(Posted on Lynne Jamneck's behalf)
Where to begin? I know—thank you Marianne de Pierres for asking me to blog about something that, at least from my experience, no-one seems to know if there is a right or wrong way of going about doing. I've heard horror stories from other editors about their experiences compiling anthologies and I must admit, I'm not nearly an expert on the subject. So all I can talk about is my own experience as it played out when I put together Periphery—Erotic Lesbian Futures for Lethe Press.
Selecting A Theme
First of all, I think your experience is going to be much more satisfying from the start if what you are aiming to compile speaks to you personally. One of the reasons I enjoyed putting Periphery together was because I was aiming to create the kind of anthology I had been looking for in bookstores for years, without ever finding it. What was that you ask? It's hard to explain in a few sentences but the gist of it was that I wanted to read SF stories, written from a queer perspective where the eroticism functionally contributed to the overall story; was, in fact, essential to it. So I had two perspectives that I wanted to blend effectively, and I count myself extremely fortunate to have received the wonderful stories I did from the range of contributors included in the final collection.
Because I had such a specific idea of what I wanted, I also had specific authors in mind that I wanted to approach. Some of them I had spoken to before, or worked with before whilst others were authors whose work I admired. The great thing about most SF authors is that if you send them a nice email and ask whether they'd be potentially interested in contributing to your project, the likelihood of you getting a nice, timely email back in return is almost guaranteed. Whether they will be able to contribute depends on various factors, but I'd say the most important is payment, and whether they have time available.
Most publishers will advance (once your proposal has been accepted) an amount either before or after publication to pay contributors, depending on contractual agreements. Needless to say, the bigger the payment, the better the chances of having high-profile authors involved, though this isn't always the case. It's not because writers are greedy, it's simply because writing is what they do for a living. They need compensation for the time they commit to projects.
What unforgettable short stories or anthologies have you read? Why were they unforgettable?