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Anthology Thoughts for New-ish Writers

Royalty-Split & Other Ambiguous Anthologies

There are a lot of royalty split and ambiguous anthologies circulating, and I wanted to remind folks who have been well-published and inform those who are waiting for their first acceptance about some things you should find out before you ship off your manuscript. This does not include charity anthologies that are meant to help out a cause. It also does not include “for the love” markets or traditional publishing.
  • Always send your work to the best paying markets first. If you believe this manuscript has a shot, go for the big pro-pay markets. If they don’t take it, tweak if necessary and ship it off to the next-highest paying market. Repeat until it finds a home.
  • While you’re waiting on results from a publisher, write the next story and send that one out. Then write another story and send that one out. Repeat and learn more of your craft in the process.
  • Research your potential market. Check to see if they’re a reliable and honorable publisher. Ask around and get opinions.
  • Understand what the market wants from you and what they’re offering in return. If they will own the copyright to your story that should be a deal-breaker. You should own the copyright and the anthology should list a “©2020 Your Author Name, Story Name” somewhere in the pages. They should list the very specific formats they are licensing from you. If they only ask for ebook rights you are free to publish it in audio and print format. Most of the time they ask for first world or first English-speaking rights. That means you have to wait to put your audio/print copies out until after they publish their ebook. If they ask for ebook, print, and audio rights, there should be a “publish by” date. If they put out the ebook but ignore print and audio, there should be a date where those rights revert back to you. There should also be a date where the rights revert back to you after publication for reprint sales.
  • Many small or micro markets will keep the anthologies for sale forever, and they ask for non-exclusive rights to allow this. Check the contract.
  • A royalty split is an ambiguous term. You may think it’s 50% publisher and 50% authors. Don’t assume. There is one anthology looking for themed stories that sounded great until I saw it was 80% publisher and 20% authors. Know this number up front and have it in the contract. If the ebook sold for $1 net (after Amazon/Kobo/Apple/etc. took their cuts), all of the authors have to split 20 cents. The publisher keeps 80 cents. Definitely not a fair deal in my view. You have to decide for yourself if it’s fair for you.
  • It gets even tougher to calculate if you don’t know how the author portion is split. Is it just 20% divided by the number of authors? Great for folks who wrote flash fiction or short poems, not so good for folks who dropped an 8,000-word short story. Is it split via word count? How about one share per every 1000 words? Many times the publisher hasn’t even figured out the actual split for themselves until someone asks. It should be part of the contract. This way, if it’s a straight-forward split between the authors you can make an informed decision if you want to submit your 8K-word short story or write a new 1,100-word tale. There’s no monetary difference between the two in this instance.
  • Payout dates should be in the contract (seven business days after the end of the quarter, for example). If there is a minimum amount before they cut a check or send via PayPal, it’s in the contract. Also in there should be that you shall receive statements as to how many sales, how much earned overall, and how much you earned (even if it is not yet at the payout minimum). Many small/micro presses don’t do this, and it’s the difference between a trustworthy and professional business and someone siphoning cash. Even if there are no sales, you should receive a statement.
  • Make sure you have an Amazon author page. When the book is published, have them add it to your list of books. This way you can have some insight if the book is selling and how well it is doing overall. If Amazon shows lots of sales but the publisher says there were none, something is seriously wrong.
  • Unless the book gets picked up for a Storybundle or it has some top-shelf headliners, you will not get rich on the royalties. Don’t quit your day job if you have one.
What recommendations do you have? If you have a differing opinion please post it below in the comments.

Guy Anthony De Marco

Guy Anthony De Marco, MFA, is an Italian-American speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker® and Scribe Award finalist; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; a poet; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer; a disabled US Navy veteran, and a coffee addict. One of these is false. A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, IAMTW, ITW, RWA-PRO, WWA, SFPA, ASCAP, MWG, SWG, HWA, IBPA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia.

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