Anthologies Are Kafka’s Spot in Publishing

JC Hallman is still blogging up a storm about his book over at the Tin House blog. (And, for about the 18th time, we've published an adapted version of his intro to the book that I think everyone should check out.)

Hallman has stopped poking the ribs of the academic community on the Tin House blog and is now discussing the nightmare that is trying to publish a profitable anthology.

The problem with The Story About the Story was multi-fold. When we write about reading, we want to cite things, to use examples—these become permissions issues, too. Furthermore, for an anthology like this to have any chance at succeeding, it needs to have the possibility of getting to foreign markets, at least the UK (a number of the writers in The Story About the Story are British—from Woolf and Wilde to De Botton and Dyer). This meant that each essay actually wound up requiring multiple permissions. The prize for most went to Edward Hirsch. The short selection from How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love With Poetry required two permissions for the text itself (US and UK), two permissions for the Plath poem it explicates, and a permission for a few lines from poet Miklós Radnóti.

Five permissions for one essay. The average permission for The Story About the Story was $150.00 Thirty-one essays in the book.

The budget was $3500.00.

Yeah, anthologies are tough. If you read the post, there's a (frankly) insane story where Hallman had to convince Random House UK that they actually did own the rights to an essay he was trying to reprint (which after Hallman finally convinced them they really did own tried to charge him $6,000 for).

Although, for all the trouble Hallman went through, I feel like it was worth it. I am pretty eager to see my copy of this book, mostly because I haven't read a lot of the criticism collected therein, but the pieces that I have read make me want to read the ones I haven't.



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