You may have noticed, especially in urban fantasy, science fiction, fantasy and horror, anthologies are going through something of a surge in popularity. They’re everywhere, from year’s best to theme to reprint to original. Anthologies are great. For readers, they’re a buffet of different stories and authors. For writers, they’re an opportunity to reach a new audience, to write outside one’s normal series or other milieu, to experiment, or expand on details of a book series.
How do I decide when to write for an anthology? I have a few key criteria.
1) Do I want to work with the editor? Is the editor someone I’ve had a good experience with before, or someone I’ve always wanted to work with? When P.N. Elrod called me (She called me! On the phone! Squee!) to ask if I could write for Dark and Stormy Knights, I could not say no, not in a billion years. If the editor is someone I really like and really want to work with, I’ll say yes.
2) The theme/idea is intriguing and I’m looking for a challenge. I’m in an anthology coming out in just a few weeks, Armored. When the editor contacted me about this, I think my initial reaction was along the lines of OH HELL YES. I usually get invited to write for urban fantasy/werewolf/etc. anthologies, so getting invited to write for something like this, so outside my usual camp, was a welcome jolt. Of course I said yes. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of thinking, “that sounds like fun.” (And this is why it’s often hard to say no. Sometimes, they all sound like fun! So I wait for that jolt to brain to make me say yes.)
3) I already have a story written or in mind that’ll fit. For the Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance, I already had a story written that I adapted for the market. I’ve used anthology invitations to give me an excuse to write stories I haven’t had time to write otherwise (that’s how I finally got around to writing T.J.’s origin story for Running with the Pack).
I’m always going back to that “learn to say no” goal. Right now, “that sounds like fun” usually isn’t enough to get me to say yes to an anthology. I’m trying to limit how many short stories I commit to writing each year to something like 4 or 5. I don’t want to commit to something half heartedly, because I want to leave one of those slots open for those golden opportunities that sometimes come along. That emergency call from a prestigious editor who had an author drop out of an anthology at the last minute and therefore needs a story right now — which is how I got into Warriors.
These days, most of the anthologies I write for are by invitation. But my criteria weren’t much different when I was sending stories out to anthologies with open submission policies and a slush piles. Was it prestigious? Did I like the editor? Did the idea intrigue me? Not a bad set of guidelines for any kind of market, I think.