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Publish an Anthology: How it's done
How does a writing group put together an anthology that gets reviewed, sells copies, and even turns a profit? Byron Merritt member of the Fiction Writers of the Monterey Peninsula (FWOMP) tells Amy Jenkins of Anthologies Online ( AO)how it's done.
AO: How did your writing group decide to publish an anthology?
FWOMP: We came together in January of 2000 to critique each others work, but after about a year-and-a-half we decided to try our hands at writing short stories centered around the area we live. Since the Monterey, California area is so rich in literature (John Steinbeck, Robinson Jeffers, Robert Louis Stevenson, etc.) it felt only natural to tell stories about this great section of the country. The actual decision to self-publish a collection of stories was a bit controversial in the group. Some members wanted to continue working on stories they'd been developing for years (biographies, science fiction, etc.), but they eventually saw how exciting it was for those of us who'd decided to do it and those hold-outs joined in too.
AO: What did you feel were the advantages of self-publishing?
FWOMP: One word: CONTROL. It's extremely nice to have the say-so on what cover art you'll have, story art
graphics, font selections, and general layout of the book. When you go with a "big time publisher", you don't get that. They might give you three selections to choose from for cover art graphics, and that's about it. Now this might not seem like that big of a deal, but when you view our original cover art and story art, you'll see why it was. It was a major plus for us. You always hear the saying, "You can't judge a book by its cover", and that's true. But a great cover can help John Q book browser pick up your title.
Another side benefit (and not a small one, really) is that you get all the funds from the sales of your book directly. When Monterey Shorts---the first anthology---came out, we turned a profit on the book after only four months, and it's been selling well ever since, even going into a second printing. And Monterey Shorts 2 is looking like it'll do the same thing for us with regards to sales.
AO:I'm sure many of our readers would be interested to understand the mechanisms behind self-publishing. Could you explain how your group went about this and what resources you used to accomplish the publication of your book.
FWOMP: Make no mistake, self-publishing is hard work. Not only does it cost the author(s) money out of his/her own pocket, but you have to be a salesman, a marketer, and a storage facilitator. From our standpoint---a ten member group---we lucked out. Some of us are great at marketing, others at sales, while others do website operations or set up book signings, meetings with book club groups, store our books, etc. There's an excellent Q and A section at our website, too, that discusses how to go about self-publishing, and you can view it at http://www.fwomp.com/selfpubq.htm (Note: websites are also a must for the self-published author.)
AO: You've received favorable reviews. How were you able to get your book reviewed?
FWOMP: There are things known as "galleys", a pre-press style release of your book, that you MUST get done. It's easy, too. All you have to do is go to your local copy store and have them print out about 20 or so copies of your book (with color cover) and then have them put an inexpensive binding on it. Many review houses won't review books that are already published, so putting together galleys is really a requirement. Most review houses want galleys three to four months in advance of publication so that they have time to review your book before release. For the self-published author, there are a few problems with this. #1: You have to be patient. Sometimes it takes up to six months for a reviewer to get a review out of your book. And sometimes they don't review it at all. #2: You'll need to have your cover art, internal graphics, and story set and ready. NO CHANGES should be made to these areas after you send out galleys, mainly because if the reviewer comments on something, and then you make changes, they (and you) look like an idiot. And trust me, reviewers don't like to look bad.
Galleys are also excellent ways to get blurbs for the back of your book. If you're writing a book on the development of airplanes, it might be nice to contact the Wright family and see if someone there would be willing to read a galley and give you a blurb. Be selective. Don't just send out galleys to the New York Times and Kirkus (they won't review self-published authors anyway). Think before you ship a galley. For us, being fiction writers in Monterey, it was the proverbial no-brainer. We tapped into the local fiction writers in our area (Thomas Steinbeck, son of John Steinbeck, Brad Herzog, a Pulitzer Prize nominated author, etc.) and they came back strong for us.
AO: Did your group approach the writing or publication of Monterey Shorts 2 any differently from the first book?
FWOMP: Not really. Doing the first anthology was stressful as we stumbled through the process of putting it together. For this second anthology, the road was much less bumpy. We knew our strengths and weakness, had all of our marketing contacts lined up, and our sales outlets were primed and ready for Monterey Shorts 2 by the time the book came back from our printer. We did lose one contributor from the first anthology (Pat Hanson) but picked up an excellent murder mystery writer, Linda Price, who returned to us after a leave of absence secondary to a death in her family. She went through an "adjustment period" as we critiqued her work (we're VERY stringent on critiques).
AO: Do you have any advice for other writers groups thinking about publishing a story collection?
FWOMP: Yes. Don't put together a mishmash of crap (poetry mixed with fiction and nonfiction and biographies and God knows what else). Find a theme that works. For instance, we stuck with the Monterey Peninsula in California and we all wrote fictional pieces. Period. No poetry. No nonfiction. No biographies.
Other writers groups may not have such a rich history as our area, but there IS something interesting in your section of the world. I guarantee it. You just need to find out what IT is. Maybe you live in Slowpoking, Virginia where nothing interesting ever happens. But maybe something in the past DID happen there. Dig up the dirt on your area and find that theme. Perhaps a mass murdering of troops during the civil war happened near Slowpoking and now people are afraid to go into the forest near there. Race riots, inventions, lost history, the list of possibilities is endless. But, like I said, find a theme and STICK TO IT.
AO: Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
FWOMP: Find a group of like-minded writers in your area and get together. You should have no more than ten members in the group once you're comfortably settled in. Now, start critiquing each others work. Do this for about two years and then decide if you'd all like to publish a book. Don't come together with the understanding that you're going to publish a book right from the get-go. If you do, I fear your group won't last long. Publishing is stressful work, and it can tear at the fabric of your group. That's why we recommend starting as a critique group before moving into publishing. This way you'll know all of the personalities, who can do what jobs once the decision to publish is made, and you'll have a group of people that are more dedicated to one another.
About the Authors of Monterey Shorts 2:
is the founder of Fiction Writers of the Monterey Peninsula, which was established in January of 2000.
He continues to raise teenage twins (a boy and a girl) while working full time as an emergency room nurse.
Lately his writing life has consisted of writing shorts stories. But he’s interviewed famous authors, too, and has had some of these interviews published in countries as far away as Australia and the United Kingdom.
His grandfather, the famous Dune author Frank Herbert, was an early inspiration in his writing career. Brian Herbert (Byron’s uncle) and Kevin J. Anderson—coauthors of the New York Times best-selling Dune prequels—remain an important influence in his writing life.
Byron currently lives in Pacific Grove, California with his beautiful fiancé, Stasia, the polish princess.
moved to the Monterey Peninsula after retiring from the Boeing Company in March of 2001. Southern Californian natives, he and his wife felt a growing attraction to the Central Coast that finally became too powerful to resist.
Ken holds a Bachelors of Science in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations from Northern Arizona University and his working career involved technical and business writing.
He began writing for pleasure in the mid 80's, focusing primarily on short story fiction. Ken's short-short stories have received Honorable Mention in the Coast Weekly's annual 101 Word Short Story Contests in 2001, 2002 and in 2003. In '03, in addition to one HM, his Holiday Dinners was awarded first prize.
He is working on a novel length mystery that builds on the primary characters from his story Borscht in The Bay published in Monterey Shorts. Five of Ken's stories are contained in, a collection of short stories and poetry produced in November '03 by the Pebbles Writing Group of
Ken and his wife Anne have one daughter, Nora, and one grandson. Ken and Anne live in Pacific Grove with their deaf, one-eyed (or in the more sensitive words of her loving Veterinarian, 'sound challenged and monocular') cat Lucky.
Lele Dahle grew up on the Monterey Peninsula. An early love for reading led to her interest in writing. She has written many short stories and is currently working on a first novel.
Linda Price is a founding member of FWOMP. She took a
year off following the disappearance of her husband in March 2001 while he was
boating on the Monterey Bay.
, a native New Yorker, and a World War Two veteran, has had a varied career. At various times he’s been a labor union activist, a writer and copy editor of pulp fiction, house manager of a noted concert hall in Manhattan, and public relations director for an international firm.
He earned a doctorate in Chinese history at Harvard and taught graduate and undergraduates at Michigan State University for twenty years before moving to California. His monograph, “The Chinese Communist Cadre” was published by MIT, and another of his papers “’Yellow’ Unionism in Shanghai”, was distributed by the Harvard Program in East Asian Studies. He’s a founding member of Fiction Writers of the Monterey Peninsula (FWOMP), a member of The Monterey Writers’ Workshop, is on the Steering Committee of the local chapter of the National Writers Union, and is Program Chairman of Central Coast Writers. He writes a monthly page for the Newsletter of the Carmel Residents’ Association. Two of his short stories--"Marriage Makes Strange Bedfellows" and "The Night We Killed Music"—were included in the anthology Pebbles, (Thunderbird Writers Group, 1999). Five of his stories, are in The Barmaid, the Bean Counter and the Bungee Jumper, (Pebbles Group, 2003). One of them, “Laundry” is excerpted from his wartime memoirs, a work in progress. His story, “Reunion” appears in Monterey Shorts, published in 2002.
He is now researching a monograph on “Chiang Kai-shek and Mussolini”, and doing research for on an historical novel set in New York City, Java, and Japan during the Wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon, based on Dutch and Japanese sources and New York City archives.
Walter lives in Carmel, California.
Mark Angel was born and raised on the Monterey Peninsula. He currently resides in Carmel Valley. He will soon publish a science fiction novel entitled Rexriders, about a civilization that coexists with dinosaurs. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology with a minor in music from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and an Associate of Science in fire protection technology from Monterey Peninsula College. Mark is currently employed as an Emergency Medical Technician with American Medical Response, and he has been a volunteer with the American Red Cross, Carmel Area Chapter for over 20 years.
Shaheen Schmidt, a native of Iran, has lived in the United States since 1985, and currently resides in Carmel Valley. Although she works in Carmel as a hair designer, she has an insatiable curiosity and interest in visual arts, dance, music and writing and is one of the founding members of Fiction Writers of the Monterey Peninsula. Since childhood, she has kept a journal and special notebook to write her stories, fully illustrated in her own hand. Shaheen’s writing is often inspired by music she hears, or spending time in nature.
has no recollection of his past and is in no particular hurry to comprehend his future. For now he is content to dwell in his uncannily quiet, mist-shrouded apartment complex in Pacific Grove—of which he suspects he may be the only tenant—transcribing half-formed dreams and revealed fragments of someone’s life, perhaps his own.
Recherche de la France.
In keeping with that tradition, she has written several articles for
publication on the history of the Church. "A Flash of Red" was her first
published fiction story.
She serves as web master for the FWOMP site, and works for
SandCastles Toys in the Barnyard on their website.