Anthologies: Yes Please, No Thanks, What’s An Anthology?

I was browsing around the book-blogosphere this morning and I ran across a couple of reviews of anthologies that started out something like this: “I’m not a fan of anthologies…” and contained phrases like this: “I rarely ever like every story in an anthology…”. I see this time and time again and I’m positive we have many reviews with similar wording for anthologies here at Fiction Vixen. In fact I know I’ve said the same thing many times.

I assume the purpose of an anthology featuring multiple authors is to entice readers with stories by authors they’ve enjoyed in the past and introduce them to authors that are new to them. But in all honesty I can’t think of an anthology I’ve ever purchased. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure all the anthologies I’ve read have been given to me for review. I like novellas so I’m not sure why I don’t buy anthologies. If I’m correct in my thinking on the purpose of anthologies then they have been effective though, since I have discovered new-to-me authors and purchased other works by them after having sampled their work in this format.

Why don’t some readers like anthologies? In reading reviews and evesdropping on twitter here are some of the reasons I’ve been able to gather from readers:

  • The stories are short and therefore not fully developed.
  • Never like all the stories in the anthology.
  • If the stories are part of a series they don’t read and they might not understand setting/arc etc.
  • Don’t want to spend money on the book if the anthology includes an author’s work they know they don’t like.

My questions for you today are:

Do you read anthologies? Why or why not?

Do you purchase anthologies or only read them if given to you for review or by a friend?

Have you discovered new-to-you authors and purchased their books after reading an anthology?

If you like anthologies, what is your all-time favorite?

If you don’t like anthologies, would you still buy one if your favorite author was a contributor? What would tempt you to purchase an anthology?


  1. says

    I don’t like Anthologies.
    I suppose it is mainly because of the author variety and the short span of the character’s presence in my life.
    I like a book, with meat and bones~one that I can dive into and get to know the people and their true colors.
    Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that a bunch of short stories isn’t worth the purchase price, as it leaves me feeling uninvolved after I’ve finished.
    Thanks for the Blog & questions.

  2. Riva L. says

    I read anthologies, but I usually check them out from the library.

    I will buy an anthology if it includes a story in a favorite series (most notably, right now, the IN DEATH series by JD Robb).

    I find I like the anthologies containing 3 or 4 novella length works better than a true short story collection. The longer works give me more of a chance to get to know the characters.

    I don’t remember specifically finding a new author thru an anthology, but I suspect it’s happened.

  3. says

    I find I like the anthologies containing 3 or 4 novella length works better than a true short story collection. The longer works give me more of a chance to get to know the characters.

    Yes, I admit those anthos with 20 or more stories make me think the stories might be too short to bother.

  4. June M. says

    I do buy anthologies if they contain a story I really want (by a favorite author). I think they are a great way to try various authors to see if you want to try a full book from them. I have found some authors this way. I have bought some anthologies and not liked any other story besides the one I bought it for. Twice in the last couple of months I have bought the individual stories on kindle rather than buying the anthology in print (but just to get them fast and/or because the print was unavailable because it was from a few years ago).

  5. says

    I have mixed feelings about anthologies. I only buy them if it has a favorite author within – or I have heard way too much good not to give it a try. As far as review, I am generally game. With reviews, I like them because I can sample multiple authors I may not be familiar with. I use it as a clue to whether I would enjoy this author or not. I also like that some authors use them as a way to revisit secondary characters that don’t have quite enough material for full novels, but that the readers like to visit with again.

    As for mixed feelings … true. There are many that come across as under-developed. However, the good authors can pull it off. A couple that come to mind I have in my collection because Jude Deveraux was in them. I have zero complaints with her novellas. I found that I enjoyed the other stories with, but not quite enough to add the other authors to my to-read list.

    I actually recently finished the anthology A Vampire for Christmas – four stories four authors, four different levels of like. One I very much enjoyed, one I liked, and the other two were okay. In the end, it just boils down to personal preference. A reviewer friend of mine also read A Vampire for Christmas and liked them in the exact opposite order I did. You just never know.

    So, yes, I read anthologies because I like the idea of sampling unfamiliar authors. I purchase when a favorite author is in the anthology. Other than that, I will review if I am provided with the copy, but not likely to buy if I don’t know the authors. Laurie London is the author I discovered by reviewing A Vampire for Christmas and I will definitely be purchasing her books when I work my way to her name on my list. And my all-time favorite anthology I do not know the name of. It has Jude Deveraux and she has done a few. I think it is called Simple Gifts with Judith McNaught. Two stories from each author.

  6. says

    LOL I just finished drafting my review of Men Out of Uniform anthology featuring Maya Banks, Karin Tabke and Sylvia Day. This question is perfect timing. I just don’t care for anthologies. I wonder how authors get suckered into them. Do they even feel that they get suckered into them?

    I am with you. I see reviews and I even add the line “I don’t really care for anthologies…” I won Men Out of Uniform via a blog hop and the cover is yummy. But 3 great authors, and I am only rating a 3.5.
    Each of the stories are rushed (especially the ending) and I just want more character development.

    I honestly can’t think of an anthology that I have read where I have rated higher than a 4. Even a 4 is a stretch. So I don’t buy them but I do review them when they are sent to me as long as there is one author I admire in the mix. If their purpose is to introduce people to new to me authors than I suppose they do serve their purpose because I’d happily purchase something by Sylvia Day and Karen Tabke now when I may have held back previously.

    • says

      I wonder how authors get suckered into them. Do they even feel that they get suckered into them?

      I would assume that authors contribute to anthologies as a way to reach out to a wider audience but I could be wrong.

      • says

        In my experience, one of the most appealing things about submitting to anthologies as an author is that it’s a way to test out a publisher without signing away the rights to a long project that will be under contract for many years. There is less commitment, less risk involved, so it’s a great way for authors to learn how a new (or at least new to them) publisher runs. You get a feel for their editing and the disposition of their staff, and after the anthology process is done, you usually know if it’s a place you’d like to submit a longer piece or not.

        What you said about reaching a broader audience is also true to a certain extent. It’s great for new authors to submit to anthologies, since they’re likely to be put in with a couple established authors in the process. While I couldn’t give you any true statistic on the success rate of expanding your readership, I think it’s safe to say that it’s one of the motivations behind the decision to submit to an anthology. It’s also nice for authors who just love writing in the short story or short novella format. ^_^

        On a final note, for those authors who would rather receive a one-time payment instead of royalties, some publishers pay out anthologies that way. Definitely not all of them, but I’ve known an author or two who have gone the anthology route specifically because they could get a relatively quick payment from it instead of waiting much longer to accrue royalties.

        I hope I’ve helped answer your question (Michelle K) and expand upon your answer (Sophia)!

        ~K. Piet

    • says

      Each of the stories are rushed (especially the ending) and I just want more character development.

      I think a lot of people feel this way about shorter works but it’s not always the case. Too bad that one didn’t wow you because the cover is certainly impressive. :)

  7. says

    I own *a lot* of anthologies. I’m a huge SF&F reader, so short fiction is a core component of (especially) science fiction, but also fantasy (so a lesser degree, but still stronger than a lot of genres).

    I just love short fiction.

  8. says

    I usually pick up anthologies from the library…and yeah – almost all the time I have mixed feelings about it. Some stories just wow me, but some not so much…and I end up feeling slightly good or slightly bad by the time I put it down.

    That being said, I am looking forward to finding new authors all the time and anthologies seem the best way to go about it :) Hence I would say I’m for it :)!

    • says

      My local library is sorely lacking in newer romance releases. I might need to move or something. I’m jealous of everyone that is able to get current romance and UF titles at the library.

  9. says

    I love anthologies. I usually buy them specifically because an author I already know and read is in them, but not always. Sometimes they cover a topic I enjoy, or the cover looks interesting, etc, etc.

    I have found a few new authors by buying anthologies. That was how I discovered Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris, and a few others.


  10. says

    I’m a sucker for anthologies I’ll confess. Especially the ones with a theme like all stories are about zombies or cats or… well you get the idea.
    Not only do I love short stories and novellas it’s also a great way to find new authors.

    To name 2 authors I found this way:
    Anne Bishop (Stands a God within the Shadows is still my all time favorite short story)
    Meljean Brook (Here There Be Monsters is awesome!)

    And there’s still some books on my wishist by authors who drew my attention by a short story in an anthology.

    Some favorite anthologies of mine:
    Zombiesque (all zombies!)
    Imaginary Friends (this one has the Anne Bishop story!!!)
    The Sword and Sorceress series that were edited by M. Zimmer Bradley.

  11. says

    I am not a fan of anthologies. I guess the only thing that would tempt me to actually buy one is if all of the stories were about couples that I liked? Say one was published with short stories from Cat/Bones, Kate/Curran and Mercy/Adam (btw, how awesome would that book be??) then maybe I would buy it. But I don’t think you can get a good feel for a new author with such a small sample.

    And sometimes I have felt that lesser authors have been allowed to attach their short stories with big names just so they can get published. That might not be true but it seems like there is always one author in the bunch that you are thinking- huh?? how did they get in there?

  12. says

    I’m not huge on anthologies – but I did love the two holiday anths Carina Press put out last year.

    That being said, I’m starting one tomorrow..LOL.

    But for the most part I don’t tend to buy them.

  13. says

    I have only bought one anthology and that was because it was a novella that I from a series I have been reading. I started on his story and that’s all I have read. I did the same thing with an anthology given to me by a friend. I read the author I was interested in and put the book down. However, when I run into nothing to read phases I pick those books up.

  14. says

    I’ve read few anthologies, because I agree with all the reasons you found.

    The only reason I have bought an anthology is because it has a story of a series I’m following. And usually, I just read that story. There is no point in reading an story if I don’t know the characters, specially is long series where every character may be important in the future.

  15. Beebs says

    I do read and like anthologies. I usually do buy anthologies with stories by authors I love, especially if the novella is part of a series.

    But I also like that they give me the chance to read new to me authors so I can get a feel for their writing and whether or not it appeals to me, without splashing out on a book I may not like.

    Um *whisper* I only discovered Mary Balogh cos I was glomming everything by Stephanie Laurens and bought ‘It Happened One Night.’

  16. says

    Anthologies and I have a love/hate relationship. There are some anthologies that I love and will read over and over again. Then there are others that I just don’t like all the stories. But it is the best way to get to know some authors that in some cases you would never read. You may find that their short story has you hooked and you have to go out and get every book that author has written.

  17. says

    I’m one of the “rarely like all the stories in an anthology” types. I will definitely read them for reviewing purposes. I’m reading “SEAL of my dreams” right now. The one kind of anthology I do like is when it’s a collection by a favorite author. I loved Jim Butcher’s “Side Jobs”, in spite of the fact I’d read most of the stories before!

    And I usually bring a paperback anthology with me for airplane trips. I read one short story each time they make me turn off my iPad!

    • says

      The one kind of anthology I do like is when it’s a collection by a favorite author. I loved Jim Butcher’s “Side Jobs”

      Yes me too. I liked Lila DiPasqua’s Fiery Tales anthos

      Great idea about reading anthos while traveling.

  18. Andrea says

    1. I will read them anthologies if I have nothing better to read. I generally like the stories, I just hate that they’re so short. I don’t like short stories at all!

    2. I only read them if a friend gives it to me or I see a lot of great reviews.

    3. I don’t believe I have ever found a new author through one.

    4. I can’t even think of one I have read right now.

    5. It would have to be a favorite author and I would have to see a lot of great reviews. Honestly though, I would probably get something like that from the library. I don’t buy things unless it’s a favorite author.

  19. says

    I do buy anthologies and so far I enjoy them quite a bit. Ironically, it was an anthology that led me to my current reading obsession on Goodreads. I randomly picked up Deep Kiss of Winter which led me to discover Kresley Cole and Gena Showalter. From there my interest just snowballed.

    Now I just stumble upon them because they may contain a #.5 of some series I happen to be reading. It’s also a nice way to discover authors. If I happen to not like one of the short stories, there’s always hope that at least one of the three or four will spark my interest.

    I don’t currently have a favorite anthology. My favorite authors don’t necessarily have to be contributors, but if I recognize one of their names, it makes me feel a little more confident when purchasing an anthology.

  20. says

    I read anthologies when there is a story from a series I read and I either really love that series/and or characters or it’s been so long since the last book came out that I need an update.

  21. jaymzangel says

    I do read anthologies. I agree that I don’t always love all the stories and that can be disappointing. I find it more disappointing if I don’t like ANY of the stories. I usually buy them because there is a short story from an author I already read in them. I have been introduced to new authors through anthologies so I won’t stop reading them. my favorite anthology is Hot Spell, I highly recommend it. it is incredibly hot! Hot and Bothered is another good one and I also like a few with Sherrilyn Kenyon stories in (can’t think of the titles right now.) one has Dante & Pandora’s story in it, which I love. however, I don’t buy anthologies as much as I do regular books.

  22. says

    I actually do like anthologies, but I don’t know as if they make great review material. There is no way you are going to like every. single. story. in an anthology – so it would be wierd to try and review it. But as a tool to try out new author’s writing style/voice? Yeah – definitely!

  23. Karen C says

    I read anthologies and usually enjoy them. I’ll buy them if the blurbs sound good and/or I recognize an author, but not knowing an author doesn’t bother me – it’s just an opportunity to ‘meet’ someone new. And sometimes I’ll buy if the proceeds go to a charity (like Seal of My Dreams – raises funds for verterans) or Tails of Love (raises funds for a no-kill animal shelter) and the stories look good.

    • says

      And sometimes I’ll buy if the proceeds go to a charity (like Seal of My Dreams – raises funds for verterans) or Tails of Love (raises funds for a no-kill animal shelter) and the stories look good.

      Oh good point. Authors often come together to do anthos for charity. Entangled was recently released and proceeds got to breast cancer research. I enjoyed the stories in that one.

  24. Maria D. says

    I do read anthologies…usually if an author I’m already reading is in one though there are times when a cover or the short story blurbs will grab me and I’ll go ahead and try it. I like them because they give you an opportunity to get to know a writer’s style without committing to an entire book

  25. says

    I don’t generally read anthos and would probably never buy one. I’m just not a fan of short works. I need a longer read to get me thoroughly invested in the story. I’m one of those people who gets into books so deep that everything around me seems to disappear as soon as I open the pages and start reading. If the story is too short, I can’t get that escape, which is what I’m always after. :)

  26. Lexi says

    A lot of varying opinions. Seems like you either love tremor hate them.
    I have never bout one, only read them from the library and then only if it contains a story from a series or author I follow. But in an anthology it always seems rushed, for me the longer the better.

  27. says

    Hi Sophia! I love anthologies…they are like an “amuse bouche” for the reader…just a little taste of something fantastic. It’s a huge challenge to get it right, and I love it when authors really nail a shorter story. Make it a satisfying read, give you a real feel for the characters in a short amount of time. My favorite anthology is Hot Blooded—the story “The Night Owl” by Emma Holly is fantastic.

  28. says

    I have read a few anthologies and I actually didn’t mind them. I have a handful in my TBR pile as well. I kind of like having a glimpse into characters (especially for series I am unsure I want to try). Yes the stories are short, but a well written short can sometimes overpower a full length book.

    I have enjoyed Kisses From Hell. And I have Entralled and Prom Nights from Hell in the TBR pile.

  29. Pam says

    I have purchased and read some anthologies. I admit, I don’t have a lot of them … not that I wouldn’t mind others. I do like them but I will admit that of the few that I have read, sometimes I felt the stories were too short. Although I do recall an anthology that I read recently that had 3 stories in it but each story revolved around a member of the same family at the same time as each other. And there was one common element in each that resolved itself by the end of the third story. I rather liked that but still I think I would have liked each story to be longer.

    I would definitely and actually have purchased an anthology because it had a story in it by an author that I like or that the story connected with a series of books by that same author.

    Yes, I have actually been introduced to an author through an anthology and then gone and bought other books of theirs.

    Unfortunately, as of right now, I haven’t read enough anthologies to say that I have an all-time favorite.

  30. says

    was browsing around the book-blogosphere this morning and I ran across a couple of reviews of anthologies that started out something like this: “I’m not a fan of anthologies…” and contained phrases like this: “I rarely ever like every story in an anthology…”. I see this time and time again and I’m positive we have many reviews with similar wording for anthologies here at Fiction Vixen.

    *cough* I’m guilty of saying that.

    I’m not an anthology fan. I’ve purchased two that I remember. One was On the Prowl and I only bought it because the story in it, Alpha and Omega, was integral to enjoying the series–don’t even get me started on how irritating I think that is. The other was When He Was Bad. I got that one because I was hard up for some new Laurenston material. I can’t say that I’ve bothered to read any of the other stories in the books, though.

    I did discover a new to me author through an anthology. It was one I read for Fiction Vixen, Angels of Darkness. I was intrigued by Shinn’s offering.

    • says

      *snerk* I think I have something in pending from you with those words LOL.

      Glad you were able to find a new-to-you author in the Angels of Darkness antho though.

      I agree, I don’t care for novella’s etc. that are integral to a series. It’s nice when they compliment it, but if you are missing info by not reading it, that stinks. :(

      • says

        I know people who started the series with Cry Wolf (the advertised first book) and didn’t like it at all–which is a crime, because it rocks. They didn’t realize that the backstory and relationship setup all occurred in a novella. Some of them were willing to try reading the novella and giving the book a second shot, but others were too ticked to try again when they found out.

  31. says

    Do I read anthos? I haven’t read one yet. Nothing against them, just haven’t gotten around to reading one yet.

    I do own one – I bought it so time ago (probably 3 years ago).

    I am hoping to discover new-to-mew authors by reading anthos.

  32. Sheree says

    I do read anthologies and have found many new-to-me authors that way. However, I usually get them from the library. I have bought some though, depending on who is on the cover. 😉

  33. says

    As a reader, I like the whole range of lengths, from novels down to short stories. Looking through the other comments, I do agree that very few authors are REALLY good at writing in the short story format. It’s a different set of rules, and you have to be careful about bringing a story around full circle in such a small amount of space. Some authors can do this exceedingly well. So well, in fact, that some of them tend to publish more short stories than pieces of any other length. The author that pops to my mind is Cornelia Grey, who actually received a 5-star review here for her short story “Apples and Regret and Wasted Time”. She’s been in several anthologies from different presses like Storm Moon Press and Dreamspinner Press, and she just really excels at giving a taste that leaves you wanting more.

    Nevertheless, I do purchase anthologies. My reasoning behind it isn’t necessarily to find new authors, though that has happened in the past. Usually, I pick out an anthology simply based on its theme. If I like the theme, chances are I’ll enjoy the stories a lot more. Winged men? Right up my alley. Slavery theme? Not so much. Gun-fetish? I’d read the blurb, but might take a chance out of sheer curiosity. XD I purchase more because of the theme than because of author loyalty. I also never buy one expecting to love every single story (very realistic on that front). Part of the point of an anthology is showing different takes on a common theme. That usually means it’s a scatter-shot: some stories will hit your target just right, some will scrape by, and others will miss completely… and then hit someone else’s target instead.

    Just wanted to poke my head in to give my $0.02. ^_^
    ~K. Piet

  34. says

    I have a love/hate relationship with anthologies. I’ve found some great authors through them and some of my regular authors sometimes offer up something to keep us happy until the next book comes out.

  35. says

    Unlike you, FV, I am not a fan of novellas for the same reason most people say they’re not fans of anthologies. So I only read anthologies if I’m feeling particularly masochistic.

    Do you read anthologies? Why are why not?
    Not usually.They’re not my bag. Then there’s the Christmas anthologies, a whole other freaking beast full of WTFery. I am NOT a fan of Holiday-themed books, anthology or no anthology.

    Do you purchase anthologies or only read them if given to you for review or by a friend?

    The latter. I used to buy them but I have since learned my lesson. I won’t even buy them if they consist of X amount of books by the same author.

    Have you discovered new-to-you authors and purchased their books after reading an anthology?

    Yes. I discovered Eileen Wilks “World of the Lupi” series from reading the “Inked” anthology & now I’m hooked.

    If you don’t like anthologies, would you still buy one if your favorite author was a contributor? What would tempt you to purchase an anthology?

    No. I’ve found that my favorite authors aren’t exempt from Anthology-fail. What works in a 300+ page novel may not work in a 85 page novella.

    Suffice it to say, I am firmly in the “Anthology? Hell naw!” camp. I’ve come across ones with really good stories but I’ve yet to read one where I enjoyed every novella. Life is short & money isn’t flowing the way it used to. I’ll pass.

  36. Linda S. says

    I enjoy anthologies, for the most part. Sometimes I am in the mood for a shorter story and am happy for a quick visit to a series world that I like. Also, it introduces me to authors I might never pick up by including them with autobuy authors. The only drawback for me, aside from not being able to develop characters as much, is when a story is included that is obviously not a fit for the readers they were looking to attract and doesn’t match the other authors included. It is really jarring and makes me feel cheated.

  37. says

    I’ll only read an anthology if it has a story or stories in it from a series I’m following. I tend to read all the stories in it just in case I do discover something new and because I’m OCD and it would drive me crazy not to.

    However, I am one of those people that still do not like anthologies. For me, I kind of despise when one of my favorite authors or series puts a story in an anthology because I don’t want to read the whole thing! lol I have never bought one though.

    My reasoning is because 95% of stories that I’ve read from anthologies have been really pretty bad. Not many authors who can write full length novels can write good short stories. There are some. Almost every short-story I’ve read by Sherrilyn Kenyon has been good (just as an example). But not everyone can do it and I think that just because an author can write full-length novels just fine, doesn’t mean they should participate in anthologies when they’re not good short-story tellers. It takes a special brand of author to get it right.

    ♥ Sarah @ I’m Loving Books

  38. says

    I love anthologies. I can’t remember the name of it now, but an antho was where I fell in love with Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series. Definitely a way to “taste” an author before glomming :)

  39. says

    Goodness, there are some very mixed feelings on anthologies. As it happens, I’m a new(ish) author, and I have a short story due out in an anthology in 3 weeks. I wrote the short at the request of my publisher, and didn’t mind as what I wrote offered a little taste of what falls between my first and second novels–though it is in no way imperative for the short to be read prior to book 2. I go to great lengths to try and make all of my tales (short/novella/novel) stand alone. And I have, in the past, submitted shorter works to anthologies. I think, from a writer standpoint, it is a way for them to build up a portfolio–especially those who are looking to get novels published, as they would list any publishing credits in their query letter. There’s a big debate about whether or not this helps to garner attention from whoever you submit to.
    From a reader’s standpoint, I have bought/read anthologies. However, they have often been only ones recommended to me, or ones loaned to me. I rarely enjoy all content, but then the collated writer’s always seem to have such differing styles–which can be good for diversity but bad for reader’s who prefer certain styles. I’ve also tried anthologies that contain short stories from only one author, however, and find that even then not all of the stories meet the mark.
    So, whilst as a writer, I totally see their benefit, as a reader, I also see their pitfalls. :)