Monday, July 28, 2014

Some Anthological Questions

We had a discussion recently in the committee of our local writers’ group concerning our next anthology. Every second year or so, the group puts together a collection of writing from within the group, and sometimes opens this to people outside the group. Some years external grant money is available, and this usually comes with some constraints. Perhaps the theme has to be a specifically local theme, or all the writers have to be local. Sometimes we have been able to publish without the assistance of a grant.

Our discussion concerning the next anthology meandered around the idea of a theme and a title. Being the annoying person I am, I suggested that constraining the anthology to a theme generally obliged people to write something new, specifically for the anthology. Occasionally an existing piece might fit the theme, but most often not. This may or may not be a good thing. But there are probably people within the group who like to write in a specific genre which may never fit the theme. Perhaps we could encourage people to submit work they have already written, without limiting the anthology to a specific theme or type of writing (fiction vs. creative non-fiction, for instance).

The other issue concerned the title. As far as I am aware—and I haven’t been around for many of the anthologies—the title has always been chosen before any of the contributions have been seen. The cover, too, has always been predesigned. Again, being annoying, I suggested that this was to put the cart before the donkey. I don’t know about you, but I often don’t come up with a good title until the piece is finished; and certainly not a cover. I suggested that the title and cover should come last.

So I was wondering, what is the general opinion out there concerning these issues:
  • Should an anthology have a theme?
  • Should the title and cover design wait until the collection is put together?

Incidentally, you can purchase the group’s latest anthology, Lost in Mangroves, at (and affiliates) and Createspace:

1 comment:

  1. You asked about anthologies, so here goes. I've had a short story in one anthology: New Sun Rising. This was an international effort to raise money for earthquake relief in Japan, and submissions came over from all over the world. It's an e-book as well as a print-on-demand book. Income from e-books was an important part of making this work financially. I don't know about Australia, but here in the USA there is no money for anthologies. Such money used to occasionally dribble down from the National Endowment for the Arts, but year by year, that source of cash has been shrinking. All funding for print editions of any lit mag is dependent on the goodwill of institutions such as universities, where such magazines often have a tenuous grip on survival. One way such magazines pay for their print issues to to run a contest, or several contests. Contest fees often pay for an entire print run, but it can be a big job for the judges to evaluate the flood of manuscripts. Another way to go would be to produce an e-book anthology and a print-on-demand print edition. That way you wouldn't be out of pocket, and people in your writer's group would still be able to let their relatives know where to find their work.