Should I Publish in an Anthology?

This blog relates to non-fiction books specifically by coaches, speakers, and expert consultants, and is a continuation of the publishing advice found in the earlier blog, Traditional, Hybrid, or Self-Publishing: Which Model is Best for You?

by Adam G. Fleming

A Word to Business Professionals

This blog relates to non-fiction books specifically by coaches, speakers, and expert consultants, and is a continuation of the publishing advice found in the earlier blog, Traditional, Hybrid, or Self-Publishing: Which Model is Best for You? In my mind, anthologies of poetry and short stories in the fiction category are a completely different animal, although the same word “anthology” is applied to both. While there are certainly pros to collaborating with others on big projects such as publishing a book, here we are primarily looking at drawbacks to consider for those in business and are thinking about writing and publishing their own ideas. Being a business professional myself, my personal bias is against being part of an anthology. I’ll share some of my personal reasons for that at the end of the article, but I wanted to confess my bias up front. That being said, I will also include some good reasons to take part in publishing an anthology below.

It’s About Standing Out in a Crowd

Would you put a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in a strip mall? Ruth’s Chris may not be the most expensive steakhouse in the world but it’s a chain that many of us recognize as high-end. I suppose it’s possible that somewhere a franchisee decided to put one next to a Dollar General and some kind of fitness gym in a strip mall, but I would be a lot more likely to believe that Ruth’s Chris has a policy that all steakhouses are in stand-alone buildings. Just as Ruth’s Chris stands apart from the crowd, your own book will also set you apart. 

The question here is whether or not you’re a luxury brand, or whether you are willing to sell your work as a more common commodity. Neither is inherently wrong, and there’s no value judgment on either one. The difference is simply how you position yourself in the marketplace. To me, the non-fiction anthology—one chapter each, by ten or twelve authors, such as coaches promoting their work—is fine if you’re in the commodity business. The cost to be part of an anthology is much lower, and many times the organizer gets to participate in it free of charge. It may be the most attractive option in this case. 

However, if you’re going for a luxury brand to a niche audience, like Ruth’s Chris, you want a standalone location; that is, you want your own book, with only your name on the cover. The exception is sharing the cover with the name of someone who can lend you additional credibility, who does you the favor of writing a foreword. For example, I’ve had the honor of both Dr. Mark Whitacre and Dr. Jonathan Bornman write forewords for two of my books, respectively. 

Considerations When Joining an Anthology

What might be some good reasons for coaches to join an anthology? One consideration is if your expected lifetime value of an ideal customer is under $10,000. This line is a bit arbitrary, to be sure. But let’s say you’re a fitness coach who wants to pack your day with half-hour clients, each paying $99/month. You can absolutely make great money doing this if you can rack up clients at your gym. You’ll work hard every day but have the satisfaction of helping lots and lots of clients get healthier, and if that’s what you love to do, you’ll be energized. Now, for each of those clients to be worth $10,000 over a lifetime of working with them they’d have to stay with you year in, year out, for 8+ years. Take a look at your records. What’s the longest your very best clients have stayed with you so far? Two years? Lifetime value of $2400? Perhaps, if they referred you eight clients, they might hit that $10k threshold; but you might be better off publishing in an anthology, with just one chapter to share your best bits of wisdom—rather than invest in a volume you foot the whole bill for. 

Which brings us to the second good reason: you just don’t have much of the ground-breaking sort of content to say, but you want to be able to share with people that you’re a published author, and respected in your industry. If all you have is one or two blogs’ worth of truly unique content, maybe a full book isn’t for you, and you need to cozy up with some other coaches for an anthology. This can give you visibility while also establishing credibility alongside other respected names.

With all that being said, why is my personal bias against publishing anthologies? While I do use my own books as a way to reach out to prospective clients for Victory Vision, the main reason I began publishing my own work was to publish novels. Now, I have non-fiction books too, and a lifetime goal of publishing 25-plus books. That’s atypical. Most of the coaches and consultants I know will never create more than two or three. Many will only write one. That’s a pretty big difference, because a book that highlights your expertise is written with the purpose of finding new clients; while my purpose is to sell books. I would consider publishing in a collection of short stories or poems. But as I said at the top, that’s a different issue—it’s a different purpose (entertainment versus marketing). Finally, as a coaching generalist for many years, I’m now finding a tighter niche than ever before, so I’m moving in the direction of being a Ruth’s Chris, from a marketing standpoint. 

There’s No One-Size-Fits-All

You can be a luxury brand and publish your own book, to stand apart from the crowd like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. You can also set up shop in a strip mall and make money. Neither of these things are wrong or bad. Know what kind of brand you have, and if “luxury” is your answer, then don’t compromise on your marketing expenses. Let the world know what you can do with your own book. If “luxury” isn’t the truth (even though you’d like it to be) then maybe an anthology is the right way to go, at least at first. There’s no reason you can’t add an exclusive book later. But knowing why you are, or are not, pursuing being published in an anthology is key to effectively and efficiently publishing your brand into a book. Here’s to a great year of marketing ahead!

Adam G. Fleming, PCC, is a coach with 16 books and more than 2000 coaching hours under his belt. His focus is in coaching writers along their journey. He is the CEO of Victory Vision Publishing, Inc. Book a complimentary consult with him here: 

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