At a local writing conference this spring, one presenter talked about how she decide to break into science fiction and fantasy by sending out shorts or flash fiction to every market that she could find. She sold several hundred stories in a couple of years and is, indeed, beginning to get name recognition from convention organizers, editors, and readers.
Like the rise of the pulp magazine in the early 20th century, the new, cheaper ways of delivering story content to readers is sparking off a renaissance of short story collections. Also, like the pulps, these collections are generally built around a theme designed to appeal to a certain subset of readers.
The theme anthology is nothing new. Anthologies built around a shared world, like Robert Asprin's Thieves' World or George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards, enjoyed great popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress anthologies invited writers to break the traditions of sword-and-sorcery style and create tales where the women was more than a damsel in distress.
Today, the theme anthologies stretch from bad-ass fairies to zombie romance. Others ask for stories centered around a certain holiday. Shared world anthologies still come out on a frequent basis, often tied to games set in those worlds.
The publishers of these collections, both small press and large New York houses, have found that a tightly defined anthology appeals to readers hungry for fairies with attitude or zombies with girlfriend issues.
Some theme anthologies are closed markets, with editors issuing invitations to writers already known for their work in a particular market (vampires, urban fantasy, and so on). But other markets, primarily small press, are open to new writers.
Small press editors often mention upcoming anthologies at conventions (especially if you're buying books from their tables!). And your social network of genre-writing friends may offer you other leads: don't overlook becoming fans of an anthology on Facebook or following an editor on Twitter for an early notice of calls for submissions.
Next month, I'll discuss some ways to ease your story from cool idea to finished sale.