5 pitfalls to avoid when making an anthology with Devastator Press publisher Amanda Meadows

This week on the show we welcome back Amanda Meadows to Jam out about anthologies with me! Amanda is the publisher of Wannabe Press along with Geoffrey Golden, and their awesome comedy publisher started our through anthologies, specifically Devastator Press.

If you haven’t listened to her previous episode, check it out by clicking here.

This episode is part of the celebration of our new anthology project, Monsters and Other Scary Shit, a 224-page monster anthology about monsters, which is live on Kickstarter now. It’s 47 creators and 30 comics about monsters of all kinds; funny monster, scary monster, fantasy monsters, sci-fi monster, and more. It’s just $40 shipped right to your door (in the US), and you get the pdf of the book included, and a digital download of the cover image, at no extra charge! Check it out today by clicking here.

I wanted to have Amanda back on the show, specifically, because she’s created 13 different anthologies, and really built her entire business from anthologies into a full line publisher. I wanted to know the top five pitfalls new anthology creators should avoid when they are planning their project.

Here’s her list.

1. Sloppy Planning + Infrastructure
Most people beginning an anthology project for the first time don’t realize they need a process in place for accepting and managing submissions (what’s your timeline? where’s your documentation?), streamlining production (what’s your CMS?), keeping all their assets in order (where are all the files kept and backed up?), getting consistent final files (what are the print specs? do you have PS or InD template?) from all their contributors. All those above questions have to be answered before you start taking pieces, or it’ll be a monster of a puzzle for you at the end of the project.

2. Lack of Guidance (AKA Lateness)
There can be a reluctance from editors of anthologies to, well, be editors. They want to commission the piece then expect it in their inbox by a certain date. But many contributors need more help in order to finish their pieces. Many creatives don’t really know (they were never trained) how to manage other creatives. The biggest issue in this category is lateness. One late piece can cause a cascade of production problems and delays. Learning how to communicate effectively and promptly with contributors is key to, if not preventing, then at least managing late pieces better.

3. Loose Curation
An anthology is as good as its curation. There can and will always be amazing gems, but if the one story doesn’t work after another, it can make the whole book feel less amazing. You also want to ensure that there is a baseline of art and writing quality you’re sticking to. Nail down your criteria for submissions and make sure you’re transparent about those criteria if submissions are open to the public. There can and absolutely should be anthologies for newcomers and beginners, but if you are doing that, make sure you’ve chosen styles and tones that complement each other, and stories that make sense for the theme of the book. The order of stories can make or break a reading experience.

4. Zero Retail Marketing or Publicity

Just, in general. Anthologies don’t exactly get the star treatment in comics shops or book stores. They’re hard to sell unless there’s some major internet juice or star power behind it. So you have to be crafty and have a plan. Not just the Kickstarter plan, but the afterlife plan. How are you going to sell the stock remaining after shipping to your online orders? How will you mobilize your contributors to push the book beyond the first few months of release? If you’re going to conventions, how will you promote those appearances? How will you retain interest in the book after year one, two, three of it being available?

5. The Urge to Make More Anthologies
I dunno, do you need to make another one? Sometimes it makes sense to let the anthology go, and move on the next big challenge: writing or editing a full-length graphic novel, starting a new indie series, or write a novella. Sometimes the arduous task of launching a good anthology is enough to prepare you for the next thing. For example, if you make a gorgeous and well-received anthology like my friend Taneeka Stotts did with the queer fantasy tome BEYOND, you should try to roll that goodwill into a partnership with another entity, get a gig on another book — seize the moment. If you’ve got a hit on your hands and see specific demand for more anthologies, great! Do it. Otherwise, consider taking a break and moving on to a new format and change things up.

I really appreciate her putting together such a thorough, thoughtful list. This is all advice I would have loved to have before I planned my first anthology. I mean my book turned out amazing, but some of it was just because of the awesome creators that I chose to work with, and not so much my amazing organizational sense. I ended up hoping it would work out because of my own scheduling issues, and it just happened to be amazing at the end of the day.

If you want to thank Amanda for her amazing advice, Amanda is on twitter @amandonium. You can find Devastator Press on Twitter @getdevastated.

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Finally, go check out our amazing 224-page monster anthology, Monsters and Other Scary Shit, live on Kickstarter now. If you love monsters, this is the anthology for you. Check it out by clicking here.