Book Tour / Guest Post: The Shattered Blades The Land of Nod: Book Three of the Judges Cycle by Aidan Russell

Todays book tour is brought to you by Goddess Fish promotions and Aidan Russell! There is a rafflecopter giveaway during the tour, which starts today and the prize is a Kindle Paperwhite!

A wonderful quest post by Author Aidan Russell, whom book Tour will be posted in a hour, talks about how to write up an anthology and to get it published. Super informative and very well written. Thanks so much Aidan!

Anthologies can be a lot of fun to write for. Someone comes up with an idea and then solicits stories, either by contacting you personally or by putting out a general call for submissions. Many authors use the short stories they write to expand on previous novels or series they’re working on or experiment with other genres or ideas for future works without the risk of writing a full novel first.

As an editor, publisher, or organizer, however, compiling an anthology can become a stress induced headache in the making if you don’t plan properly. I worked as an associate editor for several recent anthologies, to include Invoke Books’ The Haunted West anthology, which was released for RT’s final convention in Reno this May, as well as Never Fear-The Apocalypse. While I had written for some of the company’s previous anthologies, I learned a lot of valuable lessons when I had to put things together myself. This list is by no means all inclusive, so if you plan on putting together an anthology, I encourage you to search far and wide and take the tips and advice that make the most sense for your situation. That being said, here are ten things I recommend when publishing an anthology:

#1. Find your theme.

Every anthology needs an interesting theme behind it. Not many readers will be interested in buying a book whose tagline is “Ten stories by ten random authors!” Most anthologies share at least a common genre. Some anthologies get real creative and tell a common story through the eyes of multiple characters and multiple authors. For the horror anthology, Never Fear-The Tarot, we had each author randomly pick a tarot card from the deck and they had to write a story based on the traits of their card. It was a fun concept that the authors and readers loved. All the stories were similar in genre (horror or thriller), and had a central theme to bind them all together (being based on the tarot). When someone asks what the book is about, what will you tell them? Develop your theme, develop your book’s tagline, and make the stories work around that.

#2. Plan ahead. WAY ahead.

Coordinating an anthology is going to prove a lot more difficult than writing a single story. Instead of making sure one story is perfect, you must ensure five, ten, or twenty stories are good enough to sell. This will take time, and the more time, the better. I highly recommend using the old military practice of backwards-planning. Write down your proposed release date. How much time before release will you need for marketing, formatting, and uploading the manuscript? Work backwards from your release date and mark the date that you absolutely must have started these steps by. Then figure out how much time you will need to review and edit the stories and work back from there. How much time will the authors need? The cover artist?

A large number of books covering the walls of a room with an old double door

However much time you’ve allotted yourself, give yourself more, because day jobs, family, and the wrath of nature will derail your plans if you don’t. An important lesson learned: If you’re releasing an anthology for an event, fewer authors is better. Deadlines can usually be flexed, but if you want to release the anthology at a specific event, you’re stuck. Herding cats is hard. Herding authors is harder. If you have a fixed release date, I recommend using only a handful of trustworthy and professional authors so you don’t disappoint the fans. For Uncharted World: Xeno Encounters, we released the book for the first ever AlienCon, so we kept the number of authors down to ten and selected only authors we had previously worked with and knew would deliver quality in a timely manner.

#3. Deadlines.

This one goes along with planning, but needs its own special section. Just as day jobs, family, and galactic level solar flares will derail your work, it will happen to your authors as well. Now, much of this will apply when you have a specific group of authors selected for the anthology. For open submissions, the rules are fairly simple: If the story wasn’t in by the deadline, too bad. But what happens if you have an extremely popular author who offered to write for your anthology that will give it some star power and they’re late with their story? Worse yet, what if you’ve already marketed that this author will be in your anthology and they pull out at the last minute? Now what?!?! I highly recommend you set your deadline knowing full well that some authors won’t make it. Also, I would save marketing until after all the stories are in and you know they are good enough for publication. Nothing will hurt your credibility more than putting up a billboard that you have Stephen King and James Patterson writing for your anthology and then failing to deliver because they got last minute movie deals to work on.

An overhead short of a woman writing in a journal at a busy table with a cup of coffee

Another thing to consider is back-up authors you’ve worked with previously who can fill in if someone doesn’t follow through. If you have a cover already, make sure your artist can change the names or wait to have them put the names on until after you know for certain who will be appearing in the book. Some authors may want feedback on their stories. Let them know to get their stories in early, otherwise your feedback will get lost in the whirlwind of getting the product ready.

#4. Editing.

The biggest piece of advice is to be consistent. However many authors you have, you will get that many different writing styles and manuscript formats back. Once you receive a submitted manuscript, be sure to strip out all the author’s formatting. I always copy the manuscript and paste it into Notepad or a similar program. Then I copy it from Notepad, paste it into Word, and make it Courier New, 12pt, and double-spaced so I can see all the tiny errors in spacing, smart quotes vs straight quotes, etc. There are a lot of subjective punctuation and grammar rules. If you’re working with a team, get those ironed out before editing begins so different stories don’t end up with different rules. BE CONSISTENT.

#5. Formatting. BE CONSISTENT.

It applies here just as much as with editing. If you’ve never formatted a manuscript before, I highly recommend you give the Smashwords Style Guide a read. The guidance in there is fairly universal across all distributors and publishers. If there is one thing that is the biggest pain in the you-know-what when it comes to formatting, especially an anthology, it is headers, footers, and page numbers. The last thing you want is for an author name in the header to carry over to a story that isn’t theirs. While your authors are writing, get your styles set up in Word or whatever program you use. Then, once the stories are edited, all you have to do is highlight and apply styles. Once everything is done, PROOFREAD!

#6. Story order.

Unless your stories can be arranged in chronological order, you need to figure out what order they will go into the story. A general suggestion is to put your most popular authors at or near the beginning and end. Again, this is only a suggestion. Just like any other novel, you want to start your anthology with a story that will hook the reader and entice them to read the rest of the stories. Just like a novel, you need to avoid a saggy middle. Your halfway point in the anthology is the perfect spot for the something-different or something-exciting. If you have a sci-fi anthology, that galaxy-spanning military thriller might be perfect to regain the reader’s attention. But remember, you still need to have that climactic finale.

#7. Contract and Royalties. 

As with anything involving legalities, be sure to consult a lawyer before producing a contract for the authors to sign. A big thing to iron out is rights. How long will the anthology have exclusive rights to the story? What if you discontinue the anthology? What if the author wants to use their story somewhere else? While you may be running the big show, the author’s story is still their baby and their creation. The last thing anyone wants as a reputation is that they’re difficult to work with, and the contract is where that will become apparent.

As far as payment, there are two options: a flat payment up front or a royalty split. The easiest for everyone involved is to pay the authors a flat fee per word or per story. If you do per story, don’t hide that from the authors. They need to know that writing longer isn’t going to equal a bigger paycheck and going long winded will be an act of artistic love. If you’re a small indie press or self-publishing the anthology, you may not have the funds to pay authors up front. In that case, you will probably be doing a royalty split. This is pretty self-explanatory, but just know that you will have to sit down every quarter (or whatever is in the contract) and start doing lots of math. Then you have to write checks, mail checks, do taxes, etc. Another reason to consider how many authors are in your book. You may owe your cousin a favor, but if they don’t bring something special to the anthology, maybe best to repay that favor another way than letting them in your anthology

#8. Length.

This one is easy: longer = more work and more things that can go wrong in the formatting and editing. If you’re selling print copies, longer means higher production costs, higher shipping costs, and higher price points. If you’re only making a few cents per copy sold and you’re doing a royalty split with thirty authors, you can see how much of a pain this can become.

#9. Marketing.

There are a thousand blog posts and books out there on marketing and launch strategies, so I will keep this simple. Coordinate the efforts of your authors. If you have indie authors in your ranks, they may know the ins-and-outs of marketing themselves. Traditionally published authors usually rely on their publishers to do a lot of the heavy lifting with marketing. Play to their strengths and weaknesses. If you have a traditionally published author with a bigger following, maybe you can have them write a simple guest blog post while your market savvy indies do their magic with Facebook ads or newsletter swaps. A good, quick read I recommend on developing a launch strategy is Chris Fox’s Launch to Market. Again, make it a team effort so everyone has their part in making this a success.

#10. Expectations.

Around the time you developed your theme, you hopefully set some expectations for yourself. If you started out this article thinking fame and fortune can be yours by putting together an anthology, prepare to have your dreams crushed and dismembered before your very eyes. How viable is the anthology market within your genre? Romance is the top seller on Amazon, but do romance readers like anthologies? What about the specific sub-genres? Is the purpose of your anthology to cross-promote authors within a single genre? While it’s important for authors to be paid for their work (I hope you aren’t selling the authors’ stories and paying them in “exposure”) authors, and especially newer authors, need to understand that anthologies probably aren’t going to be a grand cash cow. It’s all about the journey… or something like that.

If you’re thinking about putting together an anthology (or this post inspired you to do so), I hope these tips put you one step closer to what you consider success. I’d like to give a big thanks to Lance Taubold, Jeff DePew, Ed DeAngelis, and Richard Devin for their input on this post. And a big thanks to Kri for hosting!


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The rivers turn to blood and the mournful cry for judgment.

Reslo returns to his family in the forest of Miradep, but his quest is not finished, and he will not fail in his duty.

Gratas and Jerah return to the idyllic town of Dunkhau, their bodies wounded and spirits scarred by battle. But if they thought war was tiring, they must now face the unknown horrors of peace.

Read an Excerpt

The dizziness flared when the Dragon dropped Reslo into a puddle on a flat rock. He took a moment to catch his breath. He even sucked up a mouthful of the fresh rainwater from the puddle. He pushed himself to his feet, drew Moreathar, and faced the Dragon.

“Why did you take me away? How could you flee? I almost had Mdychi.”

Qa’sin spun to face Reslo. For a moment, the storm subsided as his great bulk and wings tossed aside the wind and rain. Eyes that glowed like dew-covered moss stared down on the Elf. The firelight within the Dragon grew brighter through his scars.

“Your father tried to fight me the first time we met. I see you’ve inherited his temper. Perhaps his stupidity as well.”

Reslo knew the Dragon was correct. It would be stupid to try to fight the titanic beast. Moreathar was a mighty sword, and Reslo a great warrior, but neither possessed the strength to defeat Miradep’s Dragon. Besides, they had no feud with him. If anything, Reslo owed the Dragon a debt of honor, as his children would after him.

“Why did we flee?” Reslo lowered his blade.

“Because you would have been killed,” Qa’sin said, “and I need you to help rid me of that scourge.”

“What scourge?” Reslo slammed Moreathar home in its scabbard.

“That… That Dragon, no… not a Dragon. That abomination…” Qa’sin sputtered and his serpentine tongue slithered as he stumbled through his words. “Among what remains of our people, it is called the Pythoness. The Witch Dragon is what it calls itself. We must kill it and end its desecration of this forest at last. It eludes me, hides from me. That is why I need you, warden, tracker, hunter.”

The Author:


Aidan Russell is a Marine Corps veteran living in Las Vegas. He spent his youth following the adventures of wizards and space demons and decided one day to write his own tales. His short fiction is available in the Never Fear and Uncharted Worlds anthologies. When not writing, he enjoys skiing and heavy metal.




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