a bit).

I wish you very good luck with yours. I'm keeping fingers crossed that Wild Justice, published ONLY as an ebook does well for me, the contributors, and the publisher as we didn't get advances.

I love anthologies - the fiction length is perfect for lunchtime escapes! - and I adore yours. Here's to seeing you continue to edit for a long, long time.

Thanks for the well wishes. I certainly believe I can use them. :)

One of the good things about working with Circlet is that, while the subject matter is a bit fringe, they're a good, solid company that knows what they're doing, and things go through editing and proofreading and all the other important jazz. Working with them has taught me a lot about picking good stories, tweaking strategically without being heavy-handed, and so on.

My attempts to put together a YA antho, while still unsuccessful, have taught me a lot in terms of what publishers look for, how things work on the business end, the importance of the right Names, and a hundred other details that will come in handy next time I get a shot at the editor hat. :) Frustration now leads to valuable experience. I can't look at anthologies the same way anymore, especially the sort you mention.

I'll definitely have to check out Wild Justice. It's interesting to see how books do when they skip the print and stay electronic.

Michael, if you ever have any questions you think I can answer, let me know.

Btw, just in case you're not aware, Wild Justice was originally called Lethal Kisses (should you have somehow got a copy of the original UK edition).

I think great editors like you make it look easy to put together an anthology, and bad editors never realize that they didn't do enough. But I know how much work goes into these, and I hope you get to do it for a long time to come, in whatever format brings in the most readers and money. And it would be great if you could take on a magazine or webzine again! I like to think that as long as there are quality anthologies out there, there will always be a market for them.

Ditto what Eugene said. I hope you continue to edit excellent anthologies for a long time to come.

The move to digital I think is ultimately a good one for readers, who are able to search for what they want on a more even footing than having to depend on what a big box store bothered to put onto their shelves. And with so much junk out there, a name like yours, Ellen, on an anthology, is going to mean more to readers looking for something good among the dross than ever before.

I'm amazed and pleased at how my digital royalty checks are growing. On a related note, the baseball & sports publisher I've been editing a magazine for since 2007 just went out of business, so the writers and I have decided to publish digitally in ebook. We'll only have to sell a tenth to a twentieth the number of copies in digital that the print publisher used to sell on the newsstand in order to make the same money per article. So we're taking the chance and collectively self-publishing for Kindle/Nook/iPad! Fingers crossed; wish us luck.

I'll for ebooks and magazines but what I've seen the bothers me is how now just like everyone thinks they can be a writer. Everyone thinks they can be an editor. It's an example of Gresham's law the bad drives out the good.

Good luck --I think it's a great idea and I hope it works for you and the authors.

Hi Ellen,
We have a lot of friends in common - both on LJ and Twitter so I have added you as a friend. I hope that's all right.

Last year, Innsmouth Free Press published 3 of my stories in their 3 anthologies. During the course of the year I got to know Silvia Moreno, the publisher/editor rather well - or as well as can be with 5000 miles separating Vancouver and Estonia. She is putting all her resources, time money, hope and faith in bringing out these books. I have come to have enormous respect for her and for editors like you. I hope 2012 is a good year for anthologies.

Good post, Ellen. I think what's particularly frustrating about this trend for publishers preferring anthologies edited by Big Name Authors to those edited by professional editors is that it feels like our thirty years of experience, awards, etc., has just been chucked out the window.

Anthology editing is a hard-earned skill...but if the marketplace doesn't recognize and value that skill, then we won't be able to keep producing anthologies. Which is a shame, because I love supporting good short fiction through our books, and I love working with you.

Thanks Terri. Exactly.

The encroachment of the the concept that "you must have several huge names"IN the anthology has gotten worse in the past five years--a problematic approach at best (there is a very tiny pool of the the "names" that will supposedly sell an anthology to publisher and even if those writers commit-unless you chain them to their computer and watch over them, there's no guarantee they'll 1) writer a story or 2) write a good story). But now the concept of oh yeah, and one of the editors must be a BNA not an editor has made selling original anthologies even more difficult.


I don't know J J Adams, but talked with him at a Worldcon party (I think Weird Tales party, not sure). I asked questions about the anthology biz. Maybe you already know about this, but he told me that he approached Stephen King and to his amazement got a yes. (I guess the book was The Living Dead, can't remember for sure. Hey it was Denvention! Years ago!) As I understood it, John didn't have an "in" with King before approaching him. On the other hand, he and you are respected anthology editors, which seems like a good "in" with any writer, big or small name.

Jean, he got a reprint from King. That's easy. He did NOT get an original story. It's easy to pack reprint anthologies with big names.

Aha. Sorry. Will henceforth not pipe in here on stuff I know nothing about.

Please feel free to pipe in if you don't mind being corrected (hopefully gently) when necessary :-)

The short story is my favorite form of literature and anthologies such as yours(and Terri Windlings) fill my shelves. It is through your anthologies I discovered so many writers I follow now. Thank you.

I understand the dilemma of the big names. My field is photo research and editing and there is a perception that famous photographers are more effective as editors than those of us that have been honing our skills for 20 plus years.

For myself, the difference is glaring - a well edited, cohesive collection of work, be it imagery short stories create a quality experience that lingers. That is not something that happens accidentally.

Thank you. It's not to say _some_ famous photographers or writers haven't worked as editors and are good ones but to assume they are (or worse, not care) is bad.

I buy anthologies for the theme. I also buy them for the editor, if I like their work (like I tend to buy and read all your anthologies because I have grown to expect a certain level of quality and I know I'll find interesting stuff). I rarely buy them for the 'big names.' I may buy them if a favourite author of mine is there (I buy almost anything by Nick Mamatas, for example, because I like his work) but they don't have to be big names. I like Livia Llewellyn's stuff, for example, and I'd buy your latest antho based on that, not some of the bigger names.

And that's how it should be Silvia. I'd love to get real actual sales figures for how high profile anthologies edited by BNA do compared to those not (of course it would also depend how much, if any, money is spent on marketing).

User owlfish referenced to your post from Picocon saying: [...] . She also introduced a theme ongoing through the day and, thank to reading Ellen Datlow's post [...]

February 20, 2012 Links and Plugs

User charlesatan referenced to your post from February 20, 2012 Links and Plugs saying: [...] n Datlow on E-books and other thoughts on publishing & editing [...]

It's depressing to hear someone with your extensive experience and professionalism has trouble selling anthologies. Hell, if I had the money, I'd start an online supernatural fiction webzine and hire you to edit it. The field needs a strong, regular magazine presence. I'm thinking of the "Twilight Zone' magazine, and its 'Night Cry' digest offshoot. That was in the 80s, though, when horror was(pardon the pun)king.

I will continue to purchase just about any anthology with your name on it. I've yet to be disappointed.

Hang in there, and best of luck!

Thank you, Jeff. I've been saying for several years that I'm an endangered species: a short story editor ;-) but I will continue as long as I can. I love the form in sf/f/h (and crime).

  • 1
?

Log in