Anthology Books: What Are They and How Can Writers Use Them?
Does getting a book published by a recognized publishing house seem frightening, overwhelming or impossible? And though self-publishing has less cost and resistance, the effort may seem daunting. So how can a writer get a published book without going in either of these two routes? Anthology books!
What is an Anthology Book?
An anthology book is a collection of short fiction, poetry or nonfiction works (or excerpts) by a variety of authors. Typically the book is organized around a particular subject, theme, writing style or genre. For example, an anthology could be a collection of short stories by science fiction writers.
One of the most successful anthology book series has been the Chicken Soup for the Soul series by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Each book in the series is a collection of inspirational stories targeted for various markets such as pet lovers, cancer patients, nurses, new moms, runners, gardeners, the list is exhaustive
Usually, an anthology book is edited and/or published by someone of note (often a writer or recognized expert) in the subject area. One example from the business arena is Masters of Sales from networking gurus Ivan Misner and Don Morgan. Several authors (many of them top salespeople) contributed a chapter offering their sales tips.
Participation in an anthology can be by invitation for free, for pay (share of royalties or flat fee) or pay to participate, meaning that authors pay to be included in the book. In the business arena, paid anthologies are common since authors use the opportunity to promote themselves. Some projects also require authors to purchase a certain number of books either in addition to any fee or in lieu of a fee. With the emergence of ebooks, some publishers may offer an electronic version of the final book to authors to share or sell as they see fit. Unless a royalty sharing or flat fee pay scheme is used, the publisher will retain all income from future sales of the books through distribution channels.
Authors are provided with a list of guidelines for writing and submitting drafts for their segments of the book. The editor or publisher bears the costs of producing the book to include editing, graphic design, layout, proofing, publishing, printing, marketing, and distribution.
Why Would Writers Want to be in an Anthology?
Isn't it better for an author to have his or her own published book? Yes, being the lone author of a book always affords recognition and financial benefits. However, there are a number of reasons why writers, even published ones, might want to consider being part of an anthology:
- Less Effort. Self-publishing or getting published by a regular publishing house can be quite a project! An anthology only requires authors to submit a segment and leave those details to the editor and publisher. This allows authors to concentrate on creating their best work.
- In Good Company. Some anthologies gather together top authors and experts. So to be included with recognized writers can afford less famous writers the benefit of being considered as on par with them.
- Today's Business Card. Being able to say, "I'm one of the authors of _____" can carry a lot of weight for writers who are seeking additional writing opportunities. The book becomes a great business card! It says that someone of note considered them and their work worthy to be included.
- "I'm on Amazon." Google isn't the only place people look for writers and their work. Amazon is one of the Internet's premier search engines, especially for people who want to buy! Being searchable on Amazon has its advantages. NOTE: Make sure the anthology lists ALL authors when they make the book for sale on Amazon. If they don't plan to do that, then reconsider whether the project makes sense for you and your marketing objectives. As a side note, when you do become an author (of an anthology or your own book), get registered on Amazon's Author Central to provide more information, links to websites and blogs, social media and more.
Would you ever consider writing for an anthology book?
Why Would an Author Ever Pay or Write for Free to Be in an Anthology Book?
For authors, paying to be part of an anthology work can be a wise marketing investment, whether that means paying a fee or contributing writing for free. A book can be an impressive calling card for attracting potential employers, clients, agents, speaking engagements and even more writing assignments.
As discussed earlier, being noted as being in the company of other recognized experts has value and can be a resume builder. Since all anthology authors will likely be promoting the book to their own networks, this can help get an author known in multiple new markets.
With content marketing (articles, blogs, reports, books, etc.) being the new marketing paradigm for many businesses online and offline, a book of this type can be an important part of these programs.
These benefits should be considered when evaluating costs to participate.
Tips for Successfully Participating in an Anthology Book
Balancing costs and expectations are key to successfully participating in an anthology book project. Keep these tips in mind:
- Remember Who Controls the Show. The editor and publisher are running this book project, even for "pay to play" projects. Understand that their requirements are established to make the entire project successful, not individual authors. Don't be a prima donna! They can find other authors.
- Authors Must Market the Book, Too. While the publisher usually takes on the duties of marketing the final book, authors are also responsible for marketing the book to their own networks. Authors should purchase at least a small supply of copies make them for sale on their own websites, blogs and at events to help recoup the investment. This is particularly the case for projects where no royalty sharing or fee is paid to writers.
- Participate in Projects that Make Sense. All anthology books are not created equal! Sure, it's impressive for an author to brag that he's a published author. But if the project is off topic, then the investment could be wasted. However, if an author is trying to break into a new market that's off the usual subjects, an anthology can be a stepping stone into the new territory. Also, realize that anthology books may not carry the same prestige as single-author or co-authored publications; they usually live or die on the reputation of the publisher/editor. So choose wisely.
- Sampling Marketing Strategy. Truly, a chapter or segment in an anthology is a sample of an author's work. This gives readers a chance to get a taste of what the author and his work are all about. Make it so good they'll want more!
Disclaimer: Any examples used are for illustrative purposes only and do not suggest affiliation or endorsement. The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed, and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies, and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.
Questions & Answers
Is it ethical to contribute one of your own stories to a fiction anthology if you're the editor?
Well, if you are the editor and you are paying for the production and publishing of the book, you have to decide if your personal participation as a contributor would enhance or detract from the overall work.
In some markets, if editors participate as contributors, it will be seen as self-serving. I would guess that more literary markets might lean that way, but I don't have any hard data to back that up. And it would depend on whether the editor is also the producer and publisher. If the publisher hires an outside editor, the inclusion of the editor's contribution may be part of the compensation and perks offered for the editor's time and talent to edit the anthology.
In markets where nonfiction anthologies are done for business purposes, I have often seen the editors contribute a chapter. In this instance, the editor may also be the producer/publisher, and they want to get some marketing value out of their investment.
So there's no standard policy, and it really depends on the market and the project itself.
© 2013 Heidi Thorne