Tips about Anthologies: 7 Things

Here continues the series 7 Things—basic lists for editors and writers. (Why 7? And why lists?) Each list is to help writers and editors think about 7 basic characteristics and questions to consider for 1 form.

1. What will define the anthology? Is it a theme? subject? genre? What is the scope? What selection criteria will be used? For example, will the anthology offer readers the
– best new English-language writing about zombies from young writers in North America?
– best new travel articles published last year?
– really neat, new writing on the theme of gardening [or bicycling or composting] that no readers have seen before?
– 25 great new and old short stories for Canadian students of English literature to learn about this form?

2. Will the anthology include previously published material to be reprinted or new, never-before-published writing?

3. Where or how will the selections be found?
– If selections are to be previously published, where will you research possible selections?
– If the writing will be new, how will it be solicited? As the anthologist/editor, will you solicit the writing in an open call (for example, announced in zines for writers of zombie fiction) or solicit by inviting your favourite authors to submit new work? Will you work with the author to develop and edit first-draft writing so that it becomes publishable?

4. Who is the targeted reader? What will this anthology do for this reader? For example, is the reader the devoted fan of baseball stories and will the anthology showcase the newest writing from the reader’s favourite baseball writers? Is this the anthology to introduce readers to haiku?

5. What’s the mix of selections and how do they flow? Anthologies necessarily have a mix—for example, historical and current travel writing, writing by new and established authors, or articles and stories and poems and cartoons about dogs. In the category of writing for the anthology, how can you get a good mix? a balance among subcategories? an admirable and defensible range of selections? If the anthology is to be published in a traditional paper format, what will come first? second? last?

6. Nitty-gritty: How many selections are wanted and/or what’s the page count? What’s the schedule for proposing the anthology? researching and/or soliciting selections? evaluating selections? creating a tentative line-up? permission and payment? editing? publication? What publication rights must be asked for? What payments will be made and when? by whom? What additions will be made to the selection line-up and when—for example, an introduction? notes about contributors? bibliographies of more readings? illustrations? an index by first line of poetry?

7. Reality check—check again: How does each selection meet the criteria? As a collection, does the group of selections fulfil the promise set out in #1? Does the anthology offer range and variety? Is each selection up to the standard set by the others? Compared with other anthologies available to readers, how does this one stack up—how is it different? better? fresh?

For more about anthologizing, Anthologists Discuss Their Craft delves into the process and sometimes strange experiences of creating collections.


© Laura Edlund 2010