Saturday, August 1, 2015

How to Write a Compilation - Part 2

Dianne's books on the right,
and a stack of most the compilation
books she's contributed to.
Last month we talked about what a compilation book is, how to write a compilation and options for who writes the stories, asking writers to contribute, and creating writer's guidelines for your compilation and getting them out there where other writers will find them.

This month we'll talk about how to organize your compilation and paying your writers. (Tweet that!)

How to Organize Your Compilation

If you don't already have an idea of how you're compilation is going to be organized, I'm thinking it will tell you as it develops. For both my Deliver Me book and Grandparenting Through Obstacles, which I did with my co-author, the stories kind of grouped themselves around common themes which became chapters. In our grandparenting book, we also had "Parts" in our book instead of chapters. We had 20 stories in 4 Parts on a theme with five stories in each Part. 

For my Deliver Me book, I knew I wanted stories about women choosing to keep her child, give for adoption, those who opted for abortion, and stories from men, so I knew I would have chapters for each of those topics and I went looking for stories to fill them. Other chapters emerged as stories came in that surprised and intrigued me.

I'm not sure about this, but I think creative projects have a character of their own and so they will tell you how they need to be organized. That might mean you look at what stories you have and see a common thread and so you group those into chapters. 

Paying your Writers

Some compilations "pay" the writers by offering a free copy of the book. I believe writers ought to be paid for their work. (Tweet that!) We seem to be about the only profession where we are expected to work for free, which I think is wrong. Workers deserve their wages. 

For Scripture says, "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages." 1 Timothy 5:18

But at the same time I'm suggesting that you should pay your writers, you also need to know that anything you do pay them is going to come out of your pocket. (Tweet that!) This means even if you find a traditional, advance and royalty-paying company to publish your book, they are not going to also pay your writers. You will. Or you can use your advance to pay them, but it's still coming out of your advance. So you need to count the cost carefully as you make decisions about whether or not to pay your writers, how much, and in what way.

Most of the compilations I've written for pay a one-time fee. I've been paid anywhere from $20 to $200 for one of my stories. (Tweet that!) 

A Ruby Christmas
(Since this blog post appeared, the
publisher has removed this e-book
A fiction compilation -- each chapter
written by a different author
Another way to pay your writers is to share royalties. I'm involved with one project like this. This particular book is not pictured in my stack of books because it's in ebook form only so I couldn't put it on my stack of printed books. 

The publisher gathered a group of known writers/friends. We each wrote a chapter and each receive a percentage of the royalties. This is a fiction project. Again, count the cost of the paperwork needed to track and share royalties so you don't create a bookkeeping nightmare for yourself.

How much should you pay? Just to give you an idea, I paid $20 per story for one book and $25 per story for the other. But even a token amount, like $5, is better than nothing. 

I paid on publication (meaning no money went out until the book actually existed). Then I mailed their check in the same package as their contributor's copy of the book. 

A few of my authors wanted to "donate" their story and never cashed the check. That was generous of them and it helped me out with the expense of my book, but I still honored my writers by offering them their pay.

     Author Discounts

I also offered my authors discounts when they purchased copies of the book. (Tweet that!) With the book another publisher published, I negotiated so that contributing authors were able to buy copies at a discount. Our contract with the publisher was a percentage share of the profits, so we were to get a share of the difference between the cost plus publisher's percentage and what the contributors paid, which was less than when a buyer bought a book at full price but still a little for me and my coauthor. 

Is this fair to the contributors to have to buy at more than cost? Yes, of course. You're the one who did all the work of putting it together, took all the risks, put in all the time, found the publisher (or published it yourself), etc. That deserves being paid a small portion per book purchased by the contributors. If your contributors can purchase at 50% off the cover price, they make their money when they sell copies, and that's standard. Almost all the compilations I've written for sell to contributors for 50% off the cover price. 

One book I was in didn't give the authors a 50% discount but only one dollar off the cover price. Why should I buy a quantity and pay shipping for $1.00 per book?! It wasn't worth it.

     Contributors Copies

Give all contributors one free copy of the published book as a "contributor's copy." They deserve to get one. 

I contributed to one compilation that did not do this. To this day I have not seen this book with my own work in it. I would have had to purchase my own copy. This is a bad way to treat your contributors. How can I champion your book when I haven't seen it, can't hold it in my hands, look at it, read the rest of it?  How can I help you market it when I can't take a photo of me with it for Facebook and Instagram, or put it in my stack to photograph for my blog? 

For goodness sakes, plan to give every contributor at least one copy. Be generous. (Tweet that!) This will cost you: both in purchasing the printed copies as well as in mailing/shipping them to your contributing authors. Count the cost of that as well. (Of course we all think we'll sell enough books to cover all our costs and make a profit. Authors typically over estimate how many books we will sell.)

Next month in the third and final part we'll talk about the legal issues including the contract you'll need to create for your contributors to sign, then a little about publishing, marketing, and keeping the whole project organized.

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