Episode 146 #Anthology101: When Is Contributing to an Anthology a Good Bet?

Because Jess and I both contributed to the anthology On Being 40 (ish), which is just out from Simon & Schuster), we spent this episode talking anthologies in general. We’ve found the ones we’ve been invited to participate in to be good experiences overall–but in researching the episode, we made some surprising discoveries. Some anthologies are “pay to play.” We’re dubious about those unless you’re intentionally joining in an indie venture with known colleagues in a particular genre that you think will pay off in book sales or finding an audience (and in those cases, you shouldn’t be chipping in more than your share of publication costs). Otherwise, no legitimate editor is ever going to ask you to pay to join her anthology club.

We considered the pros and cons of submitting to an anthology with a callout, or accepting an invitation to join one, why our agent was dubious, and why, ultimately, we decided (separately) to do this one.

Now that the book’s out in the world, I have more to add. I’ve contributed, at this point, to a small press anthology (The Good Mother Myth), an indie published anthology (The Hilary Paradox) and this one. All have been good experiences, but joining On Being 40 (ish) looks, not surprisingly, to be the one likeliest to “pay off” (more name recognition, sales of own book, etc) simply through volume. It’s also provided a connection with other writers I admire, and I value that a lot. I don’t know if it was the topic, the impressive roster of contributors or just the combined force of 5 authors in the same place, but the book event we did for the book at Harvard Bookstore was the best-attended event I’ve ever done–and they sold out of all the books they had on hand, which I’ve also never seen. That said, they had our “backlist” (which just means other books) on hand as well, and those didn’t sell out or even come close.

From left: Catherine Newman, me (KJ Dell’Antonia), Jess (Jessica Lahey), Sophfronia Scott and Lindsey Mead.

It was such a success that it made us wonder if editing an anthology might be in our future–so we’ll plan an episode around creating, pitching and editing anthologies (as opposed to contributing) later this year.

A few anthology resources:

How and Why to Edit an Anthology

7 Questions to Ask Before You Contribute a Chapter for a Co-Authored Book (the “Celebrity Anthology”)

How to create a salable anthology proposal

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