Ok, I think I’m ready to talk about this.
I’m starting a project at Durham, and while I have a pretty clear focus in mind of what I’m wanting to make happen, the steps to between the goal posts are pretty hazy. It might not work, but I’m seeing how this goes.
My project is to create a biannual anthology of student writing. There is a general theme and then a more specific set of themes I have in mind, which I’ll keep to myself until things really start going. But overall, essentially I’m looking at starting a publishing gig.
How I’m Approaching This
- Talk to staff
My first thought was that I would need someone probably involved in one of the departments relating to the content of the anthologies. THe English department is obvious, however the content could fall under interdisciplinary, so there are a few people I could contact. Since my interaction with my lecturers is extremely limited, I went for someone I have a little bit of rapport with such as one of my tutors. While he’s got a pretty full plate, he’s forwarded my propositional email to (I think) a lecturer who published a book recently with similar themes. I have yet to hear from them.
- Create an Outline
Of course this is obvious, but in order to show that I’ve given this some thought, I’ve had to create a full outline with as many details as I can work out. There are somethings I’m not really sure how to go about, which I’ll address later. But at least, if I do get any professors or faculty involved, they’ll see that I’m mostly organized.
- Made a List of Demands
Not so much demands, but rather a list of people I’ll need to help with this. I know that I’ll need editors and graphic design people, but I’ll also possibly need help with a web page (though, push come to shove, I can do it myself) and ‘marketing’, or at least, distribution.
- Contacted Clubs and Societies
Because I’m 31 and in the first year of my program, and because I live 30 miles south of Durham, I don’t really know anyone. So I’ve needed to figure out a way of meeting people and getting the word out. So far I have reached out to two related departments who have both agreed to send out my project information in the newsletter – you know, the one that goes to everyone in that program (which is a little terrifying), as well as seven clubs/societies.
While I’ve heard back from four lots of organizations (for lack of better terminology), I still haven’t heard back from a few, and newsletters also haven’t gone out yet. While I read this really fantastic blog post the other day about how to wait to hear back from publishers and agents, I’m opting for my own method of anxiety-quelling by obsessively researching what I could potentially need.
Some Problems I’m having
- I don’t know what I’m allowed to do
Because I’m essentially doing this under the brand of Durham in the sense that my project involves Durham students and I am, myself, a Durham University student, I don’t know that I’m allowed to create this. I don’t know if I need a higher-up to moderate me or act as a mentor.
- The Specifics
- With a little luck, I’ll get a flood of interested students ready to put their best foot forward toward this project. They’ll be dedicated, willing to work on this over breaks, and be reliant. However, how on earth do I choose my team? How do I decide that Alice was totally in but Beauregard seems flaky based on his email? Or should I gather them all together and interview them? How do I decide????
- While I know the basics of the team that I need, I don’t know how many people for each team role I need. I know that this is something that I’m going to be learning as I go along, but I do need a foundation team. Do I need more than one graphic design artist? Should I have one person just for the web page or should we all work together on it? Do I need just one other person to serve as editor, or should I have four of us? Most importantly – what role am I forgetting??
It’s one thing to say you want to publish a collection of short stories, but what about when you actually want to have physical printed nice beautiful and professional collections of anthologies? Where do I print? I could go the CreateSpace route and self-publish via Amazon, though then that might alienate potential independent bookstores that would be happy to support budding writers. Or I could go for something that might not be as cheap. Then, should I be looking at just buying a set lot of books available when the volume is released and then after that they’re gone, or should I make older editions available for purchase?
- I was hoping that being that it’s something Durham-related, there might be some kind of start-up organization fund to help get clubs going. Because I’m still struggling to find answers, I don’t know if this exists or not.
- I will need start-up costs to advertise for writers (I got my editor-gig at The Bubble because I found a flyer in the Student Union. I personally am looking at every piece of paper and poster that I come across to see what is going on, so I know they work), and I’ll need to get a webpage going, which means buying a domain name as well as some web space.
- This is less of an immediate problem, but I’ll need initial start-up publishing costs for the first round of anthologies. Though that’s down the line.
There are a few things I’m doing in an effort to find solutions and answers to my questions, though they’re not as clear, nor fruitful as I’d hoped.
- The Higher-Ups
The other day I went to what is called a Mentor’s Formal, where our college mentor tells us about a formal and we have dinner with them. During this, I happened to be seated next to the vice president of the college (not university, mind). I told my mentor about my project idea, and asked if I needed anyone who was faculty to be involved, and he told me I should talk to the vp. So I pitched my idea to her, and she only told me to write a piece to go into the annual college magazine that’s released in June so that I could find more people to get involved.
While this is helpful in team building or finding submissions (which really is my goal by the time the college magazine comes out), it doesn’t really answer my question. However, due to her lack of addressing my question, I’m assuming that no, I don’t need anyone, and that I can just start it.
This is where my obsessive research comes into play. While I don’t really have the clearest idea of who I need or how many of what role, I do know the bare minimum I need/would like.
As far as the selection process goes, I’m going to have to find out how many students reply to me, and then make my decision from there. Though I’m hoping to just gather everyone together, tell them the detail, tell them how much of their time I’ll need from them, and say whoever doesn’t think they can do that should go, and then I’ll just wing it from there.
Like a pro.
I’m still trying to find the solution to this. So far I’ve been participating in writing groups and asking for opinions on the best self-publishing services based on experience. I’ve emailed the Student Union who says they do all the university’s publishing, and, unfortunately, they only do spiral-bound binding–not the quality I’m looking for.
Once I have my team together I’ll be able to have more of a think-tank to iron out these details. But so far my favorite option is Lulu, simply because I have experience with them, I know they’re print-to-order, and I can keep a backlisting of anthologies available for anyone who’s interested in them.
- I’ll admit I’m slacking on this aspect, but I can email the Student Union about this, as they’re likely to know the most regarding clubs and societies. I did email them already, asking if they knew if I needed anyone higher-up to start a society, though I have yet to hear from them. If I don’t hear from them by the end of the week, then I’ll pester them in person.
- The money situation is difficult. I’m thinking that as far as flyers go, that might just have to come out of my own pocket. I’m alright with that, as the Student Union has pretty decent prices.
- When it comes time for printing costs, I have every intention to use crowd-funding. I think there are enough people out there that would be willing to participate in the start-up costs of a publication that’s student-run.
Fingers crossed again.
So there you have it, my newest project. Should you have any advice or wisdom, please feel free to share it, because I’m running low!