The short story is an increasingly popular literary form in today’s market. But when short story writers find themselves surrounded by stacks of individual short stories, they might wonder, “Should I publish my stories as a collection?”
While there’s no guaranteed way to get a collection of short stories published, here are six realistic steps you can take to turn your stories into a book:
Submit your work to literary journals and magazines. If you can show that your short stories have already been a hit with editors, agents will take your query more seriously. The payoff is even more effective if you can publish the actual stories you plan to include in the collection. An agent will be more likely to give your collection a second look if you can show that journals published not only your writing, but the particular writing in the story collection. For a free list of articles and resources to help you publish your short stories, check out Writer’s Relief’s Free Publishing Tool Kit for short story submissions.
Enter short story contests. A list of publication credits will definitely help you get the attention of a literary agent, but so will contest credits. In the short term, winning an award will boost your confidence and catch the attention of agents and editors, which could help you garner more acceptances. In the long term, your winning an award is something an agent could use to market your collection, which would make your project all the more appealing.
Group your stories together with a particular angle in mind. You’re better off querying agents with a collection of stories that have the same central characters, consistent setting, or single topic/theme. You can still showcase your creativity and versatility as a writer, but try your best to find a cohesive thread within the pieces. After all, that’s what your literary agent or publisher will have to do in order to market your collection (until you’re a household name, you’ll have a very tough time selling books on your reputation alone). Categorize the stories in your collection prior to querying agents, and they’ll see that you understand how they’d have to market your book, which might just be the difference between rejection letters and requests for additional pages.
Contact small presses. Small presses often specialize in niche markets, more so than major literary agencies and publishing houses. Therefore, they’re sometimes willing to take chances on projects that won’t turn a huge profit. Even if you strike out with literary agents, you still have options.
Rewrite as a novel. Short story collections are very difficult to place in today’s market. If you have a short story collection that is grouped cohesively, as outlined in our third point, you can use this to your advantage and rework it as a novel. Literary agents will be more likely to respond positively to your writing if it’s in a more marketable format. Likewise, if you have a longer, more complex short story that you’ve been trying to force into a shorter, more marketable length, you could try expanding that single piece into a full-length novel. If you do ultimately receive agent representation for a novel, he or she might consider releasing a collection of your short stories afterward, since your name would already be known.
Consider self-publishing. Sometimes, self-publishing is actually the best route to take. If your only goal is to see your stories bound in book form and you’re looking to pass out copies to family and friends only, self-publishing is a great way to accomplish that. Even if you’d like to see your book in the shelves of local bookstores, you can sometimes achieve that goal through self-publishing if you do your research, find the right company, and put in the time and effort to market your book properly. Hint: Print isn’t the only way to go. Some authors have also found success with e-book self-publishing.
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