Christine’s Note: This is a guest post by Ashley R. Carlson, the award-winning fantasy author of The Charismatics. She has posted for us before on how she used the master outline to write her novel.
A literary anthology is a wondrous mix of stories from several contributors that offers readers two very unique things: the chance to dive into some shorter fiction (for those daily transportation rides, perhaps?), and the opportunity to enjoy work from new writers!
As an indie author, the idea of organizing and publishing an anthology seemed like the perfect way not only to take advantage of the marketing opportunities (indie authors act as their own marketing director so teaming up with others helps extend your reach), but as a chance to do something really fun with some great up-and-coming writers.
Thus, It Begins Here was born. It was definitely a great learning experience, and I am happy to pass on my tips on how to successfully organize and self-publish an anthology.
1. Approach Writers for Submissions
Indie authors have have tons of creativity in the publishing field, and this also means we have lots of fellow author friends. I approached writers whom I have met on twitter, including Marissa Fuller, Liz Meldon, J. Sander, Lilly Raines, Amanda Olivier, and Amber Thomas. After discussing the fact that we all write in differing genres, we wanted to stay true to that—so the uniting theme became “beginnings.” Every story in every genre contains the “beginning” of something, and it was really exciting to see how everyone interpreted that concept in their own way. We agreed to have a 10k ballpark figure for every story’s word count so that we’d end up with a novel-sized anthology (75k words).
2. Designate an organizer (if it’s not clear).
For traditionally published anthologies, this is usually the editor or publishing house. For a self- published anthology like It Begins Here, the organizer is going to be someone who contacts everyone to discuss projects, decides on desired word counts, subject matter, etc., and are also the person to go to regarding any issues. They need to have the time, energy and dedication to see the project through to the end.
3. Assign critique partners.
With It Begins Here, we decided to do a critique partner system—each person was assigned another author’s story to beta-read and provide feedback on. This ensured that every story was provided substantial feedback, at which point a rewrite was done. If time permits, I’d even suggest two or more rounds of critiques, depending on the desired involvement by participating
4. Ensure that strict submission dates are followed.
Because of our shorter time frame, I wanted to give everyone (relatively) strict submission dates for first drafts, critiques, second drafts and interview/marketing materials.
Be sure to decide on what your course of action will be if an author submits materials late, or if their submission does not fit the desired content or skill level. Will you offer them the chance for another draft? Will you make an exception regarding the time frame? Plan for these issues beforehand.
5. Hire a formatter (or format it yourself).
Decide whether the anthology will solely be in e-book format, or also in paperback. Hire a formatter to design the MOBI and ePUB files (for e-books), and if necessary, the interior PDF file for the paperback. I recommend Stuart Whitmore of Crenel Publishing or Jessica Schmeidler of The Write Shadow for affordable, high-quality services. If you’re going to tackle the e-book formatting yourself, I prefer Scrivener for designing the book—it looks prettier—and then Sigil and Calibre for converting to various formats. (Sigil is a free ePub formatting program where you can open the ePub file and make changes to misspelled words, etc., and Calibre is also a free program that allows you to convert files to various e-book and PDF formats.)
To easily split the payment of formatting amongst every author, use PayPal and pool the money together to send ONE easy payment to your freelance formatter. They will appreciate it! The organizer should have a PayPal account already set up to receive the separate payments from each participating author, before sending the payment to the freelance professional through PayPal or other preferred payment services.
6. Choose where the book will be published.
Are you going to publish e-books and paperbacks, and if so, which distributors? Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes, etc.? If Amazon, will you enroll in KDP Select to offer the anthology to Kindle Unlimited subscribers? Discuss these options with your fellow authors, and see if they might provide valuable insight regarding their own distribution experiences. Currently, It Begins Here will be available non-exclusively on Amazon in e-book and paperback, and I plan to upload it to other distributors as well.
7. Have a great cover.
Ah, book covers. They are one of the most important ways to convey quality regarding your work—especially self-published work. Thankfully, one of our contributing authors, Amber Thomas, is also an amazing designer and artist! We all provided ideas about covers we liked, and then our insight on adjustments. Overall, it ended up gorgeous—just remember that paperback covers require a front, back and spine, so ensure that your designer makes all three.
8. Decide how the royalties will be received and distributed.
With It Begins Here, I uploaded the e-book file to Amazon and the paperback file to CreateSpace through my personal accounts. The issue with this is funds collected; because both companies only pay through check or electronic funds transfer, my personal bank account information is attached to both accounts. Thus, an honor system regarding my reporting of royalties earned will be followed. I did research creating entirely new accounts for the book so that everyone could have access, but that still wouldn’t resolve the issue of where the payment would go while protecting personal bank account information.
As a group we decided to use the royalties for our second installment of the anthology, titled It Ends Here (anticipated release in spring of 2016), and will donate the remaining balance to NaNoWriMo to support a cause that we feel very strongly about!
9. Market your anthology!
Don’t forget to do lots of marketing—it’s easy with so many contributors—and have fun! Ask each contributor to send out an e-mail to their list, share on social media, and do guest blogs (like this one!). Get creative in how you spread the word about your book; for example, here is an instagram post where I showed the original cover art:
The beauty of an anthology is that each author gets more reach and expands their original audience through the audiences of the anthology contributors.
Life is full of them, whether in a steampunk universe, the balmy mountains of India in the 1900s, a stark hospital room in which love is the only survivor, or a laughter-filled playground where dark secrets linger.
In this anthology, seven female up-and-coming authors have joined together to detail their visions of what a meaningful beginning contains—romance, death, supernatural abilities, courage, but most of all …
ENJOY STORIES BY THE FOLLOWING AUTHORS
Ashley R. Carlson — award-winning author of The Charismatics and Misery and Marlene and freelance editor
Marissa Fuller — author, editor and #FromPitchtoPublished co-founder
Liz Meldon — freelance writer and author of the Lovers and Liars series
Amanda Olivier — historical romance author of After Sunrise
Lilly Raines — horror and dark fantasy author of Smoke & Monsters
J. Sander — author and popular blogger at dont-delete-me.com
Amber Thomas — author and It Begins Here cover designer
A big thank you to Ashley R. Carlson for stopping by and telling us about the anthology, It Begins Here! Be sure to check out Ashley’s award-winning novel, The Charismatics, and visit her website to grab a a free copy of her short story, A Beauty’s Bargain (set in The Charismatics’ world).