Authors have been working together on anthologies for centuries. Why?
- Shared workload – multiple contributors rather than one author writing an entire book on their own.
- Benefit from varied experiences and talents.
- Multiple authors typically mean multiple audiences – and multiplied people working on marketing the book.
- Anthologies can be a great way for a group of authors to “share” or “swap” audiences to grow their readership.
My friend and client, Fred Stuvek Jr., has recently written an anthology featuring 15 contributors – no mean feat! Since Fred and I have been working on the marketing piece of his publishing plan together, I had a front row seat to how he worked with 15 other collaborators to create The Experience of Leadership. I was so impressed with the way he led this project, that I asked for his advice on how to ensure a successful collaboration when working on an anthology. Enjoy his great advice and tips below.
The Art of Author Anthologies: How to Ensure a Successful Collaboration
The reasons for me wanting to write The Experience of Leadership are detailed in the introduction of the book. I chose an anthology format for The Experience of Leadership to highlight the principles and practices of successful leaders across the spectrum, asserting that the reader would find this approach informative and inspiring. For anyone who is considering using such a format, here are the issues which are central to a successful collaboration, and how I addressed them.
1. Desired outcome
An anthology was the best path to the desired outcome of my book – I began with the end in mind.
“I wanted to cut through the generalities and nostrums about leadership and dive into the nitty-gritty details of how to obtain the experience and skills that great leaders display and aspiring leaders can learn from. So, I assembled a broad, diverse group of individuals who have attained success in various arenas in order to understand how their leadership journey unfolded—piece by piece.” – The Experience of Leadership
To read more on why I chose this format, read the full book introduction.
While some book anthologies will have an equal workload among authors, others will be the project of a single author with limited roles and expectations from the other contributors. Regardless of format, projects work best when there is a leader in place. Someone leading the charge in curating content – often writing additional content – and to organize each step of the process and keep things moving along.
I had specific criteria in mind when choosing my writing team as I wanted participants who were actively involved in leadership development and in high profile leadership positions. I sought those with a range and diversity of experience in three fields: military, education and sports.
When inviting other authors to work on The Experience of Leadership, I was very specific as to the goal of the project, what issues we wanted to address, and what topics to consider. At the same time, each participant understood he or she had the latitude to address any topics or make any recommendations they believed were instrumental in the leadership development process.
Throughout the process I kept everyone informed as to our status on attaining our objectives or milestones. Routine updates were sent so that everyone was fully informed. There were no surprises.
As we went through the multitude of steps required to complete the project and the book, I was completely transparent. I solicited their feedback on a range of issues, both large and small, to ensure all views were considered. I welcomed the contrary opinion, and even constructive criticism, understanding that any comments made were done so with the purpose of delivering the highest quality product possible.
There was mutual respect amongst all parties, which was conducive to an open, sometimes, free-wheeling exchange of opinions as we went through the necessary iterations which are essential to continual improvement.
No one has all the answers and getting advice or help from those you collaborate with is important, imbues trust, and fosters a closer collaboration as everyone is involved and has a say in what is going on. Check your ego at the door, understanding that asking questions and getting advice is not a sign of weakness, and is quite the opposite. For those of you who are in the midst of a collaborative project, or considering a collaborative approach, keep the above points in mind. You will discover it is a very practical and worthwhile approach to generate views and advice which will be welcomed by your readers. Good luck, and if anyone has any questions or would like to brainstorm on a project you have in mind, do not hesitate to leave a comment below or contact me directly.