One of the more obvious challenges a writer faces is how to fill a book. Ask any novelist and they will likely tell you that the second half of a novel is easier to write because the characters and plot are already well established, and part two is often largely about resolving the consequences of part one.
For those who pen shorter material, although there are competitions and magazines out there eager for flash fiction or 2000 words on a theme, putting together a collection of stories for publication can seem onerous because short fiction can be a hard sell.
One solution is to create or contribute to an anthology, showcasing the work of several writers. Books can be themed or stand as a general celebration of the art of short fiction. (If you thought sculpture was difficult, try sculpting a 250-word piece.) Anthologies are also a blessing for those writers who are uncomfortable in the spotlight – there may be more of those than you think!
- You have more chance of filling a book.
- Individual writers can focus on a small number of contributions.
- You automatically start off with a group of people keen to spread the word.
- Those same people (unless they all live on the same street) are likely to have separate communities, increasing the potential for word-of-mouth recommendations.
- Every author is likely to buy at least one copy* so that ought to get the ball rolling.
The challenges of a multi-writer anthology
- There may be differences of opinion in the editing process, unless you have clear ground rules or an editor-in-chief.
- Some contributors may not want or be able to get involved in the marketing of the book.
- There has to be a running order, preferably one that’s carefully balanced.
- Erm…the money.
Anthologies can be funded in several ways. Costs can be shared among the contributors (in which case it might be wise to agree a set word count for each story). Grants may be available, especially if it’s a thematic anthology or raises funds for a particular cause – the Arts Council is a good place to start in the UK. There’s still the faint possibility of anthologies being funded by publishers in what used to be called the traditional way with contributors receiving royalties from sales. There’s also the buy-out option where writers are paid a one-off fee to use their material in perpetuity.
If you’re funding the book yourself / yourselves, costs can be reduced by publishing as an ebook (if you have the time and the know-how, your only expense will be the cover design), or by producing a Print-on-Demand version.
I’ve been fortunate to contribute to four anthologies.
Beyond the Horizon is a general fiction anthology published by Bamboccioni Books. I contributed a sci-fi tale, in the spirit of Asimov, Rogue, about what it means to really live.
The Coffee Shop Chronicles Vol 1 (Oh the Places I Have Bean) is a themed anthology about coffee from A Word with You Press. It contains a mixture of anecdotes, poetry and fiction celebrating the much-loved** caffeine creation. I was one of four editors and my fiction contribution is Diner, a short tale about relationships, lies and self-deceit.
Kissing Frankenstein in a general fiction anthology published by Flash-Fiction South West. I contributed some really short pieces (some only six words long) and my main piece, Between the Lines, was a story about taking chances.
Miracles of Kindness is a themed anthology contains anecdotes about…well…kindness. My contribution, The Street Angel, is about the folly of first impressions when I found myself stranded in Chicago late one night.
My plan, later this year, is to put together an ebook anthology of my own work. Entitled Into the Void and sporting a stylish cover design supplied by www.goonwrite.com, it will feature a mixture of favourite pieces, new material and experimental work.
* Not always though. I know of an anthology where the contributors received a small buy-out fee and a significant proportion of writers never bought a copy.
** Although, ironically, not by me.