Rochelle Jewel Shapiro


A Gathering: Creating an Anthology

by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro 

August 2014

Watch for her insights every month on Authorlink

“If you publish the work of others, you get a much wider readership.”

Putting together an anthology of poetry, stories, or nonfiction, can be a great way of putting your foot in a publisher’s door instead of your mouth.  You could anthologize your own work, but unless you’re an expert in some field or have already had the work published elsewhere, the best thing to do, for my two cents, is to begin with an anthology that compiles the work of others, and perhaps includes one of your own pieces.

Here’s why. If you publish the work of others, you get a much wider readership. They have folks who are interested in reading what they wrote. Seem materialistic? Well, you have to be. Your reputation as an editor, as a writer, is often made by your sales record (unfortunately.)

Make sure you gather work, your own (if you dare) or the work of others on a theme or topic that you are passionate about. That’s necessary because not only will you need to spend a lot of time on gathering the works that will be in the book, but strong feelings are what drive an editor or a writer to excellence.

Find something cohesive that pulls all the works together: a locale, a profession, or life cycle such as motherhood, season, climate, etc.

One of the first books I read of linked short stories was Sherwood Anderson’s, Winesburg, Ohio, which is a group of tales set in small town Ohio and Hemmingway’s Nick Adams Stories, coming-of-age stories loosely based on his life in Michigan. The Elizabeth Stories, a collection of stories about the traumas of Elizabeth Kessler who grows up in a Canadian town in the 1950’s is a favorite of mine.

“Agents want to know who they can compare your work to . . .”

The first thing you do if you decide to put together an anthology is go to the bookstore and the library and, of course, the internet, to see what anthologies have already written in your area of interest. Agents want to know who they can compare your work to when they are pitching to the marketing departments. My novels, Miriam the Medium, and Kaylee’s Ghost, for example, were pitched as being similar to Oprah-award-winner, Alice Hoffman. If you’re writing nonfiction, or gathering it, you need to think of what was similar that sold well and actually have the statistics for it. But you have to also show how your book will be different. What it contains that the bestseller in the field doesn’t. A tricky business, I tell you.

“Once you choose what your anthology will be about, create a website for it that promotes it.”

Once you choose what your anthology will be about, create a website for it that promotes it. An idea could be to create a website as if it’s being written by your main character or do a short story blog that, for example, critiques the short stories of the New Yorker or some other well-known magazine. That will draw fine readers to you and the writers whose stories you are reviewing and discussing may become interested too.

Go on Linked-In to find other experts in the field you’re writing about or people that may be interested in becoming readers. You need to build what publishers call, a platform, with a lot of followers on Twitter and Facebook.

Write a kickass intro that connects the stories, essays, or articles thematically. You also have to have a bio page with information about your contributors with links to their websites.

Find a publisher or consider publishing it yourself. Check out which gives a lot of info on publishing anthologies.

Promote your anthology. Call local radio stations, local papers, and TV stations to request an interview.

The publishing industry, like the music business, is getting the shaking-up of its life. That may mean more possibilities for you than ever.

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro’s first novel, Miriam The Medium (Simon & Schuster), was nominated for the Harold U. Ribelow Award. Her novel, Kaylee’s Ghost (Amazon and Nook), is an Indie Finalist. She’s published essays in NYT (Lives), and Newsweek and in many anthologies. Her poetry, short stories, and essays have appeared in The Coe Review, Compass Rose, The Griffin, Inkwell Magazine, The Iowa Review, Los Angeles Review, The MacGuffin, Memoir And, Moment, Negative Capability, Pennsylvania English, The Carolina Review, and more. She won the Brandon Memorial Literary Award from Negative Capability. Shapiro is a professional psychic who currently teaches writing at UCLA Extension.