As promised today I have the pleasure of hosting the loquacious (that’s just a word for someone who talks a lot, which I learned when I was a kid and the adults around me started calling me that) Emily Hurricane.
Emily in the mastermind and glue, scaffolding, all the construction terms, person behind the two anthologies I’ve had the pleasure to be included in. Just yesterday I blabbed all about the details of these books so I wont bore you again but if you missed it, check out yesterdays post below.
Now without further adieu prepare to be educated on all things anthology related by Emily, thanks for lending us your expertise today!
Five Things You Need to Know Before Hosting an Anthology
Hi! I’m Emily S Hurricane. I’m not an expert at running anthologies by any means, but after being in two on Wattpad, collaborating on two Amazon exclusives, and running two for upcoming wide publication, I’ve learned a few things that might help you on your way if you’re thinking of planning a project like this. It’s an insanely fun and rewarding experience, but there are a lot of things that can make things messy or more difficult than they need to be.
This list is not exhaustive, and despite the click-baity title, it’s definitely not a be-all and end-all. Just food for thought and things to keep in mind when looking at doing a collaborative project! And for reference, the anthologies I will be talking about in this list are Secrets, an erotica anthology, and Love at First Sip, a clean romance anthology.
This list is under the assumption that you want to run an anthology for publishing in book marketplaces, not on free sites like Wattpad, etc, and that you’re self publishing.
- Niche Down
So, this is going to happen a lot in this list, but I’m going to suggest some things that I totally did not do in my own projects. Obviously, you’re going to be wondering why I’m saying ‘do as I say, not as I do’…and I’m gonna tell you. Marketing.
To a lot of self pubbers, marketing is the dirtiest word there is. Most of us hate it, because we just want to write books CANT WE JUST WRITE THE BOOKS. Ahem. Anyway.
I’m not going to go into all the nitty-gritty marketing details because there are a gazillion tips and tricks out there, but one pretty universal passive marketing thing is to know your target audience. This is especially prominent in romance and erotica, of which there are so many niches and tropes and subgenres and all that jazz. If you narrow your target market by having a tight niche theme for your anthology, then you’re going to have a very very happy audience.
I am fully aware that I did not do with with either of my upcoming projects, and am fully aware that both are pretty difficult to market with laser focus. I wanted to be inclusive to a variety of writing styles and tropes, and also give some wiggle room to some participating authors that are new to the romance genre. These projects were a way to test the waters in a lot of ways, and though I knew not having a super-niche theme would be a more difficult sell, I wanted the freedom and fun of bringing together a bunch of different flavours and voices.
So, if you want to make it easier to maximize your marketing potential, niche down and focus your theme. You don’t want to go so narrow that everyone’s stories will be the same, but having all of them close enough that they’d come up on each other’s Recommended Reads on a marketplace algorithm will make your life a lot easier.
- Research Your Marketplaces
Another You live, you learn moment for me with these projects was not fully researching my distributor of choice beforehand. I had a clear vision, I wanted a cover reveal teaser, a cover reveal event on the same day that a month-long preorder would launch, and then 30 days of guerilla marketing leading up to launch on all major retailers.
I chose Lulu publishing because I adore the quality of their hardcover copies, and they allow for royalty splitting (more on that later!). I’d never used their ebook distribution before, but because of the royalty split and the fact that I wanted to use them for hard copies, it made sense to do the whole shebang through them.
Until I went to set up the preorder, and discovered that Lulu does not do preorders.
I was flabbergasted. And also cursing myself for not doing enough research before hand. For all of my bitching (wHo DoeSn’t dO pReoRDers?!) the mad scramble that I had to do mere days before I wanted the preorder link live was 100% my own fault. It was looking like we wouldn’t be doing a preorder…until I figured out that Draft2Digital totally does royalty splitting as well. Which—say it with me—I would have known earlier if I’d done more research.
I like to think I’m a pretty organized person—ask anyone who knows me, I love my spreadsheets (more on that later, too!)—but I really dropped the ball here. I spent the weekend walking all of my contributing authors through setting up Draft2Digital profiles and getting everything in order so I could add them to the new ebook listings, apologizing profusely, and scrambling and praying and hoping that everything would come together in time for the cover reveal.
Of course, everything went swimmingly, we got everything set up, my authors were wonderful and assured me I don’t, in fact, suck, and we had live Universal Book Links for our social blasts. So it all worked out okay! And the rest of what we’d already done wasn’t a total waste, because we’re still using Lulu for the hard copies.
However, it was a lot of extra scramble and stress that was wholly necessary had I figured this out ages ago, like you know, the whole ten months leading up to that point. If I haven’t convinced you enough, DO YOUR RESEARCH.
This also ties in really well with number three, which is…
- Dolla Dolla Bills, Y’all!
Also known as, figure out how you’re going to divvy up royalties. There are two main ways that people deal with anthology contributions. Royalty splitting, or up-front payments. The latter, while far easier, can be a lot of money up front for the editor depending on how many contributors there are. Not to mention it’s a risk—trying to decide what to pay out can be tricky, too much and you might not make it back, too little and you’re screwing your authors.
Way 2.5 is doing a blend, with up-front payments and then bonuses if a book does well, which is a great idea, but requires extra accounting and trust. Something to keep in mind, though!
Royalty splitting is a great way to save on up-front costs, but causes some other tricky hoops. If you want your book in KDP select, that means taking your Kindle Unlimited page read money every month, splitting it up, and paying it out. This is what I do for the two horror anthologies I’m in, but there are only three of us and we’ve known each other for—what is it now Emerald, like 20 years? God we’re old. Anyway, every month when I get my KDP royalties (okay sometimes I double or triple up, shhh), I calculate what comes from the Don’t Read This Book After Dark books and split that three ways, paying out to Emerald (horror pen Bridget Eilis) and Lucille Bane accordingly.
While this is totally doable, keep in mind if you have an anthology with a ton more authors and you’re publishing it on an Amazon account with a pile of your own books (or other anthologies!) then accounting can get hella confusing over time.
This is where royalty splitting comes in super handy. Through Lulu, you can add contributors manually and pay out directly to their paypal. With D2D, they make their own account and you can add them as a contributor. In both cases, you assign a percentage of the royalties to each contributor, and everyone gets their cut every month. While this makes it a lot simpler on the back end, you’re then not able to do exclusive programs like KDP select or Kobo Plus.
Anyway, all of this long-winded food for thought is part of why it’s important to do your research early so you know how you want to deal with the accounting and marketplace side of things before you even approach your authors.
- Organize, Organize, Organize!
Look, you don’t have to be as insane as I am with spreadsheets and bullet journals and task lists and all that. But when you’re putting together a project like this, your life—and your author’s lives—will be so much easier if everything you need is easy to find and streamlined.
I definitely did a lot back-asswards from what I should have, and ended up with extra forms and sheets and stuff that I didn’t need, but there are some things that I used a lot and some I’ll modify for future projects to make things even smoother. Despite how I felt like it’s been messy, so many of my authors have commented on how organized I am so at least I’m projecting a confident front, haha!
The big one I use is Google drive, because most everyone has a google account and it’s easiest for collaboration. If you happen to have a group that all use OneDrive, or something like Notion (if you’ve never used Notion ohmygosh it’s the BEST go check it out), then go for it, but Google drive is pretty much universal.
Within that, it’s all sheets and docs and forms, oh my! Having a mastersheet for yourself with all of the information at your fingertips is super handy, and then a mastersheet for the project itself that everyone has access too. This could have tabs for the book info (title, blurb, isbns, keywords, categories, etc), contributors’ social media links for easy access, story information (I’ve got a sheet with author names/pen names, story titles, then a bunch of quotes and excerpts that everyone can grab for marketing purposes), author bios, a marketing schedule so everyone knows what posts are going live when (or schedule their own!).
I also have a separate sheet for editing, and I used a google form for each round so each author could submit and I could have a tab that operated as a hub for all the stories and also a head count for who had submitted and who hadn’t yet. When it came time for my proofreading team to get to work, I was easily able to copy over the information to a fresh sheet just for them so it was all organized and they could check the boxes as they went.
As for the google drive, I shared a Press Kit folder with the authors for everyone to dump in graphics and videos for social sharing. Pixie Stormcrow, who not only wrote a story for each anthology but has single-handedly designed both covers, wraps, and interior, did up a ton of gorgeous cover teaser and reveal graphics, and dumped them all in the Google folder. This made it way easier because she didn’t have send anything individually, and everyone who needed them could grab them instead of having to ask her for a copy.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, there is no such thing as too many spreadsheets.
- Vibe With Your Authors
I’ve been so lucky with all of my anthology endeavours to vibe so well. In the Wattpad anthologies, The 12 Days of Hawtness and Pearls and Ties, I met a lot of new authors that I didn’t know. Everyone was so welcoming and we had a great time getting to know each other and brainstorming ideas, writing together and shouting each other out all across the platform. For Don’t Read This Book After Dark, it was with my two IRL besties, writing horror stories to distract ourselves from the real horror of the pandemic. And with these two new ones, I specifically invited authors I know and love to come hang out and see if they wanted to be a part of the project.
With any group endeavour, it’s so much easier and more enjoyable when everyone vibes. Yes, it’s possible to get things done and maintain professionalism if not everyone gets along, however it’s just a much nicer and smoother experience if you like the people you’re working with.
The other vibe I want to mention is story vibe. Even if you don’t want to niche down, you want to make sure that everyone is on the same page with what they want to say. Say your vision is to put together a super fluffy instalove collection, you wouldn’t want to invite someone who writes primarily dark romance, for example. Or vice versa. I’ve got quite a blend of flavours in both Secrets and Love at First Sip, but we still hold the same values with our work, such as consensual sex.
So. That was a big ol’ ramble, and I bet Emerald is wholly regretting asking me to guest post. In any case, I hope that at least some of this was helpful to you, and if you have any questions, feel free to drop ’em in the comments! Always happy to help. Happy NaNoWriMo!