Collaborating on an Anthology
Jo is back with Lisa Ferland, whom she interviewed recently here on this blog about how she crowdfunded her book. This time she is back with her to talk about the collaboration side of her books. This can be a minefield and you will pick up some very useful tips from the interview below:
Jo: Lisa, you now have two books in the Knocked-Up Abroad series. Well done! They are anthologies of first-hand experiences from mothers who had their babies overseas, yes? Could you give me some details of the books, such as how many responses you received and how many you used in the books?
Lisa: Hi, Jo, the Knocked Up Abroad series consists of two anthologies that address pregnancy, miscarriage and loss, childbirth, and parenting from the perspective of a family living outside of their passport country. Many of the contributors gave birth in multiple countries, and their chapters span multiple continents and circumstances. I wanted to capture the diversity in cultural approaches to pregnancy and childbirth as well as the mothers' struggles with language and cultural norms.
The first book has 24 contributors and the second book has 26, so I worked with 48 women (and two men) in producing both books. Finding contributors for the first book required a lot of Googling international bloggers and submitting query emails to them trying to convince them to trust me with their most intimate and emotional stories. It was much easier to find contributors for the second book as I was then part of more writing groups on Facebook. I created a call for submissions, publicized the call in the Facebook groups, and the writers submitted their stories for consideration. I can't remember exactly how many submitted, but I tried to accommodate everyone in some way. Some of the chapters that didn't make it in the book were featured on my Knocked Up Abroad blog as a guest post.
Jo: How how did you brief them, so they produced the kind of material you wanted?
Lisa: Since the first book involved a lot of outreach and most of them were not professional writers, I had to do a bit of coaching to shape their essays into chapters. As their stories are so diverse from one another, it was especially important that I find the universal themes among the chapters.
The ordering of the essays became very important so that the reader wouldn't be bored if two chapters appeared from the same country in a row. I wanted there to be a range of emotions, experiences, and perspectives. All of the contributors did a fantastic job in not being judgmental about any of the parenting choices they made, which is something that is easy to insert in a book about pregnancy and parenting.
Jo: Did you issue them with a contract? What did that include?
Lisa: The contracts for the two books were slightly different as the contributors for the first book were unpaid and those in the second book received a modest stipend for their writing ($150). It is crucial that every contributor in an anthology sign a contract that specifies their copyright permission. You cannot publish work if you do not hold the copyright, so as the editor of the work, you must collect all of those signatures that grant you permission to compile and publish the work.
Jo: Some people charge contributors to be in a book, so it’s great to know that you actually paid those in the second book. Did you also offer them free books or discounted books?
Lisa: Regardless if you offer payment to writers in an anthology, it is necessary that everything is transparent. All of the contributors for each book knew the terms of participating in the project before signing on. All contributors from both books received two complimentary copies of the book and the ability to purchase additional copies at 50% retail.
Jo: Getting contributors to a book should mean that you are guaranteed a bunch of cheerleaders who will shout about the book to their own networks after it is published. Was this the case and how did this affect sales?
Lisa: That's how it should work in theory, but in practice, I'd say that about 40% of the contributors were loud cheerleaders. For the Knocked Up Abroad series, I was working with women from the UK, Canada, France, Australia, Germany, and the US. There were a lot of cultural differences at play in how loudly one announces their work is published in a book. For some, it's not culturally acceptable to brag, and due to the personal stories in the books, many felt uncomfortable sharing their work publicly with their Facebook friends.
I did receive handwritten thank you notes and private messages from many of the women who were less vocal about it on social media. I know that all of the contributors were very proud of the final product and to me, that's what matters most.
Jo: Your writers were of a variety of nationalities. How did you edit their work? Did you try to make them all use US spelling, for example? Did you retain their own voices and if so, why?
Lisa: We edited the book according to US-English, Chicago Manual of Style, with Merriam-Webster as the dictionary. My editor insisted that we be consistent throughout the book, which ruffled some feathers as "nappies" became "diapers"—terms that authors would not use in their everyday lives—but such is the editing process. Without a doubt, the audience for the books is based in the US, and it made sense for us to edit everything with the readers in mind. We had to reach a compromise.
For books with multiple languages in them, we had native speakers review the translations. Each writer's style was preserved as much as possible, and they had the rights to final approval.
Jo: How long did it take for you to source the contributions, collate and edit and then design and publish the book?
Lisa: The first book took from May 2015 until January 2016 (about eight months). The second book took a bit longer since we had the Kickstarter campaign in September. I opened the call for submission in February 2016, and the book was published in November 2016 (10 months in total).
Jo: Did you do all the work yourself or did you hire in professionals? If you hired professionals, who did you hire and where did you find them?
Lisa: I did what they warn people against, and I hired some friends. My book covers were designed by a professional graphic designer and personal friend. The editor was also a personal friend who is an editor and has an amazing eye for details. She was great in not making substantial changes to the content of the stories but ironing out the wrinkles across the manuscripts as a whole.
I did the rest myself—e-book formatting (for the second book), interior typesetting for the paperback, and all of the marketing.
Jo: Without meaning to sound impertinent, I would love to know how much it cost you to produce the first edition. Did you crowdfund to raise the cash?
Lisa: I didn't keep track of the costs of the first book, but I think everything—cover design, editing, website set-up, ISBNs, barcodes, marketing—ended up costing around $3k. The second book's costs were much higher since the contributors were paid for their work. Total production costs included $4k in stipends, $500 for the cover design, and $800 for editing. Printing and shipping the books was another $2k. We used Kickstarter to raise funds the entire project and raised $10k, which covered the costs of taxes, fees, and related expenses.
Jo: Thank you so much for answering my questions. I know you self-published the book and now offer a service coaching others through the self-publishing process. Could you tell the readers a little about this, please?
Lisa: Sure, I'm happy to help others through the self-publishing process and help strategize with authors on how to successfully use crowdfunding to not only market their book but cover the costs related to producing the book. Crowdfunding condenses a few months of marketing efforts into 30 days, which can be very stressful, but when done well, results in a lot of new opportunities and connections. Anyone who is interested can learn more at lisaferland.com.
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