Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading Adjustment Day May 29, 2015 - 3:31pm

hey all,

 

If anyone could link me some resources for writing query letters (to agents and to publishers) for a short story collection, it'd be much appreciated.

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami May 30, 2015 - 6:19pm

What agent is this? I was always under the impression that agents prefered full length novels?

http://agentquery.com/writer_hq.aspx

Dasvaki's picture
Dasvaki December 26, 2015 - 2:47pm

Agents probably also prefer Harry Potter to most anything else, but that's not what they're always gonna find.

DrWood's picture
DrWood from Milwaukee, WI, living in Louisiana is reading A different book every 2-5 days. Currently Infinite Jest December 26, 2015 - 7:40pm

You query them the same way, although obviously you can't describe every story.

I've been told short story collections only sell if you are already famous or if pretty much all of your stories in the collection have been published in top-quality magazines (The New Yorker, Ploughshares, etc.).

 

Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading Adjustment Day January 6, 2016 - 3:46pm

I'm not sure about that. It seems like a lot of people who weren't famous (inc. a couple on this site) had collections published.

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer January 7, 2016 - 8:14am

A lot of publishers seemed to see collections more as promotional materials and stop gaps than actual draws themselves.  But there are publishers, particularly small presses, that seem to love a well-written collection as much as anything. 

They may not make money hand-over-fist, but they are still viable, and depending on the genre they can be more popular than others. We still see a lot of them in horror. Peter Straub has one coming out next month. Stephen King seems to do one collection for every two or three novels, and writers like Laird Barron have built solid careers out of short work.

If all else fails, and you can't find a publisher that you trust, you can make the investment yourself and self-publish. You just want to make sure that you are getting something out of their share of the royalties. Preferably something more than just a cover and an editor.

DrWood's picture
DrWood from Milwaukee, WI, living in Louisiana is reading A different book every 2-5 days. Currently Infinite Jest January 8, 2016 - 10:11pm

I don't know which writers on litreactor have recently published collections. I'd be surprised if they didn't fall into one of these categories: 1) famous writer; 2) several of the stories were published in top magazines; 3) they had a relationship with the editor (either past or from visits to a MFA progrram); 4) they are celebrities; 5) self-published or vanity published.

I've been to enough writers' conferences where agents have said things like, "this is probably the last debut collection I'll ever sell."

If I wanted to publish a collection, I wouldn't feel good about getting it published by a big publisher unless at least half of the stories were already published in top magazines (New Yorker, Ploughshares, Tin House, etc.)

 

Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading Adjustment Day January 14, 2016 - 11:34am

I don't know which writers on litreactor have recently published collections. I'd be surprised if they didn't fall into one of these categories: 1) famous writer; 2) several of the stories were published in top magazines; 3) they had a relationship with the editor (either past or from visits to a MFA progrram); 4) they are celebrities; 5) self-published or vanity published.


I can think of at least two for whom I don't think any of these apply, except possibly 3), which I'd have no way of knowing...

 

If I wanted to publish a collection, I wouldn't feel good about getting it published by a big publisher unless at least half of the stories were already published in top magazines (New Yorker, Ploughshares, Tin House, etc.)

Unless your name is Adam Johnson, George Saunders, Aimee Bender, etc., I don't think this is going to apply to you. Still people do get collections published. One of my favorite books in Knockemstiff by Don Ray Pollock, it was his debut and I don't think he cracked that many top markets with his stories prior to the book being published...
 

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break January 15, 2016 - 8:35pm

Pollock's Palahniuk blurb gave his career a nudge in the right direction, too.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated January 16, 2016 - 5:27am

How well do you think you need to know someone to ask for a blurb? I never meet Palahniuk, so I'm not talking about him, just something I wonder about.

Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading Adjustment Day January 16, 2016 - 3:34pm

Yeah CP's blurb was the main reason I picked that book up. But I don't imagine Pollock had an "in", other than maybe doing his MFA, which frankly a lot of people seem to be doing.

DrWood's picture
DrWood from Milwaukee, WI, living in Louisiana is reading A different book every 2-5 days. Currently Infinite Jest January 19, 2016 - 6:00pm

If you can reach them, many well-established writers are very generous.

The trick is getting their contact information and getting them to remember you when you contact them.

 

DrWood's picture
DrWood from Milwaukee, WI, living in Louisiana is reading A different book every 2-5 days. Currently Infinite Jest January 19, 2016 - 6:02pm

Pollack doesn't apply. 2008 is an eon ago in the publishing business, and he probably met agents and publishers while he was in the writing program at Ohio State.

 

MattF's picture
MattF from Tokyo is reading Borges' Collected Fictions January 20, 2016 - 3:19am

Pollock's stories appeared in Berkely Fiction Review, Boulevard, Sou'wester, Third Coast, the Journal, Chiron Review. These don't have the name power of the Paris Review or New Yorker, but they are some top-tier markets and very difficult to get into.

I'd say Pollock doesn't really apply because he is a transcendent talent, and no agent, publisher, or even average reader is going to read his work and not realize something special is happening. I don't doubt a Chuck blurb gained him a good slice of market, but his work's been reviewed in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Elle, and the USA Today as well--he was kicking the fucking door in no matter what.

'Pollock made it so I can too' might be an accurate sentiment, but you'd better be fucking great.

All of the discouraging advice above is true, but it definitely shouldn't discourage you. Every single writer has a different path, and there are plenty of debut collection writers, and collection only writers. Kick down the fucking door.

Advice I recieved last year from an established agent: Collections stand a far better chance with a follow up novel in the works, and if you are planning a novel next, you'd be better off waiting until you had enough to pitch.