Two years ago, when I wrote my first fantasy short story (well, technically not my first first, but my first as an adult pursuing a literary career), I dreamed of seeing my name on the cover of spec fic magazines. You know the ones... the ones every SF/F writer dreams about. Realms of Fantasy, F & SF, Asimov's, Analog, Baen's Universe, etc, etc, etc. I was, however, realistic in my aspirations. I knew I wouldn't have a story published in any of these larger venues until I got, well, better at writing. But that didn't mean what I had wasn't publishable.
In my search for placement of my stories, I found a plethora of online magazines. E-zines, they're called. Most pay little to nothing, but some of them pay the pro rate as mandated by the SFWA, so for someone just starting out, this is a great way to get your name out there, get a relatively quick publication credit, and get some cash. I submitted to many of these e-zines, but thankfully, none of them accepted my work.
Why do I say thankfully? Because once the anthology bug bit me, I've been spoiled by its sweet venom.
With an anthology, your work is in a printed and bound book, with cover art and typesetting and other cool nerdy stuff like that. It's tangible, and much more substantial than a single issue of a magazine. You can sign it.
Dude, YOU CAN SIGN IT. I cannot express in words how awesome that feels, when a co-worker or someone else in my real life comes running up to me with a copy of MY BOOK and a pen, asking for my signature like I'm some kind of celebrity.
You get to share your name with only a handful of other great authors who all went through the same process as you did and succeeded. They saw the call for submission, had a story that fit or wrote the story to order, submitted and held their breath, and now you're all in this elite writers' club with a unique title... it is forever closed to new members and your membership never expires.
You can tell people, "I have a new book coming out next month," and you won't be lying.
Well, guys, guess what? I have a new book coming out next month. And no, I'm not lying. My fantasy short story that I'd been slightly griping about in past weeks was accepted for the anthology SHADOWS & LIGHT VOLUME II: MORE LEGENDS from Pill Hill Press. This is my third anthology with this publisher.
I HAVE THREE BOOKS. Seriously? That's a decent amount of shelf space. If you'd told me two years ago that I'd have short stories published in three books by this time (and possibly an agent very soon... shhh! who said that?), I'd have punched you. In the arm. But not in a mean way. In a "stop messing with my head" way, because I wouldn't have believed you for a second.
The great thing about this particular story is that 1) it was such a struggle to finish, and I seriously didn't think it stood a chance because I'd rushed it; 2) I wrote the story specifically for this anthology, so if they hadn't taken it I had no clue what I would have done with it; 3) I have a story published in the first SHADOWS & LIGHT anthology so having a story in both is simply amazing; 4) polishing this story into a publishable state in such a short amount of time renewed my faith in myself as a writer who is actually worth something.
Getting a novel published is still one of my ultimate goals in this business. Nothing will compare to that. But in the meantime, I've still got books with my name in the byline. And I accomplished TWO of my 2010 goals in one shot. If you've never considered writing for anthologies (and short fiction is not just for SF/F writers, btw; I'm going to try my hand at contemp short stories next year), then you're missing a huge opportunity to see your name in print.
Do not underestimate how good that feels.
Happy (short) writing,