So far, all of my published work has been published through anthologies, and, as I’d just finished my last Stonecoast residency*, it’s come to my attention that the major drawback of anthology publications is that I can’t really use them as writing samples and examples. Typically, you have to buy the anthology in its entirety to read my story (especially since, so far, I’ve been toward the middle of the book, not in the preview pages) and that’s at least a $10 investment in an unknown.
This got me thinking about the pros and cons of anthology publication and magazine publication (both print and digital). Thus: handy-dandy bullet-pointed list, drawn from my limited experience (and, honestly, the ‘versus’ in the title is more for compare/contrast; neither is better than the other, though it amuses me to think of anthologies and magazines duking it out).
- They usually have a print option, along with the e-book version, so you have a physical thing to show people if you’re, say, at a con or doing a talk or what have you. It’s a thing people can touch and flip through. It has weight. You can point at it and say, “I am in that.”
- If you happen to do open mic readings, there’s a certain illusion of legitimacy lent by reading from a physical book. Well, for me, at least.
- Also, if—like me—you respond well to prompts and challenges and/or find outwardly imposed deadlines something that drives you and your work output, there are many themed anthologies (read, writing prompts) with open calls running at any given time (not all pay, but that’s beside the point).
- Competition ranges. If the open call period is short, or the anthology is relatively new and/or pays little, you might be competing with hundreds of submissions in total, rather than hundreds of submissions per week (this fluctuates! Some anthologies do have more submissions, though those tend to be ones affiliated with a well-known magazine).
- Reprints! Some markets stipulate that they’ll accept reprints but only if the story isn’t currently available online for free.
- That issue I mentioned before about having to pay in order to get a glimpse of a writer’s work.
- Remember that weight-thing? Yeah. It’s literal. When packing for a convention or a conference, the number of copies you can bring is limited by luggage space. It’s either a second pair of pants or extra copies of that anthology.
- Submission expiration date. Anthologies, particularly themed anthologies over series ones, have a deadline, and once that deadline passes, it’s gone. You’ll have to wait for another zombies-in-space anthology to send that zombie-on-a-space-station-existential-horror story, or start submitting it to magazines (which, consequentially, is where everyone else is submitting their zombies-in-space themed stories, too). Often, anthology themes can be extremely specific, thus making the story harder to place elsewhere.
- Rarely themed, though they tend to be genre-specific (eldritch horror or gothic or heroic fantasy or post-apocalyptic dark sci-fi, etc. (check magazine guidelines)). But the umbrella tends to be broad.
- As such, if you’re a writer who prefers to do your own thing, and has little use for prompts, magazines are far more open to anything within their umbrella that piques their interest.
- Links! Like, live (mostly) links! If someone wants to get a taste for your work, all they need to do is follow the link on your publication history/credits/clips page, and there you go! Instant gratification.
- Sometimes, a magazine is both print and digital, or is primarily digital and has end-of-the-year collections that are put out in print. These are usually the higher tier pro markets (occasionally semi-pro, though, and print on demand makes this a more accessible option for magazines). So, best of both worlds? Links and paper?
- High competition, especially for the paying and/or well-known ones. We’re talking submissions in the hundreds a week for some of the big ones.
- You can’t easily promote an online-only magazine publication at a convention or conference. A person (in my experience) is less likely to go to a website and click through the links when they haven’t had the opportunity to flip through the book first. It’s more work on their part. And requires that they haven’t lost your business card between the con and their computer.
- Sometimes, magazines go defunct. And that shiny link suddenly and irreparably goes dead. Which is why I highly recommend that publishing authors occasionally click through the links on their bibliography/publications page and if a link is dead, remove it. Keep the cred, obviously, but I personally find it messy to click through links, looking for someone’s work, only to get 404 pages.
Know of any I’ve missed? Leave a comment, and I’ll add it to the list.