Posts Tagged ‘Jamie Ferguson’

Author Readings

by: Jamie Ferguson

How do author readings work?

There’s a lot of variation in how author readings work, but they basically go like this:

You’re invited to participate in an event and read something you’ve written. You may be asked to read for a certain amount or time, or read an entire story regardless of how long it takes. What you read from could be a specific story, from any published work you’ve written, or from anything you’ve written – which might include a project you’re currently working on.

Participating in a reading can and should be a fun and wonderful experience.

Depending on the venue and situation, you may or may not have the opportunity to bring/sell books. Some places (ex. bookstores) will sell your books, either print or ebook, through their own system.

Readings usually involve multiple authors reading at an event, but there are situations where you’re the only author reading. If you’re participating in a multi-author event you may have a fixed slot, or can request to go first, last, etc.

After the reading is over, you’ll have the opportunity to sign copies of your book(s) and talk with members of the audience.

Why participate in a reading?

Readings are a great form of marketing the title you’re reading from, and they’re a great way to promote you as an author. Not only does the audience get to hear your story, they have the opportunity to connect with you as a person.

Having people show up to listen to your story is an awesome experience, and it can be incredibly rewarding to have the opportunity to meet with members of the audience afterward.

Should you participate in a reading?

Do you enjoy speaking to a crowd, or are you super introverted and hate being the center of attention? Or perhaps you don’t mind talking to an audience, but the idea of reading something of your own gives you the heebie jeebies?

If you’re really uncomfortable with this type of activity, it might not be the right thing for you – and that’s okay! You can be a super successful author without ever reading any of your stories aloud.

If you’re comfortable (or comfortable enough) with reading to a group, consider the setting. Will you be reading in a quiet area where the audience can hear you well, or in a noisy bar? Is the location convenient, or will it involve a three-hour drive each way?

In addition to considering the setting, consider the situation. If it’s a multi-author reading event, how do you feel about the other participants? Will you be reading from a romance novel, but the other authors are horror writers?

Don’t feel obligated to participate in a reading just because you were invited. Make sure the situation is right for you.

How to prepare

If the venue allows you to sell books, make sure to bring some to sell. Or if the venue will sell your books for you, make sure they have all the information ahead of time so they can stock print copies and/or get your ebook in their ordering system. If you’re reading at a place that sells your books through their system, they will probably request that you not bring your own copies.

Bring a pen! You may be asked to sign copies of your book! If you haven’t autographed a lot of books yet, you may want to think about what to write ahead of time so that you don’t have to come up with this on the fly.

Bring business cards, bookmarks, or whatever materials you have – or prepare some, if you don’t have anything like this put together yet. Sometimes you’ll have an area to set up a display where you can showcase more than one of your books. You could make a banner, print out a giant version of one of your book covers, or do something quirky that fits your book and/or your brand. For example, horror writer Mark Leslie has a life-sized skeleton (it’s fake, don’t worry!) named Barnaby who he takes to readings and signings.

One of the most important things you can do is practice reading ahead of time. If you’re given a fixed amount of time to read, this will allow you to ensure your selection will fit in this time period. If you haven’t read to an audience before, or if you’re not sure which approach to use for this particular story, practicing will allow you to decide how you want to read. For example, do you want to use different voices for your characters? Or read them in more of a narration style?

Readings are fun!

Participating in a reading can and should be a fun and wonderful experience. Figure out what is important to you with this type of event, and vet each opportunity to make sure it’s a good fit for you and your career.

And have fun!


Jaime Ferguson

Jamie Ferguson has curated ten multi-author collections and is working on many more, including a monster-themed anthology series. She is a member of the Uncollected Anthology, an urban and contemporary fantasy author collective, which she joined in the spring of 2018. She loves creating colorful spreadsheets and has spent her day job career working in software. Jamie lives in Colorado and spends her free time in a futile quest to wear out her two border collies, since she hasn’t given in and gotten them their own herd of sheep. Yet.

Editing an Anthology

What’s involved in editing an anthology?

As an editor you define the vision and theme for the project, select the stories to include, edit those stories, and usually write accompanying material like a foreword, introduction, or epilogue. You’ll determine the order in which the stories appear, and might write a short introduction to each story and/or author. Depending on how the project is structured, you might also write the sales copy, give direction to the cover designer—or design the cover, and put together promotional material.

You need to define the theme clearly enough so the authors understand what you’re looking for, review and edit manuscripts, and sometimes pass on a story you love because it’s not right for the collection you’re working on. Editing might go smoothly, or you might find yourself spending hours editing a story, only to find that the author isn’t willing to make the requested changes and you have to find a new author/story to fill in at the last minute. Thinking through your goals and making decisions ahead of time can make the whole process significantly easier.

The more clearly you envision and describe your project, the closer the authors will get to it.

How to Select Authors and Stories

Invitations vs. calls for submissions

If you extend invitations, think about the expectation you’re setting. Are you extending a blanket invitation to accept any story an author sends you? Or have you made it clear that you intend to review each story to make sure it’s a good fit for your theme?

If you put out a call for submissions, have you made sure your guidelines are clear enough so that you don’t end up having to wade through a zillion manuscripts that have nothing to do with the theme you’ve envisioned? Will you publish the guidelines on a website, in a newsletter, a Facebook group, mailing list, or all of the above?

A combination approach can work well in situations like if there’s a well-known author or two who you’d like to include in the collection, or if there’s a group of authors you know will write exactly what you’re looking for.

Time

Suppose you’ve extended an invitation to an author based on reading some of their work. You know they’re capable and talented. Then they submit a story that’s not nearly as well-written as you know they can write. Do you have the time and energy to edit this story to get it up to par?

Variety

Do you want all of the stories to be similar, or do you like having more variety? The tighter the constraints you specify in your vision and guidelines, the more similar the stories will be.

Promotion/Social Media

Do you care if an author has a modern, professional-looking website, or perhaps doesn’t have a website at all? Do you want to work with authors who have experience with promotion, or are you and/or the publisher planning on handling this?

If you’re not counting on the authors to help out with marketing, you can choose to invite authors based solely on the quality of their stories. If instead you’re relying on the authors to help with promotion, you’ll need to base your selections on the quality of the stories and how effective you feel each author will be at marketing.

There’s no right or wrong way to choose which authors to work with. The key is to figure out what is important to you and to then be mindful of this while you make your decisions.

Project Decisions

Vision/guidelines

Your vision for the project should include both the genre and the theme of your project. The more clearly you envision and describe your project, the closer the authors will get to it. Just be sure to keep your vision in mind when reviewing the submissions, as sometimes authors will submit stories they know are close but not on point.

In addition to information about your vision for the project, project guidelines typically include things like allowed story lengths, the length for author biographies and, if you’re opening the collection up to submissions, how to submit a story, including the desired manuscript format.

Anthology title

The title of the collection is just as important as the title of any other book. Make sure it fits with your vision as well as the genre of the project. One way to figure out if the title is working is to compare it to other titles in the same genre.

Number/length of stories

You can either set a specific number of stories to include, or set a target word count for the anthology.

The word count range per story should be set in the guidelines. You might choose to give authors the option to check in with you if they’re over or under this range, or you could make it clear that there’s no wiggle room. Authors will often submit stories that are either too short or too long, regardless of how firm you’ve said the rules are, so you’ll need to figure out how to handle these situations.

Scheduling and deadlines

Make sure to set a deadline for submissions that allows authors enough time to write their stories, and factor in enough time for you to review and edit the submissions.

If you’re involved in other areas like formatting the book, designing the cover, and putting together promotional material, take the amount of time you’ll need to spend into consideration when setting both the launch date and the author deadlines.

Pricing

If you’re working with a publisher, this may not apply. However, it’s becoming more and more common for editors to work very closely with small presses, and often the editor is also the publisher.

If you’re involved with setting the price for your collection, look at other, similar anthologies to see what prices are working well. You might also consider different strategies, like launching at a temporarily low price point for a week or two, or making the anthology available for pre-orders.

Contracts, licensing, and payment/royalties

This is another area that was traditionally outside of the hands of the editor, but today editors are often involved in.

Do you have a standard contract ready? If not, do you feel comfortable putting one together on your own, or do you need—and can afford—legal advice?

If you’re determining licensing terms, do you want to request stories be exclusive to your anthology—and for how long? Are you okay with reprints, or are you only interested in new stories?

Will you provide a one-time payment for each story? If so, will you provide a fixed fee per story, pay per word, or offer a contributor’s copy but no monetary payment?

Would you prefer to pay royalties, so that each author gets a percentage of the revenue in perpetuity—and if so, how will you track the sales and deliver regular payments? If you’re paying royalties, will each author get the same percentage, or do you want to give a larger percentage to a well-known author?

Anthologies can be fun!

While putting together an anthology can entail a fair amount of work, it’s incredibly rewarding to see your vision for a project come alive.


Jamie Ferguson has curated ten multi-author collections and is working on many more, including a monster-themed anthology series she’s co-editing with DeAnna Knippling. She’s also a member of the Uncollected Anthology, an urban and contemporary fantasy author collective, which she joined in the spring of 2018. She loves creating colorful spreadsheets and has spent her day job career working in software. Jamie lives in Colorado and spends her free time in a futile quest to wear out her two border collies, since she hasn’t given in and gotten them their own herd of sheep. Yet.

The Advantages of Being in an Anthology

The obvious advantage, of course, that your story is published—and, depending on how the anthology is set up, you might make some money! But there are a few other important advantages as well.

Discoverability

A reader who picks up an anthology because they’re a fan of one of the other authors in the collection might fall in love with your story, and seek out you and your work. This can provide tangible results, like someone buying a novel of yours, or signing up to your newsletter. They might enjoy your story so much that they mention it to their friends and family, who then also seek out your work.

By participating in a project with other authors, you’re getting exposure to people you might never have reached on your own. The same goes for your fans—they may find they enjoy reading stories by the other authors in the project.

By participating in a project with other authors, you’re getting exposure to people you might never have reached on your own.

Not only do you get the benefit of having the other authors’ fans potentially reading and enjoying your story, anthologies often permit—and sometimes encourage—reprints. Reprinting allows you to breathe life into a previously-published story by giving new readers the chance to discover it.

Visibility

Anthologies are a great way to put content out on a regular basis. If there are month- or year-long stretches in between publication of your longer works, seeing your name pop up in collections of shorter stories helps readers stay aware of you and your writing.

Anthologies that allow reprints are great for this as well. For example, you might include a story in one anthology, then a year later include it in a different anthology. Even though it’s the same story, including it in more than one collection provides additional opportunities to draw people in to your work.

Collaborative promotion

When you participate in multi-author projects, promotion is done by the editor, publisher, and the participating authors. Perhaps the publisher pays for advertising, while the editor and the other authors merely post on social media, or announce the collection in their various newsletters. All of this is promotion for the anthology. You benefit from other people promoting your story, just as they benefit from the marketing work you do for the project.

Note that how much promotion is done by the editor, publisher, and other authors can vary significantly from collection to collection, so make sure to ask about the plan for promotion before committing if this aspect is important to you.

How do you get into an anthology?

Calls for submissions

The traditional way to get included in a collection is to submit a story in response to a call for submissions put out by a publisher or editor. The editor writes up their vision for the collection and lists the guidelines, which usually include things like the theme, allowed story lengths, the deadline for submissions, and whether or not reprints are acceptable.

This approach allows you to get a sense of what the editor is looking for. However, no matter how close to the mark you feel your story is, the editor might not accept it. If you write a new story and it’s not accepted, you still have one more story to market elsewhere—but if you’re short on time, this approach might not work well for you.

Invitations

If an editor knows you and your work, or someone recommends you to the editor, you could get a personal invitation. This could range from a blanket invitation to include whatever story you feel fits the project’s theme, to one where the editor invites you to submit a story for consideration. While there are no guarantees, if you’re invited to submit a story, your story will probably be accepted if it’s well-written and on target with the editor’s vision.

Networking can play a big part in getting invitations. You might meet a fellow writer at a workshop or conference, or meet someone from an online authors’ group who later decides to edit an anthology and invites you. Editors often post about their projects in email lists or Facebook groups; these are usually calls for submissions, but occasionally the editor is looking for authors who are ready to commit. If you know someone who has edited anthologies you feel are a good fit for your writing, you could contact them to see if they’d be interested in working with you on a future project.

Participating in the right projects

The opportunity to participate in an anthology is exciting. But just because you have the opportunity doesn’t mean you should participate.

Theme

Make sure the theme is a good fit for you and for your branding. If you write Science Fiction, and receive an invitation to participate in a Romance anthology, is this project really something you want to participate in? You might enjoy writing something different, but make sure you do so because it’s really what you want to do—not because you’re trying to shoehorn yourself into a project that isn’t a good fit.

Time and Money

Do you really have time to write a new story, or will that mean the novel you’re working on will be delayed?

If you receive a one-time payment, are you being paid a standard professional rate? Are you comfortable knowing that you won’t receive royalties from future sales?

Is the one-time payment, or the percentage of royalties, the same for all authors? If not, are you comfortable with the split? Sometimes a higher-profile author might get a larger percentage of the royalties, or the percentages might vary depending on the length of each story. If that’s the case, make sure you’re comfortable with the difference.

Editor/Publisher

Do you feel comfortable working with the editor? Are you willing to make any editorial changes they request, or do you feel their vision for your story conflicts with your own in a way where there’s no good compromise?

Suppose this editor and publisher have put together a number of anthologies already. Do their covers look professional? How about the sales copy? Have they done a good job of marketing the other anthologies, or do they rely solely on the authors?

Rights

What if you’re planning on including your story in a collection of your own next year, but the anthology contract states that you’re licensing the rights to your story for two years? What if the terms state that you’re granting the publisher subsidiary rights, like film, television, and merchandising? What if the fine print says that you’re granting copyright of your work to the publisher?

Make sure you’re dealing with a reputable publisher. The opportunity to be involved in an anthology that sounds like a great fit for your story can feel very exciting, but it’s imperative that you review the contract and make sure that you understand—and are comfortable with—the terms.

Anthologies can be fun!

Participating in an anthology can be a fun and wonderful experience. Figure out what is important to you with this type of project, and vet each opportunity to make sure it’s a good fit for you and your career.

Next week: Editors and Anthologies. Part 2 of this two-part series on Anthologies.


Jamie Ferguson

Jamie has curated ten multi-author collections and is working on many more, including a monster-themed anthology series she’s co-editing with DeAnna Knippling. She’s also a member of the Uncollected Anthology, an urban and contemporary fantasy author collective, which she joined in the spring of 2018. She loves creating colorful spreadsheets and has spent her day job career working in software. Jamie lives in Colorado and spends her free time in a futile quest to wear out her two border collies, since she hasn’t given in and gotten them their own herd of sheep. Yet.