Anthologies by Catharine Bramkamp
Let’s welcome back monthly columnist Catharine Bramkamp as she shares with us about “Anthologies.” Enjoy!
Anthologies are often the first place a brand newbie writer can get published, which is why many colleges and writing clubs collect and print anthologies. Inclusion in an anthology increases the value of group membership and lifts all boats — or in this case, author’s street cred.
Inclusion in an anthology, even if it’s organized through your favorite writing club of which you serve as secretary is still not a slam dunk. Typically submissions are anonymous and vetted by an editorial team. The judging is blind, so your work stands alone. This is good for authors who, just once, would like to be judged on the merits of the writing, not on the size of their social media following.
Organizing an anthology can be a nightmare or a positive group project focused on benefiting every participating author. If you are a lesser known author, the more famous authors in the collection can help boost your work. Many authors achieve best seller status because they were part of a bestselling anthology. Your work was in the collection, you get to wear the crown. This is also true when the book is promoted. Some authors have larger followers than others. Their followers will help publicize the work as a whole and by extension, you.
Can’t find an anthology that works for you? Create your own. Here’s what to consider.
Start with the theme or the title. This helps you focus on what, exactly, to include in the anthology. It gives your editorial team a focus, and you’ll know what kind of work to ask for when you put the call out for submissions.
Assign an editorial team. This is key. I assigned a team to the Poetry Anthology And The Beats Go On. I came up with the title, the theme, and hired the photographer for the cover. But the editorial team was responsible for choosing the poems to include, not me. The anthology was the value-add for Redwood Writers. As a long-time member and in the name of craven self-preservation, I invited three editorial team members to judge the submissions.
How do you judge anthologies?
I gathered up all the submissions, then sent a full set (without names) to each team member. They in turn, ranked their favorites on a scale of 1 (loved), to 3 (don’t include). The idea was that if one person didn’t like a work, perhaps the other two would. All I did was score the likes and dislikes. A work needed to be approved by at least two editors to make it into the anthology.
Beth Barany made a good point about considering where or who benefits from the sales of the book. For the poetry anthology I edited, book sales simply reverted back to the club, and for the most part, paid for printing the book, so it could be sold, a virtuous cycle.
For a more popular anthology (lucky you) the sales proceeds are typically divided up between the individual authors and distributed on a quarterly basis. If you think that sounds like a nightmare amount of work, you are right. Think of that ahead of time. You may want to donate the proceeds to animal rescue so you only need to access one online account.
Oh, and if you DO donate the proceeds, that’s one more feature to advertise and talk about when promoting the collection. Cynical? Hell yes, it’s marketing.
Create an agreement and rights release for each author. The contract doesn’t need to be complicated. I do suggest asking for first rights only. Allow your authors to re-sell their featured piece as long as they mention that it first appeared in your anthology. This is especially important for first-time authors. Let them build on their initial success. For the Redwood Writer’s Anthologies, that is the whole point.
Know Your Why
Are you collecting works and publishing an anthology to make money? To create another product? To help out fellow authors? To collect different voices on a theme?
Figure out the purpose for the anthology. It will help in soliciting for material, and later, in promoting the collection.
Be a Hands-on Editor
Create an ideal promotion schedule and share with each author. If the authors are new at this, they will need some guidance. If you are new at this, you’ll need a plan that you can follow and track. If you have included a number of first-time authors in your anthology, they may need help with the promotion efforts. Help them along. I recommend sending participating authors samples of language they can use in their social media outlets as well as ideas for creating those outlets. The more exposure they have, the more exposure for the anthology you will have.
Find out what author knows who. Laura McHale was able to get her collection, Sisters Born, Sisters Found into a major bookstore (with a reading) because one of the authors in the collection knew the owner . . . I’m not saying to include works because the author can help with the promotion. Not at all.
For an author or poet, inclusion in an anthology counts as published. If your work is featured in a number of anthologies, those publications deliver almost as much clout and recognition as publishing your own book. If the anthology is like a Chicken Soup for the Soul book, even better. If your work is featured in enough anthologies, it will help when you want to branch out and collect those stories or poems into a full book of your own.
And at that point, you’ll want to share the love.
Look for more in our upcoming book – Don’t Write Like We Talk – What we learned after four years interviewing authors and agents, publishers and poets by Damien Boath & Catharine Bramkamp
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Catharine Bramkamp is the co-producer of Newbie Writers Podcast that focuses on newer writers and their concerns. She is a successful writing coach, Chief Storytelling Officer, and author of a dozen books including the Real Estate Diva Mysteries series, and The Future Girls series. She holds two degrees in English, and is an adjunct university professor. After fracturing her wrist, she has figured out there is very little she is able to do with one hand tied behind her back.