A Tiny Indie Editor’s Guide To Writing Call for Submissions

I strongly believe that being indie is no excuse for not running an overall smooth show. Sure, you’ll run into hurdles. Everyone has unexpected issues. But if you mean to publish other writers, it is your responsability to gather as much information as you can before launching into your project. Know the business, even if you never ran it yourself.

So this post is a sort of… run through of what I know about building anthologies. I’ve talked about my experiences with Wings of Renewal twice in the last two weeks, in two totally different contexts, and it made me realize I’d never truly put all of this in a blog post. Better late than never?

Here is my own “How To Write Your Anthology’s Call for Submission”

Start with your general anthology concept. This should be a pitch—something to hook both future readers and potential writers. A good initial pitch shows you’ve thought about your marketing strategy and know where the heart of your project lies.

Example: Our Wings post a) asked for stories that explored dragons in a solarpunk environment and blurred the lines of science-fiction and fantasy, and b) explained solarpunk as a genre and provided links for further exploration. 

Introduce yourself. (This can go at the bottom too). We love to know a bit more about our editors–who they are, and what kind of credentials they bring to the table. This is twice as important when you don’t have a publishing house backing your project: your reputation is all you have to convince people to trust you. If you’re a group, it can be useful to define roles too!

What kind of stories are you looking for? This section includes elements such as genre, tone, theme, and age range, but also acceptable length and whether reprints are OK. If you accept both fiction and non-fiction, give guidelines for both. They are widely different things and treating them separately keeps your call for submissions clean and easy to understand.

Who can submit to your anthology? Do you want stories from everyone? Are you seeking a type of voice in particular (such as a specific marginalized group). It is always good to be unequivocally clear about welcoming diversity. Research wordings people have considered red flags and be extra careful). This is also a good time to mention “anyone who can legally consent to giving publication rights of their work”.

What is the pay, if any? Always be clear and upfront about this. If you take reprints and non-fiction, don’t forget those either!

When and how to submit? Make sure this information stands out. People will seek it out immediately and refer back to it frequently. Clarify:

  • The exact time your submission period ends (as in, a timezone is very handy here)
  • How to submit (e-mail, submittable, etc.?)
  • Are multiple submissions acceptable
  • Are simultaneous submissions acceptable
  • What formats (doc, rtf, etc.) are acceptable
  • Any further formatting guidelines

Publishing business information. I recommend covering a few additional topics in your call for submission, such as the rights you intend to ask and by extension, what formats you plan to release the anthology in. If you can, estimates of when you expect it to be ready are good, too (I strongly recommend vagueness and a solid buffer here XD).

Letting writers know when to expect an answer to their submissions can also ease a lot of anxiety, but here too, it’s best to be honest (don’t promise an answer rate unless you’re fairly convinced you can hold it).

When we built Wings of Renewal, we tried to stay in fairly frequent communication with our authors, letting them know important news as they came and keeping them updated on the general progress. “Professional but approachable” is not an easy line to walk, but I love when I get that feeling from my editors (shoutout to Ink & Locket for achieving it during the Warrior Anthology!).

So that’s my summary! I’m sure I forgot elements–there is always something else. So revise your call before posting it and make sure you are ready for questions!

More than anything, talk to people who have done it before. Both anthologies and kickstarter, if you mean to fund yourself through that. Most are super willing to help, and you’ll avoid pitfalls through their experience! I hope this helps would be anthologist get their projects ready, and bring more awesome fiction to the world!

Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment! The more info, the better!

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