This is a guest post by Jen Blood
Have you ever wondered how all those great short story collections featuring some of your favorite authors come about? There’s certainly no shortage of them, but how—and why—do authors actually do them?
The reasons for contributing to an anthology are pretty obvious: By collaborating with other authors, you are exposing a whole new readership to your writing. If those readers like a short by you, chances are good that they’ll take a chance and buy some of your other work. It’s also a great way to get another publishing credit under your belt without going to the trouble of writing and publishing a whole new book. And, finally, contributing to an anthology means—ideally—that your marketing efforts are multiplied by however many authors are involved with the effort. So, instead of you standing alone on a virtual corner with your signpost, hoping people will notice you, participating in an anthology means you now have ten other authors standing on other virtual street corners and holding their own signposts, all pointing in the same direction.
It sounds great, right? But the next question, obviously enough, is how do you either find an anthology to contribute to or—even better—spearhead one yourself?
Finding the perfect anthology
There’s little question that writing a short story and contributing to someone else’s anthology is a whole lot simpler than taking on the whole endeavor yourself. But how do you find that anthology? Writer’s Relief is a great place to start, with listings for every type of anthology imaginable and the submission guidelines for each. Just visit their website and start shopping for the perfect fit! You might also try posting an ad in World Literary Café’s Authors’ Forum or, if you’re looking for something genre-specific, querying an organization specific to your genre (Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, etc.). Put the word out in your social media circles and, if there are particular recurring anthologies you love, find out when they’re accepting submissions for the next volume. With the popularity of anthologies right now, content is everything, so keep an eye open and have your story/ies ready to go when the time comes.
If you build it, they will come
I decided while shopping around for an anthology, that what I was looking for was too specific to find elsewhere—and beyond that, I wanted to add something special to my own publishing imprint in order to establish myself. Serial Sleuths seemed like just the ticket. But just because I made the decision to publish an anthology doesn’t mean things just fell into place from there. If you’re going to do an anthology, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Have a theme or idea to set yourself apart. My anthology, Serial Sleuths, features serialized detectives like my investigative reporter, Erin Solomon, in short stories revolving around a particular holiday or theme. Additionally, all proceeds from each volume are donated to a different charity. So, the first volume—Serial Sleuths, Volume 1: Haunted—has five ghost stories by authors of popular mystery series, with all proceeds donated to the nonprofit Doctors Without Borders. That’s two hooks to lure in two different audiences. What’s your hook?
- The money question. Most people recognize that doing an anthology isn’t about getting rich, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure people are clear on that up front. It’s possible to split proceeds between contributors and then pay royalties out as they come in, but keep in mind that this means you’re perpetually responsible for tracking those sales and getting checks out promptly. Instead, consider paying a stipend up front. In most cases that stipend doesn’t have to be a large amount, since the authors recognize their biggest benefit is simply exposure and another publishing credit under their belts.
- Choose your contributors before the party starts. Unless you have a significant platform and a big following of fellow writers, it’s best when first starting out to simply handpick authors you love before the fact. Write to them once you have determined how/if they will be paid, what the anthology is about, and your time frame for launching. Include all of this information along with a line or two on why you think they would be perfect for the anthology.What you’re looking for from contributors will vary depending on the theme of the anthology, but in general you’re shooting for fellow authors with strong writing skills (obviously), a healthy following of their own, and the willingness/ability to market the project to those followers when the time comes.
- Pool your talents. Unless you, again, have a big budget and are a more established publisher than I, it pays to take full advantage of everyone on your anthology ticket. Find out what kind of skills your contributors might have, and use those to your benefit. I was fortunate to have a NYC PR Queen (Joanne Sydney Lessner, author of the Isobel Spice mysteries) on my roster; she wrote the press release and got it out to anyone and everyone, while fellow contributors Susan Russo Anderson, DV Berkom, and Wayne Zurl are all adept at social media and took on guest blogging and tweeting to get the word out. If you have someone who’s great at graphic design, PR, or formatting, don’t be afraid to ask them to pull double-duty. Particularly with we indie authors, collaborative efforts can make all the difference in whether we succeed or fail.
- Organization is your friend. When putting the anthology together, be sure to ask up front for contributor’s bios, author photos, and buy links to have on hand for promotion. Include at least the bio and buy links in the anthology in order to maximize exposure for everyone involved. Put together promos using excerpts from your heaviest hitters, and take full advantage of your contributors’ combined network by making a list early on of all the bloggers and websites with whom they may have some pull. Share your marketing plan with your authors, putting together a schedule for tweets and keeping them apprised of any promotions you plan on running.
If you’re brave enough to take on the task of publishing an anthology yourself, following these five tips should keep the process as painless as possible. Stay in touch with the authors you’ve included in your anthology as time goes on, and you’ll soon find that your network and reputation as both an author and a publisher has expanded exponentially. Best of luck!
About this post’s author:
Jen Blood is a freelance writer and editor and author of the best-selling Erin Solomon mysteries. Her anthology, Serial Sleuths, Volume 1: Haunted, is now available for just $1.99 on Amazon, with 100% of the proceeds donated to the non-profit charity Doctors Without Borders.