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Get Ancillary Revenue from Anthologies

Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2019 at 12:52 AM

As a magazine publisher, you likely own all the content you need to compile an anthology.

By William Dunkerley

Consider publishing anthologies if you're looking for an added revenue source. As a magazine publisher you have a leg up. You've got valuable content from your past issues, you know how to put together a digital or print product, and you have a reputation in your field of publication. These all make for an easy-entry, low-risk business venture.

Mention the word "anthology" and a lot of people will think poems and other literary works. Indeed, Webster's defines the word: "a collection of selected literary pieces or passages or works of art or music-[e.g.,] an anthology of American poetry."

However, I'm talking about a more expansive concept. Your anthologies should be about whatever area of content expertise your magazine has.

Specifically, you have these distinct advantages:

--You own editorial material (articles) that can be repackaged into an anthology.

--You have the know-how for processing editorial material.

--You know how to transform a manuscript into a finished product.

--You are in contact with good writers in your field (potential anthology article writers).

--You have the insight into your market that comes from publishing a magazine.

--You have with your own magazine a relatively inexpensive advertising medium for promoting the sale of anthologies.

That's an impressive list of advantages.

An anthology can be either a one-off or part of a series. Downbeat magazine, for instance, produced a 75th anniversary anthology. It's made up of in-depth interviews with great jazz artists published in past issues. The edition is selling on Amazon at $30.46 for the print edition; $17.60 for digital.

Harvard Business Review has exploited the anthology concept in a big way. The magazine itself publishes six times per year and has an almost 100-year history since its founding.

Now HBR has developed an anthology series. It's called "HBR's 10 Must Reads." They have, for instance, HBR's 10 Must Reads on Strategic Marketing, HBR's 10 Must Reads on Women and Leadership, HBR's 10 Must Reads on Emotional Intelligence, etc. Each contains ten articles that are thematically related.

Here's how HBR describes its anthology on strategic marketing:

"If you read nothing else on marketing that delivers competitive advantage, read these 10 articles. We've combed through hundreds of articles in the Harvard Business Review archive and selected the most important ones to help you reinvent your marketing by putting it -- and your customers -- at the center of your business.

"Leading experts such as Ted Levitt and Clayton Christensen provide the insights and advice you need to:

--Figure out what business you're really in
--Create products that perform the jobs people need to get done
--Get a bird's-eye view of your brand's strengths and weaknesses
--Tap a market that's larger than China and India combined
--Deliver superior value to your B2B customers
--End the war between sales and marketing."

This anthology is priced at $15 for a digital edition, $17.83 for paperback, $40.11 for hardcover. Others are similarly priced. Consumers can even buy a boxed set of 14 different paperback anthologies for $245.67.

A thematic anthology is not the only possible approach to an anthology. Stephen F. Cohen, contributing editor at The Nation magazine has demonstrated that. He's produced an anthology titled War with Russia? From Putin and Ukraine to Trump and Russiagate. The content is based on his articles in The Nation and on his regular appearances on the John Batchelor syndicated radio show.

Cohen's anthology is not just thematic. Its focus is on a timeline, the chronology of US-Russia relations from 2014 to 2018. It documents a trend. The contents are divided into four parts:

--The New Cold War Erupts 2014–2015
--US Follies and Media Malpractices 2016
--Unprecedented Dangers 2017
--War with Russia? 2018

This anthology sells for $17.09 paperback, $13.99 digital.

The HBR anthologies are published by Harvard Business Review Press. The digital edition is sold by Amazon Digital Services. Cohen's anthology is published by Hot Books, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing.

That raises the question of whether you should be the publisher of note for your anthologies, or if you should work with an established book publisher. There are pros and cons to each approach.

If your magazine is the anthology's publisher of record, you will have complete control over the content, design, and marketing. If you know your audience well, that will mean you are in a better position to make those related decisions than an outside publisher would be. And you won't have to share the revenue with an outside entity. If you have an established customer base for other books you may already have published, you'll have a marketing and distribution system already in place.

On the other hand, if an anthology is your first foray into non-periodical publishing, working with an established book publisher has certain advantages. This is especially true if your anthology can potentially garner interest beyond your magazine's reader base.

Your publisher will presumably have a sense of the market and can advise you on how to package your material for greatest appeal. Book publishers also have established distribution channels, including relationships with online and brick-and-mortar retailers. When they publish a book, it usually has a waiting pipeline to fill for initial orders.

Of course, you'll first have to sell your anthology concept to the publisher before it will undertake the job. But you can entice the publisher by pointing out how you can promote the anthology to your own readers. That will generally be viewed as a real asset and will improve the odds of your proposal being accepted!

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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