Despite the almost ubiquitous availability of affordable self-publishing these days, sometimes it can be difficult to make your mark as an author. In fact, I would almost argue that the proliferation of self-published works has made it much harder to reach an audience of readers, as they now have a multitude of options when it comes to reading material. With this challenge in mind, one of the ways you can boost your name recognition is through anthologies.
While you won’t have as much control over your written work as you would if you self-published a series of your own short stories yourself, the benefit of an anthology is being included in a book with a number of other authors who have fanbases who might be similar to the people you are trying to reach. In fact, someone might buy an anthology because they know one of the authors, only to find that they really like your story as well, thus increasing your own fanbase in the process.
A great way to get your name out there is to be in an anthology!
I have been included in a number of anthologies over the years, but it wasn’t until this year when I was actually involved in the process of creating one. As a member of the Midnight Writers, we decided to continue releasing an anthology each year. While I wasn’t a part of the group when the first anthology was released, I was certainly excited to write to this year’s theme of “Domesticated Velociraptors.” As we talked with more people, many of them were interested in submitting to our anthology. Originally the core members of the group were going to be the only ones with stories in the anthology, but once we decided to make it open to submissions, our work became exponentially more complicated. Even so, I think we have some of the greatest stories in this anthology, and some of the best ones weren’t even written by the Midnight Writers.
Because I hadn’t been involved in creating an anthology before, it was quite the learning process. With other people’s stories included in our anthology, we had to read each of the submitted stories (of which there were over two dozen), determine which ones were the best of the bunch, and write up contracts to make sure the accepted authors were compensated for their stories. Once we had final edits in from the authors, we had to compile them into a paperback and e-book format, create a cover, and set up online distribution channels. Fortunately for us, most of the Midnight Writers have self-published before, so this process wasn’t too difficult, even if it did require more coordination between each one of us because we weren’t working on our own projects alone.
So, as someone who has had to read through a lot of great (and not so great) stories for this anthology, let me give you the top three tips when you submit a story to an anthology:
- Make sure the story matches the requirements – There were a number of stories submitted for the anthology that we immediately rejected. Why? Because the story had nothing to do with Domesticated Velociraptors. These are the easy stories to cull from the bunch, but it still makes us wonder if the person submitting the story just used a pre-existing story they had written and submitted it regardless of the anthology’s theme. Similarly, make sure your content is equitable to the “rating”. If the anthology is only accepting stories at a “PG-13” level, you’ll probably have to cut out a lot of the objectionable content, assuming they don’t reject it outright. Finally, if your story doesn’t meet the word count requirements, it also might be rejected (however, if it’s a good enough story, they might make an exception).
- Run your story by some friends – While I’m sure plenty of authors are great at churning out fantastic first drafts, some of the stories we rejected probably could have been made better if someone else read them before they were submitted. If you already have an editor, dedicated beta readers, or even some friends who could give you an honest opinion, let them read through your story before you submit it. They’ll probably find weaknesses that could prevent your story from making it into the anthology.
- Simple proofreading – If your story is unreadable because of all the typos and poor grammar, most anthologies probably won’t consider it because it would be too much work to fix. In fact, if these errors distract from your story, you might find that your great idea isn’t accepted because the reviewers couldn’t stand the errata. Before you submit your story, make sure to at least run it through your word processor’s internal proofreading checks. If you see little red, green, and blue squiggles underneath your words, it might mean there’s something there that needs to be fixed.
While these three tips are good if you’re submitting to an anthology, there is a fourth tip to consider as well: don’t be discouraged if you don’t get accepted. There were plenty of stories submitted to the Domesticated Velociraptor anthology that we couldn’t include due to space limitations. In fact, there were even some stories I liked that the other members of the group didn’t. When it comes right down to it, you may still have a great story, but there are a lot of factors to consider when putting together an anthology. Don’t give up hope! Keep the story tucked away and maybe you’ll be able to make something bigger out of it. Heck, you might even be able to submit it to another anthology (if the theme’s close enough)!
Whether or not your story made it into the anthology you submitted to, consider buying a copy to see what other authors wrote for the theme. Who knows, maybe you can become their fan?