The Art of the Anthology: What You Need to Know Before You Submit

Nearly all writers want to make new author friends and boost their book marketing. One great way to do this is by writing for an anthology. But you should be aware of possible pitfalls before you take part, and it’s best to have a plan.

Defining an Anthology

An anthology is a book containing a collection of short stories or a mix of poetry, prose, and other writing. You may also hear people refer to a box set, which is more often a collection of complete novellas or full-length books.

Story word counts vary for anthologies and box sets, going from a hundred words for a drabble right up to 70,000 words or more for a full-length story.

Most anthologies focus on a particular genre, such as YA, Urban Fantasy, or Steamy Romance. There’s usually a theme and/or a trope, such as summer nights or enemies to lovers. Authors might also find shared world opportunities where everyone gets to write a story set in the same world.

In addition, anthologies have different aims, including charity sets to raise money for a particular cause, money-making sets, sets to get your new pen name out there, sets to go wide, and list-aiming sets.

An Overview of the Process

Some anthologies are free to join, and some have a buy-in amount. If there is a buy-in fee, the set coordinator may take a percentage of the sales too—usually between 10 percent and 20 percent. Buy-ins can range from around ten dollars to over five hundred dollars for list-aim sets. List-aim sets often come with an expectation that you’ll also provide a marketing budget for ads and promotional sites.

A contract will also lay out important dates and other information, such as royalty shares, whether the anthology will be published wide or through Kindle Unlimited, payment dates, when your rights will be returned to you, the final deadline for submissions, and the release date.

If you sign up for a set with an experienced coordinator, then you’ll find a quality cover is included, and everything is organized for you. Some marketing might also already be in place, perhaps from paid ads or promotional sites.

Some organizers set up a group for the anthology so you have one place to go for updates, questions, polls, and all the information you need. The coordinator may have a way to organize and assign different jobs involved in running and marketing an anthology. Along with everyone else, you will be expected to promote the anthology, including on your social media and in your newsletter. The organizer may also allocate jobs, such as running BookFunnel promotions, arranging BookBub review and buy swaps, and posting in appropriate genre Facebook groups.

If you’ve never done this before and don’t know what some of those tasks are or how to do them, don’t be shy about asking your coordinator. They’d rather explain and help you than have you not market the anthology as part of the group.

Some organizers let people post on their own schedule while others have a schedule for posts and newsletters. You may find that your organizer offers extra marketing for a fee, so you don’t have to post as much. Still, be aware that it does take time to post and keep up with the related duties. You’ll need to organize these around your writing and everything else you have to do daily.

The amount of work involved varies depending on the type of anthology. As you might imagine, a list-aiming anthology will involve several hours every week with potentially more time requirements as release week nears.

As long as you keep up to date and stay involved in your group or chat, you shouldn’t have a problem knowing what to do next. And if you do, your organizer is there to help.

What to Look out for

You need to do your homework on your anthology organizer and make sure they know what they’re doing. There are horror stories of organizers taking the buy-in money and disappearing or never paying out royalties.

Know who will be receiving your buy-in before you sign up. Check in with other authors and anthology organizers to make sure your chosen coordinator is trustworthy.

Check your contract and run it past a lawyer. Make sure there’s nothing problematic in there, such as rights grabs, where the organizer is trying to claim your audio rights, movie rights, or more. An April 2015 article by Helen Sedwick of The Book Designer includes detailed information on how to spot rights grabs in your contracts: https://tinyurl.com/BookDesigner.

How to Choose Your Anthologies

Ask yourself whether a particular anthology fits your author plan. Will it advance your author goals? There are so many anthologies to choose from that it’s like being a kid in a candy store. But you can’t write for all of them, nor should you.

When picking an anthology, it’s a great idea to make sure it either fits with what you already write or would be an opportunity to introduce a new pen name in a new genre. Perhaps you could use the anthology to write a lead magnet for your newsletter, a prequel to an existing series, or an introduction to the next series you’d like to write. It’s much easier to market related stories and gain read-through to your other books. However, it is up to you. If you enjoy writing stories in multiple genres, then why not have fun with it as long as you have room in your schedule? Doing so can be a fun way to try out new genres.

Make the Most of Your Participation

You can take a few more steps to ensure you get everything you can out of involvement in anthologies, box sets, and shared worlds.

  • Whitelist the organizer’s emails. That will ensure you’re getting all the information you need. Join the anthology group, chat, or social media page, and get to know everyone. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of project organizers or offer to help if you can.
  • Stay organized. When you’re part of many anthologies, it’s easy to miss a deadline or a takeover party. Note everything on your calendar.
  • Do your part. Some people join anthologies and don’t do a stroke of marketing. They don’t post, join the group, or help anyone. Don’t be that person. Not only will you not get the most out of it, but anthology coordinators do talk and share. Do this regularly, and you’ll wear out your welcome.
  • Stick to the deadlines. Coordinators shouldn’t need to chase you for your story at the last minute. Sometimes things come up, and you can’t get your story in on time, but try not to make a habit of being late or of dropping out of sets. Again, organizers talk.
  • Set up your back matter. With most anthologies, you will have space for a short bio and some links. Use this to your advantage: Include both your newsletter sign-up link so people can get on your mailing list and your Amazon page link so readers can see what else you have to offer. Include a blurb and buying link to any books and preorders that are related to your anthology story. Just be sure to stick to the format and number of links allotted by the anthology organizer.

With a plan in place and careful selection of your anthologies, you can enjoy new author connections and advance your author career in fresh ways.

Where to Find Anthologies

To find anthologies you can join, talk to authors you know about anthologies they’ve been in. Facebook groups aplenty offer anthology, box set, and shared world opportunities.

Here are just some of them:

Boxed Set Opportunities for Authors: https://facebook.com/groups/BoxedSetOpps

Margo’s Group for Authors—Boxed Sets: https://facebook.com/groups/boxedsetsforauthors

Anthologies and Collections for Indie Authors: https://facebook.com/groups/anthologiesandcollections

Amaryllis Media Open Calls & Marketing Opportunities:  https://.facebook.com/groups/amaryllismedia

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