Image courtesy of John Kasawa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
So when, at the beginning of 2012, I dusted of my writing dreams and enrolled in post-graduate studies in writing, I also dusted off my old manuscript and plunged straight back into writing novels and searching for publishers. Writing long fiction feels natural to me – if I’m not careful my shorts become novels and my novels become series.
Four and a half manuscripts on – and I’m still looking for that elusive publisher.
Which is why the last couple of months have been so exciting. No, not because of my books (though they still ignite my imagination). I've had some success with a couple of shorts; a placing in Faith Writer’s flash fiction challenges, the acceptance of a 5000 word story in the Tied in Pink anthology (released last month) and the acceptance of one of my poems in another anthology. Just baby steps but exciting nonetheless.
It has been a steep learning curve as I’m not a natural short story writer. It took me three stories to get within the 5000 word limit for the Tied in Pink anthology. (On the plus side, I now have three stories not one.)
Short stories can of course be submitted to competitions, magazines or even published as e-books, on their own or part of collections. Meredith Resce, for instance, has recently published a short novella Where’s There’s Smoke. Incidentally, she along with Anusha also have stories in the Tied in Pink anthology with a number of other writers from different walks of life and philosophies.
So what is an anthology and is it worth getting involved?
An anthology is a collection of works by different authors that share a common theme. The works might be poems, devotionals or inspirational true stories, essays or fiction (or some mix of these). The theme might be related to a genre, a subject, an idea or a target audience.
Anthologies may be commissioned by a publisher if they feel a certain theme is not well represented in the market. It may come about by the collaborative efforts of a group of authors or even from a single author inviting others to contribute.
Anthologies are a great way for different authors to showcase their writing style. They provide an opportunity for new writers to be noticed and for established writers to keep their name visible while working on their longer works.
Writing short stories require some different skills and strategies than long fiction – just because they are short doesn't mean they are easy to write. However, they usually can be written in a shorter time frame than a novel and can be more easily discarded if they don’t work out. They provide the opportunity to experiment with ideas, style or genre. It is easier (though still hard) to get a short story published than a full length novel.
As anthologies generally have a number of contributors, they provide an opportunity for fans of one author to discover they enjoy the work of others within the collection. For authors, this may mean new fans – for readers, the discovery of new authors to follow and enjoy. Also, hopefully all contributors will be involved in promotion of the anthology.
If your story is not accepted, you can submit it elsewhere (with or without changes).
Be strategic. Most of my stories tie in the fictional world of my novels and are connected in some way with each other. In this way, I hope they are a natural springboard into my novels. I also envisage including them in a collection which I could self-publish at a later date with new material.
It’s not all sunshine and oranges
Anthologies don’t always sell as well as novels. Readers may not like anthologies because they aren't as immersive as a novel and have a certain element of pot luck about them (you may know and like one or two authors, but not all). Alternatively, you can think of them like a box of chocolates – perhaps you don’t like hard (or soft) centres but you are just as likely to be delighted as disappointed. And it’s easy to read a story in one sitting.
According to Literary Rejections, Chicken Soup for the Soul received 140 rejections headed ‘Anthologies don’t sell’ before finally being accepted for publication and has gone on to be a best seller.
Still, you probably won’t make a fortune from an anthology even if you receive royalties. With the Tied in Pink anthology, all time and skills were donated and the profits are going to breast cancer research. As an author it is still a viable way of getting your name known and attracting new fans.
An anthology includes a range of authors and stories. With a secular anthology, this will include many with different values and philosophies. The guidelines will give some indication of what might be considered acceptable – but interpretations may vary. The Tied in Pink anthology included a few more risque stories than I or many of my friends would normally read or write which has meant that I have had to been more cautious about how I promote it (say in church circles). On the other hand, many of the stories are moving or fun to read.
Follow the guidelines. Make sure you know the submission requirements – the type of story, word limit, any exclusions, when and how to submit etc.
Be clear about what rights, royalties (or payment) and obligations (are you expected to buy copies etc). I prefer anthologies that ask for first (serial) rights and/or non-exclusive (or exclusive for a set time period – say 6-12 months after publication). This means that you can sell (or self-publish) your story as a reprint after the specified period. Look at whether digital, print, worldwide and/or audio are included.
Here is just a small sampling of anthologies you might consider submitting to:
Faith Writers challenges – Breath of Fresh Air press plan to publish the top entries in a series of Mixed Blessings books.
Chicken Soup for the Soul is always looking for contributors.
Like a Girl anthology is looking for submissions. This is a charity anthology, with profits going to boost education for girls through Plan Australia. Submissions deadline is July 12 2015, the 18th birthday of Malala Yousafzai.
Glimpses of Light Anthology - in conjunction with Christian Writers Downunder
2015 is the International Year of Light. I've been considering the possibility Glimpses of Light anthology – with (fictional) stories and poems tying in with the theme or symbolism of light – with ALL profits going towards an accredited charity that helps people in developing countries (such as Christian Blind Mission, Tear Fund or World Vision). This anthology could be done in conjunction with Christian Writers Downunder – giving an opportunity for selected CWD writers to showcase their work. Details are yet to be worked out (title, charity, deadlines, guidelines, submission and selection process, publishing process etc).
There are a number of ways of participating Please prayerfully consider your involvement. We would love you to join the Glimpses of Light Facebook group – either direct message Nola Passmore or myself (Jeanette O’Hagan) or click on this link and request to join.
So maybe in 2015 we can get anthologising :)
So maybe in 2015 we can get anthologising :)
Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology. She is currently caring for her children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad's fantasy fiction series. You can read some of her short fiction here. She is about to have a short story published as part of the Tied in Pink anthology next month (profits from the anthology go towards Breast Cancer research) .
She is actively involved in a caring Christian community.