Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Anthologies


Paul Beech, commenting on the publication of Original Sins, suggested that I write a blog post about the art of putting together an anthology. It is an art, not a science, that is for sure. I know of no guidelines, though I’ve invented a few for myself over the years.

I’ve decided to do a two-part post, starting with a brief account of my own work as an anthologist. I got started after suggesting to fellow members of the CWA’s Northern Chapter that we put together a book of our stories. They were enthusiastic – provided I found a publisher and did the putting together. I remember a planning meeting at the Whitley Bay home of Ann and Tim Cleeves, with Robert Barnard, Val McDermid and Chaz Brenchley, as we kicked around ideas. The result was Northern Blood, a book that was very well received, and I was proud to be associated with it.

Over the years, two more Northern Blood books followed, and I was even asked to help the East Anglian Chapter with a book. In the mid 90s, the CWA committee asked me to take over editorship of the national anthology. My predecessors since the 1950s had been distinguished, but invariably encountered the problem that publishers tend to be less than enthusiastic about anthologies from a commercial perspective.

I found a publisher – Severn House, with whom I’ve just become reunited – and Perfectly Criminal was the first of three books they produced. We’ve been involved with several publishers over the years, but the aim is always the same – to produce a great book that showcases the talents of CWA members, famous and not so famous alike.

More soon on how I go about the editorial task.

6 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks for this background! Very interesting! I honestly haven't taken the risk of planning an anthology, but at some point, I think it would be a fascinating and fun thing to do. Thanks for the words of wisdom...

Paul Beech said...

Thanks for this, Martin. Fascinating stuff. I regard ‘Perfectly Criminal’ as a model of the anthologist’s art.

It’s an interesting point you make about the commercial viability of anthologies. Kate Ellis, whom I met for the first time yesterday afternoon at her gig at Cheadle Library, made the same point when I asked whether there was any chance of her bringing out a collection of her short stories. She’d said how she loved writing them between novels, with the freedom to experiment a little. I know they’ve been anthologised but it would be nice to see them collected in one place.

It was a brilliant event, by the way. Kate was terrific and even showed us one of the bubble diagrams she uses as a plotting tool with all the character names written on the back! Her short story ‘The Feather’ is one I’m looking forward to reading in ‘Original Sins’ and her latest Wesley Peterson, ‘The Flesh Taylor’ – an inscribed copy of which now sits proudly on my shelf – will, I’ve no doubt, provide my ideal Christmas reading.

Returning to the commercial viability of anthologies, there seems to me to be something of a chicken and egg conundrum here – how to secure a publishing contract for an anthology that exists as a proposal only, because contributions cannot be invited without a commitment to publish? Also, whilst the showcasing of talents will boost the sale of novels by contributing authors, many of these will be with competing publishers, of course, so there might not be too much of an inducement there! Hummm…

I eagerly await your Anthology post, Part 2!

Regards, Paul

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, do have a go! I'm sure you'd do a great job. And that you'd enjoy it.

Martin Edwards said...

Paul, you are spot on - it is tricky!
Glad you enjoyed Kate's event. She is a great person as well as a super writer.

Toyin O. said...

Thanks for sharing.

aguja said...

Looking forward to reading this two part venture, Martin.