Thursday, January 15, 2015


by Jeanette O'Hagan

Image courtesy of John Kasawa at

When I was in my early twenties, I sat down and wrote a novel – late at night, in lulls between seeing patients, on scraps of paper and notepads. It took perhaps a year to finish the first draft, longer to do the second and third. A friend (thank you Wendy) typed it up for me and I sent it out to a couple of publishers. I got a strong nibble but, naive as I was, I had no idea that didn't normally happen so quickly, so I quibbled. And then my writing got shoved in a drawer as a new career, ministry, marriage, family and more study took over my time and creative energies.

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.

As with publishing a novel, you need to beware of vanity publishers. Some publishers rely on the fact that the contributors are likely to buy multiple copies to give to friends and family. Multiply that by the number of contributors and they can make a profit at the expense of their authors.They don’t need to ensure the quality of the anthology and put little or no effort into promotion. For more info, check out this link.

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 :)

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. 

You can find her at her Facebook Page or webistes or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes .


  1. So pleased to hear about your shorts being published. I have 'Tied in Pink' and it's on top on my TBR pile after I finish the novel I'm reading.
    I've had a couple of short true stories published (such as a miscarriage story in the In God's Hands' anthology by EBP) and I'm getting curious about the challenge of novellas and short fictions. It's fascinating to see them getting a bit of the spotlight.

    1. Thanks Paula. I was thinking about the EBP 'In God's Hands' anthology. That's a great example of a publisher initiated anthology on what is often a taboo subject. Glad to hear Tied in Pink is at the top of your to-read pile :D Hoping your curiosity spills over into having a go with this anthology.

  2. Great post Jenny. Glad to see you getting some shorts out there. It's not easy to be picked as one of the judge's finalists in the Poetica Christi anthologies, so good on you. Also great idea about a possible CWD anthology to fit in with Glimpses of Light. I find that one of the benefits of an anthology, especially a themed anthology, is that you get to see so many different perspectives and you also get to stretch yourself and write something you might not thought of otherwise. The Poetica Christi ones have a different theme each year and the variety of interpretations of the theme never ceases to amaze me. Good luck with the anthology. Looking forward to being involved. :)

    1. Thanks Nola. Agree, anthologies a great for giving different perspectives. It's great to have you on board.

  3. Awesome post Jeanette. It has given me more encouragement to summit my short stories into several anthologies in 2015

  4. Love your positive approach, Jeanette, and your preparedness to try new things with your writing.

    Re anthologies, I have had short reflections published in three of the Strand Publishing collections in the past few years--'40 Aussie Stories', 'Inspirational Stories for Women' and 'Aussie Reflections'. This initially came about because the publisher found some of my blogs online and asked if he could use a couple of them in his books. I'm always up for that because there is a brief blurb on each author at the end of the book, with a link to my website--why would I knock that back? But the best thing is that I have sold around a hundred of these anthologies in all sorts of places where I have spoken, particularly secular venues. Some people will not read a full length novel but will buy a volume of short stories/reflections. So I think your anthology idea is excellent, Jeanette!

    1. Thanks Jo-Anne. It's good to hear you have had good experiences with anthologies - and that you've been able to sell them at different venues. We'd love you to be involved in this one too :)

    2. I've joined, Jeanette, but it just depends if I have time when the moment comes!

  5. Very helpful thank you Jeanette. Would like to take a crack at the Light anthology if I can and have linked to join up.

  6. Great post Jeanette.
    I've also been working on a story for an anthology. I'm finding it's a good way to get my career started. One practical benefit I've found is that editing is included as part of the deal - meaning I don't have to try to find money of my own to hire an editor. For those wanting to write anthology stories in the Christian Science Fiction genre, Travis Perry is an author to keep an eye on. He is a great world-builder and often comes up with cool ideas. Some times he puts out an invitation for writers to join in and contribute an anthology story in his newly created world.

    1. Thanks Adam. That's a good point - editing is generally included though I think one would want to submit the best piece one can as there generally are limited spots with the best pieces chosen. Great tip about Travis Perry too.

  7. First of all, I NEED that chocolate. YUM. Diet? What diet! ;-)

    Terrific post. I love working on anthologies, Jen. I have contributed to two and the third one in 2015 for the SWS foundation (Christopher has this). I enjoy writing stories for them. But this one is definitely near and dear to my heart.

    1. Thanks Robyn. There is something very moreish about a box of chocolates, isn't there. You are an old hand at it then :) The anthology on SWS sounds interesting - and I'm sure it's a great way to raise public awareness of an uncommon condition. One of my uncles had a large port-wine stain on his face though I don't know if he had SWS. Would love to have you involved in this one.

  8. I love anthologies. My first piece of writing since high school was published in an anthology and I've been in 4 over the last couple of years - and will be in at least another one this year.

    I also love reading them as there are plenty of times I need to read something short and sweet rather than getting involved in a novel :)