I became an editor for three primary reasons: 1) I love reading stories; 2) I love working with and discovering new writers; 3) I like helping others. For me, editing combined all these loves, so it seemed a natural fit. After all, I could get a chance to work with my heroes and legends as well as up and coming and new writers who are legends yet to be, and in the process, have fun and make some really interesting books, giving great, diverse stories life.
I’ve interviewed a lot of editors, and I think most of them said some combination of the above as well.
But for me, it also stems from years spent working with nonprofits to help artists from different backgrounds and cultures come together and create art and be heard. There’s no greater gift you can give an artist than a chance to share their voice, I think. And it’s such a joy helping them polish and refine their work, giving them a venue and audience, and watching them shine. I found it very addictive. So addictive that when one camp I was working with moved cross country, I created my own nonprofit and started doing the work in other ways, taking it across the world to Ghana, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, and other places, usually places where such training is too expensive or too elite for the poor, and focusing our work on artists denied those opportunities. Doing that work was life changing and has forever shaped by beliefs, my life, my goals, and my art, and I continue to long to find ways to do more of that work in the future. So anthologies and editing had natural appeal.
And the first anthology opportunity proved to be a challenge for sure, but also a whole lot of fun. It’s as much of a challenge sometimes attracting writers to trust a new editor as it can be for writers to get a shot, and I wound up short on submissions and thus late on deadline, but this did give me a chance to work with some writers to improve their stories. There were at least three that made into into the final book after such collaboration. Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6, the end result is a book I’m proud of. It’s not as good as the books that followed in some ways, but the reviews have been solid and it’s a fun read, and above all, when creating anthologies, I want to create fun reads. For me, reading should be fun. Science Fiction and Fantasy should be fun. Above all other concerns.
So creating opportunities for authors has been a huge part of what I got into this to do, thus, when I didn’t have the editorial credibility quite yet, I looked toward Kickstarter and put together Beyond The Sun, somehow being lucky enough to get four of my writing heroes as headliners. That experience proved yet another great one and shortly after that Kickstarter, friends from a Canadian small press approached me with the idea for Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For A New Age, and so a few months later, we Kickstarted that with even more big names. That was my biggest anthology yet.
Again, the highlight of both of these was working with writers. Even as the fanboy in me thrilled at getting to work with Silverberg, Rusch, Kress, and more, I enjoyed seeing the up and coming writers’ eyes light up and the chance to be in a book with such luminaries as well. I enjoyed working with them to develop stories, polish them, and assembling the books, etc.
Then Baen bought an idea I had come up with and recruited Jennifer Brozek to co-edit, the military high fantasy anthology Shattered Shields. Like Raygun, we had a full on professional budget and this time we were buying all originals. So I had the chance to work for a major publisher for the first time, again, an incredible experience. And despite our different tastes, Jennifer and I wound up agreeing on almost all the stories, the exception being a couple, and, of course, she liked some more than I did and vice versa. Still, a great creative partnership. What a talented lady!
And having such opportunities to partner with great people is the highlight of being an editor. I just really appreciate that. It’s why I don’t want to work with people that don’t share a mutual respect. Time’s too short. I want to be able to enjoy working together. After all, collaboration should be fun, I think. And it’s why I keep pitching and developing anthologies of various types. It’s also why I wanted to use my credibility to reach out to new voices in projects that might be tougher to find publisher homes for like World Encounters and Enabled, but which still have important subject matters which deserve to be explored.
I love reading. Reading has changed my life. It’s made my world bigger. It’s made me a better person. And it’s opened up possibilities I could have never imagined. As reading amongst new generations decreases in popularity, I also want to create books parents and kids can read and enjoy together, that will provoke discussion and nurture a love of reading and genre. That’s why I always push for an educational accessibility aspect in all my guidelines and books, and why I try and keep content PG13 at worst, so it can reach the largest audience. And my background with diversity and cross cultural encounters makes me desire to include writers of diverse backgrounds and beliefs in every project. Sometimes you are limited by who’s available and who connects with the concept, but I try nonetheless. And I have had some great successes.
In any case, just a few thoughts on why I love being an editor and why I wanted to be one. I admit, I’m hooked now, and I hope I get to continue doing this for a long time to come.
For what it’s worth…
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthologies Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press, Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age for Every Day, and Shattered Shields with coeditor Jennifer Brozek for Baen Books (forthcoming). He is currently working on Gaslamp Terrors, Mission Tomorrow: A New Century Of Exploration (BAEN), Galactic Games (BAEN), Enabled, and several others. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter.