Anthologies are a great option for anyone who writes short stories. One obvious reason why they’re so good is because of the exposure. A reader who was previously unfamiliar with your work may pick up an anthology and fall in love with your story. From there they may do some research to see if you have any other works available. What author wouldn’t love to have this happen? I know I would!
While there are many ways to get your short stories out into the world, there’s another advantage of submitting to an anthology that I appreciate. They typically have a clearly-stated theme in the guidelines. For the writer who may be struggling to come up with a good story idea (and we’ve all been there, haven’t we?), this may be just what they need. I’ve gone through listings for upcoming anthologies and almost always walked away with a new idea for a story. Even if I don’t end up meeting the submission deadline, I still have a possible story swirling around in my brain.
When you do find an anthology opening that appeals to you, read the guidelines closely. I like to write out the guidelines by hand so I’m certain that I haven’t missed anything. If you don’t follow the guidelines, your submission will be disqualified regardless of the quality of your story. You don’t want to invest all that time and creative energy only to have this happen. It’s both disappointing and embarrassing.
The guidelines will give you specifics about theme, word count, where and how to submit, the contact information you need to provide with your submission, and payment. Sometimes you’ll also find legal information regarding what to expect following publication. Be sure that you understand the legal terms presented, and if anything doesn’t make sense to you, research it!
One of the most common questions people have about being published in an anthology is how they’ll be paid. This is understandable. We may write for the love of it, but getting paid is nice too! There are generally three types of compensation possible, and there are pros associated with each.
- Non-paid anthologies: These are the ones where there’s no monetary compensation. This shouldn’t necessarily deter anyone from submitting since you still benefit by reaching new readers.
- Up-front payment: This is where you receive a one-time payment for your story. The benefit of this is that you know how much you’ll be receiving, and you’ll get all of that money at one time. It may even be a sufficiently large amount that you can treat yourself to something nice.
- Royalties: This is where you receive a percentage of the royalties as a payment. The amount you make is contingent upon how many people buy the anthology, so you could end up making very little, or you could end up making a lot more than you anticipated. It could go either way, but you do get the benefit of getting a little something for your work at regular intervals. A few extra dollars here and there never hurt anyone.
This is all useful information to have if you’re considering submitting to an anthology, but there’s one last thing I’d like to say on this subject. You need to know about the submission process, yes, but there’s one obstacle you need to overcome before you even get that far.
Lack of confidence.
I’ve seen people look at the theme for an anthology and say they don’t think they could write a good story along those lines, even though they may want to. I’ve also seen people with a brilliant story idea, but they don’t think they can pull it off. My advice for you is to ignore that nagging doubt and try anyway.
Don’t sell yourself short. Keep writing, keep submitting, and keep pushing your boundaries. You never know what you’re capable of until you try.