Steampunk Fairy Tales: Volume 3 now available!

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Self Publishing a Collection with other Authors

We recently contributed to the Steampunk Fairy Tales collection, which contains short stories from eight authors. In this article, I reflect on what it takes to go from idea to publication in three months.

Before you start

First, contact authors you know to gauge their interest in your project. Don’t invest too much time until you have a few bites from enthusiastic people with a history of getting things done.

Next, write a single page description that will be posted in a prominent place:

  • One paragraph explaining the project and why you think it’s worthwhile.

  • Deadline for when authors need to commit to the project.

  • Deadline for posting a first draft.

  • Target release date.

  • Expected story word count.

  • Content restrictions, such as PG-13. Consider your comfort with profanity, violence, and sexual content. It helps to make comparisons to existing works that everyone is familiar with, like Violence can be Lord of the Rings style (just dial back on excessive gore.) Explicitly state requirements, e.g. Must be a steampunk fairy tale. Can rework an old story or write an original.

  • Member costs. You should pay a designer to make the cover, but you should also decide if you need a back, too, for printed copies. Also include itemized promotion costs and which marketing services you intend to use. Example: Cover will cost each member between $10-20, and is the only required cost of this project.

  • Expectations, such as everyone should provide at least one round of feedback on each story and you are responsible for your own editing, although someone will do a final round of copy edits.

  • List what the collection will sell for and how the money will be used. You might want to make it free with the intention of getting everyone’s name out there, or you might want to charge a few bucks so costs can go toward future book covers and promotions.

  • List what formats the final product will be in and what platforms it will sell on.

Additionally, you should start a private forum, preferably one that emails everyone when there’s a new post. We used a Scribophile group, which is nice because it has critiquing tools and allows authors to post their stories in the group.

Distribute responsibility

One person can take on many hats, but taking too much responsibility can be exhausting. Here’s some roles to consider:

  • Who will write the preface?

  • Who will communicate with the cover designer?

  • Who will write the back-cover copy and description for ebook stores?

  • Who will do the final copy edits?

  • Who will handle collecting member fees? You can use a service like PayPal to email money to each other, but choose the treasurer wisely. If most authors are in the US but the treasurer is in the UK, then someone will have to pay the penalty for each foreign transaction. There’s yet another penalty if the UK treasurer pays a US cover designer. This adds up quickly and is easily avoidable.

  • Who will do ebook and print formatting? This person should have experience.

  • Who will post the book to Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Goodreads, etc? You can associate the book with multiple authors, but most platforms only let the original poster see download statistics.

  • Who will setup the launch party?

  • Who will make promotional images for social media?

  • Who will submit the book to promotional newsletters?

Setting deadlines

The following is a high-level list of every milestone.

  1. Commitment - when everyone needs to say, “I’m in!”

  2. Rough draft - when a rough draft must be posted. Suggested timeframe: 1 month from commitment.

  3. Cover input - when the cover discussion is over. Contributors would ideally post ideas and images of covers they like that fit the genre. Suggested timeframe: 2 weeks after rough drafts are posted, so everyone has had a chance to read the stories.

  4. Cover submission - when all ideas are sent to the designer. Make this early since they have a schedule of their own.

  5. Cover expenses collected - when everyone should submit their portion of the cover payment. Suggested timeframe: 1 week after cover input deadline.

  6. First round of critiques - when everyone should finish critiquing all rough drafts. Suggested timeframe: 3 weeks after rough drafts are posted.

  7. First draft of other content - when the first draft of preface, back cover, and Amazon descriptions should be posted. Suggested timeframe: At least a few weeks after first drafts have been posted so it can accurately describe the contents.

  8. Second draft - when all critiques have been implemented and the polished work is re-posted.

  9. Second round of critiques - when everyone is done providing their second round of feedback.

  10. Story order decided - when everyone agrees to what order the stories will be published in.

  11. Author submission - when everyone should submit their finished story, bios, acknowledgements, links to their newsletters, and excerpts from one of their other books to the formatter.

  12. Formatting first pass complete - when the formatter should finish formatting the ebook or print version by. Only do one, since the copy editor still needs to look at it.

  13. Formatting feedback submitted - when everyone has finished reviewing the format and submit feedback by.

  14. Editing complete - when the editor should finish making updates to the formatted copy.

  15. Formatting complete - when the formatter has finished implementing everyone’s feedback on the edited copy. If a print version was formatted earlier, the ebook version should also be formatted.

  16. Launch party created - a Facebook event or similar exists so everyone can invite their friends to it and help get the word out.

  17. Release date - when the book is available on all intended platforms (Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, Goodreads, etc). Allow time for proofing print copies if you want print to be available with ebooks. Allow time for Amazon to price match to free if your collection is free. Selling paid copies is nice, but it won’t impact your free rankings.

In the early phases, such a daunting list might scare authors away, so consider exposing just the commitment deadline, the first draft deadline, and the release date.

In fact, I had no idea that we hit seventeen deadlines until I wrote this article. I imagine it’s because Angela Castillo handled most of these.

This image shows the approximate dates we completed each deadline:

 

 

Launch party

Figure out how you want to announce your new release. We used a Facebook event.

  • Be sure to include your cover in a prominent place as well as a date.
  • Make sure all of the authors have administrator status.
  • Invite everyone that you think would be interested.
  • Don’t forget to include your back cover content in a prominent place.
  • Don’t forget to include links to all stores in a prominent place.
  • I also like to include download links in every post.

You can see our Facebook event here.

Promotions

Check out Angela Castillo’s blog post on promotional newsletters. The article only lists her top ten newsletters, but the spreadsheet she links to contains over 60 promotional sites.

Many promotions will only accept books that have reviews, so you might have to wait. Promotions are an ongoing thing, anyway.

Making the Kindle version free

If your collection is free, you might want to release it earlier than your release party and other promotions.

Amazon currently does not let you set prices below 99¢. You must make the book available on other platforms for free, then notify Amazon it’s free. You can notify Amazon in two ways:

Method 1: Send them a message through the KDP contact page. Include the link to your book’s Kindle page and a link to other stores that have it for free.

Method 2: Click the tell us about a lower price link on your Kindle page.

 

 

Steampunk Fairy Tales was published on Amazon, Smashwords, and Kobo on March 26, and we notified KDP on the same day. It was free on Amazon on April 1.

Conclusion

Angela Castillo did a fantastic job of leading the project. I can’t imagine anyone more suited to keep the group driven. Looking through our forum, there were over 900 posts in 60 threads, plus a number of emails that were sent out. That doesn’t even count the critiques and discussion on each story.

I hope this article will help you plan a collection of your own. This was an incredibly fun experience, and now that I’ve seen someone experienced like Angela manage a group, I think I’m ready to lead a collection some day.

If you are interested in reading Steampunk Fairy Tales, you can find it:

We plan on writing more of these. If you’d like to contribute, let me know.

 
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