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Anthology Books: How Valuable Are They for Authors?

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.


I got a question from a blog reader about leveraging a chapter in an anthology book into something bigger and better.

Though I’ve gone into more depth about anthology books in another post, here’s a quick review of what anthology books are. Anthologies are collections of chapters, poetry, short stories, etc., that authors submit to the anthology’s editor or publisher for possible inclusion. The collection is typically centered around a theme, topic, genre, or type of author.

Depending on the goals of the anthology, authors may submit their contribution for free, may get paid to participate, or may even pay to be included. In the business sector, pay-to-play anthologies are common.

Getting back to the reader’s question, how can participating in an anthology lead to bigger and better opportunities?

The Association Effect

One of the most successful anthology series has been Jack Canfield’s Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Canfield is a recognized speaker and author in the inspirational and motivational arena. Being able to market and promote yourself as “contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul...” associates you with his work and establishes you as a player in the inspiration and motivation market. Readers who like Canfield’s work might be impressed by your participation and may be more encouraged to read or buy your book.

So participation in recognized anthologies can help attract fans of the anthology to your own individual books. However, that is not always a guaranteed path since readers may be more interested in the next anthology in the series, or the next book from the editor or publisher, as opposed to your work.

I had an author friend who contributed a chapter to a pay-to-play anthology edited and published by a very famous business speaker. The contributing author promoted his participation everywhere he could.

Since this contributing author was trying to make a name for himself in the editor’s industry, it may have helped him achieve some recognition from the association effect. However, recognition does not equal revenues, royalties, or opportunities, as I think the author realized later. He will receive nothing monetarily going forward. But the editor/publisher will continue to receive all the revenues and royalties from the sale of the whole book in perpetuity, on top of the revenues received from contributing authors like my friend.

Another downside to the association effect is that you are part of a group. If the other authors are influential in your market, this could put you in good company. But realize, too, that being part of a group dilutes the attention your work receives. This is especially the case if there is a wide disparity of popularity among the authors. Your work would be overshadowed by that of the more popular authors.

Who Are You Marketing?

I watch for anthology book projects that pop up in my business network. One anthology editor/publisher expressed frustration that authors from previous editions were not leveraging their participation to build their businesses. That is not completely surprising.

Authors can expect that their participation will lead to bigger and better things automatically. I think this is especially the case for pay-to-play anthologies. I don’t blame them. Some authors have paid up to thousands of dollars to participate, and they are looking for a return on their investment.

Similar to traditional publishing book deals, once the anthology is done, you’ll be responsible for continued marketing of your chapter in the book. The editor/publisher will usually feel that they are done working with you. So any leveraging of the opportunity is completely up to you. You also have to realize that your marketing is marketing for both the editor and the group of other authors, in addition to yourself. How much do you want to spend in time, effort, and money to promote the work of others, while promoting only a little bit of your own work?

Before signing up to participate in an anthology—whether free, paid, or pay-to-play—be very clear about what you hope to achieve and research whether that goal is even possible with this project. Realize, too, that some editors/publishers might exaggerate what this opportunity can offer. So do your due diligence before you sign on.

Does Participation in an Anthology Help Get a Book Deal?

While I’m not exactly sure what the blog reader meant by “bigger and better things” in the question, I don’t think it would be a stretch to assume that he could have had a book deal in mind.

As with the association effect, participation in a recognized industry or genre anthology could help get the attention of relevant agent or publisher. However, it is not a guarantee of such consideration. As well, authors still need to do outreach to agents and publishers. And having an existing author platform (a.k.a., fan base) is also going to be a key element to gain that consideration.

If getting a book deal is your goal, you need to do some research on the reputation of the anthology or the editor/publisher in your target market. Is it one that is recognized by key players? If not, it might not be the gateway to greater things that you’re expecting. Rather than joining an anthology project, you might be better off concentrating your energy and efforts (and maybe money) on building your author platform and pursuing a traditional book deal on your own.

Plan B and Moving On

For those who are either incapable or scared of self-publishing or the traditional publishing path, an anthology is a much lower “Plan B” investment to achieve a goal of being a “published” author. It is an opportunity to test the waters, too. By participating, they may recognize their limitations and move on to bigger and better things that don’t involve books.

While participation in an anthology can be a part of your body of writing work, it will not directly, immediately, or automatically lead to future writing or publishing opportunities.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2019 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on June 22, 2020:

Hi Theblogchick! Glad you found it helpful. Thanks for reading and have a great week!

Theblogchick from United States on June 21, 2020:

Thanks for the wonderful advice about anthologies. Very interesting read.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 20, 2019:

Hi Lawrence! Glad to hear that you got the writing bug from your anthology experience. I think a number of authors do. And it sounds like it was a worthy cause, regardless of what the sales were.

Thanks for sharing your experience! Have a great day!

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on March 18, 2019:


About twenty years ago I got the opportunity to take part in an anthology of true stories about Christian Missionary work with the organization I was working with.

I've no idea what the sales were like, but that's when the 'writing bug' hit!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on February 27, 2019:

Hi Danielle! Glad you found it interesting and that you're looking into the opportunity. Let us know if you dive into an anthology. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

Danielle Popovits from Traverse City, MI on February 25, 2019:

This is great! Thank you for sharing the insight you have on this topic. It definitely has peaked my interest enough to look into it more.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on February 25, 2019:

Hi Liz! Glad you found it interesting. Thanks for stopping by and have a great week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on February 25, 2019:

Hi Mary! There are so many avenues for writing that it's difficult to know all of them out there. I stumbled across anthologies many years ago, and have seen a number of these projects in action. So I'm just sharing what I know so that people can evaluate when these opportunities come up.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Have a great week!

Liz Westwood from UK on February 24, 2019:

This gives an interesting insight into anthologies and their uses.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on February 24, 2019:

Heidi, this is enlightening to me. I have to confess I did not even know that authors can submit their own work so another learning I always appreciate from your hubs.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on February 24, 2019:

Caren, so glad to hear that your participation in anthologies has gone well for you! I agree that for new authors, they can be a way to test the waters and start to build a writing portfolio. Thanks so much for adding your experience to the discussion! Have a great day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on February 24, 2019:

Hi Adrienne! Glad you found it helpful. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

Adrienne Farricelli on February 23, 2019:

Thanks for sharing this helpful information. I wasn't aware of this option either. I am sure it will turn out helpful to many authors.

Caren White on February 22, 2019:

From a monetary perspective, anthologies don't pay, but from a reputation standpoint, they can be invaluable for a new author. I write short stories and was fortunate enough to have one of them published in an anthology. It has given me a real professional boost to be able to say that I am a published author. Agents and publishers take me a lot more seriously than before that first story was published.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on February 22, 2019:

Hi Doug! Glad this got you thinking. I do think that anthologies can be a good home for shorter fiction that may struggle as a standalone work.

But as I mentioned to another writer in the comments, don't forget that Amazon/KDP now classifies shorter Kindle eBooks as "short reads." So do your due diligence as you consider your anthology and standalone short read options.

Thanks so much for stopping by and have a terrific weekend!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on February 22, 2019:

Doris, in a lot of ways, it is a caveat emptor situation. When I've considered them in the past, I just couldn't justify the expense given what I could get as a return on that investment.

Glad you found it informative. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely weekend!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on February 22, 2019:

Mel, I'm impressed you even gave a Chicken Soup article a try. And I think your mom should be impressed by that effort, too. I agree, inspiration is not quite in your wheelhouse. But wit and humor are. Stick with your talents!

Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!

Doug West from Missouri on February 22, 2019:

Good article. I has me thinking. I have several short books that may be good candidates for an anthology. I'm going to check into the possibility.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on February 21, 2019:

I really wasn't familiar with this type of publishing and how it worked. Thank you for informing us. Sounds like it could turn out to be a case of "buyer beware."

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on February 21, 2019:

You've got some really great stuff here for us wannabes. I started hacking away at a Chicken Soup article once, thinking my mother would really be happy to see her boy in one of her favorite series, but inspiration is not really my forte. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on February 21, 2019:

Bill, a charity anthology is one instance where I think participation can be a positive experience, regardless of the financial or career returns. Kind of like Live Aid, Farm Aid, "We Are the World," etc.

We're bouncing back and forth between 30-40s one day, back down to teens and single digits the next. That's what we can spring in these parts... or should I say springing from deep freezing to 40s. :)

Thanks for stopping by and adding that aspect to the conversation! Have a great weekend ahead!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on February 21, 2019:

Flourish, I feel the same way. True, some of the "good company" anthologies can be great additions to one's writing portfolio. But in most cases, I agree, it's better to be the singular star of the show.

And, yes, I regularly see a pay-to-play anthology opportunity crop up at least once or twice a year in my networking adventures.

Thanks for chiming in and have a terrific weekend ahead!

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 21, 2019:

The general hope seems to be to connect with quality writers then stand out so you get the audience’s attention. However, if one’s work is that good then s/he needs not let others ride his/her coattails. I didn’t know people pay to be in these sometimes!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 21, 2019:

I did this once, for a friend, monies made going to some cancer "good cause." Seemed like the thing to personal rewards, not many expectations, just a chance to feel good about something, you know? I have no idea what happened afterwards...not really important.

They tell me Spring is approaching. Let me know if you see it before I do. lol