Wayne M. Anson on the editorial work of a writers guild

The Nebraska Writers Guild published the multi-genre anthology Voices from the Plains in 2017. The second Voices from the Plains, also multi-genre, is forthcoming later this year. In 2019, the NWG will publish a chapbook-sized anthology of poetry. Talk about the editorial work from start to finish. In your answer, discuss all aspects of publishing—soliciting submissions, readers, copyediting, layout/design, publishing, distribution, readings/events.

The Nebraska Writers Guild published the multi-genre anthology Voices from the Plains in 2017. The second Voices from the Plains, also multi-genre, is forthcoming later this year. In 2019, the NWG will publish a chapbook-sized anthology of poetry. Talk about the editorial work from start to finish of editing an anthology. In your answer, discuss all aspects of publishing—soliciting submissions, readers, copyediting, layout/design, publishing, distribution, readings/events.

My place in editorial work for the two anthologies involved soliciting submissions, then distribution and scheduling readings/event. For submissions,  we created an attractive poster to post on the Nebraska Writers Guild social media sites. That included one Facebook page, two Facebook groups, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and a members-only Yahoo Group. On social media, we also sent teasers before submissions were accepted and periodically during the submission process. These helped build excitement and pushed members to not wait until the deadline to respond. The first year we set a final cutoff date, however, based on that experience, the second year we set a limit on the pages for the book with the deadline being firm only if more entries were needed. We cautioned members that submissions could close earlier than the final deadline. Based on the quality of the work submitted, Internally we worked from a flexible book-length based on the quality of the work submitted and did include more pages that advertised. The Nebraska Writers Guild Board of Directors required us to receive enough submissions to cover the costs of processing and publishing the first anthology and then to secure enough profits to cover the cost after the second year. That figure was easily surpassed, however, if the required funds had not been raised, the anthology would not have gone to press. The income from book sales easily covered the second year costs including the addition of paid copy editing.

For my part, I assisted with distribution by personally taking copies with me as I traveled throughout the state on Guild business. I targeted tourist stops, the locations of the Nebraska Historical Society, bookstores, libraries, and establishments that sold only a few Nebraska titles or held writing-related events. I also made order forms available to the various locations, one for libraries and one for booksellers, each of which offered an industry standard discount and handling process. We also sold books and distributed order forms at the Nebraska Library Association/Nebraska School Librarians Joint Conference, the Nebraska Readers Conference, and the various other events where the Guild sets up a table or booth. We sold books at our Annual State Fair Booth and our Western Nebraska Writers Intensive plus our spring and fall conferences.

Throughout the year we offered a combination book reading/book signing at libraries and bookstores. These were specifically for the anthology and averaged eight to ten anthology authors reading at each event. The authors also had a table for their own published works which every venue allowed them to sell. Some of the locations even bought books from individual authors. For this second anthology, we have picked a few strategic bookstores and libraries and scheduled similarly structured kickoff events in the month of December.

As to the pending poetry chapbook, I polled for interest among our Guild members and formed a loose committee to help with planning and implementation. We have set January of 2019 for our kickoff for submissions. There will be a fee. Our goal is to have the chapbook published by April for National Poetry Month. We are considering opening submissions to non-members with a discount for Guild members.

With your successes with Voices from the Plains 2017 and Voices from the Plains 2018 and the in-the-works Spring Poetry Chapbook 2019, and a possible mid-summer genre specific anthology, will the new Nebraska Writers Guild Publishing imprint keep to multi-author volumes in the foreseeable future? Will the imprint delve into other formats, such as calendars and single and multi-page broadsides? Will the imprint expand and become a publishing house that publishes single-author books and chapbooks? What will the Nebraska Writers Guild Publishing imprint catalog look like in 2019, 2020, and beyond? How does this new evolution of the good work the NWG does follow the “Excellent in Writing Since 1925” idea? How will the Guild continue to support, inspire, and empower members that have included such authors as Willa Cather, Mari Sandoz, John Neihardt, and Bess Streeter Aldrich?

I do expect we will keep to the multi-author volumes for the present. It will be good to see how this year’s anthology goes though I expect it to grow in readership. Still, as the saying goes don’t count your chickens before they hatch. I do anticipate that future volumes will have a new title each year to keep down reader confusion and to keep the sense of the anthologies being “fresh.” As we branch out into different publications, we will learn more lessons that I assume may affect the anthology as well. Only time will tell.

I have not been in the planning and discussion of other formats, such as calendars. But, the Board is standing behind such expansion. The relationship between the Broadsides and the publishing imprint has yet to be explored. The Broadside has a separate editor, Don Dingman, and may not be brought under our publishing arm. Don submitted some thoughts regarding changes that the Board has yet to discuss. However, the possibility remains that we might consider other magazines or e-zine publications. Such additions would require bringing on board separate editors and creating distinct processes for developing the ideas. Cort would continue the overall managing editor but dares not stretch himself too thin. Growth of the imprint requires executive actions by other Guild officers, board members, and volunteers. This is symptomatic of the new transition we are facing due to the rapid growth of our membership and the multiplication of the activities we provide.

As we expand and grow an ever stronger financial base for our publications, the dream includes publishing single-author books and chapbooks. This service, however, will require legal advice for structuring the finances and management in ways that do not compromise our nonprofit 501(c)3 status. Not a big deal, but important detail. My take is that if we do single author publications, we will have to either hire or contract out most of the editing, layout, and other professional services required to do a credible job.

Another related issue has moved. The Guild needs a marketing arm. Our current publications need a dedicated marketing plan and arm. I don’t know if many of our members are aware of the pure struggle we face simply getting notices of activities and publication into the hands of the media, potential customers, and members themselves. Our former marketing committee never got off the ground. Thus we lack a professional effort in marketing.

As to our catalog, that is another part of developing a publishing imprint which needs planning and launching. Counting the two anthologies and the first chapbook, I anticipate having three titles by June 2019. If we publish a genre specific book or chapbook this coming summer, that will make a four-item catalog. Beyond 2019, we have not fleshed out the planning and goals of the publishing imprint enough to make a projection. Hopefully, in 2019 we can complete the initial planning 50 and in early 2020 do an official Nebraska Writers Guild Publishing launch event.

As to “Excellence in Writing Since 1925”, that is the purpose of everything the Nebraska Writers Guild does. First and foremost, our existence and all our programming are designed to help our members reach “excellence” in writing and \ excellence in providing the services’ needed to share excellent writing with the public. Second, three years ago the Board committed to not do any program unless we can do it with excellence. This emphasis is the dream and challenge first articulated by our founding members and we aim to keep striving to fulfill that dream. How we will support, inspire, and empower members requires continuous dreaming, planning, and implementing activities that meet the challenges of the continually changing of the written word. It requires creating strong networks among our members, face time, and developing a strong outreach to our communities, state, and the nation. We will also continue to explore how to reach out as Nebraska authors to impact the world. If we were able to support, inspire, and empower our initial founders, we can support, inspire, and empower the Cathers, Sandozes, Neihardts, and Aldriches of today and the future. The world needs us.

Talk about your role in the organizing work that creates opportunities for Nebraska writers. You mentioned the NWG Fall and Spring Conferences, anthology readings for Voices from the Plains, the Annual State Fair Booth, and the Western Nebraska Writers Intensive, as places that energize Guild members. When Guild members come together, how do such events build community, enable networking, and inspire writers to practice and professionalize their craft? 

Each conference, intensive, multi-author reading/signing, retreat, educational opportunity, and even event booth is designed to provide times when the members present can get to know each other better and incorporate additional members into their supportive network. Such activities as group readings, the new boot camps, receptions, and even meals provide avenues for networking and for established members to take the lead in modeling networking and it benefits. Doing this together also helps build community. The active cultivation of volunteers further strengthens the sense of community and provides the sinews and ligaments that join the community together. Even our publications build another measure of community and provide a means of communication. Our expansion into multiple social media venues provides for connection in whichever media the individual member has incorporated into their lives. Social media is being mined as a resource for critique groups, genre-specific support groups, general writing groups, and eventually expanded group educational events.

The Guild leadership helps foster networking and community by personally engaging as many members as they can at events and on-line. This personal engagement also leads to opportunities to inspire members at their individual points of need.

Three other things that help inspire our members are our new forays in publication (I’m now a published author), contests (Let me try this, I think it’s safe because the Guild is doing it), and reader events (They were interested in my book! They’ve read my book! They remembered me!). And, as for as professionalizing members craft, workshops, intensives, conferences, and other venues, provide instructions in just about any aspect of writing a person can imagine – grammar, marketing, self-editing, writing tools, social media/the internet, genre specifics, writing in community, how to become a confident presenter, overcoming writers block, you name it! We are developing online critique groups which aid the process. Opportunities to become a presenter themselves at the workshops and participate in readings, boot camps, and community events also help develop professionalism.

How do you define chapbook? A short book of poetry or other writings, often theme oriented though they can be the works created by a contest, educational activity, or community writing event. Chapbooks are sometimes handmade. They often include artwork or photographs interspersed with the writings. Many aim to be low cost but high quality; however, they can be expensive (usually based on the material used in their construction or the inclusion of prominent voices). Sometimes they are distributed free for marketing, exposure, or other purposes. Free chapbooks tend to be very short. Otherwise, chapbooks frequently range between 30-60 pages with longer works being 100 pages or more.

What makes a good chapbook? Quality writing, relatable or informative topics, sharp artwork/photography, easy reading that pulls the reader on to the next page, and a distinctive cover.

What’s next for you? Doing a Nebraska Writers Guild chapbook then one of my own writings.

Number of chapbooks you own: Who knows? I have a 2000 volume library (now days kept in boxes).

Number of chapbooks you’ve read: I do not know. I have been exposed to them throughout my childhood and adulthood though today some of them might be labeled novellas.

Talk about your commitment to the chapbook writing community. My commitment is to make the opportunity to be included in a chapbook and to publish one’s own chapbook available to the membership of the Nebraska Writers Guild. However, I like the idea of inclusion being used to attract new membership as has happened with the poetry contest we do that is open to the public.

Residence: Grand Island, Nebraska

Job: Author, Non-profit Consultant, Minister, otherwise retired

Chapbook education: 

Chapbook Bio:
 Wayne Anson is a dedicated blogger that writes in the genres of mystery/suspense, Christian curriculum, church histories, and plays. He is the immediate past president of the Nebraska Writers Guild and the author a chapbook published by his church years ago and one he made for his wife.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    November 12, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    Good to read what NWG has in store for the near future. Wayne’s enthusiasm for the organization led me to become a member. I look forward to learning and growing with this group.


    Lori Joseph, poet

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