As much as an anthology is about the story you write, it’s almost more about the editor. What the anthology’s creator is looking for. They are, after all, doing the considerable work of organizing the collection, reviewing the stories, uploading the piece onto Amazon and other retailers, and generally trying to make the most of it. Least you can do is play by their rules.
This can come in various forms and flavors, but tend to break down along a few lines:
- Length:Most anthologies don’t want to be a thousand pages long, so stories included are generally asked to have a maximum length. Maybe that’s 5,000 words, maybe it’s 20,000. Either way, tailoring your story to stick to the word length is a good way to get accepted, and a great way to be respectful of someone else’s time. I’d say you can err more on the shorter side than the longer – think of getting into an anthology like walking through a door. Shorter than the frame, you still get through. Taller, not so much. And it hurts hitting a door frame.
That being said, going drastically shorter than the suggested word count isn’t a great play either. Your 250-word flash fiction masterpiece might be grand, but probably doesn’t belong in a collection of novellas, unless the anthology is intentionally organized in that fashion. Which isn’t a bad idea, now that I think about it. Like a boxer, swinging hard and fast. Lil’ jabs mixed in with uppercuts. Is there anything that can’t be covered by a sports metaphor?
- Tone: Want to submit to The Gross Tales of Edwin Von Slasher, the slayer of Salem Square? Perhaps, then, your short romance about a couple meeting each other after all the paddle-boats are rented out and they still want to go on the lake… may not work. Those two may seem obvious, but it applies to slimmer differences too. Dramatic tales of woe, doom and gloom may fit in Fantasy, but not in an anthology about fantastic battles where swarms of dragons tackle each other in the skies. Make sure to review what the anthology is looking for and submit a story that won’t stick out like a gangrenous toe. Don’t be sad if every other story is funny. Don’t be dark if the anthology is about springtime. So on and so forth.
- Being Receptive to Feedback
This is an interesting one – anthologies are generally edited by the person putting them together (perhaps more than one person) and they may have feedback for you. They may decide that your tendency of inserting ellipses into the end of every piece of dialogue doesn’t, you know, jive with their vision for the story. They might love your characters but hate your love of the ampersand. Enjoy your setting but think its odd that you chose to color every single thing the same shade of blue, like a toddler with a single crayon. Point being, changes will be suggested. You do not need to take all of them without a thought – in fact, I’d recommend looking at what is suggested and then seeing how you would like to solve the problem.Maybe they’re right, and those ellipses really do need to go. However, perhaps your tale is set in a world where everyone talks like a deflating balloon and every sentence naturally trails off. In that case, the issue might be that the editors aren’t realizing this element of your story, so you make that part more clear.
Ultimately, if it’s not your anthology, you’ll have to make some concessions to the editors. If you prefer to stick hard and fast to your draft, then you’ll have to make the argument for why that particular arrangement of words is so necessary. Or, you know, consider not submitting for things that give others control.
- Make Their Lives Easier
This one is a bit outside the craft box and more in the technical dirt in which we writers must make our beds these days. What I’m getting at here is making sure your story is written and saved in a file format that’s accessible. That you meet what the anthology editor is looking for when submitting. Don’t mail a handwritten manuscript. Don’t save your Word ’95 document and send it from an email address you never check. If they prefer a PDF of your story, then type it out and save it as one. If they prefer a shared Google Doc, make the account and upload it. If you really want to be in the anthology and they demand a Comic Sans font and an elaborate series of file types… perhaps consider not being in that anthology.Seriously, though – the brave souls that put these collections together are generally not doing so in order to make gobs of cash. They’re giving you exposure, and experience, at the expense of their time. The least you can do, after creating your little world, is to give them the story how they ask for it.
A few posts this week are about anthologies because I happen to be in one! The Officer is now out and available, a neat collection of science fiction stories with military themes. You can find it here on Amazon, and I hope you check it out!