Much has changed since last I sat at my keyboard to write the first part of this mini-series on editing and publishing anthologies as an Indie. The convention weekend was fantastic, for many reasons. One? I leveled up as a publisher. I now have someone I’m working with to administer the anthologies. So unlike my assertion last time, that I was one more and done? I’ll be doing three or four a year, as long as she’s willing to wrangle cat… er, authors for me. Secondly? I had someone sit down with me and pitch a couple of projects he’d like me to publish for him. One of those I accepted, since this was quite literally five minutes after I’d taken on the help offered me.
Last time, I covered things like the call, the story acceptance (or rejection) process, and stopped short of the final push to publication. It may have seemed like what I’ve outlined so far is a lot of work, but I assure you, the last 20% of the process will take up 80% of your time. Which is where having help will free me to do other things, like write.
Once you have the stories chosen, it’s time to send out contracts. You’ll have to consider here how you want them returned to you, and in what timeline. Trust me when I say you don’t want to be the day before publication and chasing down that last author for a confirmation of inclusion (are they even still alive?!). You’ll probably get questions and possibly even negotiations on the contracts. I’d say to consider and be reasonable about this, but I wouldn’t want to work with someone who had repeated or extensive changes to the contract without very good reasons for them. Again, what I said in the last post: keep it simple. Have a clear reversion clause. Don’t keep the story exclusive for an extended period of time.
Now, or somewhere in here, you need to do the formatting. This is a bit of a pain in the patootie, usually. I’ve discovered that Vellum does a marvelous job, but two things; it’s not a cheap program, and you have to feed it a fairly clean document to begin with, or you risk having to chase down code gremlins. If you’re just starting and working on a shoestring budget, you can format in Word. I do not recommend using any of the free word processing programs (ie. Open Office or Libre Office). I know of people who use Jutoh, I have no experience with it. I’ve used Word, and now Vellum. Vellum was worth the entry cost for me, as a publisher of my own and (now!) others’ books, but it involved buying the software and a dedicated computer, so it’s very definitely not for you unless you’re in the business. The complication in formatting is going to come from the varied stories. You can tell writers to follow standard manuscript format, but half the time they won’t. You could reject based solely on that, but frankly until you’re having a huge number of submissions you likely can’t afford to be that picky, even if you weren’t shoving off great stories just to save you some work. What you’ll likely have to do with the oddballs is to strip all the formatting, then reset in your preferred formatting. The pain comes in italics and any odd formatting the author wanted in there. Either you make an editorial decision that ‘no odd formatting!’ or you hand-add the italics back in. Or both.
You also have to choose if you’d like to have author bios after every story. Some do, some don’t. I didn’t include them in the hunting anthology, as the bios (even at 50-100 words) would have been proportionally large next to the shortest stories. However, if the main thrust of your anthology is to cross-pollinate between fan bases, you want to make it easy for new fans to find the author of this great short story they just read. So at a minimum, you’ll want a way for that to happen. Live links are not a good idea, due to the constraints of different ebook stores. Best to go with website addresses or if they don’t yet have that, a non-live link to social media or author page. Bare minimum, name of other books they have out there.
Once you have the manuscript set up, I like to send out a pdf version to the authors, for them to review their story (this is post any major editorial changes you may have already worked with them on). You’ll likely have some enthusiasts who want to proof the whole book, but the point is for everyone to give it one last eyeball before it goes to publish. This includes any issues with the copyright page, where you should have every story listed with it’s author as the copyright belongs to them. You’ve only got temporary custody of it, as it were. I also like to include a colophon with the other books authors in the anthology have available. I will do this even if the information was already available in the post-story bios.
Finally, as the editor, you will want to write at least a brief introductory bit about the anthology. For some, it need not be long. For others, it will set the scene and purpose, as with my essay to begin Can’t Go Home on PTSD and the impact it has on all of us. You may also want to write a post-script. I did this with the PTSD anthology in order to offer up help and resources beyond the fiction in that book, but it was a special case.
Now! You will get all of this formatted (and that’s probably a whole tutorial of it’s own, I’m afraid) and get it uploaded. Pubshare has another layer to add as well. Every author will need to make a PubShare account (it’s free) and most importantly set up their royalty payment preferences because if they miss that second part, they won’t get paid. Not having authors get paid violates my prime directive with anthologies. You, the editor/publisher, will set up the book project in PubShare, invite all your authors, and then have to make sure they accept the project. You won’t be able to publish until all of them are green-lit and you can lock the percentages in place for their shares of the royalties.
In addition to the formatting for the interior, you’ll need to have an ebook cover, and a print flat. You can also set up for hardback, this isn’t something I’ve tried yet. I use Amazon for the POD, and I don’t like their hardback for fiction. For children’s books, or perhaps my cookbook next year , I’ll try it. You can have hardbacks with actual dustcovers done through other sources, again, I haven’t tried them myself. For covers, I’ve written many times here about setting one up. If you choose to have one done, you’ll want to be very aware that the cover will make or break the anthology. A bad cover can and will sink it. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve had stories in anthologies where it happened. On the other hand, there’s no reason to spend $800- $1000 on a cover. You don’t need to spend that much. There are cover designers out there putting some lovely stuff out for a couple hundred dollars, or you can do it yourself if, and only if, you’ve been covering your own work and it’s been selling well.
Which brings me to the publisher’s share. If you are using PubShare, you won’t be able to say ‘I’ll only pay out royalties after my costs are met.’ Frankly, this makes me as an author more confident in a project. I know the anthologist is as invested in the book as I am. As an anthologist, I know very well how much time and money I’ve sunk into that book before it comes out. I’m highly unlikely to ever see that fully recovered. I know what I charge for cover art & design, what my time spent wrestling with formatting is worth, and now I have an admin who also needs to get paid. I’m in a position where I think that investment in an anthology is worthwhile. I’m feeding the authors around me, and I’m uniquely situated to where I can afford to give them a boost. Eventually? The favor may be returned. Frankly, just working on fun projects is a reward all it’s own, and the PTSD anthologies are not about an income, but possibly helping someone stay alive. However, you need to understand this before you start on anthologies. They may bring in a trickle of income, each volume, and when you have enough volumes that can be significant. I really do believe there is a market for short fiction. Heck, for short non-fiction there’s a market, the hunting anthology is showing me that. But it is a slow, long process. Anthologies will not make you rich. They will supplement your other work, not supplant it.
Marketing anthologies is both easy, and hard. If you’ve got, say, ten authors in an anthology, ranging from rank newbie with their first story in it (and I’m going to say here that this is a thrill for me as anthologist, to get to bring out a first story. So much fun) to the seasoned author with a broad fanbase, then in theory all of them will be promoting it alongside you. You can make this easier for them by giving them easily-shareable promo materials in the shape of web-graphics, starting a couple of weeks before the book is out. Even just sharing the book cover is a good way to build some anticipation. You don’t want to start too early, but you don’t want to wait until release day, either. The hard part comes in with the long tail. After the initial buzz, which dies down in a few weeks, you can’t just forget about it and wander off to other projects. You’ll want to share, and remind your authors to as well, the promos every month at least.
I feel like this is already too long, and I’m probably missing stuff! So, ask questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them. See you there!
Charity anthologies having rules all their own of course.
Cedar, I’m not sure you should extend the hunting anthology performance to nonfiction in general. It doesn’t read as “nonfiction”; it reads as a book of possibly true tall tales. Let’s face it, “fish story ” is another alias for “exaggerated or untrue ” for a reason. 😇😎
If we do something like it again, which we do plan for next year, the stories will be along the same line. I think humor and emotion work just as well in non-fiction stories!
Covers: If you have an artist willing to do it for love: communicate early and often. You are trading infinite effort for limited time.
Well said, and yes they DO eat time you could have spent writing… sigh