Authors Assemble! Creating Multi-Author Anthologies

Authors Assemble! Creating Multi-Author Anthologies

Why you should, how you should, and more!

A good short story can be the perfect story snack, but an anthology of shorts is like an epic charcuterie board of story treats. They can have a little for everyone. Sure, maybe you’re not into the olives or those weird pickled onions, but oh man, are you going to gobble up that cheese!

You can often find anthologies accepting submissions, but being a part of one of them from the ground up can be fun and rewarding.

I’ve been an editor/administrator for eight different multi-author anthologies and am also published in two other anthologies, and every one has been a unique experience. Here are some things I’ve learned about the process.

Reasons to Do It:

Everything needs a reason, even if that reason is “hey, this feels fun, and it’s a Tuesday!”

We have a lot of Tuesdays. No point in letting them go to waste.

The reason behind your anthology project, though, might influence some of the choices you make, such as which stories you include and how you arrange the financial aspects.

Here are a few of the most common “purposes” behind an anthology.

For Profit

The first and most obvious reason to publish a book is to make money. Publishing is, first and foremost, a business. It’s work. We work hard to write stories. Editors work hard to polish stories. Cover designers work hard to make marketable “billboards” that will draw readers in (ie book covers).

Work deserves wages.

If you are writing a “for profit” anthology, you’ll want to include marketable stories and maybe consider authors who already have their own platform and reach to help you get to more readers. You’ll also want to be very clear in your payment structure (are authors getting a share of the royalties or a one time payout for their work?).


Another reason to create an anthology is to support a non-profit charity or cause. Many times the authors for these anthologies will “donate” their story in support of the cause. The theme will generally be tighter (to support the specific cause), and royalties (usually a whole but sometimes a portion if agreed upon by the participants) will go to charitable purposes.

Sometimes these anthologies are less about raising funds and more about raising awareness, but this is rarer in fiction than non-fiction.

For Marketing

Getting yourself in front of more reader eyes is the constant struggle. Combining the forces of multiple authors, each bringing in their own audience, can be an amazing marketing technique.

Very few (if any) authors are going to be prolific enough to be the only author any given reader needs, so sharing a platform with multiple authors in the same genre helps you cross-pollinate your reader/follower lists.

Sometimes authors will agree to a royalty split for these collections. Other times, like with the non-profit, authors will “donate” their stories in return for the marketing, often with the anthology available as a free-to-download ebook.

For Fun

I’ll admit, sometimes it’s just fun to work on a project with your close author friends. While you should still put out a professional collection, and have a plan for any expenses and profits that is clear to all involved, you don’t need a big important reason to do this.

Picking the Authors/Stories:

There are two main ways to get authors to participate.


You can put out a submission call, asking people to submit. You’ll need to be clear about the deadline (keeping in mind if you want people to write an original story for the anthology, you will need to give them time), if you are paying for the stories, how the rights are being handled, and where submissions should be sent. You then wait for them to come in and choose stories based on which are the best fit for the project (or maybe which authors you really want to work with).


Some anthologies are invitation-only, meaning that authors will approach other authors and ask them if they want to participate. Authors will then have a set amount of time to produce a story to be included.

A lot of times these are done among friend-groups or pre-established communities.

Inevitable Rejections

There could be many reasons a story isn’t going to make it into the anthology. It could be a good story but not fit the theme. It could be in need of serious edits. You could simply have too many stories submitted and have to choose between them, at which point it could be a matter of “well, we already have a story about a dragonslayer, so we don’t need another.”

It is important not to burn bridges at this stage. The indie author world is interconnected, and being unkind to those around you is never a good idea. If your reason for rejection wasn’t a quality issue, it’s easy enough to just be honest but kind, “I enjoyed your story, but with the high number of submissions, we’re having to turn some stories down…” or “Unfortunately, a cozy mystery in a small English town does not fit our theme of Urban Fantasy Monster Tales.”

If the reason is quality, it’s fine to give feedback on what would improve the story. Most authors are used to getting notes from editors, beta readers, and critique partners. Professional authors will not burn bridges because you told them their work “needs some editing” or “lacks a sufficiently satisfying conclusion” or some minor critique like that.

They might use your input to make the story better for future submissions. Even if they don’t agree with your input (writing can be very subjective, and one person’s “boring story” can be another reader’s “contemplative look at a complex subject.”), this sort of feedback is part of the game, and should not be taken personally.


There’s more to an anthology than just writing. A LOT more. Once you’ve selected the stories, you’ll need…

  • Editing
  • Proofreading
  • Cover Design
  • Formatting

All of these involve time and often expense.

Sometimes, especially if this is a community project or done for shared marketing purposes, the involved authors can volunteer services in order to get the anthology off the ground.

Indie authors frequently wear many hats, and in any given group you might have authors who specialize in cover design, formatting, or editing. If the anthology serves a shared purpose, they may be willing to donate these services.

Also, if you have a single “controlling voice” who is the leader of the project, they may wish to do the editing on their own in order to keep it to their standards/tastes.

However, you can’t always depend on volunteers, and if it is a “for profit” anthology, asking for free work on top of the submissions can come across as tacky.

It’s best to have a plan for expenses, which leads to my next point.

Funding the Anthology

The purpose of the anthology makes a large difference for how this is approached. If the purpose is a shared benefit, such as combined marketing or support of a cause, having all participants contribute to the funds needed to publish the work can be reasonable.

If, however, one individual will receive the majority of the profits, you’re better off with that person funding the collection. They can do this out of pocket or by using resources such as Kickstarter.

Watch out for Pay-To-Publish/Scam Contests

Just a quick note: a very common scam targeting writers is a contest where getting publicized in an anthology is the reward. Instead of being paid for their stories, authors will have to pay an “entry fee.” If they win, their story will be published in the anthology, but then they’ll be expected to buy copies, further lining the pockets of the organizers.

While there are contests with legitimate entry fees (going towards a cash prize or paying for legitimate expenses), be wary of anything where the prize is just a badge or a publication credit but you’re still expected to pay a fee.


Multi-Author Anthologies are a lot of work, but they can also be very rewarding. There’s something amazing about reading so many voices in one convenient volume.

I found some of my favorite authors either by reading these compilations or even having them submit to mine.

If you’re a reader you should check out some epic collections including the Fellowship of Fantasy anthologies or my own upcoming project, DOSA Files: Tales from the Supervillain Rehabilitation Project Universe.

Article By HL Burke

H. L. Burke is the author of multiple fantasy novels including the Supervillain Rehabilitation Project Series, the Spellsmith & Carver Steampunk series, and Ashen. She is an admirer of the whimsical, a follower of the Light, and a believer in happily ever after.