Control issues. I haz em.
When you say it like a Lolcat it sounds almost cute, but they aren’t. They are a huge pain in the ass, for me and everyone else around me. I’ve been working on them for years and years, and one thing that has helped
more than anything else is Niteblade**.
When I published the first issue of Niteblade, way back in September 2007, Jo (also known as Jonathan) did the layout for the .pdf and Marge Simon and Shawn Zinyk provided the art (Marge has done all the art since the first issue). I did everything else. Everything. I created and maintained the website, solicited submissions, made editorial decisions, worked on promotion, etc. etc. It was a lot of work, but it was all under my control and that was just the way I liked it.
More or less.
As Niteblade grew so did the workload. You might be surprised how much time can be sucked away answering emails about submission guidelines, for example. Or interview/book review requests. It all adds up, quickly.
Soon I realised I wasn’t going to be able to handle all the book review requests, so if I wanted to accept them I’d need help. That’s where Amber Stults came in. She was our first book reviewer. At one point we had a whole team of book reviewers but managing them and all the finicky little details associated with doing book reviews began to take up too much time so we canceled that aspect of Niteblade. Amber is still here though. Not reviewing books but doing author interviews for our News blog. She’s awesome, works independently and provides regular content for our blog readers without any effort or supervision on my part.
Richard Fay used to do the same thing on our blog, only he was showcasing artists and their work. We canceled that feature, not because of anything on Richard’s end, but because finding artists who wanted to be in our spotlight was becoming more work than it was worth. Go figure.
Anyway, even with Amber and Richard taking slender slices from my Cake of Control I was still responsible for the bulk of the work at Niteblade (and did I mention that it’s a lot of work? It is.). At one point I was feeling very overwhelmed. Niteblade was taking over my life. I wanted to be a writer/editor, not an editor/writer but the magazine was sucking away so much of my time and energy that I didn’t feel like I was getting anything else done, and also we’d been “hacked”. Argh!
“Argh,” I vented to my best friend BD Wilson, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this. I think I may need to close the doors on Niteblade.”
That was when BD saved Niteblade. She joined our staff and took over control of the website. She’s totally automated everything, made it look super purdy and she does all the web-based layouts. She’s fantastic and if it weren’t for her stepping in and taking over that huge responsibility Niteblade wouldn’t be here today. Everything runs smoother now because of BD.
And Niteblade kept growing.
That meant my workload didn’t really decrease despite the fact I had so many people sharing it. Argh! I said. I wasn’t quite as overwhelmed as I had been before when I considered shutting the doors, but I was frustrated. I couldn’t keep up on submissions and my submission email addresses were starting to get more and more spam. But along came Submittable, which made it super easy for me to get help dealing with submissions. We got our first set of slush readers and TA-DA! It was like a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The slush readers* helped weed out the stories that are absolutely inappropriate for our magazine (or the ones from people who don’t follow our guidelines) and so suddenly I only had to read about a quarter of the submissions I used to. Sweet!
Then, one of our slush readers, Alexandra Seidel, wrote a blog about her adventures in the slush pile and mentioned that she was sad to not be reading poetry slush. I began sharing the poetry slush with her and, eventually, she took over completely as poetry editor. Giving her that responsibility, that control, was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. Ever. But it was a good decision. Alexandra is a fantastic poetry editor. She makes some editorial choices that are quite different from the ones I would were I poetry editor, but the calibre of the poetry we’re publishing has increased dramatically since she took over from me, so I think she’s doin’ it right. I *loved* every poem she picked for the September issue. So much so that choosing which one to put on our cover was a freaking nightmare. She’s an awesome poetry editor and Niteblade is stronger for her presence.
My point is this. Over the past five years Niteblade has taught me how to delegate, how to give away bits of power, slices of control to worthy people. Not only has it made the magazine better, it’s made me better. It’s a huge thing, and maybe it’s something I would have learned just over the course of aging over the last five years, but I dunno… Even if that’s the case, Niteblade, and all the people involved in making it the awesome publication that it is, sped up the process immensely.
I used to like saying that Niteblade was mostly a one-woman show, but now, as we near our five year anniversary, I’m proud to say that it’s takes a whole team of people to put it together, and I think we do an awesome job.
*Our slush readers change from issue to issue, but right now Megan Engelhardt, Sheri White and Andrew Patterson are the ones toiling in the trenches to make sure our submitters get responses in a timely manner.
**Becoming a mother and “inheriting” a litter of kittens who were only three weeks old also helped LOL A lot.
This blog post is just one stop on the blog train we’re holding to celebrate Niteblade’s fifth anniversary. Please check out Chris Lewis Carter’s blog if you haven’t already. Chris wrote the awesome story, The Cord, in the March 2012 issue and this train stopped at his blog yesterday. Tomorrow it’s chugging along to Alexis A. Hunter’s blog. Alexis wrote the fabulous short story, Dragons of Fire that we published in our June 2012 issue.
As for me, in trying to decide what to write about for this blog I realised I have a lot to say about Niteblade, so I expect to blog about it more often (for the next little while anyway).