Sometimes called anthologies, or compilations, multiple-author books can be a way to get a taste of the publishing world and a fast track to calling yourself a published author. However, not all projects are created equal. Here’s what you need to consider if you are asked to be part of a multi-author book.
An anthology, like all books, will be an excellent marketing tool for you as a business owner or for your writing career. Therefore, you want to know that the time and capital you are investing in the project will benefit the readers and eventually your career. Here are some questions to ask: Who is the book’s primary audience? Is that also your ideal client or reader? What is the marketing plan, and how long does that plan run? It is recommended to promote a book for at least two years after it’s published. Unfortunately, for many compilations, there is a huge push right before the release date in an effort to gain bestseller status, and then nothing. Those sales are only one day in the life of the book.
As much as we’ve been warned by our moms not to judge a book by its cover—everyone does. We also judge a book by its interior layout, and its editing, or lack thereof. In the age of self-publishing, the industry has been inundated by mediocre designs that look like they were created on Microsoft Paint by a second-grader. Keeping your business or writing career in mind, when choosing to join efforts with multiple authors, take into consideration what level of design expertise and professional editing will be earmarked for the project. This leads us to the third point.
These projects can have a hefty upfront cost to join and not so generous sharing of the profits once the book is released. I would fully expect that the person compiling the chapters, managing the backend tasks, facilitating the printing and distribution, as well as creating and implementing the marketing plan would retain a profit. As a co-author, I would also fully expect that you would get books at a discount that you can then sell at full price creating your own profit. I don’t know that I would go so far as to ask the person in charge to share their bottom line, but you may want to ask for detailed information about design, editing, and marketing and use your judgment to see if your fees will be well used. Finally, it’s fair to ask who gets residual royalties and if those are split or retained by the compiler.
Taking the Lead
Have you been thinking of creating your own multiple-author compilation book? Note that taking the lead is usually the only way to see your name on the spine of the book instead of having your chapter buried among many others. While these projects can be rewarding and a lot of fun, they are also a lot of work. There is the benefit of having your name on the spine of the book as the compiler, and there is a profit to be made as well. My best advice to you is to make sure that the co-authors share the same vision, theme, and ideal audience as you do. If you don’t know how well they each write, you can either have an application process knowing you must reject some people or budget for structural editing or a writing coach who can mould writing into its best shape.
I hope this answers your most burning questions about whether you should say yes or no the next time someone asks you to be part of an anthology. We at Big Sky Author Services tried our hand at working on an anthology in the past and have chosen not to do them moving forward. But if you’re ready to have the spotlight only on you and your writing, contact us. We help with writing coaching and publishing strategy for both traditional and independent publishing.