How To Get Invited To Anthologies

With Not Our Kind in the funding phase (have you backed it yet?), friend of Alliteration Ink (and an author I’ve published before) Justin Swapp asked a very smart question on Facebook:

How can we find out about your upcoming anthologies while you are still looking for authors?

This is a good question, because I’ve never done a purely open-call anthology (yet).  There’s always been a large “invitation” component, and few (if any) open submissions.

You probably know what an open call for submissions is;  usually with invitations, an editor (or more properly, anthologist) will invite authors they know, have worked with, or want to work with to submit stories for an upcoming anthology.

Usually the anthologist will ask somewhere around twice as many authors as they actually need – quite a few invariably have to decline for whatever reason, others may have to bow out, and a few may simply write a bad story.  But because you’re (largely) working with professionals with a good track record, there are few bad surprises.

This can seem like it’s an “Old Boy’s Club” (and we know how I feel about those), but it is not.  This is a purely practical matter.

Reading open submissions (often called slush) is hard and tiring.  Developmental editing is hard and a lot of work.  It can be very rewarding… but it can also be a colossal time sink.  Many anthologists don’t want to work with open submissions at all.

So what’s an aspiring writer to do?

See what you can do about getting your work noticed by an editor or anthologist.  As a publisher, I leave nearly all aspects of story selection up to the anthologists and editors of anthologies, so e-mailing me directly to be in an anthology is not going to help much.

When you contact the anthologist – either by e-mail or at a convention – be polite, clear, grammatically correct (you would be surprised), and don’t be pushy.

At Context for the last few years, we’ve had a flash fiction contest.  Several of the participants (and not just winners) were contacted afterward by myself or one of the anthologists I work with because we saw a sample of their work.   It was exactly this process that got me my first professional sale!

If you already have a professional contact with an anthologist or editor, it is okay to drop a single, polite email to the effect of “If you have any projects coming up or need a pinch-hitter for an anthology, please consider me.”

The key – as with any such contact – is to be polite, formal, and not pushy.

I highly recommend Jennifer Brozek’s Industry Talk (Amazon|B&N|Drive Thru Fiction) not just for those who wish to be anthologists, but if you want to better understand what anthologists are doing behind the scenes.

And, of course, you could always back Not Our Kind.  Not only do we have an already-stellar lineup of authors, but our first stretch goal is adding an open call for submissions!


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