The obvious advantage, of course, that your story is published—and, depending on how the anthology is set up, you might make some money! But there are a few other important advantages as well.
A reader who picks up an anthology because they’re a fan of one of the other authors in the collection might fall in love with your story, and seek out you and your work. This can provide tangible results, like someone buying a novel of yours, or signing up to your newsletter. They might enjoy your story so much that they mention it to their friends and family, who then also seek out your work.
By participating in a project with other authors, you’re getting exposure to people you might never have reached on your own. The same goes for your fans—they may find they enjoy reading stories by the other authors in the project.
Not only do you get the benefit of having the other authors’ fans potentially reading and enjoying your story, anthologies often permit—and sometimes encourage—reprints. Reprinting allows you to breathe life into a previously-published story by giving new readers the chance to discover it.
Anthologies are a great way to put content out on a regular basis. If there are month- or year-long stretches in between publication of your longer works, seeing your name pop up in collections of shorter stories helps readers stay aware of you and your writing.
Anthologies that allow reprints are great for this as well. For example, you might include a story in one anthology, then a year later include it in a different anthology. Even though it’s the same story, including it in more than one collection provides additional opportunities to draw people in to your work.
When you participate in multi-author projects, promotion is done by the editor, publisher, and the participating authors. Perhaps the publisher pays for advertising, while the editor and the other authors merely post on social media, or announce the collection in their various newsletters. All of this is promotion for the anthology. You benefit from other people promoting your story, just as they benefit from the marketing work you do for the project.
Note that how much promotion is done by the editor, publisher, and other authors can vary significantly from collection to collection, so make sure to ask about the plan for promotion before committing if this aspect is important to you.
Calls for submissions
The traditional way to get included in a collection is to submit a story in response to a call for submissions put out by a publisher or editor. The editor writes up their vision for the collection and lists the guidelines, which usually include things like the theme, allowed story lengths, the deadline for submissions, and whether or not reprints are acceptable.
This approach allows you to get a sense of what the editor is looking for. However, no matter how close to the mark you feel your story is, the editor might not accept it. If you write a new story and it’s not accepted, you still have one more story to market elsewhere—but if you’re short on time, this approach might not work well for you.
If an editor knows you and your work, or someone recommends you to the editor, you could get a personal invitation. This could range from a blanket invitation to include whatever story you feel fits the project’s theme, to one where the editor invites you to submit a story for consideration. While there are no guarantees, if you’re invited to submit a story, your story will probably be accepted if it’s well-written and on target with the editor’s vision.
Networking can play a big part in getting invitations. You might meet a fellow writer at a workshop or conference, or meet someone from an online authors’ group who later decides to edit an anthology and invites you. Editors often post about their projects in email lists or Facebook groups; these are usually calls for submissions, but occasionally the editor is looking for authors who are ready to commit. If you know someone who has edited anthologies you feel are a good fit for your writing, you could contact them to see if they’d be interested in working with you on a future project.
Participating in the right projects
The opportunity to participate in an anthology is exciting. But just because you have the opportunity doesn’t mean you should participate.
Make sure the theme is a good fit for you and for your branding. If you write Science Fiction, and receive an invitation to participate in a Romance anthology, is this project really something you want to participate in? You might enjoy writing something different, but make sure you do so because it’s really what you want to do—not because you’re trying to shoehorn yourself into a project that isn’t a good fit.
Time and Money
Do you really have time to write a new story, or will that mean the novel you’re working on will be delayed?
If you receive a one-time payment, are you being paid a standard professional rate? Are you comfortable knowing that you won’t receive royalties from future sales?
Is the one-time payment, or the percentage of royalties, the same for all authors? If not, are you comfortable with the split? Sometimes a higher-profile author might get a larger percentage of the royalties, or the percentages might vary depending on the length of each story. If that’s the case, make sure you’re comfortable with the difference.
Do you feel comfortable working with the editor? Are you willing to make any editorial changes they request, or do you feel their vision for your story conflicts with your own in a way where there’s no good compromise?
Suppose this editor and publisher have put together a number of anthologies already. Do their covers look professional? How about the sales copy? Have they done a good job of marketing the other anthologies, or do they rely solely on the authors?
What if you’re planning on including your story in a collection of your own next year, but the anthology contract states that you’re licensing the rights to your story for two years? What if the terms state that you’re granting the publisher subsidiary rights, like film, television, and merchandising? What if the fine print says that you’re granting copyright of your work to the publisher?
Make sure you’re dealing with a reputable publisher. The opportunity to be involved in an anthology that sounds like a great fit for your story can feel very exciting, but it’s imperative that you review the contract and make sure that you understand—and are comfortable with—the terms.
Participating in an anthology can be a fun and wonderful experience. Figure out what is important to you with this type of project, and vet each opportunity to make sure it’s a good fit for you and your career.
Next week: Editors and Anthologies. Part 2 of this two-part series on Anthologies.
Jamie has curated ten multi-author collections and is working on many more, including a monster-themed anthology series she’s co-editing with DeAnna Knippling. She’s also a member of the Uncollected Anthology, an urban and contemporary fantasy author collective, which she joined in the spring of 2018. She loves creating colorful spreadsheets and has spent her day job career working in software. Jamie lives in Colorado and spends her free time in a futile quest to wear out her two border collies, since she hasn’t given in and gotten them their own herd of sheep. Yet.