How to Publish an Anthology at Your Library

Stephanie Katz
May 5 · 4 min read
Book pages folded into heart.
Book pages folded into heart.
Photo by Aung Soe Min on Unsplash

Anthologies are collections of multiple short works by different writers. Many libraries and other cultural organizations publish anthologies to showcase writers in their communities or commemorate a special event. Anthologies can be published as print books, as ebooks, or as both to reach as many readers as possible. See Libraries Publish: How to Start a Magazine, Small Press, Blog, and More for more information including sample budgets, production and distribution considerations, and example anthologies for libraries and other organizations.

Choose a Theme

The most successful, cohesive anthologies revolved around a theme that is important to your writers and readers. You can publish a literary anthology or poems, short stories, or comics in a specific genre. You can also create a local history anthology and pull together local ghost stories, interviews with older community members, or recipes that feature a local delicacy. Nelson Public Library in Victoria, British Columbia published a cookbook of recipes created by local chefs.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many small publishers have announced plans to create anthologies to chronicle people’s experience during this time. Your library can publish an anthology of work created by patrons during the pandemic, or you can select a different difficult event in the community to document, such as a natural disaster. Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania published a special flood issue of their literary magazine to document how a series of floods impacted their residents.

Compile the Works

To find works for your anthology, you can hold open submissions or commission new works, or you can gather existing works from your archive or the public domain. Libraries Publish explains how to hold open submissions and gives reviews of free and paid submissions management software such as Submittable.

Your submissions page should clearly state:

  • Who can submit
  • How to submit
  • The deadline
  • The permissions the writer is granting you
  • The payment for published work if any
  • An anticipated publication date

Once you have all your works, arrange them so they work together to form a book. Consider juxtaposes shorter works with longer ones to keep reader engaged throughout the anthology.

Write the Introduction

Write an introduction to your anthology to set the stage for the following works. Some anthologies have an introduction written by the anthology editor and a foreword written by someone else to help endorse the book. For example, if you publish an anthology of poems, you may have your city of state’s poet laureate write a foreword to briefly explain the importance of poetry and get readers excited to read the anthology.

Produce the Anthology

The exact steps you take to produce your anthology will depend on whether you plan to create a print book, and ebook, or both. It will also depend on how you plan to distribute your book. For example, you may take different steps to distribute your book for free on your library site than you would to distribute it for payment on Kindle.

Choose a cover for your anthology that strongly communicates your theme. Nelson Public Library’s cookbook cover features close-ups of gorgeous raw ingredients. You can commission a local artist to create the art for the cover, or you can hire a professional book cove designer to create your cover.

If you don’t already have staff at the library that has produced a book before, consider paying a freelancer or a company to handle the book’s layout and design. Whether you hire help or do the work in-house, consult the Independent Book Publishers Association’s “Checklist for a Professionally Published Book” to make sure your anthology is polished.

Distribute and Promote the Anthology

Before your book is officially published, start promoting it inside and outside the library. Create flyers, displays, and bookmarks to notify patrons of the upcoming anthology. Post information on the book your library’s website and social media. Write pre and post publication press release, and send them to local news outlets. Use MailChimp of a similar email marketing services to market to patrons, and send personalized emails to contributors to keep them aware of the book’s pub date. Plan a book launch event, such as a reception for contributors. Every year, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania throws a Teen Media Awards event for contributors to the library’s teen creative writing anthology.

Give a complimentary copy of the anthology to each contributor at your launch event, and remember to mail copies to anyone who could not attend. If you took pre-orders for the book, send out copies as soon after the launch date as possible. If you plan to sell less than 500 print copies, you most likely can handle the distribution yourself. If you think you will sell more than 500 print copies, consider using a book distributor.

Promotion often takes more time than new publishers expect, and future articles on this blog will further explain promotion. Writing and publishing guru Jane Friedman has an extensive archive of free articles on book promotion as well.

Did your library or cultural organization publish an anthology? Tell us about it at literarylibraries@gmail.com.

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