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Monday, March 20, 2017

Anthologies, From Reader's Perspective

by Michelle Monkou

I'm a bookaholic. Have been since I could read. I devoured books like a potato chip addict who can't stop at one (bag). And when my appetite proved too hard on my mom's budget, she took me to the library.

In my teens, I remember the mobile library coming through once a month in the neighborhood. My two friends would make sure that we didn't all get the same titles. They were voracious readers too. With our method, we could read our stack and switch with the other so that by the time the library van returned, we had consumed a massive amount of books.

Now fully in adulthood, I have slowed somewhat. Life's priorities have gotten in the way. I don't have the time to read or listen to the same quantity of books. And I've gotten more selective whether as a result of these priorities or because my tastes are more defined for what I want to read.

Enter the popular book format of the anthology.

Somewhere along the way of book publishing, publishers used the anthology as a way to anchor their best-selling authors with a newbie or rising star. And the rise of the anthologies has made its impact on readers like me.

  • I don't have time.
  • I don't have patience.
  • I don't have social media appetite to stick around long enough to learn about new authors
  • I don't have a big book budget

The anthology covers all those bases with its one-stop shopping method, usually at a steep discount vs. if each title was individually on sale. With the ease of digital format, I also don't have to find the shelf space for a thick book.

As a reader, my decision making may come down to my recognition of the big name author(s), desire to read her work, and willingness to read the unfamiliar name because after all, the title is there. In the rare case that I might not recognize anyone, the theme of the anthology has to catch my interest. In this case, the cost of the anthology (if I don't know most of the authors) will be critical.

As with anything that is popular, there is a glut. Anthology and short story collections are nothing new. Under the lens of the romance genre, anthologies became popular with its three to six-authored print format. Now anthologies have expanded with up to 15-20 authors in mostly digital format.

At the time of writing this blog, Amazon has 16K+ anthologies and collections (includes same author boxed sets) in the Romance Kindle Store. New releases are broken down by the last 90 days: 2,220; by the last 30 days: 1,103; and coming soon: 131. 

Lots to choose from when many are free.

And I've bought a few of those mega-author anthologies with a surprising realization:

1. I didn't finish any of them.
2. I had so many stories, I could cherry pick and decide after a couple pages if I'd continue.
3. The low cost spiked the frenzy of book buying, but I suffered no buyer's remorse because of low financial or emotional investment.
4. I can't say that the anthology story took me to the author's other works because sometimes the story was too short to truly stir my desire for the rest. Or the story felt like being dropped in the middle of an ongoing conversation if it was deeply entrenched in a current series.
5. Inconsistent quality was a major factor not to continue reading. If the stories are edited individually and then simply brought together under one cover, my reader-sensibility didn't want to ride with highs and lows.

Keeping the reader's cap on, I think anthologies are still a great way for authors to meet readers and nourish their diehard readers' appetites.

So overall, would I vote for anthologies: Yes.
Are they effective for introducing authors: Yes
Are they effective to showcase an author's range of storytelling; Yes

Happy reading!


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