By Jim Van Pelt, author.
Anthologies in tons of ways are better markets than magazines. Here's why: an anthology is exactly like a new magazine. There's no backlog of submissions, so the editor hasn't already stockpiled accepted manuscripts. If you're Gordon Van Gelder and you're putting together the next issue of your magazine, you have the dozen or more manuscripts from previous months that you've already told authors that you're taking, plus the new submissions. He's committed to publishing at least three or so of the manuscripts he's already accepted because authors get fidgety if their stories are under contract but not published for too long of a time. So he's really only looking for half an issue's worth of new stories instead of a full table of contents. In a pinch he could accept NO new manuscripts and publish all the previously accepted work. Of course that means he has to publish all new submissions the next month (wouldn't it be great to know when editors were in such a pickle?).
Anthologies don't have the burden (advantage?) of previously accepted manuscripts. All the story slots are open. (see the note below about name authors for the modification to this statement)
Also, magazines are not moving targets. If they've been around for a while, every Tom, Dick and Mary knows who they are and they bundle up their submissions to them on a regular basis. An anthology, on the other hand, has to announce itself, and depending on how badly it wants a slew of manuscripts, it may not be announced very widely. The slush pile generally is not as deep. Something like the Starlight anthologies that take submissions for a year probably have more submissions than any single issue of a magazine, but Starlight is hugely advertised and the submission window is unusually long.
I keep my eyes and ears open for anthology opportunities. That's one good reason to go to World Fantasy or WorldCon. There are anthologies that are solicited for there that aren't publicized anywhere else. If you have some publications and you hang out with the right people, you can find out about these little-publicized or invitation only projects.
Here's another turn of the screw, as Henry James would say, I'm working on an anthology idea right now with one of the major magazine editors. An anthology idea has to be sold to a publisher just like a novel is. For us to have a chance at selling this idea, we have to get a few major names to commit to providing stories, so if the anthology has twenty stories in it, we might be looking for ten name authors first. That's so we can go to the publisher and say, "Here's our idea for the book. We have Larry Niven, David Brin, Connie Willis and others interested in contributing stories." If we could get Stephen King to contribute a story, that would be even better as far as selling the idea to the publisher goes.
I've already learned a ton about the anthology market just by working on the idea. One of the immediate headaches, I've discovered, is that name authors may be willing to lend their name to a project to sell it, but prying a story out of them afterwards (and a good story at that) will be much harder.
At any rate, the savvy writer always looks for anthology and new magazine announcements. The chances of being accepted there are better than at the long-established markets.
The backlog of accepted stories affects writers in various ways. Sometimes the backlog closes markets. Weird Tales, for example, has said they're buying "very selectively" and won't really be open for submissions until 2002. They have too many stories they've already accepted, and Warren Lapine (who controls their money) doesn't want them buying stories too far ahead. Chiaroscuro isn't taking submissions right now. I suspect they're in the same boat. They bought far enough ahead that they know they can't buy anything else right now regardless of how much they love it. Analog doesn't want novelettes or novellas right now, but they will look at short stories.
On the other hand, Talebones only buys one issue worth of stories at a time. Like Writers of the Future, every quarter is a blank table of contents. As far as a writer breaking in, sending to those two markets means there are more slots available and you don't run the risk of having sent your perfectly good story into an editor who couldn't buy your work no matter what because she's overbought. This is also why Talebones doesn't want you to send in two stories at the same time. They don't buy ahead.
"His fiction has appeared in several publications, including Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Asimov's, Realms of Fantasy, and Weird Tales. His non-fiction work has appeared in Tangent magazine."
He can be reached at Vvanp@aol.com or you can visit his web site at http://www.sff.net/people/james.van.pelt.