Monday, July 1, 2013

The Making of a SFR Anthology

How does a Science Fiction Romance community end up publishing its own anthology of stories?

It all started with a conversation in the fall of 2012 about the visibility of the SFR Brigade Fan Page on the Facebook discussion group and a suggestion that came from JC Cassels:

"People are fans when things are either tangible (products) or they are emotionally invested. That's why I think an anthology to "brand" us and raise brand awareness is key to exciting people about the Fan Page."

This was met with enthusiasm from the membership. A poll was conducted that showed there was enough support from the group to give the project a green light.

Damn the ion cannons, we were going for it!

Assembly: How it all Worked

An editorial team volunteered for the project, including author JC Cassels (who first suggested the idea) as Chief Editor, author Paula Diane Dooley as Developmental Editor, and SFR Brigade founder Laurie A. Green (that would be me) as Editor-At-Large.

A call for submissions went out. During this time, it was my job to track the submissions by title, author, word count and status as they were received. For the sake of fairness, we made a decision to judge each story on its own merits without knowing who the author was, so I would strip out all author ID information and submit the manuscript to the editorial team anonymously under an assigned submission number. As we worked through the process, I also tracked the status of each story.

As the submission deadline approached, we realized we needed to move the date back. The 2012 holidays were creating havoc for those trying to get their submissions in, so with one Mayan end-of-the-world doomsday averted, we extended the deadline another month and received several more submissions (at least two of which were included in the finished product).

Choosing which stories would be accepted was a difficult task. Each and every story had merits and pluses.

Stat-wise, we had:
20 submissions
 7 initial acceptances -- including a story by co-blogger Pippa Jay :)
 5 Rejections (generally due to lack of romantic elements)
 3 Revise and Resubmit requests for this anthology
 5 Rejections with invitations to revise and submit to a future anthology

Of the three Revise and Resubmit requests for this anthology, one chose not to resubmit. That left us with nine stories to go into the editing phase.

Original Cover
Next came a truly fun part -- the author reveal! It was like a little mini-party as stories were matched to writers, with quite a few happy surprises in the process. Only one story had been recognized immediately as the work of a particular author because of the characters; Linnea Sinclair's "Mission: Nam Selan" is a continuation of her much-loved GAMES OF COMMAND novel featuring Captain "Sass" Sebastian and Admiral Branden Kel-Paten. (BIG WOOT! Ya'll know GoC is one of my all-time favorite SFR stories and getting to read the continuing adventure was a real treat. If you're a fan too, you definitely need to grab a copy of the anthology.)

Then came a head-scratching step--developing a contract. Using templates from a variety of sources, we put together the best possible contract for a free anthology to be published by an online writers' community. We sought out some professional help on the initial draft. I have to say a big thank-you to my agent, Amanda Luedeke, for offering her insights and suggestions that we incorporated into the final version.

With contracts signed, we moved to the next stage as Paula Diane Dooley began working with authors on the editing process and a seven-member cover art selection team was organized, managed by JC Cassels and including authors Ella Drake, Jody Wallace, Cathy Pegau, Heather Massey, Melisse Aires and Jean Walker (aka author Veronica Scott). The team worked on selecting two final covers from among the eight cover submissions that went to the general membership for a vote.

And ~ voila! ~ we had cover art!

During this time, I communicated with and updated all the authors on the process through the SFRpreview email, requested Author Page information, blurbs, loglines, and drafted the About the SFR Brigade piece, and also corresponded with the chosen cover artist--Melody Simmons of Ebook Indie Covers.

Our next task was to wrangle the story order, taking into consideration the voice, setting, length and premise of each story. Each had it's own strengths and we tried to place them accordingly. We did a lot of moving and shuffling until we were all happy with the line up. It was quite a shell game!

Then...a wrench in the works. One of the authors chose to withdraw her work part-way through the editing process. That left us deciding the final line-up of the now eight stories and gave us a bit more work to do. I went back to the cover artist, Melody Simmons, asking if she'd be willing to change the cover art. Not only did she graciously agree, she had the tweaked design back to us within 24 hours and it looked awesome. She was fantastic to work with.

So now we had the final line-up of stories and authors:

  • "Imprint" by Pippa Jay 
  • "Allure" by Amy Laurens 
  • "Nobody's Present" by Marcella Burnard 
  • "The Stranger" by Kyndra Hatch 
  • "Mission: Nam Selan" by Linnea Sinclair 
  • "Prime Sensations" by Liana Brooks 
  • "Envy's Revenge" by Berinn Rae 
  • "Whiskey and Starshine" by Erica Hayes

As we moved into the final phase, we had a talented team pitch in--Brigade members and non-members alike--for the copy editing duties, including Laurel C. Kriegler who served as chief copy editor, Cary Caffrey, Patty Hammond and Danielle Cassels. You can read more about our copy editors here.

Final Phase Begins!

Chief Editor JC Cassels compiled and formatted the edited stories as they were completed, and added the About the Author, About the Editors, About the Copy Editors, and About the SFR Brigade information to complete the final project. Meanwhile, Paula Diane Dooley wrote a spot-on cover blurb:

Experience love and adventure among the stars in TALES FROM THE SFR BRIGADE, a free digital anthology of eight Science Fiction Romance stories. 

* A space captain discovers the cyborg she loves just might be her greatest enemy.

* A mind-wiped prostitute risks all when she recruits a dangerous stranger to help her escape a terrible fate.

* A prisoner-of-war confronts the comrade who loved her, then left her for dead.

* A space-obsessed physics teacher is kidnapped by a far-too-charming alien.

* An apocalypse survivor battles the biomech-enhanced hunter who seeks to capture her.

* A young artist must choose between her comfortable life on Earth or a war-torn space colony with her beloved.

* A daring thief is on the run from the alien law man who is determined to bring her to justice.

* A widowed rebel leader tries to save the last remnants of humanity, one stranger at a time.

From Earth to the furthest reaches of the galaxy, explore the worlds of Science Fiction Romance with stories from Linnea Sinclair, Marcella Burnard, Erica Hayes, Liana Brooks, Pippa Jay, Berinn Rae, Amy Laurens, and Kyndra Hatch.

Ready for Launch

With all engines a go, we looked at a release date of July 14th, but JC managed an early limited release through Smashwords as a shakedown run. A few glitches have been cleaned up and the anthology has now been submitted to these additional sites for pending release:
  • Apple
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Diesel
  • Kindle
  • Kobo
  • Page Foundry
  • Sony
IMHO, the end result was well worth all the effort . Each and every story in this anthology is an outstanding piece of work, and there's such a wonderful variety that it's sure to offer something for every reader's taste. The shortest work is under 2,000 words and the longest is about 12,500.

Achieving Orbit

The first reviews on Tales from the SFR Brigade are starting to trickle in, and to date they're all four and five stars. Two include a book review by C. E. Kilgore and a Goodreads review from Jo of Mixed Book Bag Reviews.

The anthology has already made it into the top five of several Goodreads Listopia lists, including:
And is climbing steadily upward on some of the big lists, like:
You can see all Goodreads Listopias containing Tales from the SFR Brigade at a glance here.

Ready to Grab Your Copy?

Please do. It's on the house! You can find it on Smashwords right now in most available formats:

Tales from the SFR Brigade

(Note: If the link doesn't work, try turning off your adult filter on Smashwords. The anthology contains adult content which is not suitable to readers under 17 and may be offensive to some adults.)

Mission Accomplished

It takes a village, or in this case, a Brigade task force. The anthology wouldn't have happened without a dedicated team determined to put out a product the Brigade--and the Science Fiction Romance community in general--could be proud of. My hat's off to Paula Diane Dooley, JC Cassels, our fabulous authors, and the entire Can-Do team who worked on this project.

Job well done, crew.

To learn more about Tales from the SFR Brigade, the authors and their other works, editors, copy editors and the SFR Brigade, please visit the Anthology Website.

You can also read JC Cassels blog about the making of Tales from the SFR Brigade here.

~~~ * ~~~


4 comments:

  1. I'm looking forward to reading them all - if only I could find the time. But I will!!!!! Well done on pulling this off. It's not easy and I know how hard you must all have worked.

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  2. Thanks, Barbara. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too. And what an education! :)

    Hope you enjoy the stories. Let me know what you think.

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  3. I just love all this background stuff. Having self-published a couple of things and had others go through a publisher, I know some of the work and processes involved, but the complexity of putting an anthology together is mind-boggling! Thanks for sharing Laurie. :)

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  4. I'm glad you found it interesting, Pippa. It was quite a whirlwind!

    I can't say enough about how much effort, expertise and professionalism Paula Diane Dooley and JC Cassels brought to the project. I think the end product speaks for itself. But having so many quality stories submitted by a variety of authors was really the key to putting together a dynamite anthology so the authors are owed a lot of thanks, too. It really was a group effort.

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