Last spring, the pitch for the anthology More than Marriage was delivered to the Ooligan staff and voted into development. Since then, the team has been working on submission collection and getting the nuts and bolts of prepublication completed. Kate, the project manager for the anthology, has been keeping a record of the weekly goings-on for the book on the Start to Finish page. But what exactly goes into creating an anthology?
I come from a literary magazine background, where we create a theme for each issue out of the best submissions of the current reading period. As a student, my experience with anthologies is also made up of various classes that require these collections of articles for reading and assignments, but the process by which the item itself is created is never addressed.
Anthologies are not like novels. They do not start with a fully developed manuscript or a completely thought out table of contents. And, unlike their literary magazine cousin, they do not create a theme after the submissions are rolling in. Instead, an anthology starts with an idea, a tiny thought that gets shaped and developed through discussion and time. More than Marriage was thought up by the current project manager, Kate, and over the course of a term and a half, fleshed out into a full pitch that was presented and accepted by the Ooligan staff.
The pitch included the working title, the marketing plan, the desired editor—Carter Sickels—who would be responsible for the final acceptance of any submissions, and some background information of the current market. After the pitch was delivered and accepted, it was time to start building the manuscript. To do this, the call for submissions had to go out, but it’s more difficult that just posting a Facebook status saying, “Send us your stories!” We needed to target a specific type of story and a specific type of writer that would gain us the submissions we wanted. There were several drafts of the call in which the language was fine tuned again and again until it was posted on the Ooligan site.
And then the waiting began. We waited and waited while the submissions trickled in, and as we scanned them we began to see that the original pitch for the project had to change. That is one of the more difficult things about creating an anthology comprised of several voices. You can never guarantee that you are going to get exactly what you want. You can cross your fingers and hope, but in the end you have to be flexible with your plan.
The other issue that you have to be constantly aware of is the tone you are creating. Having many voices contributing to one unified sound, like a choir singing Mozart, means that some excellent submissions will, unfortunately, have to be placed in the rejection pile. As the deadline for submissions drew closer, it became obvious that we needed more time and the date was pushed back. In the end, we received about 30 essays from about 27 authors. Currently, we are still in the process of developing our full manuscript.
Once we have the full manuscript in place, we will begin to develop a more targeted marketing plan. In a similar way that the call for submissions had to be specific enough to get the types of stories we wanted, the way we promote the finished anthology has to be able to reach the desired audience. This subject is still relatively new to Ooligan and we want More than Marriage to be more than a textbook assigned by a professor. We want everyone to pick up the anthology and see a complete story—much like you would get from a novel—just told from several voices.
Keep following the More than Marriage Start to Finish page to see where we are in the process.