June 8th, 2006


Anthology Invites

When I was doing Heroes in Training, I received several polite "No thanks" e-mails from some of the authors I'd invited to participate. I remember thinking how nice it would be to get to that point.

Earlier this week, I got a third anthology invite. After a dry spell of many months, I had three of these suckers in the span of two weeks. And, though it pains me to say it, I think I'm probably going to have to decline this latest one. I keep trying to convince myself I can do it, and I probably could. But I'm already stressing about the other two, I've got to get started on Goblin War, and the odds are very, very good that I'll soon have to do some editing on Goblin Hero for my editor.

To which most of you are rolling your eyes and pantomiming the mournful dirge of the world's tiniest violin. Yeah, I know. I'll shut up about it now.

Instead, I had mentioned to a few folks that I'd be happy to share what I knew about getting in on the invite-only action. I thought I had done this before, but I couldn't find it. Could be that was over on the Rumor Mill, not LiveJournal. So I apologize to anyone who's heard it before.

And I'll warn you up front, I don't know a lot. Other folks have had far better luck than I have, or have been doing it for much longer. (And for those of you reading this, please feel free to chime in and share in the comments.)

Anyway, this stuff started for me around 2003. I'm just going to spell out what I've done over the past 3 years or so. Hopefully, it will be helpful to some of you. And having talked to the editors in question and gotten their permission, I'm going to make this public. So please feel free to link, if you think it's useful...

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So what conclusions do I draw from all this?

  • Your odds are much, much better if you already have some pro-level sales under your belt. If you can prove you're able to write professional quality stories, an editor is much more likely to take a chance on you. If the editor has actually read and liked your work (thank you, GoblinQuest), you're even better off.

  • Networking is important, much as I hate to admit it. And editors talk to one another. So to authors. Authors talk to editors, too. So be nice.

  • When you get the opportunity to do this, be a pro. Don't blow the deadline. Don't turn in a dusty old trunk story (unless you revise the heck out of it to make it shiny and brilliant and new). Be polite, and show the editor that you're someone they'll want to work with again.

  • There are no guarantees. This is what's worked for me, and it's been bumpy. I had three invites in the past few weeks. But I've had months go by with none.

  • I've never had an editor get mad at me for politely asking if they'd consider me for a project. Don't push, don't nag, and don't pout if they say no or ignore you. Remember, the worst they can say is no. Personally, I don't feel like a big enough name for editors to notice, but I've also learned that the really big names are often too busy to write for these things, which means they need us. (Insert maniacal laugh here.)

  • Make your story stand out. If three people write a story based on the same idea, there's a chance the editor will buy all three. There's also a chance they'll pick one and bounce the other two.

  • Invitations aren't guarantees. Eventually, depending on the editor, there starts to develop an assumption that if you're given a full, official invite, they're probably going to buy the story. But never take it for granted, especially in the beginning.

  • There are a lot more authors wanting to write for anthologies than there are anthologies. It's frustrating, but true. I've been told the anthology market has dried up a bit in recent years. I'm not trying to discourage anyone, just sharing what I've been told.

That's where I'm at, and what I've learned. I'll be very curious to see if selling the goblin books to DAW results in new invitations, once the books come out.

So ... questions? Comments? Shouting and screaming over something I wrote that's stupid or flat-out wrong?

I'm thinking of a follow-up to this. "From the Editor's POV." A few of the editors shared some thoughts when I contacted them, and I've got a few things of my own from doing Heroes in Training. But I'll save that for another time.