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How Legitimate Is Setting Out To Write An Anthology? (1 Viewer)

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TheMightyAz

Mentor
After The Glass Tulip, I intend to continue writing short stories for a year before I attempt another novel. I've currently got 2 whole stories mapped out and ready to go, both of which are horror stories. I wondered how legitimate a pursuit it would be to actually set out to create a list of short stories intended for an anthology (think Books of Blood) and if so, how long would those stories need to be to make them worth the reader's while? Everyone throws word number about but I always think in terms of pages, so 20/30 pages each, say 8 - 10 short stories?
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
I have an ever-expanding string of shorts that precede the three-book plot of the main story. I don't expect to get those seriously published. The plan (to the extent this is one) is to use the shorts to establish characters I'll use later. This gives me the chance to root them in-universe without trying to shoehorn background into later works and provides means of judging reader's reaction. With any luck it'll also drum up interest so that when I get around to doing the novel-length entries I'll have a couple of people excited about a heavier piece of work.

This is probably a terrible plan. Then again, I doubt I'm what most would call a serious writer.

Otherwise, near as I can figure, most publishers are reticent to buy in on single-author anthologies unless the author is question is already an established seller.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I have an ever-expanding string of shorts that precede the three-book plot of the main story. I don't expect to get those seriously published. The plan (to the extent this is one) is to use the shorts to establish characters I'll use later. This gives me the chance to root them in-universe without trying to shoehorn background into later works and provides means of judging reader's reaction. With any luck it'll also drum up interest so that when I get around to doing the novel-length entries I'll have a couple of people excited about a heavier piece of work.

This is probably a terrible plan. Then again, I doubt I'm what most would call a serious writer.

Otherwise, near as I can figure, most publishers are reticent to buy in on single-author anthologies unless the author is question is already an established seller.

So, nothing has changed much in the last 35 years. That was the stance back then too. I was rather hoping things had changed. I was going to hone my skills on a years worth of shorts anyway, so nothing changes I suppose. I wonder though, if I get a few of those shorts published, would that perhaps help 'persuade' a publisher to publish an anthology?
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
I wonder though, if I get a few of those shorts published, would that perhaps help 'persuade' a publisher to publish an anthology?

I think you mean a 'collection', not an 'anthology'?

They are very different. An anthology is a book of short stories from various authors (equivalent to a mixtape or compilation) and a collection is a book of short stories by the same author. 'The Best American Short Stories 2020' is an anthology. 'The Bizarre Of Bad Dreams by Stephen King' is a collection.

Regarding 'legitimacy'...depends. Again, anthologies and Collections are totally different. Anthologies are fairly successful and popular, though it is a little variable by genre. In Science Fiction, for instance, anthologies are a pretty big industry, arguably as popular, historically at times even more popular, than novels. So, if you're a Science Fiction author, getting into a bunch of anthologies is a good move. Get a story published in Asimov's or something and you have a great advantage. Anthologies are less common, less popular, in the High Fantasy genre, presumably because short stories aren't as good for world building, and I almost never come across a Romance anthology call for submissions. I'm not saying this is absolutely the case and there are always subgenres, etc. But yes, overall point is anthologies are a very good, very accessible way for new writers to get 'legitimate' publishing credits. I would not dare say it is easy but...I am a fairly crap writer and I have a whole shelf loaded with anthologies I am in.

Collections is a different story. Want the bad news? Outside of crazy exceptions, no legitimate publisher will publish a collection of short stories by a single writer, unless that writer is essentially a household name. There's just no reason why they would. Short stories aren't super popular compared to novels in the first place and, from a consumer point of view, why would somebody buy a single unknown author's short story collection when, for the same money, they could buy an anthology of twenty different author's work? I suppose there is always the outlier chance for a super great concept, but it's really minimal, especially in adult fiction (children's books is different). The point is most publishers won't even look at a collection unless you already have a sales record. If you're adamant you want to publish a collection, you're best off self-publishing it.

My opinion/advice is: If you want to take a break from novels then pursue short story publication via anthologies and magazines. Even ezines can be a good first dabble. My first 'grownup' publishing credit was with Every Day Fiction. They paid $3 (donated back) and my story was on their homepage for a day and I got some nice critique. There are tons of sites dedicated to flash fiction, too. Start small, get the feedback and the credits, add those to your query letter and as your confidence increases, submit to semi-pro and finally pro markets. Try to write and submit in a variety of genres and try to get one short story done per week. Start now, and by the end of 2021 you should have at least a few publishing credits. Then go back to novels in 2022 or, if you're successful, you could maybe try a collection at that point if you have a readership.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I think you mean a 'collection', not an 'anthology'?

They are very different. An anthology is a book of short stories from various authors (equivalent to a mixtape or compilation) and a collection is a book of short stories by the same author. 'The Best American Short Stories 2020' is an anthology. 'The Bizarre Of Bad Dreams by Stephen King' is a collection.

Regarding 'legitimacy'...depends. Again, anthologies and Collections are totally different. Anthologies are fairly successful and popular, though it is a little variable by genre. In Science Fiction, for instance, anthologies are a pretty big industry, arguably as popular, historically at times even more popular, than novels. So, if you're a Science Fiction author, getting into a bunch of anthologies is a good move. Get a story published in Asimov's or something and you have a great advantage. Anthologies are less common, less popular, in the High Fantasy genre, presumably because short stories aren't as good for world building, and I almost never come across a Romance anthology call for submissions. I'm not saying this is absolutely the case and there are always subgenres, etc. But yes, overall point is anthologies are a very good, very accessible way for new writers to get 'legitimate' publishing credits. I would not dare say it is easy but...I am a fairly crap writer and I have a whole shelf loaded with anthologies I am in.

Collections is a different story. Want the bad news? Outside of crazy exceptions, no legitimate publisher will publish a collection of short stories by a single writer, unless that writer is essentially a household name. There's just no reason why they would. Short stories aren't super popular compared to novels in the first place and, from a consumer point of view, why would somebody buy a single unknown author's short story collection when, for the same money, they could buy an anthology of twenty different author's work? I suppose there is always the outlier chance for a super great concept, but it's really minimal, especially in adult fiction (children's books is different). The point is most publishers won't even look at a collection unless you already have a sales record. If you're adamant you want to publish a collection, you're best off self-publishing it.

My opinion/advice is: If you want to take a break from novels then pursue short story publication via anthologies and magazines. Even ezines can be a good first dabble. My first 'grownup' publishing credit was with Every Day Fiction. They paid $3 (donated back) and my story was on their homepage for a day and I got some nice critique. There are tons of sites dedicated to flash fiction, too. Start small, get the feedback and the credits, add those to your query letter and as your confidence increases, submit to semi-pro and finally pro markets. Try to write and submit in a variety of genres and try to get one short story done per week. Start now, and by the end of 2021 you should have at least a few publishing credits. Then go back to novels in 2022 or, if you're successful, you could maybe try a collection at that point if you have a readership.

I really appreciate that. Thank you very much. I've always thought anthologies were just collection of stories. I had no idea there was a difference between collections and anthologies. I've learned something new!

I've started 3 novels, all of which crashed and burned around the 150 page mark. I get too ambitious for my ability and stretch myself too thinly. As I've said in a previous post, I'm not interested in being anything other than a decent hack. That'll do me.

One a week though, yikes. I do plan on speeding up when I've finished The Glass Tulip but I don't think I can produce one a week. I've learned I do need to draft as I go or I easily lose the voice I'm going for. That might change once I've got in the swing of things ... hopefully. Horror has always been my genre of choice and I only branched out into general fiction to improve my dialogue, which was weak 35 years ago. Ironically, the first general fiction story I write ends up not having much dialogue. Aint life annoying?

I guess, steady as I go and take everything you've said into consideration. It's a plan I'm more than happy to follow. It suits me. Cheers!
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
One a week though, yikes. I do plan on speeding up when I've finished The Glass Tulip but I don't think I can produce one a week.

Doesn't have to be one a week, obviously. Go at your own pace.

I say 'one a week' because the average (publishable) short story is going to run under 5,000 words -- 3,000-4,000 is the sweet spot -- which works out around 4 hours solid writing. I consider 1,000 words an hour to be a steady yet not 'fast' pace that allows the writer to 'think as they go'. After all, 1,000 words an hour is only about 16 words per minute!

So that's 2-3 evenings spent actually writing. Add one 2 hour or so session for rewriting/editing (I don't typically rewrite short stories) and effectively a <5,000 word story should take no longer than six hours stretched over a maximum of four days. Factor in a day at the start for 'conceptualizing' and an extra day at the end for thinking up titles/honing the cover letter, and then one extra day (Sunday) for searching out publication calls (I didn't necessarily submit once per week every time, sometimes it took longer to find a market -- but i always had a story 'ready to go') and seven days really is doable.

It was just tiring creatively because there's no break: You submit, you come up with another story. Draining, but that's the job. I completed forty-eight stories that year (late starter) of which I published thirty or so, mostly for no or very little money, a dozen at semi-pro rates, two at pro rates. Don't know if I'd do that again, but it was definitely good for development.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Doesn't have to be one a week, obviously. Go at your own pace.

I say 'one a week' because the average (publishable) short story is going to run under 5,000 words -- 3,000-4,000 is the sweet spot -- which works out around 4 hours solid writing. I consider 1,000 words an hour to be a steady yet not 'fast' pace that allows the writer to 'think as they go'. After all, 1,000 words an hour is only about 16 words per minute!

So that's 2-3 evenings spent actually writing. Add one 2 hour or so session for rewriting/editing (I don't typically rewrite short stories) and effectively a <5,000 word story should take no longer than six hours stretched over a maximum of four days. Factor in a day at the start for 'conceptualizing' and an extra day at the end for thinking up titles/honing the cover letter, and then one extra day (Sunday) for searching out publication calls (I didn't necessarily submit once per week every time, sometimes it took longer to find a market -- but i always had a story 'ready to go') and seven days really is doable.

It was just tiring creatively because there's no break: You submit, you come up with another story. Draining, but that's the job. I completed forty-eight stories that year (late starter) of which I published thirty or so, mostly for no or very little money, a dozen at semi-pro rates, two at pro rates. Don't know if I'd do that again, but it was definitely good for development.

This scares me.

If it has to be done though, then I'd better get this story out the way and start speed writing! Cheers again.
 
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