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The Anthology Question

Let’s start the day out with a nice controversy, shall we? Lately, I’ve been running across a lot of “calls for submissions” for anthologies – anything from first-time mom stories to stories from women with diabetes to gay experience poetry and stories to writing from self-abusers – the specialty focus list seems never ending. Now, at first glance, these seem “legitimate” subjects to cover in an anthology, which means to gather together like-experiences to share with others who may be seeking to connect or to understand the experiences of others. So far so good. Where this begins to fall apart for me in terms of legitimacy is when the publisher of the anthology seems to mimic the all-too-famous poetry contest scams (which also seem never ending). That is, the anthology publishes three or four dozen writers, offers a pre-order discount for those whose works are published, and provides no marketing for the book. Basically, all costs are covered and *perhaps* a tidy profit is made from the sales of just those whose work is published. I mean, c’mon – Ellen gets her baby story published in an anthology – how many copies do you think she, her family and her friends are going to buy? There’s at least half a dozen book sales (not to mention putting two copies away for when baby is grown up, so make it eight copies).

Okay, that’s my cynical self. Let’s try the flip side. Anthologies really are a cool creation. They bring like-minded people together, they help us to connect with others in this vast world of ours in which we so often feel disconnected. They put voices out there that might otherwise have never had a chance all on their lonesome and give space to and validate human condition and experience. All good, yes? And let’s face it, it’s not easy to slog through hundreds of submissions and pick out, edit, layout and publish a solid collection of writing. So if anthology publishers do make any money, they’ve earned it for their work in publishing you.

I don’t know. I guess I’m stuck on the more cynical perspective at the moment. Help me out readers – I try to post valid calls on this blog – not wanting to become just another clearinghouse where anyone and everyone can get listed. Are these random anthologies valid? Should they be listed? Would you want to send your writing in to them? Would you list it as a publishing credit on your vitae?

To clarify – I’m not talking about ALL anthologies. Generally, the ones I question are those that are not associated with any other organization or publication, that seem to only publish this one book and that’s pretty much all they do. I also often e-mail the contact people for these and ask them two questions: Who is sponsoring this publication? How do you plan to market the book once it’s published? So far, of the dozen or so queries I’ve sent out, only one has replied answering both questions. The answers? No one and none. At least they were honest.

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Subject line: Anthology blog

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