{Feature} Australian Shadows Winning Editor Deborah Sheldon Shares 10 Tips For Getting Published In Anthologies.

10 Tips for Getting Published in Anthologies

Deborah Sheldon

Let’s get my credentials out of the way first. As a fiction writer, I’ve been published in many anthologies and magazines. As an editor, I won the Australian Shadows ‘Best Edited Work’ Award for Midnight Echo 14, the annual publication of the Australasian Horror Writers Association.

And now IFWG Publishing Australia will soon release my anthology, Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies, which features bestselling multi-award-winning authors Jack Dann, Kaaron Warren and Sean Williams, as well as established writers and fresh new voices selected from an open callout. Two more volumes are in the pipeline.

Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth And Babies

A selection of the darkest Australian fiction.

Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies taps into anxieties, painful memories and nightmares. Here, your worst fears come true.

Penned by established authors and fresh new voices, these stories range from the gothic and phantasmagorical, through the demonic and supernatural, to the dystopian and sci-fi.

Prepare for a visceral, frightening read.

For the full TOC for Spawn please visit IFWG

I’ve got some pointers that could dramatically boost your acceptance hit-rate.

Oh, just one more thing before we get started: as editor, I approach each submission with anticipation and hope. Believe me, anthology editors are on your side! They want your story to be great. Sometimes, a story can’t be included because it’s too similar in plot, style or tone to another story already selected. Well, there’s nothing you can do about bad luck, but if it’s any consolation, such bad luck bums out editors too. Other times, however, the story is rejected because the writer has made at least one fundamental and inexcusable faux pas. Assuming that your writing is of a publishable standard, here are some of the most common ways to shoot yourself in the foot.

  1. The story isn’t a good fit. Let’s say I’m editing an anthology about murder. Therefore, murder has to feature in your story. If not, then why are you sending it? Even if your story is beautifully written – even if it’s one of the best-written short stories in the whole wide world – an editor will not abandon his or her own guidelines to accommodate your masterpiece. Make sure your story fits the theme.
  2. The basics aren’t covered. Follow the submission guidelines. Do I really have to mention this? Sorry, but yes. For example, if 1000 words is the limit, don’t send your novelette. If reprints aren’t considered, don’t sub a previously-published story. (Look, I make this mistake on rare occasions; in fact, I just subbed a novella to a market that only takes novels. Whoops! Don’t beat yourself up, but try not to make a habit of wasting everyone’s time, including your own.) And please don’t send the first chapter of your novel. Yes, it’s obvious when the submission is a first chapter.
  3. You went with your initial idea. The anthology’s theme is about old age, so you sent in a story about a couple of pensioners – as did almost every other writer. That’s an awful lot of competition. Instead, think outside the proverbial box. What about historical ages? Ageing animals? Ancient possessions? Don’t take the theme too literally or your story will be indistinguishable from the bulk of the submissions.
  4. It’s overblown. Confession time: when I was a teenager, I’d write a story and then edit using a thesaurus to replace my ordinary words with highfalutin synonyms. I thought that would make the story seem clever. (No, it didn’t.) Trying to look smart is tempting, but editors just want a well-written story. Use your own voice.
  5. Everything is vague. This is one of my biggest bugbears, as both an anthology editor and a reader. Who is talking? What is the sex and age of the protagonist? Where are we geographically? What era is this? In short, what the actual hell is going on? My who/what/where/when/how questions need to be answered at some point in the narrative or else I’m going to pass.
  6. POV problems. ‘Point of view’ is so tricky that it needs an article all its own but, simply put, POV means which character is telling the story at any given time. And unless you’re purposefully writing a finely-crafted story with a rolling POV – which is challenging to do well, yet ever so satisfying to read – please don’t switch between characters mid-paragraph or even mid-scene. Be consistent. Remember, the reader doesn’t share your ‘insider knowledge’ about this story. If you’re not 100 percent sure of your POV consistency, consult with reputable grammar sites until you are sure.
  7. You neglected research. Facts matter. Certain things just don’t exist in the real world. This is important if any part of your story depends on veracity. For example, don’t have a revolver that holds 50 bullets, or a spanakopita made with fish and carrots. An editor can only suspend his/her disbelief so far. For the sake of a simple Google search, don’t bump them out of the story.
  8. There are too many ideas. A story has to be cohesive both in plot and theme. A nervous writer who doesn’t believe in his/her core concept might try to weld a range of ideas to bolster the story, even if those ideas might be better spread across two or more different stories. Do not complicate your idea.
  9. Padding. Trim unnecessary sentences. This is especially true of dialogue, which has to advance the plot, show character, or (ideally) both. Filler dialogue sounds something like this: “Hi there.” “How are you?” “Yeah, I’m good, what about yourself?” “Can’t complain. What have you been up to?” “Oh, not much, what about you?” “Nothing in particular…” And on and on… Don’t do this. Please.
  10. The story doesn’t ‘stick the landing’. Many times, I’ve been on board with a story, praying that it maintains the tension, hoping it succeeds in the last few pages, only to be disappointed. If a story falls flat or the ending is telegraphed too soon, it’s like watching a deflating balloon. My advice? Nothing matters more than the ending. The ending is critical. This is what the reader has been waiting for. Keep working on it until it’s perfect. If you don’t stick the landing, you won’t sell the story.

Deborah Sheldon

DEBORAH SHELDON is an award-winning author from Melbourne, Australia. She writes short stories, novellas and novels across the darker spectrum of horror, crime and noir. She won the Australian Shadows “Best Collected Work” Award for Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories. Her fiction has also been nominated for various Australian Shadows and Aurealis Awards, and long-listed for a Bram Stoker Award. As guest editor of Midnight Echo 14, she won the Australian Shadows “Best Edited Work” Award. Other credits include feature articles, non-fiction books, TV scripts and award-winning medical writing.

For more information on Deborah please visit www.deborahsheldon.wordpress.com

IFWG Publishing

IFWG PUBLISHING was created several years ago by four writers based in the US, UK and Australia. It started as a guild – The International Fantasy Writer’s Guild (IFWG) – and grew to become something a lot bigger. It was based in Melbourne Australia for 10 years and now the Gold Coast, but is truly an internationally owned and run business. IFWG Publishing Australia was created in recognition that many of IFWG’s authors are from Australia, UK and New Zealand, and most of their work is local in content. It was decided that an independently managed imprint be created in Australia to support this significant group. www.ifwgaustralia.com/

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