Next Steps by Tom Benson
I invited author, Tom Benson to give us an insight about his latest anthology, Next Steps: and other stories. Here it is. Welcome to this site, Tom.
I’m a multi-genre author who enjoys various writing disciplines, and I’ve found that ideas for short stories are never far away. Combined with this, of course, is the opportunity to create another collection. I understand how difficult it is for indie authors like me to capture and increase an audience. With this in mind, I created my first ‘invitation’ anthology, and ‘Next Steps’ is the third of this type.
What came to mind when you saw the title of this article?
Perhaps like many people, you thought of progression in some form, or was that a fleeting idea cast aside as you considered the graphic and the book title?
‘Next Steps: and other stories’ is the full title of my new collection. While ‘Next Steps’ is both the abbreviated book title and the first story, in this case, it also serves as an introduction to how I went about creating the anthology.
Anthologies of short stories come in three main categories: theme-based, genre-based, and non-specific. Apart from those categories, any of them could be by a single author or have multiple authors. ‘Next Steps’ is non-specific and created by numerous authors.
Let’s look at how this book went from idea to publication.
Having several anthologies in my catalogue, I was seeking a new challenge. I thought I’d try to create six stories around random pieces of dialogue. I posted the suggestion in the Indie Author Support and Discussion group (on the Facebook page) with simple guidelines:
‘The prompt should be a dialogue between no more than two characters and no more than thirty words.’
Within two days, I had six prompts which I gratefully accepted and acknowledged. My offer to those authors was to produce one or more stories that they could submit to the collection. Theirs could be stories of personal choice—anything except erotica. The publication target was 1st April 2021, so we all had four months to get to work.
I was already heavily involved in the writing of my next novel. I split my time between that and picking out prompts to work on. A couple of the dialogue prompts produced ideas at first reading. In contrast, others caused me to try three or four approaches and genres. The challenge was genuine and enjoyable.
I had the first drafts of four stories completed by mid-January, and I’d settled on the topics for the other two. It was after a couple of weeks and further rewrites that another author asked to join the venture. I requested a prompt, I got one, and that other author was on board.
Anyone can write a short story, of course, but if it’s for publication, it must meet specific criteria. For example, punctuation, grammar, plot, and structure should all be considered and adjusted by the individual author. The submissions were to be ready for publication.
After several rewrites, followed by the appropriate edits, it was time to send my stories to three or four beta readers. These were fellow authors who could assess how effective/entertaining the tales may or may not be. By the time I had feedback from three of my peers, a bit more work was needed on a couple of the stories before a final check of punctuation, grammar, and formatting.
In mid-February, I tagged my guest authors in a comment on Facebook to remind them of the deadline for their submissions. I know how easy it is for one of several ‘work in progress’ to slip through the net.
In mid-March, I had seven stories completed, having had some of them read three times by other authors and others read four times. I accepted the personal submissions from my guests, complete with a bio and two links of choice. One of the original authors didn’t meet the criteria with their submission, but, of course, I’d gained another author. In total, I received eight stories to add to my seven.
I read every story again and then assembled them as a single manuscript before conducting the final stage—formatting. I set out the front matter, the stories (with author bio’s), back matter (including author links), and published. My final quality control check was to download the book from Amazon before telling anyone that it was available. I read the book, located two minor issues, amended them, and re-published it.
Some folk ask why I don’t list the other authors on the book’s Amazon page.
1. The guest authors are displayed on the front cover because, in my opinion, that is where they ought to be. In this way, the authors are promoted even if the book isn’t chosen by readers.
2. If an author name is added to the Primary Author section when publishing on Amazon, it creates a possible conflict of interest. How? The Amazon algorithms recognise the ‘pairing’ of author names, so there is a real danger of any previous mutual reviews (from other books) being removed.
3. The algorithms don’t recognise a name on the front cover because it is part of the graphic. Suppose an author is not highlighted in the publishing system as a Contributor to the collection. In that case, this means they can leave a review without any risks.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief insight. If Penny should receive sufficient interest, I’d be happy to write a piece on short story writing or creating anthologies. In the meantime, I’ll respectfully ask that you check out ‘Next Steps: and other stories’. It contains some great stories and, of course, one of them is by Penny. The book is free to read on Kindle Unlimited, as are all of my titles.
If you’d like to check out my work, here are links to my author website, artist website, and writing blog: