Anthology Books: How Valuable Are They for Authors?
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 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.
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© 2019 Heidi Thorne