Anthologies are a great way for short msytery writer to send their work out into the world. Michael Bracken, who has been editing stories for anthologies has agreed to share some of the thigs we writers should knwo about submitting to the wide variety of options out there for writers of short mysteries. In addition, he is also editing Black Cat Mystery Magazine, so if you are considering writing for them, pay close attention to what he likes.
Photo by Amber Bracken
Joan: Can you tell my readers a little bit about how you got started with collecting the stories of others for anthologies?
Michael: Fedora: Private Eyes and Tough Guys was released by Wildside Press in 2001, so I probably began work on it sometime in 2000. At that time, hardboiled and private eye stories—which is what I like to write—weren’t getting the love they seem to be getting now, so I pitched the anthology to my editor at Wildside and he agreed to publish it. Ultimately, I did five anthologies for Wildside Press and its imprint Betancourt & Co., including Fedora 2, Fedora 3, Hardbroiled, and Small Crimes.
Several years have passed in the interim, but I’m again editing anthologies, with The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods released by Down & Out Books just before the 2019 Bouchercon in Dallas. I have several more anthologies in the pipeline for 2020 and 2021 publication. In addition, I am co-creator and co-editor, with Trey R. Barker, of the Guns + Tacos serial novella anthology series. Each “season” consists of six novellas issued monthly on a subscription basis July-December and then collected into paperback anthologies. The first season wrapped up in December 2019 and the second season begins in July 2020.
On top of all that, in mid-2019 I became co-editor of Black Cat Mystery Magazine.
Joan: Who are your target readers?
Michael: Most of my anthologies target readers of hardboiled, noir, and/or private eye stories. Black Cat Mystery Magazine targets a more general mystery reader, with stories representing several sub-genres in each issue.
Joan: Are you print and online or online only?
Michael: Some of my anthologies have been issued in hardback and some in trade paperback. Some have also been issued in electronic formats such as Kindle.
Joan: What do you think of mixing crime with other genres? What must a crime story have, in order for you to consider it?
Michael: Crime fiction mixes well with most genres, but as an editor I tend to favor projects that stick pretty close to the various subgenres of mystery and crime fiction. Each project I edit has different requirements, so submissions must adhere to the guidelines. In general, though, I like stories that have an emotional impact. I don’t mind being dazzled with cleverness, but if a writer makes me feel something when I read her story, I’m more apt to give the story serious consideration.
Joan: What is an automatic turn off for you in a submission?
Michael: Sloppy manuscripts filled with misspelled words, poor grammar, and weird formatting turn me off.
Opening scenes must hold my attention, but there’s no one right way to do that. I’ve published stories that opened with a bang and I’ve published stories that opened slowly, easing the reader into the narrative.
Joan: What would you like to see more of in submissions?
Michael: This goes back to an earlier answer: I want to see more stories that have an emotional impact. And I want to see more manuscripts from authors who actually know how to use their word processing programs.
Joan. What magazines do you read and like?
Michael: Though not a magazine, I recommend every crime fiction writer read The Best American Mystery Stories each year. Though we can quibble over the editors’ choices, this annual collection of the best mystery stories of the year provides an overview of the genre.
I read Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Down & Out: The Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Tough, and too many others to mention. The mystery small press is alive and well, and every small press publication needs to be supported.
Joan: Do you have any upcoming calls for stories? Contests? An editorial calendar?
Michael: My next open call for anthology submissions is likely to be September 2020, for Mickey Finn 3: 21st Century Noir, and I’ll post the guidelines for it and for any other open-call projects on my website: http://www.CrimeFictionWriter.com. Black Cat Mystery Magazine posts guidelines and open reading periods at https://bcmystery.com/Guidelines/, and writers should check both sites regularly.
Joan: Where/how can potential writers purchase a sample copy?
Michael: Directly from the publishers as well as at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores.
Joan: Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers of this blog?
Michael: Read and follow guidelines. Proofread carefully. Don’t take rejection personally.
Joan: Thank you, Michael!