Statistics show that 80-90% of the U.S. population have “become a published author” on their bucket list. While this can seem like a daunting task, many writers get their start by contributing to an anthology.
A book or other collection of selected writings by various authors, usually in the same literary form, of the same period, or on the same subject.
Some newbie writers will seek out an anthology project that focuses on a topic that they have an interest in writing, or as an expert in their field. Others may choose the route of managing the anthology project or acting as the coordinator, as the named “author” of the book, and may or may not be a contributing author, except to write an introduction, dedication and acknowledgment.
By being published as a contributing author in an anthology, the writer can now add “published author” to their resume, social media profiles, and can establish credibility as a writer. Another benefit is that the writer doesn’t have to write an entire book, just a sampling of what potentially could be a larger project. Think of it like an extended blog or a short story. For new authors, participating in an anthology project is likened to “dipping your toe in the water” to writing – a good test to see if you like the process.
For the purpose of this article, let’s say that you have decided to be the coordinator of an anthology project, and that you want to self-publish a book about women’s issues. These stories may be about overcoming an obstacle, dealing with a life struggle, or might be about some personal or professional challenges. Each contributing author’s story would be a separate chapter in the book, with the coordinator taking the lead on managing the project.
There are different models that can be used to create an anthology. The first is that the coordinator could take on the entire project and the cost of self-publishing, much like a business project, with no financial commitment from the contributing authors. The coordinator could offer books to be purchased wholesale by the contributing authors, which they could sell at retail pricing. The coordinator could publish the book on Amazon and retain all royalties.
The next model is similar to the first, in that the coordinator could take on the project as their own and self-publish the book, and allow the contributors to purchase books at wholesale, but also split the royalties from Amazon and other online sales. While this might be enticing for the contributing authors, it can be a bookkeeping challenge for the coordinator. In addition, direct to consumer sales of the book bring the highest retail price and sales can be managed by each author depending on how much time and effort they choose to put towards book marketing.
The last model, and quite frankly my favorite, offers contributors to have a financial stake in the project. The reason I like this model is that a) the coordinator doesn’t have to finance the entire project themselves, and b) the contributing authors are paying for a service, i.e. the managing of the book project, which means they are investing in the final product. Studies show that when a person invests financially in a project, they are more apt to take the project seriously. This can have a positive effect on the project, resulting in meeting deadlines, maintaining professionalism and keeping the project on task and on timeline. As with the first model, the coordinator could offer wholesale pricing for the contributing authors to purchase the book and keep online royalties as compensation.
In order to get started with an anthology project using the last model suggested, the coordinator could request writing submissions along the theme of the book. Once the coordinator received submissions, he/she would determine which stories would be included. One story equals one chapter, each with a different author. Then, the coordinator could split the total cost of the project (including professional editing, layout & cover design) between the authors with chapters chosen for the book.
There are a couple of ways to manage the individual investment for the contributing authors. One way is to have each author have their chapter edited for content & development independently then submit a final version to be combined into the book as a whole. Another option is to have one editor work on each chapter separately. Just keep in mind that this may slow the editing process and would likely come at a higher cost to the overall project versus each author contracting with an editor of their choice.
Unlike genres such as fiction and memoir, due to the nature of an anthology, using the same editor for each individual chapter is not critical, as each story/chapter will have its own feel. In an anthology, it is important to hear the individual voice of each author. Once each chapter has been edited and submitted, the coordinator can arrange the chapters with the help of an editor, so that the chapter sequence creates flow and an “arc” to the book, offering the reader a sense of satisfaction, resolution and hope.
After the book has been organized, it is recommended that the entire manuscript go through a proof edit, looking for typos, errors and any mistakes. After the proof edit, the book would be ready for layout and cover design.
Topics for an anthology project could range from women’s stories, to poetry, to tales from firefighters and law enforcement. Even chapters written by veterans from their time in the military might have an appeal for specific readers and may inspire the contributing authors to write a memoir. Business books with examples of a lesson learned or a proven sales strategy can be successful in certain industries. Whatever the topic, anthologies provide both the coordinator and the contributing authors an affordable way to become a published author without the hefty price tag.