Some nice responses on the The Anthology Question blog posted earlier. To answer one point – it’s not that I won’t list the kinds of anthologies I called into question at all. I have, and I will. I am just trying to be select in what I let through to the blog. I look for well-organized operations and those that are connected in some way with a publisher, publication, academic institution, non-profit, or just a down-right good cause. No fee for submissions is a must. Some I list because it seems like good-intentioned editors making a go at being editors and publishing. I don't see a point (yet) in discouraging them, and in fact, want to encourage their energy and efforts. As I get older, maybe I see this as a way to mentor the younger generation in their literary dreams. They'll get plenty of squashing later...
One comment I received supported not only my own concerns, but my sense of humor: “I think you're correct to be suspicious of these anthologies about left-handed mothers of triplets and dyslexic spouses of insomniac electrical engineers. Don't list them. You do a good job with your posts. More is not necessarily better.” (Pat)
From Dinty W. Moore, editor of Brevity :“I honestly don't know the answer, but thanks for asking all of the right questions. If an anthology ‘packager’ doesn't at least have a plan to find distribution, it seems unlikely anyone will read the book other than the authors and the authors' friends. Which begs the question: if a book falls into the forest of books, and no one hears it fall ...”
This note from Dave really takes a stand I hadn’t as fully considered, but have given thought to its merit since: “Good for bringing the anthology glut up, good for you and NewPages right down the line… Writing that’s merely thematic and anthologies of pieces organized thematically is writing that’s typically soulless. The oomph is in the inspiration, not the motive. Anthologies can be worthwhile as literary documents -- think of John Bennett’s classic old Vagabond Anthology out of the mimeograph era -- maybe in the way working manuscripts are valuable, but they aren’t literary creations.”
Evan was as curious as I had been in his consideration of the calls for submissions, and wrote: “What an interesting post! It never occurred to me that those anthologies might just be revenue generators. It's very telling that of all the anthologies you queried, you got only one response. I've seen their listings, calling for mss in the back of P&W, and they always seemed a little suspicious (i.e., 'Who are these guys, and why have I never actually seen one of these anthologies in a bookstore?'). If, however, a well-known and well-regarded magazine solicits for a theme, I might send something. “
Absolutely. This isn’t meant to knock the lit mags who run themed issues. Certainly, those publications are the most adept at being able to work with themed content to create strong, unified, lasting works of literature, since their purpose is, first and foremost – literature, not the experience of the theme itself as an entity.
Erika Dreifus, publisher of Practicing Writing Blog, admitted to facing the same situation in choosing what to post and not to post: “Typically, I do not post anthology calls for projects that a) do not yet have a publishing plan and b) do not pay their writers. And I'm also opposed to anthologies that require a 'reading fee.'" She also posted a thoughtful article on her blog about this very topic: Five Signs of Auspicious Anthologies.
My thanks to everyone who responded; though I didn’t mention all of you here, your feedback has been most instructive in this discussion.