As an author, I don’t want any of my work to be professionally published unless I’ve had enough time to polish it and unless it – and the stories with which it keeps company – has been held to adequately high standards.
I should probably start by mentioning I’m sitting in a bar with a guy who normally sings “Friends in Low Places” at karaoke on Friday nights. Caveat Emptor…
I received the above quote as part of an email from an author who was wondering whether, as a small publisher, we ever need to compromise quality in order to obtain enough stories to publish some of our short story collections. This was a good question, and one that authors have a right to ask. In order to answer the question, I wanted to talk about how many submissions we receive and what happens to submissions when they arrive.
On an average day, we receive 5-10 queries. The first step in the process is that our acquisitions editor reads the query letters and decides if the query is worth forwarding to an editor for further review. Quite frankly, this is why your query letter is so important and why we require one. Next, an editor reviews the entire query. For novels (where we require a synopsis), the editor decides whether a complete manuscript should be requested. For short stories, a decision is made whether to recommend that a story be included in a collection. Once the final stories have been selected by the editor for a collection, they are sent to the publisher and acquisitions editor for review. At times these stories are sent out for additional peer review prior to acceptance to see how average readers respond to the stories. The publisher and acquisitions editor make the final selection of stories based on this review. Thus, even if a story is recommended by the editor, stories that do not pass the publisher and acquisition editor’s review are not accepted for publication.
As you can imagine, most of the stories we receive do not make it through this multi-person review process. So even with the number of queries we receive, the possibility exists that we will not have enough stories for a collection. While the simple solution would be to accept some stories that are “on the fence”, we choose instead to extend deadlines for submissions. In fact, recently the deadline for our Satire collection was extended because, although we had more than enough submissions to create the anthology, they were not of the quality we require. In this way we are always doing our best to assure that our readers are purchasing a book that will truly entertain.
The stories that are associated with an author’s story in an anthology – the “company they keep” – are important. This is why we work so hard to assure the books we publish are of the highest quality. Because, at the end of the day, we are also “keeping company” with the stories in that we are the ones who have selected them for publication. And the last thing we want is “Friends in Low Places” – unless we’re singing karaoke.