Wings of the Stars, part of LT3's A Loose Screw anthology, is set to come out on April 2 and Heart's Tournament, part of LT3's Won't Back Down anthology, will arrive only a month later on May 14. Since I have so many anthology stories coming out this year, I thought it might be interesting to explain why I continue to write for their calls. Read on if you're interested, or go check out the pre-orders for those two books. I've posted links at the very bottom of this post.
Writing for an anthology call is how I got my start as a published author. I submitted Cinder-Elle to LT3's ongoing Fairytales Slashed call in December 2011 and Cinder-Elle eventually became my very first published story. Since then, I have published five stories in anthologies with an additional three to come out soon. Anthologies are so much fun to write and there are so many practical applications that every writer should keep in mind. Here are a few:
1. Anthologies help a writer break into the industry. I'm not just taking about getting a publisher to add you to their list of authors, which can be difficult with some agencies, but about getting sales. When you're a first time submitter without any publishing history under your belt, getting your first story published can be difficult. The prospective publisher doesn't know you or your writing capabilities. They don't know how you'll react to an editor chopping up a beloved scene or even if you'll come through with a completed manuscript at the end of the day. You don't know if the publisher is going to take your work, put it through a meat grinder, and hand you back the abused scraps they're calling a published book. Publishing is all about building trust between author and publisher. Getting that trust takes time and hard work, but once you have it it's invaluable. Writing for an anthology call is a great way to establish that relationship. An author can prove themselves through their writing abilities and their willingness to work with the publisher through the editing and formatting process and a publisher can prove their respect for the author and the manuscript. Because anthologies tend to be short stories an author and publisher only work together for a short period of time. At the end, you both walk away with your impressions of each other and whether that trust can be established or not. And the best part is you didn't have to do it at the work and time expense of a full-length novel.
Getting sales is the next important part of breaking into the industry. When you're a first time author, readers need some sort of incentive to want to buy your books. Frugal readers pick and choose what they're willing to spend their money on. What is going to differentiate you from every other author out there? Name recognition. It really is as simple as that. I'll give you an example. I wrote Cleanly Wrong for LT3's Bestiary Anthology. Anthologies are generally themed and readers who enjoy that theme will buy; they're often sold as a bundle so a reader has to purchase every book in the anthology. Cleanly Wrong was read by everyone who bought that bundle. My sales were very good, but they only occurred because CW was part of The Bestiary. What changed were my sales for The Dragon's Hoard series, which had come out a few months earlier. Readers who loved Cleanly Wrong remembered my name and went looking for other books I had written; sales of Finding the Wolf skyrocketed. Cleanly Wrong was a cute fantasy story, which was perfect to draw readers who love that genre to The Dragon's Hoard. This was also true for readers who prefer contemporary books or other genres. Readers who loved Hadash Aviv, part of LT3's Kiss Me At Midnight anthology, were more than happy to follow my name towards Road to Revenge. I do want to say that I'm not writing these anthology stories just to promote my larger works. I write because I love to write, but the connection is too clear for me to dismiss it. The more you write for different genres of anthologies, the more readers will remember your name and have incentive to buy your single novels.
2. Know thine enemy. Okay, there's a nicer (and clearer) way to say it, but the overall sentiment is true. Who is your publisher, i.e. what books do they publish and what readers do they attract? Is their overall editing ability strong? Do they artfully and cleanly format every story they publish? Again, this is an aspect of trust between you and your publisher. If you've been working on a story for months and years, it's your baby, are you going to turn it over to some schlump? I sincerely hope not! Submitting to an anthology is an excellent way to cheaply analyze the quality of your publisher's final product. Anthologies are usually bundled together into a paperback collection and every author should be given author copies as part of their contract. You have been handed the most perfect quality control manual you will ever get and the best thing you can do for yourself is to sit down and read every story in that book. There will be highs and lows, for example editing mishaps and stories that you wish you had written because they're so good. But now you know: your publisher doesn't have consistent standards for their editors so if you want to continue publishing with them you had better double check your grammar and spelling on your own. Your publisher always formats their books beautifully, so you know that handing over your story to them won't result in an ugly and sad book that no one will want to buy. Every publisher is different, but working with them through an anthology first will allow you to suss out the good and bad without sacrificing your baby. I did exactly that when LT3 sent me my copy of The Bestiary. I had been reading their books for a while, but I sat down and paged through The Bestiary looking for publishing things and I think it paid off. LT3 has their highs and lows, I don't think even they would dispute that, but the best thing I think they've ever encouraged for their authors and potential authors is written right on their submissions page: "READ OUR WORK. Make certain we are what you’re looking for before you submit." That's very good advice and I suggest you follow it.
3. There are bigger fish in the pond and I want to swim with them. This isn't meant in any way to be disparaging to LT3. I love working with them for all that we infuriate each other sometimes. They're nice women who truly and heartily love books and give their full respect to all of their authors and manuscripts. But, LT3 is small. They just don't yet have the resources other, larger publishers do. I expect to continue happily publishing with LT3 for many years to come, but I want more. There are publishers out there with the resources to contract ads or run stories with physical magazines, whose editors and formatting staff have a lengthy history in the publishing business, but who only accept manuscripts from established authors. If you want to submit with them, you had better have lengthy experience under your belt. Can you show them a bibliography with multiple books on it? Would they find your pseudonym if they googled you? Can they check your sales record on Amazon or Barnes and Noble? These are all very important things if you want to break into a larger, more exclusive publishing house. What this means is you need to have many different books published with your name on the cover.
It can take years to publish enough full-length novels or novellas to accomplish any of that, whereas publishers often crank out anthologies every few months. It's considerably easier to write a lot of short, themed stories for a couple of anthologies. For example, Road to Home took me an entire year to write. All of the planning, research, and writing time that went into it meant that if it were the only thing I was working on for that entire year, I would have only the one book to add to my bibliography in 2014. Because I took the time to write six anthology submissions for LT3, I can add seven books to my bibliography instead. That is a statement of hard work and experience that a publisher would appreciate. Even if you only have the time or energy to write one long story and one anthology, two titles on your resume is better in the long run.
4. It's a lot of fun! If you're not having fun when you're writing a story, then why are you writing it? Writing should never be a chore. At the same time, writing requires a lot of tedious research and outlining. Road to Home took forever to write because every few pages I had to pause to check some facts or to make sure the story was staying on track. It was hard to do and I know I would have burned out if I hadn't taken a break. My story for LT3's Won't Back Down anthology was that break for me. Heart's Tournament is a fun story about a pair of twins who steal a pair of twin kittens, only to each be caught by separate guard guilds. I enjoyed writing about their travails as they tried so hard to find each other again. The story was short, as most anthologies are, and sweet. It didn't require a lot of research or depth of plot. It refreshed my muses so that when I returned to Road to Home I could write smoothly again.
Anthology calls are also a fun way to challenge myself. It's one thing to take something in my head and put it on paper. It's another to take someone else's idea and to embrace it and make it my own. Sticking to a specific theme is hard, but anything that requires a lot of work will always result in a lot of growth. Even if my anthology submissions aren't accepted by the publisher or don't sell well, just the act of writing them is reward enough.
Anthology themes can be anything. If a publisher wanted a bunch of stories about death and pain, they could ask for them. Or, if you wanted to write something dark and depressing while still sticking to the theme you could do that. However, most of the time anthology calls are for something fun and lighthearted. I tend to be smiling more when I'm writing an anthology than a regular story simply because the story asks for more fun. How could I not write for as many anthologies as possible?
For those reasons, you should expect to see my name associated with anthology calls for a long time to come. Heartbeat, my story in LT3's Satisfaction Guaranteed anthology call should come out sometime this year. I am also putting together stories for two anthology calls that I hope Riptide Publishing will accept. Once those are done I am hoping to write one or two more for Riptide and put together something for LT3's Lovely, Dark, and Deep call. It should be a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it!
March 1, 2021
Mell Eight is an author writing with NSP. For more information about Mell and her writing, please visit her website: http://melleightfiction.