Writers, Here’s Why It Takes So Long To Hear Back From Erotica Anthologies

It’s not personal; it’s publishing

Reposted from Erotica Writing 101

I know what it’s like to wait as both a short story writer and an anthology editor

As an erotic short story writer, I used to wonder why it took so long to hear back from anthology editors. Now that I am one myself, I know that there’s a lot happening behind the scenes in the editing and publishing process, so I wanted to help demystify that. While I can’t speak to how other editors work, this is the process for my anthologies.

Right now, for instance, in June 2017, I’m editing two anthologies for Cleis Press: Erotic Teasers, which will be published in early 2019, and Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 4, part of the annual series I edit, which will be published in November 2018. From the time I start working on them through the time they actually hit bookstores is at least a year and a half (I’ve had both calls posted publicly since late March).

The process starts for me when I sign a contract to edit these books. My deadlines to turn each book in are January 1, 2018 (Teasers) and March 1, 2018 (BWE), respectively. After I’ve signed my contracts, I work backwards, asking myself: How much time do I need to edit each anthology? Then I plan my call for submissions based on the answer to that question. Ideally, I want to give authors as much time as possible to write their stories, since some authors can turn a story around in a few days, while others need time to plan what they are going to write, to actually do the writing, to revise and possibly have a beta reader provide feedback. Other authors have the bulk of their writing year already planned out and have to carve out time to work on a short story if it piques their interest.

So very soon after I signed the contracts for these books, I posted the calls online, and forwarded them to relevant websites such as the Erotica Readers & Writers Association, to give writers as much time as possible to start and complete their stories. However, while this has the advantage of notifying potential authors early about these markets, it means that the earlier they send in a story for consideration, the longer they have to wait. If you submit to either anthology, you’ll receive my reply within 72 hours that I’ve received your submission and you can expect to hear back from me by September 30, 2018. That’s well over a year away; even if you submit to one of these on the deadline of either October 1 or November 1, you’ll still have to wait potentially almost a year to hear back.

The crux of what I want to share here is what happens between when you submit your story and when I reply. Each anthology is different, but generally I tend to read and consider submissions either as the deadline for authors to send stories approaches, or just afterward. This way I have a sense of how many stories I have to consider (usually in the range of 200), and can plan my time accordingly. I could potentially give authors a later deadline, but that would mean I’d be in a time crunch to select and edit stories, request revisions and compile the anthology. Especially when I have two book deadlines so close together, as I will in late 2017 and early 2018, I wanted to afford myself the most time possible to consider each story carefully and select the ones that best suit the theme of the anthology and complement each other.

So in the case of Erotic Teasers, starting most likely at the end of September or early October, I will go through every story and sort them into ones I definitely want to publish, ones that don’t work for the anthology, and ones that might be a good fit. Then I will keep winnowing and refining until I have the total number of stories that my publisher has requested (in this case, 15–17). Then I will give each story a very close copyedit, ask any preliminary questions I need to of the authors, then finally submit the manuscript by January 1.

Then, like the authors, I wait to hear back from my publisher. That could take two or three months, or closer to six months. This is why I put the date of September 30, 2018 as the expected response time. Most likely, I will be able to notify authors a little sooner, but that’s not always the case. The publisher may find all my stories acceptable, in which case I will send those authors contracts to sign; once they’ve returned them, their story will officially be slated for publication. I will also send out rejection letters to those whose work I can’t publish in the book (for what it’s worth, this is my least favorite part of the anthology editing process). I will sometimes send rejection letters at the time I turn in the anthology (in this case, around January 1); however I prefer to wait until the selection process is complete. Why? Because should a given story (out of that initial 15–17) be rejected by my publisher, which may happen due to content, space or other issues, I may want to look at the other stories that had been in my “maybe” category for a replacement, though I usually do my best to go back to the author of the rejected story and see if they might have another story handy that might be suitable.

Unlike with my past books, with these two anthologies, I’m aiming to turn them in well before their official deadlines. Why? Because starting in October 2017, I will also leap full speed ahead into book promotion mode for Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 3. That’s partly why I set the BWE of the Year 2 deadline as November 1, 2017, instead of December 1, as I’ve selected in the past. Since the ebook edition of Volume 3 will be published on November 21, just before Thanksgiving, I want to be well on my way to having a manuscript to turn in by then so I can focus on promoting my new book. The better Volume 3 does, the more resources I will have to promote Volume 4 and the more stores are likely to stock it, so focusing on Volume 3 actually benefits Volume 4 authors as well. I have numerous goals with this series, and a major one is to get my authors’ work in front of as many new readers as possible, hopefully ones who will then follow them and keep reading their future writing. So in November, I will have to focus the bulk of my energy on marketing, social media and other promotions; I will also likely be planning live events based around Volume 3. Since those take up the majority of my spare time, I don’t want to give Volume 4 short story selections short shrift. A bonus of turning in the book early is that there’s more time for my publisher to make their selections, get copyedits completed, get galleys made and generally get the book into the hands of reviewers, media and bookstore buyers. For all those reasons, I’ve chosen the particular deadlines I have.

In a nutshell, I try to maximize the time I provide to authors to write their stories, while also maximizing my own time to fully consider each one. It’s a balancing act that I’m constantly refining, but I generally try to give at least six months between the date I publicly post a call and the deadline for authors to send me their stories. However, with almost all the anthologies I’ve edited, I receive emails close to or on the deadline saying some variation of, “I just found out about this call for submissions yesterday so I wrote this quickly” or “I only saw this call today; can I get an extension?” Unfortunately, I can’t grant extensions, and most authors are going to make minor (and sometimes major) errors and typos when they are writing extremely quickly. I recommend following the editors and publishers you want to write for on social media, subscribing to their newsletters, getting on the Erotica Readers & Writers Association writers mailing list and otherwise doing everything you can to stay on top of new calls for submissions as they’re posted, so you have the most time to ruminate on the topic as possible.

If you have any questions about how the timing breaks down that I haven’t answered here, feel free to leave them as a comment and I will do my best to answer them. Stay tuned for more articles exploring various aspects of erotica writing and publishing.

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Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 and 2, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com. You can follow Rachel on BookBub to get notified about new releases and ebook sales.