Yurt Talk Part 2: Anthology workshop

This is a workshop I was invited to give to the Carroll County chapter of the Maryland Writers Association. Several of the members participated in an anthology I produced in 2012: That One Left Shoe. They are now ready to do another anthology, so I was asked to outline the steps needed. This was given in April 2014 in the Yurt at Piney Run Park. If you find it useful, donate by clicking the button.

Decisions needed

  1. Type of Anthology (fiction, poetry, memoir, non-fiction, mixed)
  2. Theme (word or phrase, season, location, event, profession)
  3. Submission Guidelines (genre, length, format, content restrictions)
  4. Division of Labor (selection, editing, formatting, marketing)

Type of Anthology
The first decision you should make is the type of anthology you want to produce. Take into account that authors write in different styles, especially important when you are dealing with an established community, like a writers group or a civic organization. You can choose to limit an anthology to one type: fiction, poetry, memoir, or non-fiction. Or you can allow authors to write in the style they are comfortable with, as long as it fits your theme. This also applies to genres like historical, horror, adventure, mystery, romance, fantasy, science fiction, etc. You may get more sales if you stick with genres closely related to your theme, but you make it easier for your authors by leaving things more open. For example, That One Left Shoe was mixed in types and genres (erotica was not accepted, because the end product needed to be family friendly).

The theme must be decided on before you issue the call for submissions. It’s common for genre anthologies to use a holiday theme (e.g. Moonlight and Mistletoe is a werewolf/Christmas anthology). Time-based themes might be seasons, holidays, anniversaries, or even a time of day. Themes can also be based around events, either historical or upcoming events. Instead of a specific event, you might choose generic events like graduation, birth, first job, loss, revenge, etc. A location can also be used as a theme. It can be a specific location, like the Eldersburg Library, the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C, or Carroll County. It can be more generic, like a gas station, a restaurant, a backyard, a lake, a school. There have been several movies made that use an object to tie together a group of stories–often it is a gun or a car. If you pick a specific object, then the description needs to be locked down up front. A profession could also be used as a theme–I’ve read several anthologies that use teachers as central characters (one is Tales Out of School).

Submission Guidelines
Once you have your type and theme set, you can finalize the submission guidelines:

  • opening and closing dates, acceptance decision date, target publication date
  • minimum and maximum lengths (word count for prose, line count for poetry)
  • any restrictions on genre or subject matter
  • file format and means of submission
  • financial considerations (sale price, royalty distribution)
    It is common for many group anthologies to donate royalties to a specific cause. This reduces the paperwork required, and is especially appropriate when the primary purpose of the anthology is giving the contributors a publishing credit. Another financial consideration is allowing author purchase discounts that allow room for resale profit.

Division of Labor
Although you can have one person do it all, you could also spread the load across several team members. You do need one person to take the lead for keeping things on schedule. Decide what the acceptance criteria are to be–does every member get a piece in the anthology, or is there a gatekeeper assessing the professionalism of each submission? Other tasks that need to be done are editing (at a minimum to ensure consistent punctuation and spelling style), formatting for publication, the publishing itself, and promoting/marketing the finished work. The formatting has to wait until the editing is complete, but promotion can start earlier. Another consideration is cover design, and whether you want any interior images.

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