Interview With Nancy Fulda
Nancy Fulda is a mother, a writer, and the chief administrator of AnthologyBuilder. She is a Phobos Award Winner and a recipient of the Vera Hinckley Mayhew Award, and her writing has appeared in such venues as Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine and ClarkesWorld. She maintains a blog at http://nancyfulda.livejournal.com.
For readers who are unfamiliar with AnthologyBuilder, could you describe how it works? How did it come about?
AnthologyBuilder began as a blog post. A bunch of my writer friends had been scoring sales. I wanted to read their work, but I couldn’t afford to buy a copy of every magazine on the market. So of course I complained.
“You know what I want?” I said on LJ. “I want a do-it-yourself anthology web site.”
Imagine that I could go to a web site and build my own customized anthology. I’d skim the listing of available stories and think, “I’ve always meant to read ‘The Cold Equations’. Let’s put that in my anthology. And James Maxey’s ‘To the East, a Bright Star’. I’ve always loved that one. And, ooh! Here’s one by Lois McMaster Bujold. That goes in, too.”
Then I’d click a couple of buttons to select cover art, pay a fee which includes royalties for all the authors whose stories I used. Two weeks later, my anthology arrives. A real book, like the ones in the bookstore. One anthology that satisfies my entire Wannareadit list.
That’s what AnthologyBuilder is all about. Instant short fiction gratification!
Describe your “typical” AnthologyBuilder customer.
Someone who LOVES stories, and especially someone who loves to read them on paper. I don’t know what it is about holding an actual book in your hand, but it’s special. For me, anyway. I’ve never liked screen reading, so I love having a printed copy of stories that originally appeared in online venues.
Overall, my customers have surprised me with the number of different uses they’ve found for AnthologyBuilder. I’ve seen gift anthologies for friends and relatives, single-author collections compiled by fans, and anthologies based on a theme or color. Some authors have used AB collections as promotional tools at conventions. And I’ve always thought that the ability to search stories by publication makes AnthologyBuilder the ideal venue for researching markets before you submit to them.
One particularly beautiful book compiled on AnthologyBuilder is Tales Retold, edited by Merrie Haskell. It’s a collection of fairy tale retellings, very lyrical, and includes one of my all-time favorite fantasy stories: Sunday, by Alethea Kontis.
Another exceptionally lovely anthology is A Cabinet of Curiosities, A Circus of Marvels, which includes seven stories from a reading at WisCon in 2009.
Speculative fiction seems to be strongly represented amongst the story listings. Why do you think that is?
Because I’m a science fiction writer. Seriously. AnthologyBuilder got its first big leg up from my online writer’s group, which happens to consist of — you guessed it — speculative fiction writers. They were awesome. They trusted me when the site was still untested and looked like something coded up in the 80’s. They put their stories out there. They believed in AnthologyBuilder.
I like to think I’ve given something back by helping those authors find new readers. What I know for certain is that initial core group was sufficient to create critical mass. AnthologyBuilder’s speculative fiction offerings exploded so quickly that I had to recruit an assistant to help with submissions. I believe the same sort of expansion is possible with other genres. The only reason it hasn’t happened is because I don’t belong to their writers’ groups.
Are there any short fiction writers who you don’t have listed on AnthologyBuilder, but would like to? If you had the chance to pitch your site to them, what would you say?
Isaac Asimov tops the list. I approached the literary agency that manages rights to his short stories a few years ago, offering to pay an up-front fee in exchange for permission to use his work. Alas, they never replied to my message.
Other authors I would love — love, love, LOVE — to see on AnthologyBuilder include Lois McMaster Bujold, Stephen King, and Ray Bradbury. If I had the chance to pitch my site to them, though, I wouldn’t do it. AnthologyBuilder doesn’t have anything to offer someone who’s that big. I might, however, fall to my knees and BEG for a story or two. It worked with Eric Flint.
Vetting the stories submitted to AnthologyBuilder is relatively easy; all stories must be previously published in a paying market, so you know that someone, somewhere, has thought it good enough to pay money for. But how to you go about assessing the quality of the artwork submitted?
I don’t. Yes, it’s an unequal arrangement, but I knew from the start that I’m not as qualified to vet images as I am fiction. I screen artwork for appropriate content and a minimum level of competence. I also make sure it doesn’t have borders or edge designs that might get lost in the trim process. But I don’t require that the artwork have a publication history.
I consider this acceptable because customers are able to view the entire image for themselves prior to purchase. They can evaluate its quality for themselves. They can’t do the same thing with the stories, so AnthologyBuilder needs to add an extra seal of quality, and the ‘paying market’ requirement does that.
What’s the best part of running AnthologyBuilder? And what’s the worst?
The best? Visiting the web site. Looking at the site design and realizing that it actually does look professional these days.
The worst? Chasing down software bugs. Every once in a while the ISP updates the servers without notifying me first, and they usually wipe at least one of the shell programs I depend on. It’s always a pain getting those back online.
What are your thoughts on e-books? How do you see AnthologyBuilder fitting into the changing scene of packaging and selling the written word?
AnthologyBuilder will always be, first and foremost, a print market. Because, as mentioned elsewhere, I’m just partial to that medium.
I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries about e-books and kindle editions, though, so I’ll definitely be looking into those options. One tricky aspect is that the authors would need to specifically approve their stories for electronic distribution. Right now, I only have rights to provide the stories in printed form. But I think we could work that out, given enough time.