Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Considerations when publishing an anthology of other writers' work

I received a very interesting question from life coach Nicole Bandes today:
I am working on my next book which will be a compilation of stories. The challenge I am running into is that many of the stories being submitted are already written on blogs somewhere.

I'm ... wondering if this is a problem or if I should request exclusive only stories. Maybe I can take the story written on the blog and rewrite them so they aren't identical (I'd need to do that with most anyway).

Do you have any thoughts or suggestions?

My response to Nicole's question was 5-fold:

(1) Are you saying these stories have been posted by the writers on the writers' blogs? That's not an issue unless you make it one by insisting on original material.

(2) If the material has been submitted by the original author to another blog or article site, you'll need to find out who actually owns the piece because there could be fine print saying the blog owner/article site now owns the content.

(3) Make sure you insist on an affidavit or waiver from each story submitter stipulating that they wrote the material and have the rights to reproduce it.

(4) I would also insist on a signed release from each contributor, giving you express permission to reprint their material and agreeing to allow you to use it however you are planning to (e.g., book only, on your blog, in your marketing materials, etc.).

(5) You need to be VERY explicit about compensation
or lack thereof especially if you're not offering cash payments for the stories. Maybe you're agreeing to give them a resource box at the bottom of each story in exchange for using it. Whatever the agreement is make it clear that they know what they are agreeing to.

Brenda Warneka and Arlene Uslander, in an article titled "The Art of Assembling Anthologies," offer this additional valuable information:

Provisions to include in the contract with the contributors

Among other things, you must decide what story rights you will ask for, and what payment you will offer to contributors. We are aware of payment by the best selling anthologies of as much as $300 or more; others run contests for stories; new anthologies may pay with a copy of the book and a bio, which is an accepted practice. Many fine writers are willing to allow a one-time use of their work simply because they are interested in the theme of the book. New writers may be seeking the writing credentials provided by having a story in print.

There may be other money-making opportunities for contributors even if the anthology is nonpaying; e.g., the sale of reprint rights, speaking engagements, or other writing assignments as a result of the exposure.
Anthologies are a great, usually easy, way to put together an informative book. Just make sure you cover yourself and your contributors before embarking on such a project.


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