As a writer of short fiction, I’m used to being overlooked. Most every bit of advice seems to be geared specifically towards writers of novels or those working on a non-fiction piece. This is also true when it comes to publication advice. Every query letter or synopsis sample is geared towards writers of a singular novel or work of non-fiction. The general attitude seeming to be, that if you write short stories, well….good luck!
When you’re a short story writer, it seems at times, that everyone wants you to write a novel. Something they can wrap their heads around. Agents and publishers often say- “No, short stories!”
When other writers ask me what I’m working on and I say a collection of short stories I usually get a puzzled look, as in, why?
There’s nothing I can do. Short fiction is my calling. It’s my form. So I chug onwards. I read industry publications, attend workshops and do my best to format query letters and send synopsis. But I still had short story specific needs that weren’t being addressed until I was fortunate enough to attend the Writer’s Work conference in Manhattan last month.
The conference was small, which means I had the chance to ask questions and get feedback. I had the fortunate opportunity to pitch my manuscript to literary agent Shira Hoffman. Off the bat, she said, “I don’t represent short stories.” But what she did do, was give me some excellent advice on how to position a collection of short stories for higher success in the mainstream market. Thanks Shira!
Short story writer Aryn Kyle (author of The God of Animals) was the featured keynote. I had the opportunity to ask her to share some advice for writers of short fiction. Instead of rolling her eyes, or attempting to convince me to write a novel, she offered some very positive and affirming tips. Thanks Aryn!
Here’s what I learned:
- It is possible for a short story collection to be published as a break-out work.
- Short story collections do sell and do have an audience.
- Not every story is supposed to be a novel!
- Grounding a short story collection with a novella helps make the collection more marketable to mainstream agents and publishing houses.
- Submit, submit, submit, short stories to relevant collections, magazines, journals and anthologies.
And if you're in New York and are curious about what I'm working on, you can find me at the Capital One 360 Cafe (968 3rd ave, second floor) on Tuesday, November 4th from 6:15 to 7:45, where I'll be participating in a reading.