A compilation book is one in which many authors each contribute a chapter. In general, each author’s chapter covers a different aspect within the same broad topic. Usually there is a “name” author – someone with a following whose name will go first on the cover. Then each person who contributed a chapter gets their name on the cover as co-author for their copies. Confused already? Same book, multiple covers.
You have probably seen these books; maybe you’ve even been in one or a friend has proudly handed you a free copy and pointed out his chapter.
Here’s how compilation books work:
You are invited to be a “co-author” of a book (flattering!), for a fee (not so flattering anymore). Fees range from $5,000 up to $100,000 (yeah, I passed on that exciting offer). The person putting the book together promises you exposure and “best seller status.” You will gain authority and credibility and be seen as an equal with the other “thought leaders” who wrote chapters for the book.
In return for your chapter and your fee, you will receive x number of copies of the book with your name (and sometimes your picture) on the cover. The books are yours to sell or use for promotion.
The Upside of Compilation Books:
- You are listed as co-author with someone who (hopefully) is a leader in your industry, so it can elevate your status
- You have a book to use as a promotional piece without having to write an entire book.
- Um. I can’t think of a third benefit. I got nuthin’.
Some people still don’t know how compilation books work and will be impressed.
The Downside of Compilation Books:
- Your chapter is one of many. You get lost in the sauce.
- You spend too much money for little to no return. (Don’t forget, the person who put the deal together has a profit margin in there, so you’re overpaying for your copies.)
- You end up with cases of books in your garage.
- Writing a chapter in a bestselling book is not the same as writing your own bestselling book.
- You most likely won’t make your money back on book sales. People might buy your book to “help you out” but the odds are less than 50/50 that they’ll read your chapter or anyone else’s.
- More and more people know how compilation books work, including event planners, speaker bookers and agencies, and your peer group.
But If You Do Go Forward with a Compilation Book…
Is there still cachet in saying you’re in a Chicken Soup for the Whatever book? Possibly. Will it bring you a new audience? Only if your chapter is stunning and insightful enough to make the reader check to see who wrote this wonderful chapter and then follow through on looking you up.
You will be able to put in a short author/bio blurb so that readers can find you. In that blurb, offer something awesome for free and send them to a special page on your website. Tracking the hits and downloads on that page will let you know if your money was well-spent.
You also want to get placed near the front of the book. You want that, but it probably won’t happen. The majority of readers quit reading a book at page 18. You’ll notice the big name person who put the book together will have the lead-off chapter (which makes sense—people buy or read that book to see what he or she has to say). The chances of you being in the first five chapters is slim and depends on how many authors are included.
Finally, make up bookmarks with your picture, a graphic of the book, graphics of any other books you’ve written, and a link to your website. Put the bookmark at the start of your chapter. At least then, people will be able to find your chapter.
Obviously, I’m not a fan of compilation books. I have been in a couple where I was not asked to pay; I just contributed a chapter to help friends putting together a book. People spend a lot of money hoping that being in a book with someone famous will provide a short cut to fame. In some cases, if you are getting other perks with it—for instance being interviewed by the name person on a webinar or speaking at one of their live seminars—it may be worth it. For the most part, you’re just another letter in someone else’s alphabet soup.