Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Art of Writing for an Anthology

Good morning, everyone! Audra here. Please welcome Jane McBride Choate back to Seekerville today. Jane has written everything from novels, to short stories, to magazine almost anything else you can imagine. Not only is she a wonderful writing talent, but she's such a sweet, nice person, too. Encouragement is something Jane never falls short of. I'm excited to have her join us today.

Since it's cold beyond compare across most of the country, I've loaded the buffet table with steaming cups of cider, an industrial size Keurig with coffee and tea flavors galore, AND a frothy cocoa maker with whipped cream and chocolate shavings on the side. Muffins and croissants to the left; cherry almond oatmeal on the right. Grab a snack and let's chat : )


Want to take your career to the next level?  Want to earn more name recognition?  Want to have something come out in between books?  Want to gain more respect in the book industry? 

Consider being a part of an anthology.

Being part of an anthology can serve as a prestigious boost to a writer's career. How can you be selected to be a part of an anthology? If you have an idea for one, how can you recruit other authors to join and how can you propose the idea to an editor?  What’s included in a proposal for an anthology?

How do you find out what editors are seeking authors for collections?

-               Get active on social media.  Many editors have their own blogs now.  They talk about current projects as well as upcoming ones.  Sign up to be a guest blogger on other authors’ blogs.  This is a way to get you name out there. 

-               Attend conferences.  Don’t limit yourself to national conferences, though they’re great.  Many regional conferences have editors as guest speakers.  Find a way to make a attending a conference one of your writing goals for the year.   Make yourself known to the editors in attendance.  A great way to do that is to volunteer.  Offer to pick up an editor from the airport or take her to lunch.  One-on-one time is one of the best ways to let an editor get to know you and what you can do.   Conferences are also a great way to meet agents.  If you don’t already have an agent, ask yourself if this is the right point in your career to get one.  Agents are in the know about what editors are looking for.

-               Be active in your local writers’ chapter.  A lot of industry news is passed around at chapter meetings.  Once again, volunteer.  Write articles for the chapter newsletter—another way to get your name in front of editors as many editors read newsletters.

-               Develop a reputation as a can-do writer.  Make sure that you meet deadlines and are pleasant to work with. Don’t kid yourself:  if given a choice, editors will choose the pleasant person over the unpleasant one. 

If you are proposing an idea for anthology, you face a different set of challenges.  First, know what your proposal should include:

-               A list of contributing writers and short biographies, including credits of each.  You will probably  want to choose writers whose style and outlook is similar to your own.

-               Writing samples.  Unless you have a truly impressive publishing track record, it is difficult to sell an anthology concept without samples.   Compile samples of the writers who have accepted your invitation to be a part of the anthology.

-               Synopsis of individual stories.  Make these as detailed as possible.

-               Media contacts.  What platforms do you and the other writers have?  What is your social media exposure?  What are your plans to help market the collection?  (You have thought that through, haven’t you?)  In other words, what can you do to make it easier on your publisher and the marketing department.

-               Competition.  Publishers want to know what similar books have been published in recent years and how they did.  If you’re proposing an anthology of fairy-tale based stories, do your homework and determine what, if any, similar such collections have been published. 

-               Audience.  Be clear about who your audience is and why they would choose your anthology over a similar one.

In addition to answering the above questions, you have other factors to consider as well.   Ask yourself the following:

Do you have a clear vision of the anthology?  What do you want to say to your readers?  If you can’t give a one sentence description of your vision of the anthology, maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board and re-think it.

Have you decide how many authors should be included?  Generally, anthologies have three to four authors.  However, there are collections where there may be twenty or more stories.   (The Chicken Soup collections are a good example.)  Obviously these stories are considerably shorter.

How do you choose which authors to include?  Normally this would be the editor’s purview, but occasionally an editor wants the creative head (that’s you) to suggest names.  Of course you’ll want writers who can deliver a high quality story in the allotted time and whose writing style complements your own.

What is the connecting theme of the anthology?  Do you have the main character of each story receive a letter that changes his/her life?   Will the stories be connected through recurring characters or is the theme the only tie-in?

It’s your job to ask these questions and to know the answers.

Finally, if you are not interested in proposing an anthology but would still like to be considered as a contributor, what can you do to increase your chances of receiving that coveted invitation?

-               Search out calls for anthology submissions on websites such as The Association of Writers & Writing Programs and publications such as CBI, SCBWI, Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Poets & Writers, Writer’s Market, and others.

-               Do an Internet search for “writers for anthologies” or some other combination of the words.  If you find a collection seeking authors, take time to craft your very best submission before sending it off.

In an effort to find out just how being a part of an anthology works, I went to friend and author Amanda Cabot.  With more than 30 books to her credit, Cabot, a popular speaker and workshop presenter, has written both for the secular and the inspirational market.

Choate:  How do you, if you have an idea for an anthology, make a proposal to an editor?

Cabot:  When I was unagented, all I did was call my editor and ask, “What do you think ...?”   Her first reaction was a decided lack of enthusiasm, but three months later, she called and said she’d decided to proceed with my idea and invited me to write the title novella.  She chose the time period for the stories and selected the other authors.  Now that I work with an agent, I approached my agent with the idea and asked her to propose it to my editor.  In this case, I had more than a concept.  I also proposed timeframes, settings and other authors.  Fortunately, both my agent and my editor liked the idea.

Choate:  How do you go about choosing a theme?  Do the characters in each story carry over from one story to the next?

Cabot:  Rather than a theme, I think in terms of a hook.  In the case of Sincerely Yours (April 2014, Revell), the hook was that four women’s lives were changed by the letters they received.  Our stories are standalone, each taking place in a different time period, so there’s no connection between the characters.  Other anthologies have continuing characters.  I haven’t been part of any of those, but I suspect that they’re more difficult to write, because they require coordination among the authors.

Choate:  How do you choose the other authors included in it?  Or how does an editor choose the other writers?

Cabot:  Like so many things in this business, that varies.  For my secular anthologies, the editor chose all the writers.  For the inspirational, I proposed the other authors and, with one exception, my agent and editor agreed.

Choate:  Do you think being in an anthology has given a boost to your career?

Cabot:  I have no concrete sales numbers to prove it, but I’d like to think so.  My theory is that the more often readers see your name, the better.  And being in an anthology with authors whose readership is a bit different from mine can only be helpful.

Choate:  How do you think sales of anthologies compare to full length books?

Cabot:  Christmas anthologies are noted for having high sales, in part because it’s such a busy time of the year that readers are looking for shorter reads.  I don’t know how other seasonal anthologies’ sales compare.

Choate:  What are your suggestions for a writer who has been asked to be a part of an anthology?

Cabot:  It’s pretty much the same as for any kind of writing.  Be professional.  Deliver a clean manuscript on schedule.  And, if your anthology involves connected stories, contact the other authors immediately to begin developing a communication plan.  The last thing another author needs is to be putting the finishing touches on her manuscript and learn that you’ve made changes that will impact her story.

Choate:  What do you think is the most difficult part of writing for an anthology?

Cabot:  For me, it’s the shorter length.  I’m used to having more than 100,000 words to tell a story, and compressing a story into 20 or 25,000 is a challenge.  The key, I’ve discovered is to keep the story tightly focused.  There’s no room for subplots, and secondary characters are exactly that – secondary.

The author of 32 books and more than 400 articles and stories, including 11 for Chicken Soup, Jane McBride Choate has been writing ever since she can remember. Penning stories about love and relationships is both a vocation and avocation for her.

Visit Jane at her blog The Gratitude Project, and for all you American history buffs, Jane also hosts the The Patriot Pages. Both are great reads. Check them out!

AND we have a giveaway! Jane is offering a copy of her latest contribution to an anthology to a Seekerville commenter today.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen: 101 Inspirational Stories about Hope, Answered Prayers, and Divine Intervention


Check the Weekend Edition for the winner!


  1. At 87 my Mon LOVES anthology. I'm quite sure it's not because she wants to make sure she finishes a story before she goes. It's more that she has so many books to read/craft projects to do and so little time. Thanks, Audra for having Jane, and Jane for bringing Amanda!

  2. Great post!

    This line made me laugh, though. "Don’t kid yourself: if given a choice, editors will choose the pleasant person over the unpleasant one."

    I think that can be applied in all areas, for agents and editors and writers and... yeah, everybody.

  3. I enjoy reading anthologies. Especially during a busier time when I want the satisfaction of starting and finishing a story quickly. I just finished reading an anthology this week that the four stories tied together. I really enjoyed it and all four authors did a magnificent job of blending characters.

    Thank you for the post.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  4. Jane, good morning and welcome back to Seekerville! I love to read anthologies... And I always thought of James Herriot as a first-class short-story/anthology author who linked his stories in an overview story...

    But even without the overview story of his life, the stories of his veterinary practice and the town were marvelous shorts!!!! I still love them and that conversational writing style that pulls the reader into a comfy chair alongside and relaxes with them.

    Thanks so much for the info. I think the waters of anthologies are not only a great way to tell fiction and non-fiction shorts, but a great method of expanding readership.

    Wonderful, wonderful!!!!

    And I'm with Virginia on the pleasant people thing! I'm teaching a class right now, and that was part of what I added to the packet...

    Bite your tongue and do the job.

    No one will notice the bitten tongue.

    Everyone on staff will hear about you if you mouth off or argue.

    Right there is reason enough to smile and nod. Besides, being nice, nice, nice is just way more fun.


  5. COFFEE IS HERE!!!!!

    With a totally hot barista that looks like Nathan Fillion.....




    It IS Nathan Fillion!!!!!! Oh my stars!!!!!!

  6. Thanks for the insight on how anthologies get born. I've always wondered about that. Surprised too that publishers wouldn't jump on a proposal immediately when it's an already published author doing the proposing.

    I love anthologies. It's a great way to get introduced to a new-to-me author since I'll usually pick one with at least one familiar name. Christmas anthologies are a favourite -- though not because I'm looking for a shorter story. It may sound strange, but I love the thrill of reading multiple stories celebrating the season -- more Christmas cheer for me. :-)

    Love Amish anthologies too...and Mother's Day and the bride ones that come out in the early summer. And I'd love it if someone did a dog centred anthology. Wouldn't that be cool?

  7. I'd rather talk to a pleasant person too.

    Thanks for such an informative post. I also tend to find myself reading more anthologies at Christmastime.

  8. Jane,
    Wonderful tips today! I just finished a Christmas novella for a three-in-one, which was fun to write.

    So true about readers seeking shorter reads during the busy Christmas season.

    Love your ideas for coming up with an anthology proposal. Amanda's comment about searching for a hook caught my attention. Much easier than having the same location and characters weave through all the stories.

    Refilling my coffee cup.


  9. Welcome Jane.

    Well I never thought about seeking out an anthology. You've given me more to ponder.

    I like pondering.

    THANKS, Jane!!!

  10. I guess we all agree...we like pleasant people, LOL! What a novel concept!

    Marianne, you made me laugh with that comment. Please encourage mom to stick around. And I completely grasp the frustration of so many books to read and crafts to finish. Oh to be able to expand my day!

  11. Time for more coffee and wisdom!!!!!

    (scans the comments, and finds just that!!!! WISDOM!!!!)

    Ha. Youse guys thought I was going to get snarky, didn't you?????

    Silly you! I'm wearing my nice face today!

    Hey, we'r back to bitter cold and snow which is GOOD because I'm writing a delightful Christmas novel and snow fits!!!!

    But I love the idea of a dog anthology. Where's K.C.?????

    And we could get a group to do an independent anthology....

    How fun would that be?

    I love that idea!!!!

  12. Good morning, Virginia! Here's to waking up with a smile : )

    Cindy W. I read one of the stories in the Smitten anthology as a Carol entry. I loved the story and ended up reading the entire book. They blended the stories together so well, I couldn't really tell where one author ended and another began.

  13. Yes, yes, yes! Ruthy is teaching a class! And I'm stalking it!

    She's given us great ideas already on story arcs...and what's this you say? You've edited your class packet?

    To include being nice to people??

    My answer to that? Give chocolate : )

  14. Gotta get ready for work. Jane will be here soon. I've restocked the buffet table, so help yourselves!!

    I'll stop in as I can...

  15. I've read a few anthologies. Once when I was on a plane. It worked out that I could read a whole story one-way.

    One of these days I'd like to try one. Orphan train or maybe Valentine days theme.

    And Kav, I think a dog centered-theme would go over well.

  16. Welcome back to Seekerville, Jane! Thanks for the excellent tips for writing an Anthology. And how to propose an anthology to an editor or agent.

    I've written one novella and enjoyed it. The hook was weddings/brides. Fun to write, but a bit of a learning curve to write tight. Helped to start with a hero and heroine who were secondary characters in a previous book.


  17. I would love a dog entered theme anthology...or story! I have never met a puppy I didn't love, and wintering in a 55+ community with my mom! most ever one has a yorkie sized guard dog!

  18. Who mentioned dog stories? Great idea.

    Cats too! Where's Patti Jo? Probably baking something peachy and Southern. YUM!

  19. Oh, oh, oh, I'm seeing an anthology about the Atlanta snow shutdown of 2014!


    Heading to the dentist. Okay, an anthology set in a dental office. Hmmmm? Maybe not.

  20. I like reading anthologies in between a long novels. Something about the change of pace in the writing...hmmm.

    This was a fun post and I learned some new Tina said, something to ponder and I like pondering too.

    It's one thing I'm really good at!! :-D

  21. << Develop a reputation as a can-do writer. Make sure that you meet deadlines and are pleasant to work with. Don’t kid yourself: if given a choice, editors will choose the pleasant person over the unpleasant one.>>

    Excellent advice!

  22. Thank you, everyone, for being so welcoming.

    I hope at least some of you are in a warmer place than here in Loveland, CO. Even my poor old menopausal body is cold and that is unheard of!

  23. Marianne,

    For a dog focused anthology, keep up with the Chicken Soup collections. They have some kind of pet (separate for dogs and cats) collection every year. Go to and push the "submit" button. It will give you another button for upcoming collections. The first thing I ever sold to Chicken Soup was for a cat collection. Also, Chicken Soup is an excellent place for "inspirational" writers, whatever your subject. The pay is not great, but it is nice to be a part of the collection. My current total there is 14.

  24. More about Chicken Soup: they are currently looking for stories about Angels, Forgiveness, Stories About Mom, Stories by Mom, and Christmas. Once you have an idea, the stories are quick to write. Just an idea for those of you who are looking for a change of pace from writing novels. Sometimes I like to do a "quick" thing, just so I know I have something circulating while slogging away on a book.

  25. Ruth, I like your comments about working with "nice" people. Three years ago, I went through a deep depression and was decidedly not "nice." To anyone, especially myself. I knew I had to find a way to dig myself out of it. Thus was born "The Gratitude Project," a daily blog where everyday I blogged about something I was grateful for. The act of finding something to be grateful for, even during a dark period, was therapeutic. Well, that was probably more than you ladies wanted to know about yours truly, so I'll hush now.

  26. Jane, it was nice of you to share with us how you helped yourself out of the dark hole of depression.

    You managed to keep keep going, and that's brave!

    I've been curious about the 'Chicken Soup' thing—thanks for sharing that bit of information too.

    God bless you, in continued success!

  27. Jane, it's a pleasure to welcome you to Seekerville! I think it would be so fun to be part of an anthology, so it's great to get your perspective and also some helpful tips for how to find out what editors are looking for.

    Wait . . . Ruthy saw Nathan Fillion serving coffee??? Where do I get in line???

  28. Jane, what's your website address?
    I would love to follow you.

  29. I'm ashamed to say I don't have a website. (That's terrible, I know.)

    For anyone interested in following my blog, the address is Though the overarching (isn't that a good literary term?) theme is still gratitude, this year's specific theme is "Joy in the Journey." This is my fourth year of blogging daily. Those who do that know that it takes lots of prayer, inspiration, and just putting my seat in the chair and keeping it there.

  30. One more thing about depression: If you suffer from chemical depression (this is not "the blues"), get help. Blogging about gratitude helped, but I also needed professional help. Don't wait. And if you have a friend or family member who suffers from depression, see to it that they get help. A year or so ago, I did an article for the RWR about depression. It's nothing to fool around with.

  31. Hey, Jane, WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE, and !!

    I have to admit that I've toyed with the idea of an anthology, but that's as far as it gets because I'm not too confident in my ability to keep things short.

    My first five books were 475-511 pages each and the one novella I proposed actually ended up being a 115,000-word novel, so like Amanda, I cringe at the thought of tackling an anthology of 15,000-25,000 words, which for me, is like a first chapter. :)

    But I gotta tell you, I DO admire people who can do that, and your post certainly is an excellent blueprint, so maybe one of these days ... :)


  32. Hi Jane! I would have been here sooner but I clicked on the link to The Patriot Pages and ... kinda lost track of time. But that's okay, it's my break time.

    Lots of good info about anthologies and how they come to be. I thought they were always the publisher/editor's idea.

    Delighted to hear you made your way (with help) out of depression. That is a huge -- like MAJOR -- accomplishment!

    Nancy C

  33. For those of you who love historicals, check out Amanda's (Cabot)new release WITH AUTUMN'S RETURN. It has it all--faith, mystery, and not one but two love stories!

  34. Welcome to Seekerville, Jane!

    I love anthologies, too. I didn't realize it but I always look for them during the Christmas season. I think I like holiday anthologies.

  35. Jane, picking the connection is tricky. I've done three novella collections, which is how I think of them more than anthologies.

    (I might switch though, anthology is a cool word!)

    And picking the hook or connection is the hard part, honestly. And how closely to connect your book...the more disconnected they are the better as far as making them easy to write.

    Great post, Jane and Audra!

  36. I agree--anthology is a cool word. I love the sound of it, the look of it, even the feel of it.

  37. I wish I had come earlier today. Anthologies are great for giving a reader a chance to try new authors and new voices. (My only book-related publishing experience is being part of an anthology, so I may be biased in this regard. :-) )

  38. Jane. You reminded me. We have the current info on Chicken Soup in the Contest update. Find it on

  39. We've toyed with the idea of a Seeker Anthology, but everyone has so many contractual issues it's a pain in the neck.

  40. You know, we can do it.... I'm sure we can.

    Where there's a will, there's a way!

    Jane, I love your absolute honesty. Becoming overwhelmed by emotion is one of those nasty secrets so many have.... but fear talking about it.

    How wonderful that you're open, honest and address it because that's just the example folks need.

    And yes, MYRA!!!!! Nathan Fillion of "CASTLE" is in the coffee shop and he's got that boyish grin working!!!!

    He's rockin' the caramel macchiatos!!!!!

  41. Nancy,

    Thank you for your comments and kind words. Seekerville has the nicest people in it. It's always a pleasure to visit here.

  42. Ruthy and Myra, I love the handsome hero of Castle! But I don't watch the show. Too many dead bodies. Yep, I'm a wimp. LOL
    I also think the pen dripping blood that forms the L in Castle is too clever.


  43. Jane, I'm impressed with how prolific you are with all the books and articles you've written. Any secrets for handling this, especially when life and health issues get in the way?


  44. AUDRA, funny you should mention I read one of the stories in the Smitten anthology as a Carol entry. I loved the story and ended up reading the entire book. They blended the stories together so well, I couldn't really tell where one author ended and another began. as the book I just finished and mentioned early this morning (3rd post) was Smitten Book Club.

  45. About 10 years ago, one of the best ways to break in to some of the CBA publishers was by writing proposals for their anthology call-outs.

    Barbour used to do 4 a year, two in the Spring and two in the Fall. Tyndale had their Heartquest line and also did 2-3 anthologies a year.

    I tried to get my hands on the submission requests and submit to every one of them I could.

    Never made the cut, but some of my rejections were extremely encouraging, and a couple of those submissions turned into full-length novels, one of which I turned around and sold to Tyndale years later. :)

    Every so often I'll get the chance to submit to an anthology and it's good practice. And if it doesn't sale, I look at the idea again, and see if there's a bigger story lurking there.

  46. Pam, that's such a good point.

    I think there's always a bigger story lurking, it just depends on how/why we build it....

    And I find myself staring dejectedly at short stories and novellas, thinking: "But if this was a full book I could do this, and this, and this!!!!"

    Almost as if I'd just gone and wasted an entire book!!!!!

    But short reads are fun to read and fun to write, and God seems to keep those ideas percolating!

    Of course when I run cold, I just think of ways to make fun of Mary, and suddenly my world is a better place!!!!

    (angelic smile firmly in place!)

  47. I too love Anthologies but didn't know how to spell it so have called them novellas. They are great when you cant read alot or need a quick read.

    Im late ended going out this morning and it wore me out completely.

  48. An anthology is several novellas wrapped in one book.


  49. We should do a Seeker Anthology and Indy pub it.

    Someone pick a topic and with 13 of us, we'd have to keep it down.

    Honestly 10,000 words a piece would make a HUGE book. So no longer than that.

    C'mon, ladies. We could each whip up an anthology in a caffeine soaked weekend.


    wow, RUTHY take over. I'm the idea woman here.

    Wait, better way to put it.

    I'm management, you're labor.

    But I will write my book if you tell me what to write.

    Everyone can involve a sickly pet.

    Nothing more bonding that an ailing doggy.

    Okay, how about...everyone gets an unexpected letter. (was that one Jane mentioned, I know I heard that idea somewhere!) LOL

    Oh the books would be totally different.

    Ummm...Every book starts with a sudden storm and someone running into a building to get out of the rain.

    Better yet, inspired by true life, every book could start with someone FREEZING TO DEATH IN THE WINTER OF 2014!!!!!!!!!!!!

  50. Better yet, inspired by true life, every book could start with someone FREEZING TO DEATH IN THE WINTER OF 2014!!!!!!!!!!!!

    As long as it's not ME!

    Besides, if I freeze to death in MS, what does that say about the rest o' youse?

  51. I've always thought it might be fun to try my hand at anthologies. Thanks for a great 'how to'. I'm putting it on my goal list for 2014!

  52. Speaking of CASTLE, did y'all see Kate's wedding dress on this week's episode??? WOW!!!!!

  53. Welcome, Jane! Great info on writing for an anthology. I've written a book as party of a continuity series, but never a story for an anthology. I like your ideas on how to link them to different degrees. I sometimes enjoy shorter reads, especially around the December holidays when reading time can be hard to find. Thank you for the yummy tips!

  54. JANE SAID: "Three years ago, I went through a deep depression and was decidedly not "nice." To anyone, especially myself. I knew I had to find a way to dig myself out of it. Thus was born "The Gratitude Project," a daily blog where everyday I blogged about something I was grateful for. The act of finding something to be grateful for, even during a dark period, was therapeutic. Well, that was probably more than you ladies wanted to know about yours truly, so I'll hush now."

    NO, Jane, I LOVE honest, open people like you and frankly, we need more of you!! My family has been rife with depression, so my heart grieves for anyone who goes through it. I am proud of you that you battled it and came out the victor!

    Onward and upward, girl!!


  55. Mary you could even have it with the historical side and contemporary and even suspense all set maybe in the same town. Just set in different eras. or you could have a family over the ages so they could be in different settings.

    A seeker book would be so cool. I would buy it.

  56. Jane, I see you captured the imagination of the masses! Writing anthologies sounds like a hit with everyone.

    After solving the problems of the 4-H world all day, I come home to see the Seekers conjuring up an indie anthology. Great idea! But like Mary said, with 13 contributors, that's going to be a GWTW length book!

    Thanks for joining us today, Jane. I told them you were sweet and honest...and now everyone has seen it for themselves : )

    Bless you!!

  57. Okay, could have 3 sets of 4 books/novella, and you have the prologue or intro for each book!!!

  58. Hi Jane, Thank you for joining us today in Seekerville. I was just telling a friend today about writing anthologies. She has some great stories. I'll refer her to this post. Hope you had a great day.

  59. Jane, welcome! I'm sorry to be so late. A very interesting post! I think doing an anthology would be really fun. Your info was helpful!

  60. Also meant to say I love the idea of the Grateful blog. I'll be sure to check it out.

  61. I also mean to thank Amanda as well!

  62. Myra, YES! Beckett's dress was stunning. Though I liked the top part a lot better than the bottom. The top was amazing.

    I just don't see them going through with it, though! :)

  63. I do enjoy anthologies. The process is fascinating.

  64. I really enjoyed this topic. With animals, how about helper dogs, cats, monkeys,? Lions, and tigers, and bears. Oh, my!Would love to receive the book.