Another issue to consider in putting together an anthology is: “to preface or not to preface.” In other words, 1) should I write an introduction to the collection as a whole, and 2) should I include any introductions to individual stories within the collection? One could argue that you hardly ever see introductions to novels, so why should short story collections be any different? Stories are different, though, in that they are likely written at different periods of an author’s career rather than straight through as one would a novel. That provides an opportunity for the writer to share in a preface some things they’ve learned over time.
Personally, I like introductions, and I even like when writers introduce individual stories, although they need to say something interesting when they do so. If I’m the reader, however, I want the introductions short, especially for stories. But here is the problem. I read, at least in part, as a writer. I like to know what the writer of an anthology was thinking and where his or her influences came from. I like to hear about a particular story that has an interesting history. But I also know plenty of readers who aren’t writers who just want the stories. They don’t care about where they came from or what the writer’s influences were; they want to get right into the action. And, ultimately, a story has to live or die by its own merits.
In looking through the anthologies I own, a very large number, I see that short prefaces are more common than not, although there are anthologies without them. I see that introductions to individual stories are rare, however. I’ve decided to take these observations as my general guidelines, though not as a firm rule.
I’ve already written a short introduction for the whole collection and will probably use it. It’s about three pages long and still needs shortening, I think, but it keeps the focus mainly on the history of the Sword & Sorcery genre, which is where 99percent of the stories in the collection fall. It also specifically gives credit to Robert E. Howard as the major influence in my fantasy writing. So far, I’ve decided against introductions to individual stories, but I haven’t been through the whole collection so that may change. If I do introduce specific stories, I'll keep that intro to no more than 5 sentences.
Once again, I come up against the issue of target audience. Of course I want my fellow writers to enjoy the book, but I also want to attract those readers for who “the story is the thing,” the only thing. Any feedback from…out there?