For Writerly Wednesday this week I am very pleased to welcome Fox Emm to my blog to talk about the obstacles faced by publishers/editors of anthologies and how to overcome them.
Tips for Publishing An Anthology
by Fox Emm
Amazon and similar sites are littered with anthologies and short story collections from independent authors and editors who don’t have a great deal of experience in the publication business. These anthologies typically don’t have a significant number of 5 star reviews or endorsements because they struggle to find an audience. Although I can’t answer all of your questions about how to make sure you create a winning anthology here, I wanted to share my three most important tips for how to create a great anthology whether you’re compiling your works or sharing the work of others.
- Deciding on a theme, focus, or message is essential.
Some indie authors make the mistake of assuming that all of their “best stories” or “best poems” will be appropriate for an anthology. If they only write in one genre and their stories are similar, this may be true. Unfortunately for most authors hoping to put together a collection it isn’t. Would be authors and publishers would do well to take a lesson from their big league counterparts and choose pieces which fit together based on a recurring idea, theme, or other unifying characteristic.
An example that I didn’t write or edit which exemplifies this beautifully is Flirts! 5 Romantic Short Stories by author Lisa Scott (You can find the full description here: http://amzn.to/1hx7x6B ) The general premise is that this book is the first in a ten volume short story collection set. The stories featured are five contemporary romance shorts which can stand alone, but also connect to the other stories in the series. These titles are all in the contemporary romance genre and because they are ultimately linked, we can assume before we begin to read the book that they will have been designed to flow well together. Please note: I’m not suggesting that every anthology should contain such a small number of stories or be part of a larger project, but instead encouraging authors to focus on narrowing the stories they wish to include in their anthology or collection for a specific purpose.
This is beneficial for a number of reasons, but most importantly it makes it easy for readers to find you. You must make it possible for your book to be categorized into one genre, or into a handful of genres which are related. (A contemporary romance/science fiction collection will be a harder sell than a thriller/suspense collection, and so on.) As you may have gathered, in addition to improving your book, this will also generate more sales. (That is why the big guys do it!) From a marketing perspective, the more readers you find who already like books with stories like yours, the better your ratings will be. We’ve all seen the one and two star reviews “Writer was all over the place.” or “Some of these stories looked like creative writing class rejects.” these are not the comments you want about your book! By making sure that your work can be traced back to the overall theme or focus you will attract readers who will find value in your work.
- Make sure your stories flow well. Yes, really.
Although outlining for a story/poem collection is very different than outlining for a novel, the process still has immeasurable value. Readers need to be presented with a collection that flows well and is interesting. You want readers to find and start reading your book, but you also want them to finish it! (Especially since Kindle book payments are associated with the number of pages read.) There are a number of articles online which offer insight on how to construct a story collection or anthology, so spend some time on the order of the stories you intend to include. There are a variety of articles online which feature how to order stories in a collection with the most positive results, and I would encourage you to check them out and determine what works best for you content. Before you begin, I will offer some basic pointers:
- Start with your strongest work. Just like each novel needs a powerful hook in their introduction, so will your short story or poem anthology. Convince readers from page one that this is a book they can’t afford to put down.
- Don’t put your longest pieces at the beginning. - If something about your opening piece doesn’t resonate with the reader and the piece is incredibly long, you’ll convince them to put the book down before they even get to story two. Make your best short piece head up the collection with your longer high quality pieces fitting in after that.
- End with your novella. - Even if it is the best thing you’ve ever written, don’t put your novella at the front of your book. The length of early pieces sets the reader’s expectation for the rest of the book and if they get midway through your 100 page epic and lose steam, you’ll lose them.
- Let someone read it outside of you and your editing team and take their advice to heart.
Beta readers are of incredible importance for any work you intend to publish, but especially for short story collections. Be sure that someone else reads over your work and gives you feedback prior to submitting the title to an editor. Why? Often a beta reader will point out issues with structure, flow, and stories which fail to fit in with the overall book. Tweaking your manuscript based on reader feedback is essential and may help save you time and energy when an official editor works their magic on your manuscript. If your readers aren’t sure what they should be looking for, offer them a few pointers. Two important suggestions would be:
- Look for stories/poems that don’t fit in. In your eagerness for a particular story or poem to hit the presses you’ve selected a story that doesn’t quite fit. Don’t worry, it happens to us all. The good news is that if the awkward fit is obvious, a beta reader will catch it right away.
- Find the theme/can you tell what genre this should be? It’s possible that your reader is familiar with the genre you’re writing in or knows your theme in advance, if that is the case then simply remind them of the theme and ask them to see if they can pinpoint how the theme appears in each piece/what genre each piece would fall into if it were on its own. If they can’t determine what the theme/genre is or seem stumped when you make your grand reveal, try and figure out where your communication broke down and rework as needed.
Thanks again to Tasha for letting me share these few insights with you. I wish you the best of luck in your writing collection journey!
About the Author
Fox is a freelance writer and editor residing in rural Virginia. She mostly writes about horror entertainment and writing/blogging, but you can also find her working on assorted lifestyle and travel pieces whenever the mood strikes. For more on anthology creation or miscellaneous writing and blogging tips, check out her site www.bloggingonward.com or find her on: