If you peruse the AIW Press website, you’ll see we’ve published a few anthologies, and we currently have another one in the works. If you’re a novelist, you might wonder why you would ever consider writing a short story for inclusion in such a compilation. After all, it takes writing time away from your ongoing novel projects.
Don’t let that discourage you. There are five advantages to participating in an anthology.
(1) Writing short works helps you hone your writing skills.
When you participate in anthologies, you will most likely have to adhere to a set word count, one that is substantially smaller than that of the novels you’re used to writing. While this virtually eliminates the possibility of introducing secondary characters and developing subplots, it does teach economy of phrase.
When every word counts, writers tighten their prose. They eliminate filler words, passive voice, weak writing, or tangential thoughts—pretty much anything that requires extra words. No um’s or uh’s or well’s. No “was walking” when “walked” suffices. No “walked slowly” when “strolled” captures the mood better. No drifting into a daydream that doesn’t advance the plot.
These things slip in when we write novels, but they don’t really belong there, either. And just think how strong your novels will be when you develop these stylistic choices and apply them to your longer works.
(2) Publishing with other authors helps you reach a larger audience.
When you only write novels, you deprive yourself of the opportunity to work with other authors and have introductions to their fans. Yes, you could participate in novel boxed sets (something I also advocate), but novels are much longer, and if your novel is placed in the back of the set, readers may never get around to reading it.
If you write a short story for an anthology, though, the chance of readers reading through the very last contribution is much higher. Also, in addition to the readers who chose the anthology because of the subject matter, there will be people who read the anthology specifically because they are fans of one of the contributors. This affords you the chance to reach a dedicated fan base of not just one, but several of your peers—an opportunity you otherwise wouldn’t have.
(3) The contacts you make can lead to a larger marketing pool, both now and in the future.
The other authors are going to market the anthology to their readers. This essentially means you get free marketing to a different audience simply because your work is compiled in the same place. It also means you might be able to market a little less than you do for your own singular works, because several people will be sharing this information. (No need to overdo the marketing and make readers tired of the promo.)
But there’s a future benefit, too.
You will get to know the anthology authors and their work. When you have something else to market—for example, a new novella or novel—you can call upon these contacts and request help getting the word out. Perhaps they’ll review an ARC or offer you guest posts on their blogs. And what author can’t benefit from more exposure?
(4) The short story can be used to introduce one of your longer works.
Regardless of the theme of the anthology, you can write a companion piece to an existing novel or series. This can be an excellent marketing tool.
For example, say you have a paranormal romance series you’d like to promote, and you have an opportunity to contribute to a horror anthology. You could tailor your horror story so that it’s a prequel or sequel to the first book in your paranormal romance series. You might even choose to weave in a little romance so readers have a better understanding of what to expect in the series. As long as the story meets the requirements for the anthology, you’ll have a great introduction to your longer work placed in front of an already interested audience.
(5) The short story format allows you the opportunity to explore different genres without committing time to compose a longer work.
This is kind of opposite to number four. Instead of expanding your series offering, you might take the opportunity to try something completely different from what you normally write. For example, a regency romance writer might choose to craft a futuristic sci-fi story.
What do you gain from such a departure?
Well, not only do you get to flex your creative muscles, the departure might actually recharge your batteries and give you a fresh perspective on the novel you’re working on. Furthermore, you may just find another genre that you enjoy writing in and a new fan base should you decide to become a multi-genre author.
These are just five of the benefits to writing short stories for anthologies. Can you think of others? Have you contributed to an anthology before? Why not share your experience with us? Leave a comment below.
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Great post, Staci. I agree with you. I have done a few anthologies, and wrote out of my comfort zone. It does give you a new perspective and appreciation for all writing genres.
I would love to use portions (if not all) of this article in a literary mixer presentation I have been invited to speak at next week. Topic: The art of the short story.
Great list, Staci! I’ve enjoyed participating in anthologies and the relationships formed with other writers has been great.
I do like the idea of experimenting with other genres, although no matter what I do a bit of mystery/suspense/romance seems to come through.
These are excellent reasons to participate in an anthology. What a great, insightful read! I think for me personally, I enjoy anthologies because they’re like “writing sebatacles”.
Participating in an anthology helps me to take a break from my longer works and helps to combat writer’s block by exploring the other ideas that pop up when I’m trying to focus. Giving these ideas life as short stories helps me to refocus on my main projects without starting a new long-term project.
Looks like you and Mae both resonate with no. 5 above. I like that benefit, too. Writing short stories lets me vacation in another world for a while. When I come back to my novel, it’s like climbing in my own bed after a week in a hotel. So comfortable, and I appreciate it more than I did before.
Thanks for weighing in.
These are all great reasons for contributing to an anthology. What I’ve found the most beneficial is “meeting” authors I might not have encountered otherwise, and getting to know them on social media. It’s great to connect and support each other.
I also like the idea of stepping back from a major novel commitment for a brief time to dabble in short fiction. It’s almost like a vacation that usually generates a new creative spark, which in turn carries over into my WIP.
I really like the connections and relationships anthologies afford. It’s one of my favorite benefits.
Thanks for stopping by, Mae, and for sharing your thoughts.