Where’s Your Contribution? Anthology 101
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As aspiring authors, the dream we all hold is one day seeing our book in print, with a beautifully-designed cover, and our name in large letters on the front and the spine. Many writers spend years writing, rewriting, revising, scrapping, and then writing anew before they ever accomplish this grand goal. The self-publishing route can certainly expedite the process, but that is another matter for another day. Writing a full book, one worthwhile in content and quality, can take years for a first-time novelist. They dream of the day when a readership will appear, and everyone will demand a copy of their book, giving them the pay-off reward for all of that hard work spent writing and perfecting that book. A good publisher will go a long ways towards bringing an initial audience to a book, but there is something the author can be doing in the meantime to make a name for themselves and build up an audience of readers who have at least seen their name.
There are new anthologies being published constantly, each one being edited and compiled by publishers both small and large. Many of these anthologies are centered around particular themes, with many allowing a fair amount of freedom to the authors on how they want to approach the theme or idea. For instance, when I came across the call for submissions for King of Ages: A King Arthur Anthology, the central idea was Merlin living backwards in time, appearing at different points in the past, present, or future with a version of Arthur. Our stories could take place anywhere and at any time, provided they had this common element contained in there. This led to a very diverse range of settings and plots among the thirteen chosen stories.
These anthologies are an excellent place for new authors and experienced authors to feature their work alongside each other. People who may not pick up a book with your name on it might get it because of one of the authors in there they are familiar with. If they read your story and enjoy it, that could very easily lead them to checking out some of your other works or, at the very least, your social media profiles and blogs. This will give you opportunities to publish a slew of promotional materials on your own blog or profile: cover reveals, story samples, discount promotions when they run, and guest posts from other contributors to the anthology who are willing to talk about their story and how they came up with the idea for it. These are all great ways to break into the writing industry as an author and begin to establish your voice and readership long before you have to foot most of the promotional work yourself.
So how does a person find these calls for submissions? There are excellent websites that take the time to gather open calls for submissions. A Google search on “Call for submissions anthologies 2016”, for instance, brings up a few sites that collate this information, most notably The Write Life and Freedom with Writing. Another great place that I have used has been Facebook. I am in a group that features open calls for Science Fiction and Fantasy stories, and this ranges from websites and magazines to anthologies posting their information in this group to gain submissions. I’d suggest searching for “Open Calls on Facebook” and seeing what groups come up that mesh with the genres you are interested in writing for.
Most of these publishers put out a call for submissions a few months ahead of their intended deadline. They give word range, theme, and what they are expecting from the author as part of the submission. Here is a breakdown of what you can typically expect to see in a call for submissions (whether for an anthology or otherwise):
1. Details and guidelines
This is the heart of what you should look for, as this will give you an idea of the overall theme, the genres or settings they’d like to see (or not like to see), and will help you to determined fairly quickly if this call for submission is right for you. Here is the example of the upcoming call for submissions that Our Write Side will be having for their Fall issue:
- Theme: Tales from the Time Capsule, horror and dark fiction genres only. The plot of the story must contain the recovery of one or more of the items lost from the time capsule. Full details in our next newsletter (August 18 Issue).
2. Word counts and deadlines
This is where you discover the word count maximum (or minimum) you have to write and revise the story prior to submission (unless stated otherwise, the entries sent in close to the deadline have just as much of a chance to get in as those submitted early. Very few will read and make judgments as the submissions come in and cut things off prior to a deadline). If they put a minimum and/or a maximum word count, these are usually not a flexible number so don’t submit something way over, or under, those counts. Most often the publisher will reject those submissions outside the range without even reading them, so send an email inquiring ahead of time if you feel like your story would still work for them. The upcoming Our Write Side submission call will be for:
- Short stories only, word count 1,500 to 4,000 words. No poetry. Open for submissions from August 25-September 25. Word counts above 4,000 and below 1,500 will be rejected automatically.
3. Author payment and publishing rights
Most publishers will send a contract spelling out the fine details once you get accepted, but most of the time their calls for submission will indicate what type of rights they are requesting and what you can expect as payment. Sometimes these payments are token in nature, coming in the form of contributor’s copies and/or a small flat payment (such as $10 per story). Other times it will be all authors splitting a share of the profits (which, depending on the number of authors and the sales, might be quite small but has the potential to take off if things sell well). The most common terms for the rights are going to be for First Worldwide English, although there are a slew of possibilities. When in doubt, Google to get an idea of exactly what they are wanting from you for the story. Most places call out whether they accept reprints or not, as well.
- Our Write Side will publish a total of ten (10) stories in the fall issue of OWS Ink: Literary Journal. Selected authors will receive a digital contributor’s copy. Unpublished stories accepted only, no reprints. Our Write Side will retain rights to the chosen stories for six months from date of publishing.
4. Formatting and submission requirements
This is where they will tell you where to send the submission, which is usually an email address. They will tell you what format to submit it at (word document, pdf, or even in the body of the email). They will usually let you know if a cover letter is required or not. If there is no mention of the cover letter, assume they need one and you’ll be covered. Pay close attention to all of the formatting requirements, whether it is font, spacing, file type, format of the file name, subject line of the email, etc. If they took the time to call it out in their call for submissions, it matters. Don’t let your story get passed up just because you didn’t format something properly (yes, that can and does happen). Our Write Side’s requirements are simple to follow, as shown below:
- All short stories should follow the standard short story format and submitted in .doc/.docx format. The body of the email should include your name, bio, word count, and information about the piece. Submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Inquiry / Your Name / Name of Piece.
I have found some great success in writing for anthologies. They provide a chance to dive into topics or stories that you might not otherwise get a chance to explore. They grant you more exposure as an author which, regardless of the books you’ve published, is always a welcome thing. They allow you the opportunity to network with other authors. Writing short stories, rather than just novels, requires a different tool set as an author and improving your short story writing can enhance your novel writing in the long term. Go, find a call for anthology submissions that interest you, set yourself the deadline, and submit a story. Best case scenario: you have a story getting published into a book in the future. Worst case scenario: you have a new short story to submit to other places when they might fit.
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