The Anthology Editor – a rising player

As writers struggle for a spot in the literary limelight, as traditional magazines and publishing houses discard box loads of submissions, and as supply outstrips demand at increasingly higher rates, there is a niche player ascending like a Phoenix, one who may offer relief, especially to new writers in search of a publishing credit: the anthology editor.

Anthologies have existed for a long time but they hitherto focussed on the “best of the best” work that had already been published elsewhere. The new kind of anthology that I am referring to is made up of the work of writers who (a) do not have sufficient material for a stand•alone body of work (b) have written about a narrow subject area that can only be noticed if highlighted in a collection with a similar theme (c) belong in a region or collective whose output is being showcased or (d) a combination of all of the above.

Indie publishers find this a convenient way to build a stable of writers who may go on to produce stand•alone work in future – catching them young, so to speak. The anthology’s niche theme also allows for the book to be finely targeted to interested audiences, and competition from bigger houses rarely comes into play. Also, if many of the authors in the collection are first•timers, they are likely to buy dozens of personal copies to sell or gift to their families and friends and “build their platform.”

This makes the editor of such an anthology a new power player in the publishing chain. Given the many authors who are involved in a collection of this nature, the publisher typically sets broad guidelines and offloads content selection and author negotiations on this editor who is often not from among the publishing staff but a person of influence (he may even be one of the contributing authors) within the anthology’s trading area.

Sounds good? But here are some pitfalls to be aware of, especially if you are a contributing newbie author. Check out how many authors will contribute to this anthology. “The more the merrier,” the publisher will say, for more books will be sold (or bought by the growing number of contributors) but “the more, the lesser” also comes into play, especially for the individual author. Try getting noticed in an anthology of 100 authors! And what level of writing prowess do these 100 others possess – will they drag you down or lift you up with the quality of their contributions? And how will you split royalties between 100 others? Would two cents a book satisfy you? Oh yes, on the subject of royalties, beware of the publisher who only pays the royalty to the editor who then keeps it all for himself, for after all, did this editor not have to curate the content, deal with a bunch of egotistical authors, meet deadlines etc….etc? And the authors get – well, they get the glory of having been published!

As in any commercial transaction, “Buyer, beware” applies. If you are purely contributing to get a publishing credit, then ignoring the above might be okay. However, if you are moving up the chain and are protecting your brand as well as building it, then checking out the anthology’s credentials before making a contribution would be prudent.

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