Today, I want to take a minute to discuss how to read a multi-author anthology.

It’s strange to say, but reading can be like breathing. Many think the “how” is obvious, and take their approach for granted until they do something more demanding. Do you breathe the same when you jog, perform yoga or lift weights? What about when doing heavy labor, snorkeling or singing? Probably not. So why would you read an anthology by several different authors the same way you’d read a novel? They’re two very different things, and in all fairness, the comparison is like apples to oranges… or better yet, bunches of grapes. Some will be great, some good, a few bad. At Thunderbird, we do everything we can technically to make a story good. But in the end, what people enjoy is subjective. It is impossible to make a “perfect” story collection.

So here are a few thoughts you may want to consider while reading.

Suggestion 1: Consider and respect your goal.

Are you looking for a new writer to follow while awaiting your usual favorite’s next release? Are you a writer yourself, trying to see what the “competition” is up to, or ideas to—ahem—borrow? Perhaps you’re studying the editor’s tastes to get published? Or maybe you just love the anthology’s themes and want to enjoy a few good stories?

Having a “goal” sounds strange, but not everyone reads an anthology just to be entertained. Recognizing and respecting goal(s) can help readers grasp what they’re really looking for. It’s also a great metric to realize when one is having fun. If a story makes the audience forget their real world objective, they’re probably enjoying themselves. 

Suggestion 2: Don’t rush it.

When you finish a story, stop. Set it down. Give yourself a day to process it.

Sure, sometimes the latest is a pulse-pounding thriller, a truly wild ride that leave us wanting more. Pulp fiction in particular focuses on providing adventure after adventure to keep readers engaged. But most stories cannot work their magic until you reflect upon them for a moment. Rushing into the next yarn can rob the reader of the full experience. Sometimes one processes the story and later realizes it’s brilliant. Other times, amazing tales fall apart after the magic ends, as plot holes are realized and concepts fail to hold up to ponderous scrutiny.

Emotions are seldom known for being punctuality, and a multi-author anthology shouldn’t be sped through for these reasons.

Suggestion 3: Skip the current story if you don’t like it. (And don’t feel guilty about it.)

No, no! It’s okay! Seriously! Some completionists think they need to read everything they start. That might be true of folks who are doing research for writing, but for the rest of us who just want to be entertained, what’s the point?

To be fair, it’s possible that the reader isn’t in a state to enjoy fiction. A good story can pick you up, but you have to know when to pick up a book up first. Likewise, if there aren’t many pages left, it might be worth muscling through to see if the ending pays off. However, if there’s some paper between here and the conclusion, skip it. Don’t let a tale you don’t like ruin the experience. Your time is too important for that.

Suggestion 4: Ask yourself, “Was this what I was seeking?”

Go back to suggestion one and remind yourself why you read a multi-author anthology.

If you were doing it to be entertained, look at the number of stories there are and how many you enjoyed. Think about how many you’d like to see come to the small screen someday. Or maybe a few that would make an amazing movie. If the idea excites you, then it would seem you had fun. And if you happen to be a director, maybe you should contact us…

If you were looking for promising authors, be sure to follow any you find on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more. Also, check out their Author Central pages and bibliographies for further stories.

As for the other categories, the metrics are a little different. Authors might take note of themes used or ideas visited to know what to avoid when submitting to us. Or what to use when coming up with their own material. Good story ideas don’t happen in vacuums, but rather are the result of thousands of details and thoughts, fermenting into something new. If you feel inspired, if the embers of your imagination are stoked… you could have enjoyed gold. On the other hand, there’s no guarantee. For writers, a bad story with a good concept might be more valuable than a great tale. Different folks, different pen strokes.

And then to review…

Finally, the best support you can give is to leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads.

Publishers use a multi-author anthology to find the best authors, and voicing your opinion helps them decide who to support. Indeed, we make business decisions because of your feedback. That story you loved might be the very reason we ask an author to write a novel. Or put their name forward for a script or game design. Your words have an impact too, and you should use them. 

Because you might have gotten a book from elsewhere, Amazon allows reviews regardless of if you purchased it there or not. If you’re conscientious of what to say, just mention the stories you like the most. It’s also okay to be critical—authors need to be told what requires improvement. Good writers humbly accept the feedback and try to integrate it into future works in order to grow. And if their wounded pride results in backlash, well… don’t worry. We publishers are watching. And you won’t read from them again, one way or the other.

That’s the food-for-thought of today. Be sure to check out our latest with The San Cicaro ExperienceAnd stayed tuned… we’re not done with our fair city just yet.

Special thanks to Nong Vang for the photo on Unsplash.