Last year I posted here about my experiences as part of the acquisitions team for the I Do charity anthology of stories in support of marriage equality. I focussed on making a story as ‘sellable’ as possible, maximising the chances of a prospective publisher not saying ‘No thank you’ almost within the first thirty seconds. Having been lucky enough to work on the follow up, I Do Two, I wanted to share another aspect of the experience – authors who ‘add value’ to a project and those who don’t.

Now, I’d like to say that all of our authors (and the editors, proofers, etc) added value to I Do Two because they gave their time and talents freely, for no other recompense than ‘doing the right thing’. So who didn’t move the project forward? Same as last time – the prospective contributors who hadn’t read the submissions guidelines well enough (at all?) and whose stories we spent time reading only to discover they were completely unsuitable. You know, if we said ‘no fanfiction’ that really meant we didn’t want it. We got it.

Conjugated irregular verbs as used by unhelpful authors, number 1:

They wrote fanfic.
You wrote fanfic.
I wrote homage.

We said ‘M/M, F/F, Bi and transgender stories are welcome. There is no strict theme, but we have certain things we do *not* want to see, for example stories which undermine the purpose of the anthology’. Perhaps we should have specified that we didn’t want stories which involved a woman having a heterosexual extra-marital dalliance or a woman having an affair with her pet dog. ‘Cos we got them.

Conjugated irregular verbs as used by unhelpful authors, number 2:

They have no right to break the rules.
You should keep to the rules.
The rules don’t apply to me.

So ‘adding value’ means not wasting other people’s time. It means being professional and getting edits/contracts back on time so there aren’t any holdups. It might mean going above and beyond the call of authorly duty, rather than relying on everyone else to do the slightly distasteful business of selling.

Conjugated irregular verbs as used by unhelpful authors, number 3:

He should do more to sell our book.
You should organise that chat to sell our book for the date I can attend.
I was far too busy with other more important things to turn up for the chat but I’ll take the royalties.

I’ve been privileged to have stories in collections with lots of different authors and some of them have been shining examples of ‘going above and beyond the call’. They’re the ones who organise the chats and blogspots, who produce the giveaways, who man the stands at events and press flyers and bookmarks into the hands of all and sundry. They’re the ones who help get the book sold.

And they never patronize other authors.

Conjugated irregular verbs as used by unhelpful authors, number 4:

She made a fool of herself slagging off that reviewer.
You shouldn’t take it so hard when you get a bad review.
No-one should insult my story like that!

I’ve been hugely privileged in working with my book-bedfellows (come on, how could anyone get a better start than being in a book of stories alongside Lee Rowan and Erastes?) and I look forward to working with many more good eggs.

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