Five Tips for Writing a Group Anthology

By Carolyn Wilhelm

Are you in a writing group or collecting stories for possible inclusion in an anthology? I have assembled collections from writing groups and have a few tips for such a process. This information is intended for self-publishing and sole owner of small publishers.
1.    First, I suggest the group or contest organizers decide whether or not to have a theme before any stories are considered. One group I worked with entitled their anthology “bits and pieces” and accepted a wide variety of writing pieces. The result was an eclectic collection of short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. Another group decided to use the theme of adoption, and all the pieces were centered around the theme. Think to yourself which title might attract more readers, and why you think so.

2.    Decide on a single word processing program such as Word, Google Docs, or Scrivener for everyone to use. Unfortunately, when I said yes to one of these projects, I received stories in all three formats, which led to difficulties. Think about the fact most of the people will have different types of computers and different ages of software. There will be some challenges, even if everyone uses the same word processor. Try to minimize the problems in this area.

3.    Think about the format of the writing piece. Will both stories and poems be accepted? What are the guidelines? One well-known annual anthology contest held by Tales2Inspire®  requires submissions using a Word template. That way, stories have consistency throughout the book. What word count is suggested? Will pictures be needed or not?

4.    It is critical writers do not “help” by adding formatting to their submissions. I have spent hours removing tabs, page breaks, and other things authors thought was wanted. Be clear you want plain text with nothing more than a single space between words and a single line between paragraphs. The person who assembles the manuscript will create the styles, page numbering, margins, running headers, and final details.

5.    At the time of submission, it is best if authors send their bios and a headshot along with the writing piece. Gathering everything several times is difficult when working with a group of people. Final polished submissions only should be accepted.

The US Government Online Copyright Office is limiting claims to ten authors. A group may decide to include more, but be aware of these new copyright limitations. Amazon only lists ten authors. When groups set up a separate email for the book, it often gets overlooked once the book is published. Just keep using the Amazon and other online book sales accounts of the person who uploads the book. That person will be sure to follow up as they are using the online store anyway. Only one person or small publisher can “publish” and therefore needs to provide a bank account to receive payments, as well as a social security number. Group email may be used for communication regarding the book but is not recommended for financial information. If the person in charge needs help, perhaps that person is not the best one for such a position.

Probably the self-publisher or small publisher will be creating the front and back matter for the anthology. The title page may be extracted and sent to the Library of Congress (LOC) Cataloging in Publication (CIP) program. This should be done prior to the book release. The LOC does not need the entire manuscript, as they do not give copyrights.

Much satisfaction may be found in working on anthology projects. The final book will be a joy for many authors and their family members. Take care to be proactive and prevent issues by thinking carefully and planning. 

Carolyn Wilhelm is the curriculum writer and sole owner of The Wise Owl Factory site and blog. She has an MS in Gifted Education and an MA in Curriculum and Instruction K-12. As a retired teacher of 28 years, she now makes mostly free educational resources for teachers and parents. Her course about Self-Publishing from the Very, Very Beginning is available on UDEMY. 



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Terry Whalin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
deborah lyn said...

Thank you Carolyn Wilhelm, I'm happy to meet you.
Your article and its significant tip points for anthologies are great. You indicated details I've never dealt with but make perfect sense. thanks again.

Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, these are great tips for writing a group anthology. I created a couple of them with the members of Writers on the Move to give away as a year-end gift. I think they're a great idea! Thanks for sharing!

Terry Whalin said...


Great article about anthologies. I've written for several anthologies and it has been a great experience for me.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Love having you, Carolyn! And wow! How I love articles that are rooted in personal experience. Like the word processor thing. I may never have thought of it! At least not early enough! Ha!
The Other Carolyn

lastpg said...

Hi Carolyn, welcome to WOTM! Some of the writers in my SCBWI chapter in Albuquerque, New Mexico, wrote an anthology which was a great project and gave them a chance to share their short stories. I've never thought of being in one until I read your post. I will keep your post and keep the idea in mind. I'm looking forward to getting to know you and am very happy that you've joined us.

Cathy Cade said...

Our group have published two anthologies. They were very mixed bags, based on our monthly "homework" projects which differed widely. They sold well within our parent (local U3A) group and of course friends and relations. (Although published on Amazon, we did get copies printed locally to sell at U3A meetings and in local bookshops - two print runs totalling just over 200 copies.
As compiler, editor and formatter I can confirm that interpretation of "final polished submissions" varies widely.Publishing the first of these did give me confidence to try publishing a small book of my own, and I'm now working on my fourth.

Jemima Pett said...

Numbers 2 and 4. OH YES!! And even when you clearly state this, you still get MS with tabs and weird fonts. Well, weird to me!

Good list.

Worthwhile getting commitment from the authors for on-going marketing too, especially if it's a writing group.

But as with any group of volunteers - it's like herding cats.

Why do I keep thinking I'd like to do another?

Thanks for a really good post.

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