5 Lessons We Learned Successfully Cultivating an Anthology

It's my absolute pleasure to introduce to you two of my favorite ladies in the writing world. I've known Ashley R. Carlson and Marissa Fuller for over a year now, and I couldn't be happier of this amazing duo cultivating an anthology called It Begins Here. Now ladies, I hand the mic over to you... 

Ashley R. Carlson and Marissa Fuller are familiar with the publishing industry. As both authors and editors, they thought they were fully qualified to cultivate an anthology with five other authors. Inspired by the purpose of seeing many of them in print for the first time, Ashley and Marissa dove head-long into what turned out to be a big project. Here’s what they learned.

5 Lessons We Learned Successfully Cultivating An Anthology | Blots & Plots
5 Lessons We Learned Successfully Cultivating An Anthology | Blots & Plots

The Biggest Challenge

M: COMMUNICATION. As writers, communication is basically our trade. If we can put an image in your mind’s eye of a house you’ve never seen before, then we should be able to muster some chain emails with six CCs, by golly. But keeping in constant touch with seven people turned out to be quite a task, especially since all the authors are scattered in different time zones and all committed to other jobs and projects. Thankfully, our shared passion for this anthology was enough to pull it all off.

A: For me, the biggest challenge was probably coordination—as in, sending out emails, deciding on due dates, enforcing those due dates, communicating with our formatter and cover designer, etc. It’s quite a lot when eight people are involved in a project, but thankfully everyone was extremely prompt and wonderful about getting first drafts to me on time, getting beta-feedback to the author they were paired with and submitting final drafts! Special shout out to our cover designer and contributing author, Amber Thomas, who remade the covers about eight times to fit CreateSpace’s dimensions. Thanks, Amber!

Assembling the Team

M: When Ashley and I began the draft, I had too many names to add to the list! The first people to come to mind were NaNoWriMo word sprint comrades, people whose passions fueled my own inspiration. I am blessed with a wide-reaching writing tribe, and I could not be happier with the roster we ended up with when all was said and done!

A: With technology, it’s finally easy (and recommended!) to have a network of fellow author friends as we pursue this crazy career called fiction writing. When I reached out to Marissa with the idea of publishing an anthology, our immediate first question was: Who will be involved? Some anthologies are open to the public, with writers making submissions for possible inclusion—but we wanted to do something more intimate than that. I (and Marissa) wanted to see some of my closest writer friends, many of whom are pursuing traditional publishing careers or are still in drafting stages of novels, have their work in print.

Because of the amazing capabilities of indie publishing nowadays (as Jenny can attest to), it’s quite possible to go from idea to publication in as little as three months—which is exactly what we did with It Begins Here! Due to the dedication and hard work of the seven authors involved—all strong female up-and-coming writers and close personal friends of Marissa and me—we have an amazing book full of new works by Marissa, Liz, Amanda, Lilly, J., Amber and myself to entertain audiences with.

Favorite Part of the Experience

M: When I got home from class today, I knew a real life copy of a book with my words in it would be waiting for me in the mail. To hold our creation in my hands, the dream born from our idea only months ago, was incredible. I feel terribly honored to have my story sharing a platform with the caliber of talent that stands alongside it in this anthology.

A: I have to say the same—I’ve already self-published several books and though it’s still magical every time, the best part of this experience has been watching some of my dearest friends and critique partners (Lilly Raines!) have their words published and available for readers. There is truly so much talent in this anthology, and to have been a part of getting several of these authors’ FIRST PUBLISHED WORK into the world makes me positively ecstatic. Plus, that cover.

The Logistics

M: We set a length of 10-15k words per story, which staggered nicely as some stories came in across the spectrum. The genres and topics are all so diverse, but were tied together with the same idea of beginnings.

A: Yes—we are all such different writers, and wanted to be true to our genres. I think it’s really cool to explore the topic of “beginnings,” and to see how this concept was interpreted by so many different minds and in various worlds. Also, we decided that our proceeds will go to the second installment of the anthology, It Ends Here—all sequel stories to our first, about something ending—as well as NaNoWriMo. Stay tuned for It Ends Here in spring of 2016!

Marketing Fun!

M: As I am one of the majority in this anthology being published for the first time, the marketing part of the business of publishing was new to me. I’ve always championed my friends as they publish, but it was my first time on the other side! What’s really great and unique about our marketing experience for It Begins Here is that proceeds go to creating the second part of the anthology, and anything surpassing that is to be donated to NaNoWriMo. It makes it really easy for me to market the heck out of this anthology when I truly believe in what we’re doing.

A: One of the best things about organizing an anthology is the ability to cast such a wide net throughout various channels regarding the book. Instead of just one person marketing a book, we have seven (and even more because of amazing author friend/supporters like Jenny). That means seven people tweeting about it, seven people sending out newsletters, seven people holding drawings for signed paperbacks (I am too! Go to www.ashleyrcarlson.com/free-e-book to found out how to enter!), and seven people generally getting really excited about our new book.

Find It Begins Here on Amazon in e-book and paperback.

Add It Begins Here on Goodreads

Stay tuned for the second installment, It Ends Here, with an anticipated release of spring 2016!

Marissa Fuller is a young adult contemporary author and freelance editor currently studying at the University of Arizona in their creative writing program. Her short story After He Left is her first published work. Find her on her website at www.thebrazenbibliophile.com, on Twitter as @thebbibliophile, and Instagram as @marsfuller.

Ashley R. Carlson grew up wanting a talking animal friend and superpowers, and when that didn’t happen, she decided to write them into existence. She is the CEO of Utopia Editing & Ghostwriting Services, a company that makes editing, content creation, and marketing fun and successful for every need. Her award-winning fantasy novel, “The Charismatics,” can be found on Amazon and her website, and you can subscribe to her newsletter for updates, free books, and prizes. Check out Ashley R. Carlson’s writing and editing at:www.ashleyrcarlson.com.