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I'm interested in putting together an anthology --a work containing some original material, but also lengthy excerpts and/or full text of previously published material by other authors, from a variety of sources.

Assuming I'm pursuing publication by a traditional publisher (print, not self-published) in the United States, how would I go about this? Would I likely need to be approached or contracted by the publisher rather than the other way around? Who would secure the rights, me or them? Assuming me, what is the right way to go about this, and how difficult is it?

Would there be up-front fees, or would authors take a percentage of sales? Either way, are the rates entirely up in the air, or are there standard rates?

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I am reasonably sure that you need to begin by selling the concept to a publisher, and once you do sell it, I am reasonably sure that the publisher is going to answer all of these question for you.

But I also reasonably sure that no traditional publisher is going to even look at you as an anthology editor unless you have some kind of reputation or standing that would help sell the anthology. Anthologies tend to be edited by well known authors or editors, or come associated with the name of a well known magazine. In other words, you need a platform.

Look at it from the publisher's point of view. Suppose you want to publish an anthology. How do you ensure you sell the largest number of copies? You put a well known name with an existing following on the cover. It is hard to imagine how you would persuade them to do anything other than that.

  • My view exactly. I'd like to add that anthologies usually never sell very well compared to novels, and for that reason many publishers rarely publish them. – user5645 Oct 13 '16 at 10:37
  • This matches my intuition around this question. But is this just your common sense opinion, or do you have a specific additional reason to believe this is the case? – Chris Sunami Oct 13 '16 at 14:13
  • The notion of platform is pervasive in publishing. My first non-fiction book sold because I was the director of communications for the company that made the product it was about. I wrote a blog for two years to build an audience for the second on before I sold it. The success of the that book provided a platform to sell the next one, which I am just finishing. Given the centrality of marketing for publishers, and how much an author with a platform mitigates risk for a publisher, the question really should be, what kinds of works can I publish if I don't have a platform. – Mark Baker Oct 13 '16 at 14:35

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