Saturday, January 21, 2012

How Long Until Filled?

I've been trying to decide what to do about Until Filled anthologies, so I'm putting it out to the folks who read my Anthology Markets posts. At what point do you give up on an antho that doesn't have a definite closing date, but is just open until it's filled? To be clear, I'm talking about not sending them anything at all after they've been "until filled" for a certain length of time, rather than withdrawing a submission.

I have some Until Filled anthologies on the list that've been hanging for over a year. Past a certain point, it seems to me that sending them a story would be like tossing it into a black hole. The longer it stays open, the less likely they are to ever finally fill up and be published, or so it seems to me, particularly if it's been a year or a year and a half or more. I'd think twice and maybe three times before sending a story to an Until Filled market that'd been hanging open for over a year, and the more writers who think the same way, the worse the situation is, so... is there any point to keeping them on the list? What do you all think?

I guess I'm trying to find out how many other writers do think the same way.

Does it make a difference if the editor has been posting updates or news about the antho more recently? How about if there's nothing directly from the editor (on the anthology blog or web page or whatever) but if Duotrope shows that stories have been accepted more recently? How much more recently, in both cases? Less than a year? six months? three months? or...?

The listing is getting pretty long, and I'd like to be able to trim it, particularly if other writers consider these long-dormant anthologies deadwood, as I'm beginning to. If some significant number of people still find these listings useful, though, then I'll keep them.




Charles Gramlich said...

In thinking back on it, I don't think I've ever submitted to an "until filled anthology" unless I actually knew the editor. That changes the whole dynamic, of course. The other reason I might submit to such an antho is if the idea was really cool and I'd been inspired to write a story specifically for that idea.

Angie said...

Charles -- so you usually don't submit to those at all. Even if it were a really cool idea, though, would it make a difference to you if the book had been open "Until Filled" for a long time? If so, how long? At what point would you say, "Oh, no, in that case I'm staying away," instead of subbing?


Sam Mills said...

I would just look carefully at their contract terms. They should have something like "if the anthology is not published within X months after the story is accepted, all rights revert..." That way you know your rights won't be tied up if they do fail to proceed after accepting your story.

A year should be more than long enough to list it here. By then the people who follow your listings have had ample time to bookmark the site if interested.

P.S. I'm partly delurking to say I love the anthology listing posts!

Angie said...

Sam -- I hadn't even thought of being accepted and then having the antho trail off into nothingness; that's definitely another issue, although you're right about there (hopefully) being a contract clause to cover that. There should be a Duty to Publish clause in any case, that has some sort of a time frame on it.

I was thinking more of the case of editors who save all their "maybe" stories until the end, then do the final sort-and-choose. Even when an antho has a firm deadline, you can sub to it and wait months until you hear back, if you made the first cut, only to get a "Not quite, thanks" rejection. In that case, though, at least you knew when you subbed how long it'd be, because there was a firm deadline.

With an "Until Filled" antho, you might sub a story and then hear nothing at all for... however long you choose to leave it there before you withdraw it. Which would suck if a month later the editor announced that the book had filled and was being published. But it'd suck just as much if it takes the editor a year and a half to get enough stories and make up his mind, only to find that you got that "Sorry, not quite" rejection.

Bad enough waiting when you know where the end is. Waiting when you have no clue where the end will be, or whether it'll all just trail off into silence is a lot worse. I guess I'm wondering whether other writers have more tolerance for that sort of thing than I do. [wry smile]

You're right that regular readers should've bookmarked a call if they're interested, certainly after a year or even a few months. I get a lot of random hits off of search engines for these posts, though, so I'm thinking of the one-time visitors as well as the regulars.

Thanks for commenting, and I'm glad the listing posts have been helpful. :)


Ello - Ellen Oh said...

I've never done this so I can't comment. But in general the publishing market is sooooooooo slow so it almost seems the norm, huh?

Angie said...

Ellen -- with anthologies, no, it really isn't. I think the difference is in where the slowness is.

Most short story markets have a reasonable turn-around time, like two or three months, and even that's starting to feel long these days. Most anthologies have a fixed deadline, so you know when you submit how long they're likely to hold your story unless they bounce it right away; if an antho's deadline is 1 June and you submit tomorrow, you know that if you make the first cut, you probably won't hear until at least a few days into June whether you made a sale or not. Heck, you can probably sub the story to three or four other markets with shorter turn-around times first if you want to, and still make that 1 June deadline with no problem.

"Until Filled" anthos just sort of hang there until they're either filled and the actual editing/publishing process begins, or until the editor throws in the towel. Except with some anthos, it seems the editor isn't admitting defeat even after a year or more. And when you haven't heard anything at all from the editor recently -- no updates, no "almost filled, we're getting there" notes, no "Please tell your friends I'm still looking for stories" posts, one might start wondering whether the editor got hit by a bus eight months earlier and their executor forgot to post about it on the anthology page. [wry smile]

And past a certain point, people who've submitted stories start withdrawing them because they've sold or could be sold elsewhere. One Until Filled antho I submitted to last year was like that, where the editor stopped replying to comments on the announcement post around July, despite a steady stream of questions. After a while, a number of the (unanswered) comments were of the, "Thanks, but I'm withdrawing my story" type. I finally got a response from him (a reject, unfortunately, but at that point I was happy to hear back), but as of last month when I put together the January anthology post, he still hadn't answered any comments past July. Does he not care that the silent wait is making people withdraw their work?

The withdrawals are going to make it take that much longer to fill the book, though, which means more waiting for writers whose stories he wants. In this case, we can see the withdrawals there on the anthology post; in most cases, all you see is silence because withdrawals happen in e-mail. But you still have to wonder.

And all this time is just selecting stories. The usual publication process, the part that can indeed take a long time in the mainstream publishing world, is still to begin. This particular person is fairly well known in his genre, but I don't know whether he has a contract with a publisher yet. I would think that if he did, the book would've had a deadline. And if he doesn't, then once he has enough stories and they're assembled and edited, he still has to shop around for a publisher and go through that usual routine, which, you're right, can take a while.