In the Future of Publishing panel at 20Booksto50k (one of the major self-publishing industry events), many emphasized the importance of collaboration in book publishing. Working with other authors can help you build your backlist, lessen the workload, and combine marketing efforts. A very effective way to collaborate with other writers in your genre is publishing an anthology.
In this article, I'll be going over the benefits of publishing anthologies, great examples of short story collections done by multiple authors and how you can promote them, and how to handle anthology royalty splitting.
What is an anthology?
Typically, an anthology means a collection of short writing pieces that follow the same theme. There are two main types:
- The first type is a collection with your own essays, short stories or poems.
- The second type is a multi-author anthology: writers with similar stories or themes come together to publish an accessible volume for the modern reader.
Why are anthologies popular?
Short texts fit well into our 21st-century reading habits. Just like the popularity of anthology television series like Black Mirror, short stories in an anthology are easily digestible.
We do not have to be invested in a story for a long time, yet we still get a twisty, and thought-provoking ending. Moreover, we do not have to like each and every story in the collection; we can just select the ones we are drawn to.
What is the trend in publishing short story collections?
Right from the start, science fiction, mystery fiction, and horror genres were built for short-stories. These stories do not necessarily need a long build-up, just a swift ending with a kick. Anthologies within these genres continue to perform well with audiences.
Relative newcomers (but successful) to anthologies are Fantasy and Romance collections, and their lovechild Paranormal Romance anthologies.
Also, just a few days ago, the School Library Journal reported that there are more and more quality YA anthologies drawing in a huge number of readers. They say that the reason for this is that anthologies give opportunities for a diverse set of voices that are not readily available for teenagers in other mainstream reading platforms. These anthologies do incredibly well in libraries.
What are the major benefits of publishing an anthology?
There are huge advantages to publishing an anthology with other writers. Why should you do it?
- Produce More Content with Less Work: Even though collecting stories from other authors, editing, and formatting them might be a lot of work, you’ll be listed as both as an editor and author without having to produce a novel with 300,000 words on your own.
- Combine Marketing Efforts: If you partner with other authors, all of you will promote the collection. This way, you can tap into each other's audiences without much effort.
- Reach New Readers: You will reach a target audience that might not have otherwise found your particular subgenre. As many anthologies center around a wider topic, theme or genre (like Science Fiction or Fantasy) readers with a particular taste might find your stories and realize they’ve discovered a new subgenre they love. For example, if you are creating an anthology for Paranormal Romance, you might get the attention of readers who are into Shifter stories with your tale about star-crossed ghost lovers.
- Boost Reputation: If there are some popular authors in your midst, this helps lesser-known authors get a great introduction into the world of book publishing. They can start their next networking event by saying: "Oh, I was in a collection with that famous author, who penned the saga about the winged wizard," and immediately get some interested listeners for their pitch.
What are the steps to publishing an anthology?
Though you spend less time writing a short story for an anthology than writing a novel, the editing and formatting process for a multi-author anthology can be a lot of work. If you do not want to find a publisher to do it for you, here are some tips for publishing an anthology yourself:
- Send out invitations to more writers than you need: An average anthology has around 20 short pieces. When you are collecting the names and contacts of fellow writer friends, make sure to send out word about the collection to at least 60 of them. This way you are sure to collect around 20 short stories.
- Make time for delays in the schedule: As you are collaborating with a high number of writers, there are sure to be people who send their work in late. Be safe and give early deadlines to everyone so there is room for a bit of delay.
- Provide a style guide: Most publishing houses have a style guide to make their books’ writing style uniform and easily editable. Your writers may come from different English-writing traditions. So, make sure to settle on a style regarding spelling (British or American), capitalization, etc.
- Agree on the length of the stories: If you publish a collection of your own stories, they don’t need to have a uniform length (just look at Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors), though they should be thematically connected. In a multi-author anthology, it’s ideal to agree on a minimum and maximum length for the stories.
- Specify expectations of your theme or subgenre: Let’s say you want to publish a Romance short-story collection, but you don’t specify that you want every story to have a happy ending. So, one of your writers sends in a heart-wrenching tale with a romantic couple in the center of the plot, who end up going different ways. Make sure to avoid such a scenario! Otherwise, you might get dinged with bad reader reviews.
- Leave time for feedback: After you’ve collected all the stories, don’t be afraid to give feedback to your collaborating writers. As the publisher and editor of the anthology, you want to make sure that the readers get a cohesive set of stories. If a story doesn’t fit the expectations you’ve set, feel free to ask your writers for revisions.
- Editing takes time from your readers’ end as well: After the editing and formatting process is done, give enough time for all collaborating authors to review the book and give feedback regarding how the whole volume feels for them. A fresh set of eyes can make a world of difference.
- Have a killer cover design: Your book isn’t finished until you have a great cover design. Either make one yourself or ask a professional designer to create one for you. Since you’re working with others and can share the costs, it should be more affordable. But if you still want to create one for free, here are some tips from us.
What are the best tips for promoting an anthology?
I recently heard from publishing expert Amy Collins that if you think of your book as your child, you should be giving it attention until at least it reaches adulthood. Which means your responsibilities for your book’s success don’t stop at the release. Luckily, with multiple writers, the book has a lot of parents to take care of it. :)
Here are some things you can do:
- Give away a sample story before releasing the anthology: A few months before releasing the anthology, you can agree on which stories you are going to make available to generate buzz.
- Have a collaborative social media strategy: the strength of publishing an anthology is in collaboration. There are hundreds of writing groups on different social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads just to name a few). Each of your collaborating authors likely has hundreds of connections in different writing groups. Make sure that everyone gives a shout out to their own group about the book.
- Send out advance reader copies: Having reviews at the time of the release is the most important tool to drive sales for any book. Fortunately, as there are many authors with newsletter subscribers and connections, it’s a lot easier to collect reviewers for an anthology than most novels. Make sure that every one of the contributing authors sends out free books to their subscribers so you can have tons of reviews on the big day!
Anthology royalty splitting: how does it work?
After releasing your anthology and your marketing efforts have paid off, you’ll probably ask yourself: How do you deal with the royalties for an anthology?
Anthology royalty splitting is an important part of the process. You want to make sure everyone is fairly compensated for their hard work, so the administration of this should be done to a T.
You can handle anthology royalty splitting the hard way with multiple excel sheets, or choose the easier option: PublishDrive Abacus. With Abacus, you can manage and share all author royalties, run custom analytics, and track payments from one dashboard.
Try it out today, and get started for free: