11.26.2006

Love, not money

Dear Miss Snark,

So what about short stories when you’re not already Alice Munro? Agents won'’t take them and big houses won’t look at manuscripts without agents. I'’ve been shopping a collection of them (several have been published in literary journals and anthologies). I tried a small press and had my best rejection letter ever, in which the editor said how much she liked them (and seemed to actually have read them) but said she'’s not publishing short stories any more because she can'’t sell them. Try a bigger house, she said. The editor of an anthology I contributed to told me that writing a novel and signing a two-book deal is the only way. But what if I don'’t have a novel in me? What if I'’m just a short story writer? Is there any hope?


Get published in the New Yorker; you'll have agents breathing down your neck with offers of kidneys, gin, contracts and the occasional poodle.

You need to focus on getting the stories published. From that will come a collection.

You're going to be in this for love not money for a long time.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Indeed. It used to be you sold stories to an abundance of venues which gave you the practice and resume to tackle and sell a novel.

But the market has shrunk like Mike Tyson's bank account. There's spare change to be made, but be in it for the love of the craft. It never hurt Edward D. Hoch. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_D._Hoch)

Besides, you don't know that a novel ain't in you if you never try. Be open to it and one of these days a short story is gonna bust out and demand more pages.

Love the New Yorker idea. I'd try it myself, but just sign me...

--Too slow for NY, too ugly for LA.

Anonymous said...

I have published four novels with excellent imprints, and I have had some significant success -- and I have been turned down on my story collection, though those stories have appeared in first-rate magazines and journals, The New Yorker, Story, and Southwest Review among them. It is very hard to publish story collections. The lower sales of a collection would hurt my next novel, my editor says.

bookfraud said...

in it for "love not money"--you said it, miss s. it doesn't seem like there's a market for strictly short story writers these days, unless it's part of a novel-collection package.

Anonymous said...

Agree to all the above. Write because you love it. But most of all write and submit. If you are a short story writer, that's terrific! So go research your market, Google under your genre or type, look for anthologies and contests, buy a copy of Writers Digest Short Story & Novelists Market and look up the magazines that accept what you write. Don't wait until you have a short story collection, because I believe it's doubtful many publishers will want the collection of an unknown.

Shop those short stories to every magazine you can find. After you've gotten scads of your stories in magazines, then you can think about compiling into a collection. But until you've already won your short-story-writer's chops, I think it will be very hard to get a collection into print.

So get busy! Go forth and sic 'em. I actually admire people who are consistently able to tell a terrific yarn in 3,000 words or less. ;-) Oh, and one of my short stories mutated into the novel I'm presently writing, so never say never!
Cheers ~

G. Atwater

Soni said...

Or, you could sell your shorts on Amazon for $.49 a download. It ain't the New Yorker, but if you sell you earn.

http://www.amazon.com/amazon-shorts-digital-shorts/b?ie=UTF8&node=13993911

dkla said...

Yes, I feel your pain. I, too, am devoted to the short story. And while the market has definitely changed since, say, Raymond Carver’s day, there are still successful, contemporary writers who focus primarily, if not exclusively, on the short story. (Two of my favorite writers, George Saunders and Amy Hempel, come to mind.)

But, in addition to shooting for The New Yorker, have you considered reputable contests for short fiction collections? There are a number of them – the Bakeless, the Iowa Short Fiction, the Flannery O’Connor, and more. Well respected, and most, if not all, include publication as part of the award – that’s something, no?

Anyway, best wishes to you! And here's to a renaissance for short fiction!

~ dk

Kate Thornton said...

I write short - and have enjoyed my successes, but shorts do not put bread on the table for me. On the other hand, that occasional $500 or $1000 buys the caviar treats. I contribute to anthologies when invited and publish regularly in genre magazines where the pay is often in the $10-$25 range. It's nice to see my stories in print, but the financial reality of short story venues can be depressing.

One way to go for a literary fiction short story author might be a series of stories published on their own, but with a common thread to make them a connected work for a book.

And Miss Snark is right - short stories are a labor of love.

Anonymous said...

I snagged my very awesome, big name agent with a collection of non-fiction essays. Even though a few editors really liked the collection, it turned out to be tough sell since I didn't have that all-important "platform" in my back pocket. Awesome Agent then suggested that I write a novel (no platform needed) and then we could try to tack on the non-fiction essays as part of a two-book deal.

While writing the novel, I submitted excerpts from the essays to various lit magazines, newspapers, etc. Happily, I had four of them published. The novel is going into submission this week and I now have a small list of writing credits to back up the essays.

If you can write a novel, I think this is a good way to go. If not, just keep working on getting those stories published. You can't go wrong with that.