Writing for an Anthology
by Barbara Renner
Have you ever written a story that was published in an anthology? If you are struggling through a writer’s block, or just wanting to write short stories to hone your storytelling craft before tackling the novel that’s been percolating in your brain, consider contributing to an anthology.
I joined a group of authors online to write a horror story anthology for young adults. There were about 13 of us (by design), and each author chose a room or area of an old house about which to compile a ghost story. My tale took place in the backyard. My main characters were a young couple who bought an old, run-down house. They decided to use a portion of the large backyard for a vegetable garden. As they cultivated their soil, they were taunted by corpses that rose from the ground. They discovered the house had been an asylum in the in the late 1800s for women who had been banished for displaying depression or post-partum anxiety. Unfortunately, the anthology was never published, and the authors disappeared. Since I spent many hours polishing my story for publication, I decided to enter it into a literary contest. It didn’t win even honorable mention, but at least I had the opportunity to practice my story-writing skills.
Another opportunity to contribute to an anthology has arisen, so I’m encouraging myself to tackle another short story. Publisher, Pink Umbrella Books, is commemorating the
150th anniversary of Little Women with an anthology of stories inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s novel. Stories to be considered will be creative nonfiction inspired by Little Women.
I’ve also considered submitting a nonfiction story to one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies. The story, however, must be a true experience that inspires the readers in some way. It’s not a venue for every author; however, there would be no second guessing as to the validity of submitting a piece to this popular, well-established publication.
If anthologies interest you, but you don’t want to contribute to one that includes other authors, consider publishing a collection of your blog posts. In 2009, I jumped on the blog wagon, and for several years I wrote snarky stories about observations in my life. My friend liked them and suggested I publish a book, something like Erma Bombeck’s If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? I laughed. Erma Bombeck I am not.
I think the initiator of the horror story anthology brainstormed the idea without researching the complexity of the task and tossed the suggestion out to a bunch of authors, who all said, “Yeah, great idea!” “I’m in!” “Woo hoo!” A few of us asked questions like: “Who’s going to publish the book?” “Who holds the copyright to our stories?” But we never received any definite answers, and after a year, the coordinator told everyone the anthology wasn’t going to happen and disbanded the group.
Here are some questions to consider before coordinating or participating in an anthology:
- Formatting guidelines: What is the desired word
count for each contribution? A short story can range from 2,000 to 7,000 words. Will every story be the same length? Other items to consider would be the tone, language, narration style, theme, and formatting. Even though the authors of the horror story anthology knew their ghost story took place in a specific room or area of an old house, they were unsure what time period in which to place their story.
- Legal details: Who will own the copyright to each story? Will the authors sign a contract? Can the short story be one that had been previously published?
- Author pay: Will the authors be paid a flat fee for their stories, be payed per word, or share the retail sales of the anthology?
- Editing: Who will edit each story? Will the authors have an opportunity to revise their story, or does the editor have the final say? I know an author whose short story won 3rd place in a literary contest. Her story was published in a magazine along with the other winning stories, and when she read her printed piece, the editor of the magazine had changed, added, and deleted words.
- Publisher and distribution: Will the anthology be pitched to a traditional publisher or independently published? Who will design the layout? Who will decide on the cover art and illustrations?
Whether we blog for fun, write stories to satisfy our creative urges, or dream about writing the next great American novel, consider contributing to an anthology. Has anyone written a story for or published an anthology? I’d love to hear about your experience.
Barbara Renner and her husband have lived in Phoenix for more than 40 years. As “Sun Birds,” they fly away to Minnesota to escape the summer heat – and to fish. While in Minnesota, Barbara became fascinated with its state bird, the Common Loon, and was prompted to write four picture books about Lonnie the Loon, because everyone should know about loons. However, books about loons don’t sell very well in the desert, so she is writing a new series of picture books about Quincy the Quail. Barbara visits elementary schools as a guest author to read her books and share interesting facts about loons and quails. She’s working on other children’s books and a special book about her yellow lab, Larry: Larry’s Words of Wisdom. Learn more about Barbara at RennerWrites.com, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and GoodReads.