Anthologies: An alternative path to publication

I’m seeing a lot of promotions for anthologies these days. This excites me because short fiction anthologies are a wonderful way for rising authors to gain new readers. If you look for them, there are plenty of opportunities for short fiction submissions and contest entries, and many of those hold the possibility of having your short story featured in a new anthology.

All authors want to see their work published, but full length novels take months or even years to craft and polish before being ready to consider publication. And if an author is considering the traditional route of pitching their work until they find an interested publisher, they could be looking at that manuscript gathering dust on the shelves for a very long time. Short fiction offers a chance for authors to get their names out there on multiple works in a much shorter period of time than it would take to write and publish multiple novels.

Even before I published Delilah, I had two short stories accepted for publication online. Then my story, “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, was accepted by Zombie Pirate Publishing and it appeared in their The Collapsar Directive anthology. I learned very quickly that one difference in having short fiction published in an anthology, as opposed to being published online, was the spirit of comraderie among all the authors featured. The other cool perk of being published in an anthology was the invitation to submit to the next planned anthology. Hence, my story, “The Devil Made Her Do It”, appeared in the next anthology ZPP put out, Relationship Add Vice.

The trick to getting into an anthology is to read the submission guidelines and submit a story that meets them. Most of the time, that may mean writing a story specifically for that submission call or contest. When I was invited to submit a story for Dan Alatorre’s Nightmareland, the guidelines were pretty general, “horror”, and I happened to have a piece of flash fiction that fit into the genre. All it required was a bit of polishing and my story, “The Haunting of Carol’s Woods”, was ready for submission and acceptance. But, many submission calls are more specific.

For the above mentioned submission to ZPP for Relationship Add Vice, submission guidelines required a story that contained elements of romance and crime fiction. Chances are that you don’t have a story sitting in your files with those elements and you would need to create a new story to submit to meet these guidelines. I did have the beginnings of one, as it happened, but that certainly isn’t always the case.

The submission guidelines are important. Read and follow them carefully. Other than the type of story, they may include specific formatting requirements and other submission instructions. Many publishers are strict about their guidelines and will put down a story without finishing it, if the story doesn’t meet even one of the specifications. Of course, that doesn’t apply only to anthologies. Every submission you make should conform to the given submission guidelines, whether we’re talking about short fiction, novel manuscripts, articles or poetry. Why read something if the submitting author can’t even follow directions?

With each of these anthologies, I got that same feeling of comraderie and networking with my fellow authors. I love that feeling. Because anthologies, by definition, have several different authors, they also carry with them the advantage of widening the pool of possible readers. Each author promotes the anthology to their reader audience, so it is possible to extend your own reach beyond your own reader following and gain new readers who read your work in the anthology and want to read more. It’s a win-win for all authors involved.

Naturally, when I started WordCrafter Press in 2019, the first undertaking was to launch a short fiction contest and compile and publish the resulting anthology, Whispers of the Past. The submission guidelines required a paranormal stort story and the contest winner received a $25 Amazon gift card.

Spirits of the West

For 2020, the contest submission call requested a piece of short fiction with elements of both the paranormal and western genres. It may have seemed a weird combination to some, but to me, it seemed only natural. The old west is filled with ghosts and spirits, and my first novel was a western. I think it was the western genre that threw potential authors off, but what resulted from this genre combination were some very interesting stories, including two South African ‘westerns’ by WtbR team member Robbie Cheadle, “The Thirstyland Journey” and “The Ghost in the Mound”, and a science fiction ‘western’ by WtbR team member Art Rosch, “Clouds in the West”. This author of this year’s winning story is Enid Holden, and she has two stories included in the anthology: the winning story, “High Desert Rose” and another paranormal western, “The Queen of Spades”. And my contribution is a story I wrote specifically for the occassion, “Don’t Eat the Pickled Eggs”. “Wenekia”, by last year’s contest winner, Jeff Bowles and “Gunsmoke” by author Tom Johnson are also included. This unique collection of paranormal westerns have been compiled into the Spirits of the West anthology and scheduled for an October release.

Authors can find calls for submissions or short fiction contests all over the internet these days. If you just look for them, you’re sure to find one that works for your writing style and preferences, or maybe one that offers a challenge and takes you into writing realms where you’ve never before ventured. In January, I’ll be announcing the theme for the 2021 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest, so be sure to watch for that, too. If you want to get your name out there, grow your audience and have people read your work, short fiction anthologies are a great start, or they can be a supplement to already published books. Find one that suits you and submit a story today.