Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Writing Wednesday: Ryan Jo Summers and Writing for Anthologies #HolidayBooks

After I had a few published books under my belt and started looking around the author landscape, I noticed that lots of authors I knew were taking part in "anthologies" - usually a collection of novellas grouped around a common theme. I even said out loud one morning, "I wish someone would invite me to join an anthology." Be careful what you ask for. The NEXT MORNING I woke up to find an email in my inbox from an author I knew from another publishing house, asking me to join their group. That was last summer's Hunks to the Rescue, with 18 authors, most of whom I was meeting for the first time and it was a learning experience...

Today for Writing Wednesday, I have a special guest post from a fellow romance author with The Wild Rose Press, Ryan Jo Summers. She's been part of several anthologies over the last few years, and I asked her to share her insights.

the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
of Writing for an Anthology

Anthologies are fun to both read and write for. They offer a lot of variety for the reader in one volume, and introduces them to new authors. They also offer the writer much more than sometimes meets the eye. So far I’ve written stories for four different anthologies with three different publishing houses. Each experience has been different.

The first anthology was a Christmas-themed collection with a publishing house I’d already released about four regular-length, stand-alone novels through. The anthology was a fantastic experience from start to finish. The story was fun to write, and the editing and releasing experiences left a positive feeling for me.

There were a total of seven authors, including me, and we really got to know one another. One of the ways we promoted the book was via a series of newsletters and it was fantastic for sharing little bits of personal information about ourselves within our circle and with our readers beyond the author hats we always wear.

The second anthology was food-themed and came from another house I’d released two novellas through. There were nine of us authors this time, and the house handled the title and cover art, which was something we authors in the Christmas collection had collaborated on. With the second book, all the decisions came in emails with a “here it is” announcement. It was still a good experience, though we contributors never achieved the level of friendship that the writers from the Christmas anthology did.

Anthologies #3 and #4 came from yet another house, one that I’d never released other books with beforehand. I discovered them from an on-line call for submissions. They are larger volumes, with twelve and thirteen authors contributing to each, respectively. The first one released January 2018 and the second one in September 2018 so the turnaround time for edits was fast.

These experiences taught me some important lessons.

First, the pros to writing for anthologies include many have a built-in theme, like Christmas, or food, or whatever. That’s a big jump on getting the mental wheels turning. In that vein, writing for anthologies offers the opportunity to write different topics, time periods, or genres than normal. I follow a Facebook page that routinely has calls for submissions and links to houses or contests looking for anthology submissions.

Have you ever wanted to write something involving Scotsmen? Cowboys? The mafia? Motorcycle clubs? Chick lit? Small towns? Churches? Dogs? Erotica? The list goes on. Here is a chance to try your hand. All of these are actual topics that have come across the FB calls at one point or another.
Now, on the negative side of that coin, some houses plan their anthologies sort of like a soap opera series. Not only is the theme shared, so is the setting, time period, cast of characters, etc.…just like a mini-series. You might not be able to have the names of places or characters you want if they don’t fit with the pre-planned story line.

Second. The largest plus factor by far is exposure. As a contributing author, you get to tap into the fan bases of each of the other contributing authors to that particular anthology. While the fans of Author X is reading something new by their fave author, they also discover you. Hopefully they will love your little story and look for other stuff of yours. You also get extra exposure over the social media platforms each time the other authors post and promote. Simple math: you can only promote over so many channels. If you are with an anthology of eight authors, you get seven more times the exposure over multiple and new channels.

Third. Another big plus is cost sharing. New release launches aren’t cheap. Nor are they easy. There is endless promo, blog tours, ads, reviews, the list is endless. When it’s a solo book, it’s the author who foots the bill and does the work. In an anthology, all promotional charges are shared equally among the authors.  For the last anthology we did a $115 blog tour with a company and each paid around $8. That’s pretty manageable!

And sometimes you can get lucky. If there is an author in the group who does a bang-up job on graphics, organization, or some other special skill, they usually provide that service for the entire group for gratis or very low cost. In the last anthology I was the ‘official organizer’ because I am an organized individual. Sometimes it felt like I was herding kittens, but it helped everyone and kept us all running on schedule. Also, since I was the coordinator, I searched out sources for promo, took the info to the group where it was decided upon, I paid the bills upfront, and collected from everyone else later. It made for seamless transactions.

Fourth. Perhaps the biggest plus, at least for me, has been the lasting friendships with the authors I’ve worked with while collaborating the books. I’ve discovered new authors I went on to read their full-length books. And writing for anthologies is a “Foot in the Door” with new publishing houses who might welcome your longer works once they see what kind of author you are. Additionally, most anthology stories are only 10,000-12,000 words long each, so they can be written alongside your longer projects. Doing edits is usually quicker too, due to the shorter lengths.

Now, naturally, there has to be a few downsides to writing for anthologies. Number one is the reversal of cost sharing—royalty splits. Most authors do not make much on anthology royalty, even if they sell more copies than of their own books. Each sale is split equally between all included authors. So if there are ten authors in the collection, that 7 or 8 or 9% royalty is shared between all ten authors. It’s completely feasible to sell ten copies, and make 25 cents in royalties. The general rule is the more stories, the bigger the book, the more it will cost, which means more royalty, split among more people.

Another big downfall is the chance most decisions could be made either by the publishing house or by group vote. This includes book title, cover image, placement of each story, and inside images. Being part of an anthology can either release you from having to make those choices or limit your decision-making options. If you are totally into controlling each step of your release, anthologies are not a good options. If you can share the choices or hand it over completely to a house, they are super.

I am part of a collection with interior images I consider racy. In hindsight, a pseudonym might have been wise. Regardless, I am now careful which readers I recommend that book to, just because I am uncomfortable with its interior.

All things being equal, I am a fan of writing for anthologies. For me, the pros outweigh the cons, and I am actively on the lookout for more outlets seeking submissions. For me, they are a great place to use those scraps of story ideas that never seem to be enough for a full-length book, but are perfect for a 10-15K story. It’s only a matter of matching the bones of a story idea to an anthology call and fleshing it out. Then the fun begins!

Eight Christmas stories by eight different authors, offering heartwarming tales of second chance love for the holidays. Grab your copy for $2.99 on AMAZON and read my review HERE

About Ryan Jo Summers:
I was born in Michigan and grew up surrounded by books, pretty much all piled and stacked in my room. I had bookshelves to hold them since I could remember. Christmas and birthdays were easy, just buy me books.

My tastes in subject matter and genres grew as I matured.

It seemed only natural to write as well as read. The first book I wrote was at age ten and was about a twelve page story that I also illustrated and stapled together into book format. I was so proud! If only I still had that about somewhere.

Since then, I never stopped writing. Some articles made it into magazines, some stories made honorable mention in contests, my journal has grown thicker. Writing poetry also serves as therapy to life's hurts, a trait apparently inherited from my dad's aunt. Writers, poets and songwriters run through my lineage. I guess you could say I come from a line of wordsmiths.

In 2012, selling "Whispers in her Heart" for publication has been not only a dream come true of becoming a novelist, but also a pinnacle of thirty odd years of writing. With each new story, novel or novella that comes out, I grow as a writer and take another step on this incredible journey called life.

Find Ryan online:

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