Five Signs of Auspicious Anthologies

Earlier this week I saw a post over at the blog on anthology submission calls that reminded me of an article I published in our newsletter about a year ago. What I wrote back then still holds true, so I thought I’d reprint it here. Hope you enjoy it–and find it useful. And please add your take in comments: What makes you choose to submit to an anthology call? What advice would you offer fellow writers?


by Erika Dreifus

Quite recently, a popular writers’ site, published an “Ask the Expert” reader’s question about the wisdom of submitting to anthologies, along with Angela Hoy’s response. That exchange left a decidedly negative impression about anthologies, leveling a specific charge against anthologies that require writers to submit full manuscripts rather than queries. It prompted me to think carefully about the reasons I do publish (selected) anthology calls in my own newsletter for writers, and on my blog, and about the aspects of such calls that can prompt me to submit my own work. I was able to consolidate these thoughts into five Signs of Auspicious Anthologies to share with you.

1) SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS. You can continue to submit your poem, essay, or short story elsewhere (only to other publications that allow simsubs, of course), while you wait for the anthology editor’s response. In this respect, practicing writers recognize that submitting to an anthology resembles closely the similarly competitive process of submitting to a literary journal. Literary journals typically require you to submit the entire story, poem, or essay “on spec.” Usually it’s a creative piece you’ve already written. (Unless you’re a pretty well-known and well-published writer, sending a query before writing a story, poem, or essay for publication simply won’t get you very far.) The exceptions as far as literary journals are concerned tend to be for book reviews and interviews, where queries are often required, in part to reduce the chance of multiple writers working on the same material. Check literary journals, including many profiled within’s own market listings, for examples.

2) REPRINTS WELCOME. You’ve already published the piece and retain rights to it? Look for those anthologies that consider reprints (among them: volumes published by Chicken Soup for the Soul, Cup of Comfort, God Allows U-Turns, and Travelers’ Tales). Linked to “reprints welcome” are policies of purchasing “nonexclusive” or “one-time” rights. An anthology should not be seeking “all rights” to your work.

3) PAYMENT. Some anthologies pay more than token amounts–into triple digits. Especially for a reprint, that’s nice.

4) FREE COPIES–PLUS DISCOUNTS–OFFERED. Avoid any anthology “opportunity” that requires you to purchase a copy of the completed book containing your work (as usual, any mention of an anthology “reading fee” should make you wary, too). You should receive at least one complimentary copy. It’s even better if you’re given a discount (50% is not uncommon) on additional copies, so you can sell the book at your own readings and events.

5) IT’S FOR A GOOD CAUSE. We all know there may be moments when some writers may be willing to “write for free.” Depending on your outlook (or checkbook), an anthology whose profits will go to something like Katrina or tsunami relief rather than to its authors/editors may be worth your effort, too.

Of course, you may not find all these criteria within a given anthology call. It’s possible, for example, that an anthology editor may not welcome reprints, but will be happy for you to continue submitting your work to other editors/publications while you’re waiting for his or her response. Or a publisher may seek first rights only but may also pay more for them.

As with all publishing opportunities, you should proceed with caution as you approach anthologies. But it doesn’t seem right to dismiss them altogether.

Anthology publishers mentioned in this article:

Chicken Soup for the Soul
(Note that you can find more information about selected Chicken Soup for the Soul titles at The Publishing Syndicate, where Ken and Dahlynn McKowen offer details about specific books they’re developing.)

Cup of Comfort

God Allows U-Turns

Travelers’ Tales

(c) Copyright 2006 by Erika Dreifus