Thursday, August 20, 2015

Guest Blog: A How-To Guide to Creating an Anthology by Joshua Palmatier

Please welcome Joshua Palmatier to The Qwillery. Joshua is both an author and an editor. He is also the owner of Zombies Needs Brains (ZNB), a small press that presently focuses on science fiction and fantasy themed anthologies, and is here today to tell us how he puts together an anthology.  ZNB presently has a Kickstarter in progress to fund Alien Artifacts and Were-, two SF&F themed anthologies. Note: I am a backer. The anthologies have been funded but there are 21 days to go so you still have time to back the project if you'd like (

A How-To Guide to Creating an Anthology

Sally/Qwill kindly asked me by today to talk about the process of putting together an anthology project, from the genesis of the idea all the way through production. See, I’ve done this a few times before, first as an editor with DAW (with co-editor Patricia Bray) for the anthologies AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR and THE MODERN FAE’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY, and then afterwards with my own company, Zombies Need Brains LLC, with the anthologies CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK vs ALIENS and TEMPORALLY OUT OF ORDER (set for release August 25th). I’m currently attempting to commit anthology again, for two anthology projects called ALIEN ARTIFACTS and another called WERE-. We’re running a Kickstarter to fund the project right now. It got off to a rousing start, with 50% of it funded within the first 10 hours. Exciting! But the Kickstarter is far from over. If you’re interested, swing by the webpage ( and check it out, maybe even pledge something!

So, how to create an anthology. First, you need an idea—a concept or theme for the anthology. Most of our themes for ZNB come from just random, ordinary interactions with the world. For CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE, it was a reaction to the movie “Cowboys & Aliens” (hence steampunk vs aliens). For TEMPORALLY OUT OF ORDER, I saw a sign taped to a pay phone that said “temporally out of order.” An obvious misspelling of temporarily, but with an SF&F twist, it meant something totally different. What if the phone WERE temporally out of order? Could you call someone in your past? Your future self? I have a list of potential anthology ideas that Patricia and I have cooked up and all of them stem from some weird little quirk of life that made us ask a question, such as what other were-creatures could there be and what are their stories? Or what kinds of left-behind alien tech would we run into in space, perhaps even before we run into aliens? So ideas for themes for anthologies aren’t hard to come by. You just have to be on the lookout for them.

Now, after the idea, how you get to an actual anthology in hand will vary, so this is what Zombies Need Brains does. Other small presses (or large presses) will be different. But what I do then is start asking myself who I’d like to see write a story for the anthology. These are usually published authors, or up-and-coming authors, who write something similar to the theme, typically. These are what I call “anchor” authors. I usually try to fill up half of the anthology with anchor authors, and the rest I leave for an open call for submissions from anyone—published or not. Patricia and I have found that often the best stories don’t come from the familiar names, but from writers who haven’t been noticed yet, so we like to keep the open call as an option. I then contact these potential anchor authors and get some lined up for the anthology.

And then it’s Kickstarter time! I usually design the Kickstarter and set it in motion, with the hopes that we’ll get enough funding to produce the anthology. I like this model, because if the theme of the anthology isn’t of interest, the backers of the Kickstarter will let us know … by simply not backing us. Then the Kickstarter fails and nothing happens. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened with any of ZNB’s Kickstarters so far. All of them have been successful and we’ve managed to produce stunning anthologies with some great stories. I lay our success firmly at the anchor authors’ and the backer fanbase’s doorstep. It couldn’t be done without groups involved.

But now we step beyond what the public usually sees in the production process. Once the Kickstarter ends, Patricia and I start gathering up the stories from the open call and begin reading. Usually we can narrow it down to a good 20 stories we both like. It becomes harder to cull it down to the 7 or 8 that we can usually accept (beyond the anchor author stories, of course). Once we’ve argued extensively over that, we begin editing the stories, working back and forth with the author to produce the best stories possible. We then organize the stories into a Table of Contents, which is a wrestling match in and of itself.

Everything after this falls into my hands, in terms of organization. I send the gathered files off to our ebook designer, who gets the ebooks ready. There’s another editing pass here, in an attempt to catch all of the typos (we invariably miss a few). Once the ebooks are done, the files get handed off to the interior designer for the paperback versions. At this point, the interior is generally fixed and we don’t make any changes unless there’s something major wrong. But we can’t proceed with the cover design until we know how long the book is—how many pages—because this affects the spine width of the paperback. The same person who designs the interior files also designs our covers, which is nice.

After that, all of the files—ebook versions, interior paperbacks, and covers—get gathered up by me and I end up sending them off to the printers for the Kickstarter versions, or off to the various distribution sites for the general public release. And then the books go up for sale (after the Kickstarter backers get their copies, of course.)

That’s ZNB’s process for production. Lots of “send it off and wait for a reply.” *grin* We’re getting better at the process with each new anthology. And we’re getting better at producing quality books as an end result. Check out our current Kickstarter and see if there’s something of interest there for you! There’s even a few options to “catch up” on our past Kickstarters, by getting the Kickstarter version of the paperbacks (each with a limited printing, so not many copies left). Thanks for reading!

Here is preliminary cover art by Justin Adams of Varia Studios. The title of the artwork is "Alien Artifacts". NOTE: This cover is a work in progress and is not yet the final cover!

Click to really embiggen!

About Joshua

A professor of mathematics at SUNY College at Oneonta, Joshua Palmatier has published six books—the “Throne of Amenkor” series (The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, The Vacant Throne) with DAW and the “Well of Sorrows” series (Well of Sorrows, Leaves of Flame) with Baen. His most recent novel is SHATTERING THE LEY, the start of a new series. He has also published numerous short stories—“Mastihooba” in Close Encounters of the Urban Kind and “Tears of Blood” in Beauty Has Her Way (both edited by Jennifer Brozek), “The River” in River (edited by Alma Alexander), and "Daughter of the Sands" in Apollo's Daughters (edited by Brian Young). Find out more at and

Website (Joshua Palmatier)  ~  Website (Benjamin Tate)  ~  Facebook

Twitter @bentateauthor  ~ LiveJournal

Zombies Need Brains LLC  ~  Zombies Need Brains Twitter @ZNBLLC


Post a Comment