What is an Anthology and Should You Write One?

In today’s market, there are plenty of ways a writer can publish manuscripts. Novels, novellas, or a digital serials are just a few that you can self-publish right now. Today, though, we’re going to go over writing an anthology.

Depending on who you are, these might even be easier to produce than some of the others I just mentioned. Especially if you are the type of writer who has a hard time maintaining focus on one specific topic for months at a time.

I know there are days when I just want to write something else.

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What is an Anthology?

An anthology is essentially a collection of literary works, most notably poems and short stories, in a single book. These written works don’t necessarily need to be of the same genre, or even by the same author.

In fact, there are quite a few anthologies out there that are more of a mixed bag of content by different writers.

I, myself, entered a Vocal Media contest where they will pick 25 authors to add various stories to an upcoming book. Most of which will consist not only of different authors but different genres of work.

An anthology can consist of fiction or non-fiction tales depending on the book’s overall purpose. So, you could write an anthology of pilot experiences in World War II, for example. But you don’t want to mix fiction and non-fiction in the same anthology.

Anthologies can also be in reference to musical collections on the same album, but we’re focusing on writing in this article.

What’s an Example of Anthologies?

There are a lot of examples of anthologies out there. Currently, I’m reading a book by Stephen King called, “Night Shift.” It is a book containing 20 short stories by the author.

It’s also an incredibly old book, so I am careful when turning the pages. My copy was printed by Signet in 1979.

In fact, most horror novelists I’ve read have anthologies of some kind.

Another example, again by Stephen King, is “Creep Show.” Not only is Creep Show a comic book, but it was also a movie anthology.

What is an Anthology Series?

An anthology series is a bit different than a regular anthology as it can span across a series of books. This series is usually tied together by a common element such as a location, setting, character relationships, or group of people.

Sometimes the anthology series can follow a main character, but it’s not very common as those usually turn into a normal sequel series of books.

The principle idea behind the anthology series is one that is connected through other means aside from a main character. It can also stand on its own without someone needing to read the rest of the series.

For example, the “Twilight” books aren’t technically an anthology series. They are part of a normal series in which the story unfolds through a sequel of the previous book.

However, the “Tales from the Crypt” comic book series can be considered an anthology series because:

  • Every story is unique to the horror genre. This is the primary connection of the particular anthology series.
  • Each can stand on its own without needing to be read chrologically. You won’t get lost if you missed something about a plot or character from a previous book.
  • They are connected by two distinct elements: the Crypt Keeper and his tomb. Neither of which plays a roll in the plot of the story.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from understanding an anthology series is that each installment is a standalone tale. You don’t need to read anything before in the series in order to prevent you from getting lost in the plot or character development.

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5 Benefits for Writing an Anthology

As an author, I’m interested in all kinds of ways to tell stories. At the moment, I’m even toying with the idea of publishing a Kindle Vella serial.

However, anthologies have always been one of my favorite types of books. Especially ones with different authors. I find it interesting to experience different styles in a single publishing.

So, let’s take a look at a few of the benefits of writing an anthology.

1. Great for Quick-Fire Authors

An anthology is great for those authors who can crank out short stories in rapid succession. In many cases, it’s simply easier as you have to do far less world-building, background character development, and subplots.

Well, unless you’re planning on doing a series as I mentioned above.

Still, even with an anthology series, less background work needs to be done per plot outside of your connected element.

2. Putting Your Older Stories to Good Use

A lot of us have a folder or notebook full of short stories we’ve jotted down over the years. Why not polish them up a bit and put them into a book?

I know a lot of authors who could probably crank out several volumes of short stories because of what they held onto over the years. I, personally, have several folders full of quick ideas I could easily flesh out.

Anyway, it wouldn’t take much effort for you to go through those older stories and give them new life in a single book.

3. Can Lead to Much Bigger Projects

Anthologies don’t have to be one-and-done published pieces. In reality, those short stories can be just as flexible as a full-length novel in terms of expansion.

Especially if the majority of your fans like a particular story in the anthology.

Take a look at Night Shift, again. Do you know how many movies came out of that book? The movie, “Cat’s Eye” mostly came out of Night Shift.

Coincidently, Cat’s Eye would be considered an anthology series as it follows the journey of a cat from one story to the next.

I’m not saying you’ll luck out and someone will want to make several movies or a series out of your book. But it can help by giving you a jumping point into a much larger project or expanded series of books.

4. Collaborations with Other Authors

You don’t have to write the anthology all by your lonesome. You can merely be the publishing force behind gathering up quite a few authors to write different stories in the book.

Take that Vocal Media challenge I mentioned earlier, for example. The 25 winners of that challenge will have their work published in Vocal’s book. So, 25 stories, each from a different author, and published by a third party.

That’s one hell of a collaboration.

You don’t need to have a slew of writers at the ready, though. You and a friend can simply write a handful of stories each for the book and publish it.

5. Future Marketing Purposes

Perhaps you’ve written a handful of novellas and published them individually. You can turn those pieces of work into an anthology quite easily.

For instance, “The Essential Shakespeare Tragedies Collection” is an anthology consisting of five of the author’s greatest plays. Each one is a standalone manuscript.

My point is that you can collect those novellas you’ve put out and produce a collected works edition.

The best part about this is that each has already been written and edited. All you have to do is put them into one book.

That, and hope your fans want a collection to read.

How Many Stories Should an Anthology Have?

The rule of thumb for many is that anthologies should have around 20 stories.

This is according to “expert” averages, mind you. Some of my favorite books had fewer than six. The Shakespeare anthology I mentioned earlier has only five.

It really comes down to how big you want the book, the length of your average stories, and how many tales you want to include for your readers to enjoy.

For instance, I’m working on polishing up VII before publishing it. The book has eight individual stories connected by a common element.

Essentially, each story will be just a bit shorter than the average novella.

In the end, there really is no quantifiable, magic number for how many stories you should put into an anthology. It mostly comes down to you and your target audience.

However, you probably don’t want to do more than 20, shorter-length stories. It is possible to have too much of a good thing. It may even make the book feel too long.

Not to mention if you’re trying to fit a certain number of stories within a specific number of words. Too many stories means each one will lack context as you try to slim them down to fit.

What Style of Novel Are You Planning?

With everything that is available to you today, especially when it comes to self-publishing, what kind of books are you planning to publish?

I tend to jump around all over the map, so I don’t know if I’ll ever be recognized for a specific genre or style. Yet, I do enjoy longer pieces consisting of gothic horror.

Eventually, though, I would like to put out an anthology or two.

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Michael Brockbank

Michael has been a freelance writer since January of 2012. He has completed more than 8,000 jobs for a variety of clients ranging from animals to travel. Currently, he is the Content Marketing Team Lead of GreenGeeks Web Hosting.

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