Monday, 16 October 2017

Why Anthologies?

by Jeanette O'Hagan

I was asked recently, 'Why contribute to an anthology?' 

Six years ago, when I dusted off the novel I wrote decades ago and started writing again, anthologies were the last thing on my mind. I struggled writing short fiction and my focus was on writing novels. My experience of reading short fiction was limited and often disappointing.

This month, I was thrilled to launch my first published novel, Arkad’s Children (a prequel to the first one I wrote). I still love writing my epic novels – but in between I caught the anthology bug, with stories and poems published in over a dozen of them. I now enjoy writing and reading short stories and love the anthologies I’m featured in.

What is an anthology?

An anthology is a collection of works by a group of different authors. It can be fiction or non-fiction, short stories or poems. Anthologies are often themed. For instance, the theme of the Futurevision anthology is on visions of the future, while that of Christian Writers Downunder's Glimpses of Light is on the glimmers of light (and hope) in the darkness. Some anthologies are genre specific. For instance, Like a Woman is restricted to speculative fiction (including horror). 

In contrast to an anthology, a collection is by a single author though again, often themed (for instance, Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning).

What are the Advantages?

Anthologies can:

Offer an opportunity to be published

Publishers and editors of anthologies are often actively seeking new authors. They usually give a theme to write to and a deadline to motivate.

Broaden your reach as an author

An anthology has a range of contributors — from a few to many — some of whom may be more well-known than you. Ideally, all the contributors will promote the anthology to their fan base and your story (or poem) will be read by new readers. Perhaps, these fans will fall in love with your writing. At the very least, you are now known to a wider community of writers (who, after all, are mostly readers too).

Are fun to be part of

Having your work accepted, edited, published and promoted is fun. Well, okay, editing may not be – but the buzz that surrounds bringing an anthology together and launching it into the world is. The recent Futurevision launch was wonderful event and our publisher gifted each contributor with a story-based poster. Tales from the Underground and Quantum Soul also have some fun promotional materials, including a trailer for TUG.

Build up your portfolio

Anthologies give an impetus to write and, even when the pieces aren’t accepted, you have a growing portfolio of stories, which may be submitted elsewhere or which can be published as stand-alones stories or in a collection, or which can be used as giveaways and free offers in conjunction with your email list or at launches.  If these pieces are linked in some way to your novels, they can act as a funnel to your work.

Provide you chance to give back

With charity anthologies, your story can help support a worthy cause. In collaborative anthologies, authors help each other with editing and feedback and  promotion.

Give writing creds and experience

Each publication adds to your bio and may catch the attention of a publisher or agent.  For me, writing shorter works and poetry has honed my skills, increased my knowledge of the ins and outs of publishing and given me the confidence to publish my novel, Akrad’s Children.

May pay, but not always

With charity anthologies (such as Glimpses of Light, Like a Girl, Like a Woman), the profits go to the designated charity. Other anthologies give prizes to place getters (eg Poetica Christi, Crossroads anthology), but otherwise offer a free copy to contributors.  Or, the publisher may offer the anthologies at a discounted price which contributors can sell for a profit (as with 1231 Publishing anthologies like Obliquity and Futurevision). Or the anthology may give royalties, like Quantum Soul or Tales From the Underground. How many royalties will depend on the success of the anthology and the split between contributors. Others anthologies will pay an upfront fee for their stories, for instance Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Overall, I think the other benefits are more important.

Questions to ask:

Are you happy with the overall aims and values of the anthology?

For instance, if it’s a charity anthology, is it supporting a cause you believe in. Or, what does it exclude or allow writings and genres you or your readers might be uncomfortable with.

Is it a good fit for your writing?

Short fiction is a great place to experiment and maybe try out new genres or ideas. On the other hand, if you wish to attract new readers to your longer fiction (or non-fiction), then choosing anthologies that focus on related themes and/or genres make sense.

What rights and exclusions are they seeking?

One anthology I decided not to enter, sounded attractive until I realised the publisher was asking for ‘all rights’ of the story. That’s a carte blanche which means I would have lost all control of the story forever. No thanks. 

Generally anthology publishers seek the right to publish the story in print & e-book and may ask for a period of exclusivity. For instance, Quantum Soul has a 12-month exclusivity from the date of publication so they can enrol the anthology into Kindle Unlimited. I can live with that. But would hesitate if it was any longer.

Always read the contract and ask for advice if needed.

What have you got to lose?

Well, maybe time and effort. Perhaps, focusing on anthologies will distract from writing the novel or other projects. Would I have published Akrad’s Children earlier if I hadn’t been involved in writing for anthologies over the last 2-3 years? Perhaps, but I think I’ve learnt much writing those stories and being involved in their publication that I’m sure my debut novel is the better for it.

Where are the Opportunities?

Are you aware of any other opportunities? Have you been part of an anthology? Yes? What were the advantages and disadvantages? If not, think about the possibilities.


Jeanette started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. They involve a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic users.

She has published stories and poems in over a dozen anthologies
, including Glimpses of Light and Futurevision with three anthologies coming out this month - Redemption anthology, Tales From the Underground, and Quantum Soul.  She recently released her debut novel Akrad's Children - the first in the Akrad's Legacy series

Find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on Amazon or on her or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes . if you want to stay up-to-date with latest publications and developments, sign up to Jeanette O'Hagan Writes e-mail newsletter.


  1. Thanks for that, Jenny. You've certainly been the Queen of the Anthologies lately, and I've been impressed with the way you've really marketed them and helped others too. I especially like the way you've tied a lot of your stories in to your existing story world, and I'm looking forward to your sci-fi series.

    I've been in many anthologies (some with you), and it's always a buzz to have a story or poem accepted. I haven't done that as much in the last year, as I've been trying to focus on the novel, but I do miss it. Like you, I've become addicted to anthologies and have an itchy writing finger. As soon as I finish the structural edit of the novel, I want to take some time out to write some short pieces.

    I'd strongly encourage anyone to give it a go for the reasons you've mentioned. Even if it's not accepted initially, you have one more story in your reserves that you can work on. Thanks for flying the 'shorts' flag, Jenny :)

    1. Thanks, Nola. It has been fun sharing quite a few anthologies with you, including editing Glimpses of Light together. And I loved how your 100 words story found a home in Futurevision and opened the anthology. It is tricky balancing the demands of writing for anthologies (and/or competitions) and writing the novel, but each can help the other. Looking forward to reading your novel and your future short story contributions.

  2. Great post Jenny. Loved all the pictures of book covers too. Well done on your prolific writing and contributions to Anthologies. Your reasons for writing them are sound. As are the questions we need to ask when we consider contributing to them. Thanks for the list of opportunities too. Always welcome. Thanks Jenny. Good stuff!

    1. Thanks Anusha. Yes, I love the covers and have been. Blessed with opportunities this year. Making the resolution to write every day has greatly helped my creativity this year, though I've had to take a break to get work formatted etc, it's been great. Perhaps I should have added Stories For Life as well. 😊

  3. Hi Jenny, thanks for writing this post. It was fun to hear from you and Adam last week and now great to have it in writing! :)

    1. Thanks for asking the question 😊 Enjoyed the Skype group meeting 😊👍

  4. Thank you for the post, Jenny. It gives us as authors much to think about, and I especially like the idea that an anthology can help all its authors and build the visibility, all within the one book. I am reading an anthology at the moment which is something new for me, but is something I'm enjoying reading. It has been great to be able to pick up on one story and have it read in a short space of time and then go on to the next when I have leisure. This is especially good for me as an author, when so much time is taken up with writing.

    1. Thanks, Deirdre. I've come to enjoy reading anthology. I think the fact that so many readers are time-poor in part accounts the increasing popularity of anthologies these days. You can easily read a story in one sitting and then start the next one when time allows.

  5. Thanks Jenny. As a publisher of anthologies, it is great to know that the opportunities they offer is appreciated. Birdcatcher Books ( runs regular writing competitions, with the best entries published in anthologies. So far we have published two (Fledglings and Crossroads) and I am currently putting together the anthology from our Stories For Children Competition. Hopefully it will be out by Christmas. Our third Short Story Competition is currently in judging, and the anthology from that will be out next year.

    1. Thanks for providing all of those opportunities for Authors, Lynn. I really appreciated being included in Fledglings. It's a great way to showcase different authors and types of stories.

    2. Thanks, Lynn. It was great to be part of the Crossroads anthology. I ran out of time to participate in the latest with juggling a number of projects. Look forward to see new anthologies coming from Birdcatcher Books.

  6. Hi Jenny, I love them for the opportunity of finding new authors, whose longer works we may want to seek. And when they give to charities, that's great. An honour to take part with all the other varied writers too.

    1. Yes, it's a great way to sample and discover new (to-you) authors :) Thanks, Paula.