The big anthology con
I am going to get on my soapbox here and have a bit of a rant, so apologies in advance.
It seems to me, that there are an increasing number of calls for anthology submissions from small presses. Certainly, there are more listed on places like Duotrope, or within the various horror related message boards, than there were last year.
There are a few things that these anthologies tend to have in common.
1: They do not give contributor copies
2: They are all produced by sites like Lulu or Createspace
3: They either don’t pay their contributors, or provide a token payment of about $5 or 1.5c per word.
4: They all cost between $12 and $20 a copy.
Now, as a new writer, I was thrilled to get my first story included in a printed anthology. There was something exciting about having my story in a printed book. It made my progress as a writer seem more real somehow, than ezine publication. I bought myself a copy, one for my parents, and sent another to my sister.
Over the period of a year, I had another two stories published in antho’s – one in a “Best of…” edition, and another that I was asked to contribute to. I purchased my copy, and again, sent one to my parents (my sister lost out due to lack of funds).
Then the penny dropped.
These antho’s paid me a grand total of $10 combined (I donated my $5 fee from one of them to charity). I had spent roughly $100 buying my contributor copies. It was essentially costing me money to be a part of these books. I did’nt mind this too much as two of the antho’s were for charity and Toe Tags was being put together by a couple of writing buddies and I was happy to support it. However, this was not something I could afford to make a habit of.
Now, unlike some of my peers, I don’t have a problem in giving my work away for nothing. Free ezines gave me my start in writing, gave me the confidence to push on to bigger and better things, and gave me a core readership (although, admittedly, quite a small one). These sites are hosted, updated and maintained by people who love what they do, and some of the work on them is very good indeed. I am happy to support these places.
Anthologies however, are something else entirely. I have my suspicions that the only people who actually buy a lot of these books are the people that contribute to them, plus their family and friends. While the ezines are doing it for the love of the craft, these books are, in some instances, taking advantage of the authors. You give your work away for nothing, or as near to nothing as makes no difference. You then pay the publisher for the honour of having your work in print. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few good publishers out there, but there are also some really dodgy ones too.
So…what exactly is the difference between submitting something to an anthology, and just packaging up your various short stories and creating your own collection on somewhere like Lulu?
Out of curiosity, I ran the wizard on Lulu and the cost per book for a standard 300 page paperback came out at £5.50, or £7.10 for a larger book (A4)
That comes in at almost half the cover cost of many of these anthologies – so in essence, the publisher is making between £7 and £13 per book that you buy.
Doing the maths on this, assuming a 22 story anthology sells 2 copies per author, then the publisher is making £308 per anthology. Take off the £5 that they pay each author, and they have more or less £200 left over, with Lulu, Amazon etc taking the rest.
Hardly seems worth it to be honest. You have to wonder why alot of these guys bother.
There are, of course, some other publishers that pay a modest sum for the story and provide a contributors copy. Great! I’ll send my story to them instead I think.
I have submitted four stories over the past year to anthologies of this nature. I have had no rejections from any of these stories.
However, I have also had no acceptances either.
This is because, without exception, every single one of these anthologies has been cancelled, put on hold or simply vanished into the ether.
Three of the stories were reprints, so, to be honest, I did’nt care. I watched with amusement as the publisher announced a new anthology at the rate of around one a week, and announced that submissions were closed and anthologies were put on hold at roughly the same rate. Clearly I am not going to be wasting my time sending them anything else.
There was one, however, that I had high hopes for. It paid semi pro rates, and a contributor copy. My story was as polished as I could make it. The publisher, while a small press, had a good reputation and I was genuinely excited about the chance of inclusion in the book.
Acceptances / Rejections were promised by January. This was pushed back to March. Then I got a mail informing me that my story was shortlisted at the end of March, with a promise that a final decision would be made within the next three to four weeks. Updates were made on the publishers website, stating that acceptances and rejections were being sent out. It looked good. Then, in April, the updates stopped and nothing was heard, despite several of the authors prodding the editor on the forum.
Then, today, the editor announced that he was resigning from the project, and that the anthology may not happen at all. 8 months of waiting, checking emails and forums for absolutely nothing. Another anthology bites the dust.
So, my writer friends, consider this. If you want your work in print, then it will probably be cheaper for you to create your own book on Lulu that you can give out to your loved ones, and have lying around on the coffee table. The “for the love” antho’s are often vanity publishing that you are paying twice the going rate for. Sad but true.
Even anthologies from reputed publishers vanish up their own arses at an alarming rate, or at the very least, leave you waiting for months and months for any feedback.
Personally, I am not bothering with anthologies any more. My work will go to a mix of free ezines and some paying sites and magazines. If you do decide to submit your stuff to an anthology, I wish you the best of luck, but be prepared for it to hit you in the pocket, or for your story to vanish from the face of the earth for months at a time.
Rant over…as you were