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How to Sell Short Stories to an Anthology
By Deborah Walker
‘I sing the Recurring Melody’ by Deborah Walker appears in Pop Seagull Publishing’s Love, Space, Time, Magic anthology. Deborah writes short fiction: fantasy, science fiction and horror. In the last six years, she’s been published in quite a few anthologies. You can check out her bibliography here: http://deborahwalkersbibliography.blogspot.co.uk/p/bibliography.html
First off, I’ll pepper these words with caution. This is how I do things. You might have a much better way of selling stories to anthologies. And if you do, could you please tell me in the comments.
SELLING WITHOUT SUBMITTING
Sometimes an editor will chance across a published story and decide it’s perfect for their anthology. Make it easy for them! Publish your contact information on the interwebs. A bibliography of your published stories with links is good, too. I speak from experience. A few years ago, I had no contact information on my blog, and an editor had to track me down via Facebook. Thank you so much, Mr. Editor.
FINDING ANTHOLOGY CALLS
Search for anthology calls and guidelines on The Grinder http://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/. A quick search of paying markets gives fifty-eight anthologies open today. That’s a lot!
But lots of writers use The Grinder. I also use submission call sites, like Horror Tree http://horrortree.com/, Dark Markets http://www.darkmarkets.com/ and My Little Corner http://sandraseamans.blogspot.co.uk/. Anthology leads can also be found on social networks: writers passing on submission calls, mentioning a submission or an early sale.
IT’S NOT A NUMBERS GAME, BUT IT IS
Selling stories is difficult. There’s no doubt about that. There’s a lot of great writers out there and you’re competing on an international stage. My strategy is to make a lot, a lot of subs. Sure not everyone has my time or my enormous bag of stories, but the more subs you make; the more rolls of the dice you make.
Once you’ve found an anthology call you’d like to submit to you need a story to submit.
Consider the stories you’ve already written. When I see an anthology, I go through my list of stories (non-sold and reprint) and think hard about if it could fit. That sounds foolish doesn’t it? Surely it should be obvious. But by thinking hard about the anthology’s theme and thinking outside the box, I often find a story that fits in an non-obvious way. Consider the editor. She’ll receive a large number of stories riffing off the most obvious interpretations of the anthology’s theme. A creative interpretation might stand out. Certainly, I’ve sold stories that I thought were long shots for a theme. Possibly more often than the perfect fit stories!
If the anthology takes multiple subs, consider sending more than one. I’m very bad at guessing what editors like. When I send more than one piece, you can bet the editor takes the story I didn’t think they would.
What you write is your call, of course. But as I mentioned an editor will receive a lot of submissions on the most obvious interpretations of the theme. How about making your story stand out a little?
If you’ve written a story specifically for an anthology, a rejection can sting. After all, you’ve written something new, and now you’ve been rejected it was all a big waste of time. But not so! I find rejected anthology stories sell to other venues just as well as stories written for no particular venues. Sometimes rejected anthology stories sell to different anthologies. Some years ago I did some number crunching, let’s lay aside the fact that the numbers were too small to be statistically meaningful. Stories that I wrote specifically for a themed anthology and were rejected went onto sell slightly better than stories I wrote with no particular theme in mind.
ASK THE EDITOR
If the guidelines don’t mention reprints, I often query to see if the editor will accept them. I’ve also queried about length and, I just had a bit of flash accepted which I queried about as the guidelines asked for 2000 words +. If you come across an invite only anthology, you can query. Editors don’t bite—most of the time. A word of caution: do query privately, via e-mail. Once I saw a query on Facebook that turned unpleasant.
WHEN TO SUBMIT
Anthology editors receive most subs at the start and the end of the submission period. Try not to sub at the end if you can help it. That’s not always possible, I know. Some anthology calls respond to everything at the end of the submission period, and might say so in their guidelines. But subbing early sometimes means that you get a second bite of the cherry and can send in another story if the first one’s rejected.
AFTER THE SALE
You’ve sold to an anthology! Congratulations. Now don’t forget to practice good after-sales. I always respond to the initial acceptance letter with a thank you. I respond quickly to queries and copy-edits, always within a week. Once the anthology is out, promote it on your social network to the extent of your comfort zone. Do all these things because they’re good manners, and because you’ve found an editor who likes your work and maybe, just maybe, they’ll buy from you again in the future.
I hope you find bits and pieces of this advice interesting. There’s nothing quite like being published in an anthology. I love the camaraderie between the contributors and love reading the authors takes on shared theme. Anthologies are a lot of fun. Good luck and don’t forget to share your tips in the comments.