Someone queried me recently, asking if she could write an article for FundsforWriters about anthologies. It used to be a fairly evergreen topic I published once a year, so I said sure. You see, I had noted a new trend with anthologies, and I was hoping this writer had access to new markets I knew nothing about. She soon write me back, lamenting the fact that there were so few anthologies out there anymore.
Yep, that's what I thought.
Anthologies are not the gift of choice anymore - at least once you get past the Chicken Soup books. They are still alive and well, running 8-12 new titles each year. I've published in four. They are solid stories with a well-conceived brand. They'll be around for a while. The other anthology series are gone.
Cup of Comfort released its last book, Cup of Comfort for the Christian Woman, last month - February 2011. From the website: "As of January 1, 2011, Adams Media will begin the gradual process of retiring the Cup of Comfort series and online community."
It's quite sad to see the various content mill sites like Suite101 and eHow still tell writers that they can gain experience and clips through anthologies "like Chicken Soup and Cup of Comfort." Then they don't list any other anthologies. Anthologies have changed.
Today you still find anthologies, but you do not have companies that specialist in anthologies anymore. What you have is more of a literary journal now. A compilation of stories, poems or essays that have moved from the commercial marketplace to the more literary marketplace. A more upscale anthology, if you will. The downside is they rarely pay, as is the case with more literary publishers. I'll leave that ethical argument for another blog post, but the reality is that anthologies do not pay anymore.
They also rarely repeat. You don't find Chicken Soup and Cup of Comfort companies anymore that spit out one theme after another. Many anthologies are one-time entities. They are also now used as fundraisers. Announce some natural disaster or another, and soon you find a half dozen calls for submissions for anthologies. They don't pay because all proceeds go to this charity or that. Schools use them. Small presses use them. Writing groups create them. In reality the money is miniscule, paying little more than the cost of publication. Like literary journals, sales volume isn't there.
That said, some anthologies give you credibility, like Great American Short Stories . And occasionally an academic press will publish a collection, or a cultural group will represent key writings of emerging and known writers.
Just realize that the days of relying on anthologies like Chicken Soup for an income are over. Consider anthologies for writing practice, to put your name before well-known editors/publishers, or for fun, but don't expect them to pay your way anymore.
NOTE: How do you envision anthologies? Worth your time or not? And do you like reading them?