"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Anthologies, Anyone? The Ultimate Guide to Breaking in and Getting Your Story Told

“Everybody’s got a story in them.”---
Would you like to have your personal essays, short stories and poems picked up by a traditional publisher without the hassle of having an agent? Fly to distant cities to participate in fun book signings at minimal cost? Expand your fan base and your bottom line? Enjoy perks and privileges often reserved for celebrity authors?

If so, you should target publication in one of the many popular anthology series offered by publishers, universities, and special interest projects.
For the uninitiated, anthologies are simply a collection of various writers’ works, typically on a specified theme. For example, the hugely popular “Chicken Soup for the Soul” “serves up” dozens of different titles each year, and boasts millions of readers.

My first story on “the virtues of Mr. Wrong” appeared back in the 90’s in an anthology produced by industry giant Simon and Schuster. Since then, I have been successfully published in numerous titles that have provided good pay, prestige, and impressive publishing credits. And you can too!
But before we address how, here are a few interesting things you should know about anthologies.

Browse the aisles at your local bookstore or even Amazon.com, and you’ll likely find a vast selection of anthology titles on an array of themes.

Anthologies remain a popular choice for today’s readers for the following reasons:
  • They are quick reads that require very little time, and allow readers to start wherever they choose, and read as many or as few pages as they‘d like. It’s a quick fix for those with busy schedules, in need of a short diversion or pick-me-up, or even those with short attention spans.
  • They offer a variety of perspectives, writing styles, “voices” and experiences, from authors around the world.
  • They’re inexpensive; prices range from $4.95 to $9.95 typically.
  • They’re entertaining with an added bonus of having a “take-away” message that helps readers to learn important lessons or deal with common struggles.


Though experience varies, depending upon the project and publisher, here are some perks writers of all levels and genres can expect for participation.
  • Good pay. The Chicken Soup Series pays authors $200.00 for accepted short stories and even poems.
  • Free books of your featured work. Typically anywhere from two books to ten.
  • Discounts on future books purchased. Author discounts range from 10% off to as much as 50% off.
  • The opportunity to meet celebrities and network with noted authors. For example, a blogging buddy of mine recently met disco singer Gloria Gaynor, when her essay landed in the diva’s anthology, “We Will Survive!” She described it as one of her most cherished projects as a writer.

HOW TO INCREASE YOUR ODDS OF ACCEPTANCE (and ultimately your bottom line):
  • Follow the submission guidelines to the letter! This may seem like a given, but you'd be surprised how many people overlook this very obvious criteria and
  • are eliminated early in the game.
  • Start with a killer opening. Anthologies are typically very competitive, and you may only have a matter of minutes to draw an editor in and escape the circular file. According to author Linda O’Connell, (who has been published in “Chicken Soup” twenty times) “Anthology competition is tough. Chicken Soup for the Soul receives 1,000 or more submissions for each title call out. Editors whittle selections down to 200 and then select 101 stories for publication.”
  • There’s great truth to the expression: “You only get one chance to make a first impression.”
  • Strike a chord of emotion. Make the reader laugh, cry, or empathize and you're half way there.
  •  Remember to tap into the five senses for optimal results.
  • Your story should have an identifiable beginning, middle, and end--with smooth, easy to follow transitions.
  • Take an uncommon approach to common issues. Popular themes include marriage, parenting, work woes, overcoming obstacles, dealing with death, being
    overweight and aging.
  • Purchase and review a copy of one of the previous volumes of the series in which you are submitting your work. To save money, you can also find quite a few titles at local thrift stores for under a buck. Observe the style, length, titles, and topics of stories included. Does there seem to be a common “ingredient” in writers’ recipes for success?
  • Give readers some type of take-away value. What can they learn from what you've shared? How can it improve their lives or enhance their way of thinking? Or maybe your goal is just to provide some “comic relief.” Assess and apply.
  • Write tight! Eliminate any unnecessary phrases or long winded explanations. Avoid typos and awkward sentences. Remember the “K.I.S.S.” principle.

Like many writing projects, some anthologies pay; others do not. Research is essential to finding the ones that align with your creative goals.

For example, this one offered by “Writers Who Rock” pays $30.00 upon acceptance for stories about cherished memories of grandmothers. See it here: http://www.writerswhorock.com/#/submissionsgrandmas/4571570498
Or this one for YA fiction that pays 5 cents per word:
Though the ultimate goal of any “professional” writer is to earn a decent living, there is something to be said too about being strategic about writing with future opportunities in mind. You just never know what associations or collaborative projects might produce additional (paid) work.

Here’s what a few established authors have to say about their experiences with anthologies…

“If you are writing for a living, anthologies will not pay the bills. However, if you are writing for publication credits and a modest stipend, this is a good way to place your personal essays. Every writer has to examine his or her motives. As long as you do not sell all rights, you can often use the story elsewhere (and get paid) or publish a collection of your own previously published stories. From my experience, religious anthologies comparatively pay less.”---Linda O’Connell--writer, editor, and contributing author to over 25 anthologies
“My first published story appeared in a collection produced by Silver Boomers Books. They paid $10 and contributor's copy. A marvelous perk was when the publishers/ladies were traveling during their work (they're Texas-based), I got to have lunch with them and Chicken Soup Queen, Linda O'Connell. I picked their brains as I licked the last bit of salad dressing off my fork. Getting the chance to delve into why and how they started up their business was invaluable.”---Sioux Roslawski--Elementary school teacher, writer, blogger
“I’ve only heard of paying ones, and I’ve participated in several."
---Susan Reinhardt, Novelist

Periodically lists “calls for submissions” in their classified writing ads. Some projects offer compensation; others do not. Be sure to read the fine print.
 NewPages.com has a collection of different projects seeking submissions with ongoing deadlines. See it here: http://www.newpages.com/classifieds/calls/
 Publishing Syndicate has several series in the works: from dieting to pets, to parenting. For more info, check out their F.A.Q. page here: http://www.publishingsyndicate.com/submissions/nymb_submit_guidelines.html
Chicken Soup for the Soul is always looking for writers to cook up unique stories for various titles. All entries must be submitted through their database form. Details provided at www.Chickensoup.com/
AnthologiesOnline.com offers free articles, interviews and tips for writers interested in anthology publication.
Angiebendetti.com does a monthly markets listing with current calls for entries here:
Remember-- some anthologies even accept previously published submissions, as long as you retain the copyrights.
As you can see, there are endless opportunities to share your personal stories with new audiences, get paid for work you enjoy, and usher in an exciting chapter to your writing career.
Thoughts? Experiences here?


  1. Jennifer--Thanks for the links. The more we know about calls for submissions, the wider area we can cover as we cast our net...

  2. Sioux,

    I greatly appreciate the fact that you let me know this. It takes a lot of time and effort to do this type of post, and it helps when readers write back to share that it's something they find useful. Good luck! :-)

  3. Thanks so much for the info and links, Jennifer. I'd like to break into this area and this will be a big help.

    Hope you are enjoying a great holiday weekend! :)

  4. Wishing you the best of luck in this arena, Karen. :-) The perks are many. My holiday? Stuffed and thankful! :-) I appreciate the feedback.

  5. Jennifer, you are the queen of info. Even when I think I know the subject well, I always glean some tidbit from your posts that helps me to improve my craft. This post was a bonus as you provided submission opportunities. Thanks for the shout out. You are a gem.

    1. Awww, what a terrific compliment! That means a lot to me. Truly, it's readers like you that keep me striving to learn more and give more. :-)

  6. Anthologies indeed do look like an interesting area to develop writing for. Also the guidelines and odds increasing tips, - like for example Writing Tight - is (especially for me) practical advice.

    Today I actually did practice writing a little more tight, by making a large part from a long winded previously published blogpost - that I realised was mostly off-topic - into an other new blog post with a more tightly fitting blog post title.

    1. H.P.,
      Good for you! And great to hear from you today. :-)

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  8. Jen, Loads of good info here. Can't wait to tap into some of your market leads. Thanks!

    1. Sure thing. Wishing you much luck with this, even though you don't really need it. :-) Thanks for chiming in, Sue.

  9. Thanks for this, Jen. I enjoy anthologies because they provide a quick way to hop from piece to piece, written in different voices, but all tied by a common thread.

    Good info here, as usual! Be well.

    1. Thanks, Janette. I value your feedback. :-) Happy holiday season!