Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Is the Anthology Dead?

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive: 101 Inspirational Stories about Counting Your Blessings and Having a Positive AttitudeSomeone 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.

The Best American Short Stories 2010 (The Best American Series (R))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?


Sioux Roslawski said...

I am planning on submitting a piece for a Chicken Soup book within the next few months, so I hope those last for a while.

I like reading anthologies because I don't always have the time to keep the momentum going with a novel. I'm too busy to keep up with it. But an anthology is different. They are what I call "bathroom books." You can keep one handy, and read a bit here and a bit there, and if it's a week or two between readings, that's okay...

Nancy said...

I've had a lot of my creative nonfiction published in anthologies, eleven in Chicken Soup books. But there have been several others as well, all paying markets. Among them are Guideposts which has several series of anthologies, Thin Threads which deals with stories about life-changing moments, Silver Boomer Books which has a new one coming out very soon called "Flashlight Memories" and the HCI Ultimate series, which, I believe is somehow affiliated with Chicken Soup publishers, but not absolutely sure on that. All these I've listed pay.


Hope Clark said...

Excellent, Nancy. More resources are always great. I've posted the HCI series before - forgot about them.

Karen Lange said...

I've not written for anthologies, so appreciate the info. Thanks a bunch!

ML Awanohara said...

I have to admit, I don't enjoy reading anthologies these days, just as I don't enjoy reading nonfiction edited volumes.

Julie Nilson said...

This is just sort of a general impression, but it seems like there are still a lot of genre-specific anthologies--best sci-fi stories of 2010, women mystery writers, etc.

I've just recently gotten into professional fiction writing, so I guess I never thought of anthologies as a way to make a living. To me, they seem like a way to get your name out there, and to be able to fill in that "I have been published in..." sentence in query letters to agents!