What Is an Anthology?

What is an anthology? An anthology is a collection of writings. They are generally thematically related and can be essays, short stories, poems, or other types of writing.

Anthologies offer great opportunities for both writers and readers. Someone who writes short fiction, for instance, can find opportunities to publish their work. A reader who is a fan of science fiction, horror, or another genre, gets the chance to read new work from several authors all in the same niche.

The History of the Anthology

What is an anthology?

The anthology gets its name from the Greek language. “Antho” translates as “flower,” while the Greek word “logia” means to gather or collect. This makes anthologies, metaphorically, a collection of flowers.

While the word did not appear in English until 1624, the idea of such collections is much older. The early work Anthologia Graeca, for instance, is an ancient Greek includes a collection of poems that span the Byzantine and Classical periods of Greek history.

Types of Anthologies

While it's common to think of anthologies just in terms of fiction, many types of writing can be included in one. A poetry anthology, for instance, will contain a collection of poems. There are also anthologies of essays and memoirs. Anthologies can contain works from different authors or a single author. However, anthologies with a single author are more often described as “complete works.”  

Examples of Anthologies

What is an anthology?
Anthologies can contain works from different authors or a single author

Anthologies are created by big publishers and small, in areas of all kinds. Most people have read at least one, either for pleasure or as part of their academic studies. A few well-known anthologies include:

The Norton Anthology of World Literature

This collection of literary pieces includes literary works from all over the world. The anthology contains work from authors in Spain, Egypt, China, America, and other countries. Stories are from a wide span of time and include both classical and modern works.

Chicken Soup for the Soul

This is an anthology series that focuses on short, uplifting memoir-style stories. Each compilation is centered around a different theme. Some are geared toward dog lovers, others target the experiences of students or parents. A new compendium comes out roughly every month. There are nearly 300 different books in the series.

The Best American Short Stories

Every year, a well-known author serves as anthologist for this English language anthology series. It compiles great American short stories. Past editors have included Masterclass instructor Amy Tan and John Updike.

Tips for Contributing to Anthologies

Authors who are just getting started can get great exposure by contributing to anthologies. Adhering to a few best practices can increase your chances of getting your work noticed and accepted.

First, if you are contributing to a new edition of an existing anthology, read a few pieces from previous years. This can help you ensure that your writing is the right fit for this piece.

Work on creating something that stands out from other writers published in that anthology. Look for original spins on a theme; work that is too derivative has a low chance of being published.

If a piece is not picked up, look for other anthologies that might be a good fit. You may need to update or edit your piece to make it work for a different anthology.

Advice for Compiling and Publishing An Anthology

With the ease of self-publishing on Amazon, anyone can be an anthologist now. Anthologies are challenging for indie authors to create, but some successful indies use this approach to reach the New York Times best-seller list via cross-promotions.

Before you set out to solicit stories and publish one, clarify your vision.

Determine the subject matter first. Sometimes it applies to the type of story, genre or setting. Sometimes it involves writers from the same area, or from the same background. As the compiler, it is up to you how to create a cohesive, intriguing collection.

Figure out what rights you want before you solict entries or reach out to fellow authors.  Are you buying first rights? Will you accept previously published works? How much are you offering writers for contributions? Hammer all that out before you start posting submission requests.

The Final Word on What Is an Anthology

The term anthology is flexible. Just about any literary collection can fit into the definition of the word “anthology.” These books are great ways to acquaint yourself with several authors in one genre, or to take a deep dive into the short works of a single writer.

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FAQs About What Is an Anthology

What does anthology mean?

The word “anthology” means a collection of literary works. The definition of anthology applies not just to short stories, but also poems, essays, novellas, and memoirs.

What is the purpose of an anthology?

Anthologies can have multiple purposes. Some exist to bring together work from various authors who publish in the same genre. Others are a way to collect shorter works from a single author in one volume.

What Is The Difference Between An Anthology And A Collection?

Anthology and collection are synonyms. Both refer to a collection of literary works.

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