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The Book Deal

Why book publishers love short stories

Short story collections are big business. Thousands of anthologies are in print with many more published each year. A quick look at Amazon shows 29,000 story collections listed. Of those, more than 3,500 are anthologies of stories by a single author.

That may surprise some short story writers, including those who’ve asked me if they have a prayer of ever getting the attention of agents and book publishers.

There’s a robust market for books of stories

We know that avid readers love short stories. Short stories are easy to digest, and can provide a little emotional sparkle or epiphany in one quick take. That’s particularly true in these busy techno multi-tasking, attention-deficit times, with readers seeking the revealing, surprising, twisting, inspiring or ironical dose of feelings that can illuminate the truth about their lives.

That said, most of the large circulation serious short fiction magazines like Smart SetAmerican Mercury, Colliers, and the Saturday Evening Post are gone now.

But there are still a handful of national magazines like The New Yorker and Esquire publishing short literary work.  Just this week Vanity Fair posted a short story excerpted from Look at the Birdie: Unpublished Short Fiction, by Kurt Vonnegut, coming out October 20, 2009 published by Delacorte, an imprint of Random House, Inc.

Literary journals publishing short fiction

Then there are the hundreds of smaller journals listed from A-Z in the NewPages Big List of Literary Magazines.  These range from the African American Review, which has published short fiction by writers like Toni Morrison and Ishmael Reed, to ZYZZYVA, the San Francisco based journal founded in 1985 by editor Howard Junker. ZYZZYVA has published 241 first time authors, including F.X. Toole, who at 69 wrote the stories that inspired Oscar-winning film Million Dollar Baby, directed by Clint Eastwood.

For a roundup of a dozen literary journals publishing short fiction, take a look at the November issue of Writer’s Digest Magazine.  You’ll find background information and tips to getting published from the editors of McSweeney’s, Chicago Review, Zoetrope: All-Story, and many others.

Book publishers take chances on new writers

Agents and editors search these literary journals and magazines for new authors.  And every year publishers take chances on new writers who aren’t particularly famous yet, but end up surprising everyone with a big hit.

For example, Farrar, Straus and Giroux just this year published Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, a debut collection by Wells Tower, which has been highly praised and is enjoying good sales.

It’s true that agents and publishers hope that the short story writer will also produce that blockbuster novel. And it happens.

Annie Proulx, author of the short story Brokeback Mountain which originally appeared in the collection Close Range: Wyoming Stories, also won the Pulitzer for her novel Shipping News. Richard Ford, who wrote the short story collection A Multitude of Sins, also wrote the novel Independence Day. Michael Chabon, author of the short stories A Model World, wrote the novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

Short story collections can sell very well

Sales numbers can be big enough for short stories on their own. There are many successful examples each season.

Just this year, Random House sold around 329,000 copies (according to BookScan, which captures about 70% of all cash register sales) of Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, for the set of 13 linked short stories about a grief-stricken family set in a small town on the coast of Maine.

That should give every short story writer a boost.

And in the same period, Vintage has sold around 210,000 copies of Unaccustomed Earth, Lahiri Jhumpa’s collection of related stories about the fate of immigrant Bengalis in America, since publication in April.

Remember these inspiring words

So have heart, short story writers everywhere, and remember the wonderfully inspiring words of Howard Junker, the editor of ZYZZYVA, who publishes a great deal of short fiction by new writers:

“Once upon a time in the wilderness of the slush pile, there were many lone voices crying out to be heard. And some were.”

The short story as dress rehearsal

Many writers use short stories as a technique to try out ideas, new narrative styles, and potential rehearsals for a novel. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a wonderful short story called Absolution, published in American Mercury in 1924, widely understood to be a portrait of the young Jay Gatsby, prior to growing up and transforming himself into the protagonist of the classic The Great Gatsby, published in 1925.

Isaac Bashevis Singer, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote several stories about Jewish refugees of the holocaust in New York City after World War II. Among them, A Wedding in Brownsville and The Cabalist of East Broadway and others appeared originally in the New Yorker, Playboy, and Esquire. These New York stories eventually evolved into his best-selling novel Enemies in 1971, then filmed by Paul Mazursky in a widely acclaimed film starring Ron Silver, Anjelica Houston, and Lena Olin.

Similarly the stunning young author Junot Diaz first published Drown in 1996, a collection of stories about his early youth in the Dominican Republic and then adapting to life in New Jersey, and used the same autobiographical material in his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in 2007, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008.

In a twist on the syngergistic relationship between short stories and novel, author Tim O’Brien won the National Book Award in 1979 for his Vietnam novel Going After Cacciato, then later published what was a thematic collection of short stories on the same Vietnam experiences, The Things They Carried, in 1990.

Other literary giants like Eudora Welty, J.D. Sallinger, and John Updike have also used short stories as rehearsals and sequels for longer work.

Writers need to answer this question

What all veteran and aspiring new writers need to ask themselves first and foremost, what is the best form for the core idea in question? Is it a finite, self-contained episode in time, a precious gem on its own that needs nothing else around it? Or could it be perfectly readable in one sitting but also the kernel of something that could eventually become longer and more complex, i.e. a novel?

For more details about short story contests, conferences, magazines and journals, take a look at the annual Writers Digest Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market and the online directory Duotrope Digest.

Are you a short story writer?

Tell us about your own short stories and how they fit into your literary plans for the future.

You might also be interested in these posts: News ways to sell short stories and Growing a short story into a novel


  1. says

    I write short stories. I also write novels and poetry. I’m not sure I have a grand plan. I want to write, so I do. I would like to get published, so I’m trying. I recently started sending of queries and approaching agents. I am from the UK but I live in NZ. I have to say, there do not seem to be any UK agents receiving short stories with open arms. I have sent my short story collection tagged onto my sales pitch for one of my novels now. I’ll see where that gets it.

    My short stories are diverse in style and subject matter. Each of the three novels I have written are very different, in both content and style.

    Britain reads a lot of US fiction, but I don’t believe that the US has the same level of interest in UK fiction, but is this accurate? What are the stats?


  2. says

    It’s lovely to read a blog post with such an optimistic title! As a short story writer (The White Road and Other Stories is published by Salt Modern Fiction) and editor of The Short Review, which reviews short story collections and anthologies (new and older, across all “genres”), it warms my heart that someone is emphasizing the positive rather than subscribing to the “poor poor short story” school of thought. We are offered collections almost daily for review for The Short Review, and, as you say, there are thousands of magazines for short story writers to submit to.

    For me, I don’t see the short story as a stepping stone to anything: would you ask a poet if they planned to write a screenplay? The short story is its own entity, it can do things no other form can do, when done well. I read over 30 stories a month, and I can assure you that many, many of them, especially the very short “flash fiction” are astonishing in what they achieve in one or two pages.

    My short story collection has been surprisingly successful, which came as a shock to me, and now I find I am writing even shorter stories, and also some poetry. Perhaps it is the rebel in me, going the “opposite” way from the direction a literary agent would like to see me move! All I know is that I am loving it, and have no plans to write a novel. Short stories also lend themselves excellent to being adapted into short plays and films, which I have been doing with some of my stories.

    More power to the short story writers, and thanks again for your positivity!

  3. says

    Oh happy post! I write short fiction — flash fiction (1,000 words or less). I have always loved reading short stories, have enjoyed reading those precious gems that need no more telling. But I also have read short stories that make me want to know more and more and more.

    Right now, I’m just writing. Reading and writing. And enjoying the process. And yes, writing short fiction is a way for me to “rehearse” my writing voice, to sit in a chair and try different styles and subject matters. It is hard, but also a very satisfying endeavor.

    I do hope to be published. I do hope that my words are loud enough for the person sitting next to the slush pile to hear.

    Will I write a novel?

    Anything is possible.

    And your post does give one hope.

    Thanks you!

  4. says

    I have a short story series that I am working on. It is young adult fantasy. I started it as a short short but would like to flesh it out. The series will be 5 stories long (3 of the 5 are on paper). I have an idea for a second series using the same characters, perhaps 3 stories long. I also write novels and have 4 ideas in various stages. They span several genres and the first I hope to complete next year.

  5. says

    I agree with all that you have written, with one exception – new writers. I would suggest that for new writers short stories are NOT a good way into publishing. In fact, I would suggest that new writers are better off giving away their short stories for free in order to build a following. Then, once they have won the Pulitzer they can publish a best selling collection.

  6. says

    This gave me some interesting food for thought.

    I’m a novelist and a mother, so in the limited time I get to write each day, I devote all of that time to full length fiction. I now see the value of spending time on short pieces. Thanks for pointing that out.

  7. says

    I’ve been following your blog for a few months, and am thrilled to read your thoughts on this, as short stories are an important part of my writing life at the moment. Three months ago I started a short story club on my writing blog in which anyone can suggest an idea for a story when I call for ideas once a month, then I pick one that resonates and write a story in response. It can be an opening line, a concept, a title, whatever. Only members can read the stories (membership is free, I hasten to add) and the person who suggested the winning prompt gets to read the story before everyone else. When they tell me they’ve read it, I send it out to all the members and the cycle begins again the next month. The commitment on the part of the readers is incredibly small; they don’t have to submit ideas if they don’t want to, and the only other one is to read the story for each month (again, no pressure to do even that).

    I started the club for several reasons, the principle ones being the realisation that I write my best short stories to prompts (discovered from winning my website design from a short story competition with a prompt) and the need to discover whether I could write creatively to deadlines, with people waiting to read them (good training for an aspiring author, which I was at the time of starting the club). It helps with procrastination, is building a great community of people that enjoy my writing and I plan to collate them all into an anthology in about a year’s time.

    Since starting the club I have recently secured a deal for my debut novel with a new small press in America (I am British, living in the UK), so the other advantage is that I am already engaging with people that love my writing, so when the book is released, I’ll be able to tell them first, and they will trust my writing can entertain them already. I’m so excited by the response the club has received so far (almost 60 members) and it has done wonders for my productivity, writing process and self-confidence; it has enabled me to really understand what the creative process is like for me, and grow to trust it, so I would heartily recommend a regular writing commitment to other writers out there. And, of course, I’d love people to come and join in (I’d die and go to heaven if you were one of them Mr Rinzler, but I understand you’re a busy man!)

    Short stories also focus particular skills that can also be transferred to novel writing, such as ensuring that every word is powerful, and that the writing is tight. I love it. Hooray for short stories!

  8. says

    I’ve published a lot of mystery short stories, and they’ve done a lot for my career. For one, I’ve gotten a number of mystery awards and = nominations for short stories. (In fact, I’m nominated for two that will be given at Bouchercon later this week.) Plus I’ve had readers and editors tell me they first encountered my short stories, then hunted up my novels. After publishing a short story in ALFRED HITCHCOCK MYSTERY MAGAZINE, I got an e-mail from an Italian publisher who wanted to read my most recent novel. He’ll be bringing out an Italian translation of that book later this year.

    Will I be writing more stories? Absolutely. I’ve got three on my projects list right now.

  9. says

    As a lover of short stories, I was amazed when “experts” at writers conferences repeatedly preached that there was no market for short stories. Always a skeptic of conventional wisdom, I wrote them anyway and am very pleased with the sales of my collection of Austen-inspired short stories, “Intimations of Austen” ( The Austen industry churns out so many P&P sequels, prequels, and what-ifs, but I started writing my stories well before most of them hit the street and I’ve been able to tap into a desire to read more than just P&P works by the ever-growing audience of readers who love everything Austen.

    Moving on from Austen, ghost stories in particular work well in this format, as do psychological sketches. Daphne du Maurier was the queen of the psycho-thriller short, and so many of the classic writers used the format brilliantly. Glad to hear that the short-story anthology is making a comeback.

  10. says

    I have written a few short stories, and a few novels, hoping to have either published. I had thought that the best way into getting an agent would be to have some publishing under my belt (short story publishing, that is). And I was disheartened when I first tried to find suitable magazines for my work, but after this article, I am feeling much better. I just wanted to thank you for the information, I hope it helps me find a place for my work.

  11. Dorothy Abrams says

    Very encouraging, thank you. My summer writing project, now extending into the fall, is a short story collection centered on the theme of pagan goddesses. I thought I was writing it for myself just for fun. With your information I ask myself “Why not put it out there?” Frankly I suspect my short fiction is better than my novels.

  12. says

    I could not agree more. I set out to write a novella about the Holocaust. By the time I was finished, it was 524 pages (with shrunken font). That made the book a more difficult sell. Eventually, I was published by an Israeli publisher that specializes in Jewish and Holocaust-related books. But even then, my publisher was not pleased with the length of the book.

    Authors must also acknowledge that lengthy books are more expensive to print and require higher pricing. Higher-priced books are more difficult to sell. And, fewer readers are willing to tackle lengthy books, further reducing sales potential.

    In the end, I decided that my Holocaust tribute would be just as long as necessary. I did not anticipate the book would be published when I wrote it. In fact, I write as a hobby, not as a vocation. So, I was willing to make the novel as long as needed to convey the story. But writers who expect to earn a living from their books should focus on short stories and novells, rather than epic novels that may be difficult to publish and to sell.

    Charles Weinblatt
    Author, Jacob’s Courage

  13. says

    Excellent post- I tend to agree w/ Bubble Cow- for new writers, short stories are best for literary magazines and as blog posts to drum up interest in the writing, which can then drum up sales of debut novels. There are quite a few publishers looking for short story anthologies, as well. Another fantastic attribute of short stories is that they are very easily adapted into film scripts, whereas larger novels have to be heavily cut-down to fit into a 110-page script.

    The short story lives!

  14. says

    Though I think the overall outlook for short story writers is quite mixed, I appreciate your glass-half-full take on things. Yes, there is a collection or two each year that sells well. There are also highly-touted collections (such as Charles D’Ambrosio’s “Dead Fish Museum” a few years back–most of the stories published in the New Yorker, nominated for a National Book Award, etc) whose sales are comparable to poetry. But on the other hand, there are lots of places that will publish (if not necessarily pay for) short stories, and there is a loyal if limited audience for them. I myself am particularly drawn to the novel-in-stories format (“Olive Kitteridge” is a recent example), which in a sense allows for the best of both worlds.

  15. says

    I love writing, and the short story is my favorite medium. You can explore concepts that can’t stretch a whole novel, use unique formatting/style/POV that would get annoying in a longer work, and see what you really can accomplish in a small amount of words.
    The only thing that is bad about this freedom is, if you’re like me, you stretch the limits of subject and form to the point of making a story homeless. But that doesn’t stop me from writing what I love. The world will wise up one day.

  16. says

    What an awesome post!

    I started writing short stories–by the advice of certain writers magazines and blogs–as a way to get my foot in the door so I could eventually land a publishing deal for my novel. I say now, with a shameful bow of the head, that I didn’t take it at all seriously when I sat down to write that first short story. It was something I saw only as a stepping stone, inferior to novel-writing, and intended it to be a short-term venture.

    Well, as I wrote, that story became as important to me as my novel! I’m happy to say the story was published, and even won Editor’s Choice :). I’ve published several short stories since then, and the thrill of receiving an accepatance letter has not lost its magic.

    I now rightfully see short stories as an artform in themselves. It takes skill to pack an entire story–with depth and nuance–into a few pages (or in some cases a few paragraphs).

  17. says

    I specialize in writing action-adventures & mysteries especially for tween boys. This lead me to write a short story that was included in “Lay Ups and Long Shots” from Darby Creek publishing. That book became a pick by the Junior Library Guild. Boys’ Life is considering another of my short stories for boys, and one was just accepted by Guideposts Books.

    Short stories are a means of increasing name recognition. They also provide an opportunity to write, while we wait for our full-length manuscripts to find publishing homes.

    In addition, writing short stories has opened the door for me into the picture book arena.

    Max Elliot Anderson

  18. Kate Thornton says

    I’m a short story writer – with over 100 pieces in print, I especially like writing twist mysteries. I’m delighted to see this optimism for the short story. I think it’s the ideal read for anyone with a scattered schedule or an appreciation for an immediate and satisfying experience. I teach a workshop in short story writing, and I have to say I particularly love teaching the very young who have such vivid imaginations and the not-so-young who have such a wealth of experiences.

    No novels in the works for me, though. I keep stopping after 2,000 words to say, “Is it done yet?”

  19. says

    Response to comment #1

    Hi Rachel-

    I don’t have stats regarding US readers’ interest in UK fiction but I do know that many books by British authors do very well here. Ian McEwan published two short story collections before winning the Booker Prize for his novel “Amsterdam” (BookScan sales #s: 142,734 trade paper, 14,723 hardcover), then even more acclaim and sales for “Atonement” (BookScan: 231,921 hardcover; 1,275,498 in two trade paper editions, 425,693 in mass market paper), which was also filmed with great success. Not to mention JK Rowling and the continuing best-sellers Agatha Christie, Dick Francis and,my favorite, John Le Carre.


  20. says

    Response to #5

    Hi BubbleCow –

    It definitely helps to win a Pulitzer Prize, and I agree with you that new writers should indeed give away their short stories to build a following. But publishing in a magazine or literary journal can also get the attention of agents and editors and lead to a short story collection.


  21. Jacqueline Seewald says

    I really don’t think new writers should give away their short stories. That implies their work isn’t worth anything. Always aim for a paying market. That doesn’t mean you expect to earn a fortune for your work. That’s unrealistic for most new writers. But at least a token payment shows respect.

    I have stories in quite a few anthologies and am as proud of them as I am of my novels.

    Jacqueline Seewald
    THE DROWNING POOL, Five Star/Gale
    THE INFERNO COLLECTION, Five Star hardcover, Wheeler large print

  22. Patti Abbott says

    Great post. I have published over 60 short stories online and in print. I have a half dozen in anthologies, too. But I have done it too long. In trying to write novels, I am handicapped now by all the things I learned writing short stories–such as– not too many characters, not too large a time period, little arcs, not too much description/ My novels are too sparsely populated, too compressed, too short. I am a miniaturist in a large-canvass world.
    My advice is to write a novel first, then learn to write short stories. I did get the attention of an agent with my stories-but not to publish a collection. He believed if I did one I could do the other. Very few short story collection on unknown writers are published.
    So far it hasn’t worked out. But who knows?

  23. says

    Response to #24

    Hi Jacqueline –

    I can’t agree that giving away short stories implies that the work isn’t worth anything. Publishers have taken a long time to realize this but it’s now unanimous among us that giving away stories and sample chapters sells books. At Wiley, we’re giving away free chapters for every one of our titles on our web site. Just today, moreover, Reuters reported from the Frankfurt Book Fair, that “allowing readers to preview book chapters before buying has a positive impact on both print and eBook sales”, quoting Russell P. Reeder, President and CEO of LibreDigital.

    My own opinion is that aiming for a paying market is precisely what you’re doing by letting people sample your work, whether it’s a book, short story, anthology, poem, or any other creative work. It’s the best way to show potential readers what you can do and for them to see if they like it.


  24. says

    I don’t think that the UK reading market is really geared for short stories. I don’t have the stats, but I’ve never seen a collection of short stories in the top 50 at Borders. I don’t know anyone that buys them.

    I enjoy writing short stories myself – especially the challenge of “micro-fiction” (less than 1000 words) and – more recently – “txt-fiction”. There is a great competition where you have to write a short story in 154 CHARACTERS or less (the length of an SMS text message)! It’s a really unique challenge. I’m not affiliated, but the link for thos that are interested: There’s a £50 prize every month for the best entry.

    Finally, I’m an unpublished UK author currently working with Alan on a consultative basis. Why not check out my freshly-pressed blog at:

    Add me, and I’ll be glad to return the favour and follow all of your blogs too.

    Many thanks,

    Carl Selby.

  25. says

    Great post. I just began writing short stories after finishing the first draft of my first novel. I’m enjoying the form because it forces me to keep my writing tight to convey ideas as economically as possible. At the very least, I’ll be a better writer for it while compiling a collection of stories. I’ve posted some flash fiction on my blog as a way to introduce those who visit to my work. As I get better, I’ll replace what’s there now with new stories.

  26. Mark Souza says

    Giving short stories away doesn’t mean they are valueless. Try to find a publisher for your work first and get paid. If successful, after they are published, rights eventually revert back to the author. At that point, post them on your website as free content to draw more readers. A short story in a magazine has a shelf life of around a month. The same story can continue working for you for years on your website as advertising for your style of writing.

    You can do the same with stories that didn’t sell. The caveat is make sure the quality is there, because maybe it didn’t sell for a reason.

    Great post, Alan.

  27. Karen Macklin says

    Hi Alan!

    Thanks so much for blogging about this. As always, the post was a pleasure to read and a great resource as well. I am working on several short stories now with two goals in mind: One, to refine my fiction-writing skills after spending many years writing theater and non-fiction; and two, to explore various ideas and characters I have been considering for a longer work. I absolutely love the examples you gave, and the great information.

    Thanks again!


  28. says

    I have put a collection of short stories together and am currently almost finished the road to self-publication. I call it my toilet book . . . because it is flash fiction, a collection of short, two-minute reads. What better location to put this gem than in the bathroom? I called it Joy in a Box, but perhaps I should have called it Joy on the Pot. :)

  29. says

    Great blog! I totally believe in using blogs to explore potential book projects, is an example in the non-fiction, self help field. Much of my fiction work is a mixture of genres that agents find hard to pigeon hole in a marketable niche. Seems counter productive when originality is the goal. In a world of lightning fast publication and communication it makes little sense to wait on agents to find your work in the slush pile and get back to you – now it’s all about connections in the traditional industry – and all about self-promotion in the new electronic media industry.

  30. says

    Thanks Alan for this great post. And I’m glad that you responded to #24, Jacqueline Seewald, with that response. Of course we want to get paid. But most of the really good paying markets aren’t even open to unagented writers. And the ones that are, have an acceptance rate around 1%. That’s really hard to break into. I JUST got paid this year for the first time – I won a contest at ChiZine for a whopping $250 (but i was very excited and happy to get it) and got another story accepted in Cemetery Dance for another astronomical sum of $100 against royalties for an upcoming anthology. It’s just not realistic. We could spend our LIVES trying to get paid, and never do it. Publishing online or in print journals is a way to get your work out there, build an audience, and hone your craft.

    But it’s good to see that short stories are selling. I’ve published about 18 stories online and in print over the last two years. I have finished one novel, Transubstantiate, a neo-noir thriller and am shopping it now. I am about 35,000 words into my next novel, a neo-noir transgressive novel entitled Disintegration. I’m trying to find a press and/or agent right now.

    Also, lets not forget the graphic formats, graphic novels and comics are very hot right now too.


  31. bc says

    I noticed, when trying to format my stories into forms, that they find their own forms. A story is complete when it is complete. Some stories are short, some novellas, some novels. Some adapt from form to form. What didn’t work was when I tried to force a story into a form it really didn’t belong in.
    (i.e. Making a short story into a flash fiction may make it more concise and dramatic or it may leave it feeling more like an outline. Expanding a short story into a novel may work beautifully or it may just be so much filler that the novel length is dull.)
    (Note: However, I have been encouraged greatly by the idea that this can change -possibly- when working with a developmental editor and that beginning from a smaller idea can begin something bigger/or different than one initially envisioned.)
    So, being true to a story (and its innate form, if such a thing exists), I have been sad that it seems there has been a dwindling market for the short story and especially for the novella, a form I especially appreciate.
    (Many of my favorite writers have a novella gem in their portfolio.)
    Thanks, Alan, for this encouraging article.

  32. bc says

    PS Alan, I understand you have a background in screenwriting too. If so, I would enjoy hearing more in the future about that experience and if and how you work with screenplays/screenwriters as an editor. It seems many novels are turned over to different screenwriters for such adaptations, but also that a good number of novelists and/or short story writers successfully write their own screenplays too.

  33. says

    I have a ranking system I use to chart my progress as a writer. I know it isn’t completely accurate, but it gives me a basic gauge to judge the quality of my work.

    Publishing credits used as a writing skill meter:

    Level One: free online publication
    Level Two: free print publication
    Level Three: semi-pro payment online publication
    Level Four: semi-pro payment print publication
    Level Five: pro-payment online publication
    Level Six: pro-payment print publication

    I’m barely reaching level three and when I can accumulate pubishing credits on this level on a regular basis, I’ll move up to the next level and start targeting those markets. I always send my best creations to Level Six and work my way down the ladder, after the piece has been rejected, because I feel one should always aim for the top, but I notice which bin my work actually falls into and that lets me know where I am as a writer.

    Once I’m able to accumulate Level Five and Six publishing credits on a consistent basis, I suspect I may have drawn a readership along the way. My short-story collections will be more marketable if I’ve proven myself and people have read my work prior to the unveiling of a collection. When I do write a novel, after hard work and honing my craft, I will be more likely to produce a work of quality and present a marketing plan that will enhance my chances of finding a top-notch publisher willing to take a gamble on my book.

    I don’t want to kid myself that I can write a symphony before I’ve mastered the art of four part harmony and orchestration. I don’t waste my time writing a novel that I will be embarrassed to claim as my child, once I’ve earned the title of professional.

    Short stories that are truly well-written are rare, valuable jewels that will always be sought by collectors. I want my work to be valued and for that to happen–I must put forth the effort and practice. The short story is the perfect practice prose, in my opinion.

  34. says

    I myself had tried my hand at writing short stories for kids. Let me tell you it is not easy. I’ll be honest; when I had finished my first attempt I did not know if my short story was good or bad. I had a website so I published my short story as free reading. I have found that this is very good method to get feedback on your short stories. In short if you are new to writing short stories get somebody to publish your short story for free on the their website. Get some feedback and then decide if it would be worthwhile to pursue publishing your short story. Let’s face it not all short stories are equal. Some will sell other will not.

  35. says

    What an inspiring post! It’s so refreshing to hear good news about short stories. I love the form and have had very limited success having short stories published. There’s not a lot of money in having short stories published, but it is an immensely gratifying experience. One drawback to being a writer of short fiction is when asked by non-writers what I write and I answer “short stories,” it generally results in a puzzled look or a shrug.
    Thanks for the encouraging post.
    Donna V.

  36. Annie Bloom says

    Great Short Stories usually take us into a space we have never imagined before and leave us considering new ideas, excited, or evoke breathless laughter. Many writers write for the pure pleasure. I especially love the humor of Mark Twain and stories of country life, and the sudden twist of O’Henry. At middle-age, After getting my BA, major in History and minor in English, and having a few stories published by the university, short stories addressing the years 1910-1940 US east coast have become my passion. A book of short stories is my goal and am well past the amount needed, yet have not attempted publishing since graduation. I will shortly, but for now it is gratifying to send copies to those in their 90’s and watch their reaction. They are my encouragement. Everyone who loves writing should continue, if only for yourself or those around you.
    Thanks, encouragement is always helpful.

  37. Tamzin says

    I consider W. Somerset Maugham to be one of the greatest short story writers in the same vein as Guy de Maupassant, but you never hear about him anymore. I’ve written a compilation of non-fiction short stories, but everywhere I see only fiction for the short story category. What genre does the non-fiction short story fall under? And what’s the best way to get it published? Any advice will be most welcome.

  38. says


    Great piece. And close to my heart as well. I actually hosted the short story writer Simon Van Booy for a reading on Oct 25 and used it as an opportunity to praise the form. [*Van Booy’s collection “Love Begins in Winter” is stunning and just won the O’Connor Award…a very important new award for those of us who love the short story.]

    Anyhow, I did want to mention that in your take on Richard Ford, Proulx, and Chabon….it doesn’t really make sense…

    Ford wrote “A Mulitude of Sins” two books AFTER winning the Pulitzer. It is probably better to note that before “Independence Day,” he published the amazing colleciton “Rock Springs.” It was actually that collection and “The Sportswriter” that made his reputation…

    Chabon is so-so…though, “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” had already launched him…

    And with Proulx, again, she’d already won the Pulitzer when “Brokeback Mountain” came out. So, not a great example.I’m not saying I agree with the idea that only established authors get to “play” around with the short story, but it does happen…like Richard Russo publishing that so-so collection “The Whore’s Child” only after so many novels and after winning the Pulitzer…which is sad cause, you know, his agent discovered him via a short story in a university journal!

    So let’s just focus on better examples….

    Like Lahiri winning the Pulitzer for a story colleciton BEFORE she wrote her first novel, “The Namesake.” You went right to her new collection, but left that out.

    I’d like to argue that in fact more first time short story collections than ever are being published right now. What are your thoughts?

    *Lastly, I just discovered the new collection by Lydia Peelle this past weekend. A first colleciton. Brilliant so far!


  39. says

    Hi Joshua-

    Thanks for your very informed and thorough comment, with the added information about Annie Proulx, Richard Ford, and Michael Chabon. Thanks also for the latest breaking news on short story publication and prizes. I hope this encourages writers to realize that agents and publishers continue to be interested in and looking for good short story collections.

    Re Proulx, Ford, and Chabon, I should have explained that they were novelists who also wrote short stories, and didn’t intend to imply that their short story writing led them to try a novel.

    Meanwhile there are more short story collections by both first time and veteran authors every year. There are also more prizes. Check out Publisher’s Weekly and Publisher’s Marketplace on a daily basis, and you’ll see that good deals are being made as agents are selling and publishers buying short story collections.


  40. Ralph Bougher says

    Hey all…

    I have written a few shorts over the years. Nothing published yet. The piece I am now in the middle of is a collection that will cover many years of fictional time (as well as real effort time by me). All of the stories in this collection relate to the same time line, but are not always connected in any direct way. Each story is intended to stand on its own, but some contain people and events for other stories of the collection.

    I have two stories ready to submit as shorts (two more are very close), and the whole collection should run over 100,000 words by the time it is wrapped up as a book.

    Just researching how to do the first submissions and found myself here… Good luck to all!


  41. says

    For about 10 years I’ve been writing short stories on business, career and marketing as a way to communicate with my public and create my personal brand in the corporate world in Brazil (I write in Portuguese). First I publish them in my blog and then I take the best ones, update, adapt, add or modify, group them by subject and send to a publisher. So far I have 6 books published in Brazil.

    The first 5 are out of print, so I got the copyrights back from the editors and published them on demand on and My last book was translated into English and I decided to publish it also on demand. I own the copyrights for the English edition, but the original Portuguese edition, published by my publisher, is still being sold in Brazilian bookstores.

    Here is the point: writing short stories gives me a faster reward feeling than writing a whole book at once. Besides that, blogs are a great tool to take my writing’s temperature in a more often way and check out with my readers which way to go.

  42. says


    Thanks for your note. Between Simon Van Booy’s recent visit, his win of the O’Connor Award, and your piece above, I’ve been encouraged to work on a longer essay about short stories in America today.

    I was wondering about your take on BookScan. You mention them in your piece about short stories. According to their web site, by the way, they now claim to capture 75% of sales, not 70%. Amazing how they were able to bump that by a nice neat, round 5%, ay?

    Here’s my problem with BookScan: they kill debut books, likely short story collection especially. They offer too much “information” too quickly, thus seriously hurting a book’s chance to find its audience and catch on organically. With that said, I’m not sure BookScan’s “information” can be trusted.

    Here’s why:

    I have spoken with authors who insist that the BookScan numbers don’t line up with their royalty checks.
    Let me explain it in round numbers:
    Let’s say a book sells 100 copies. By BookScan’s claims, they would be able to capture at least 70 or 75 of those sales. So they issue a report…and then someone at Publisher’s Weekly says, “Oh, those are bad sales.” And writes a story saying, “John Smith’s debut novel failed to perform and sold just 75 copies.”

    But then….John Smith gets a royalty check…and it’s for selling 225 books…
    How can that be? You see? Who do you think is wrong here, BookScan? Or the accountants at a publishing house…where the last thing they’d ever do is OVERPAY an author?

    This isn’t an example, but a very real situation presented to me off-the-record by a very “big” author (I’ll leave it at that, as I fear naming prizes, etc. would be inappropriate).

    So, what is your take on BookScan? Good for the industry? Bad? Flawed? Perfect?


  43. says

    I’m actually glad I stumbled on this post tonight. I was sitting in a production of The Fall of the House of Usher at the Nashville Opera this afternoon with my wife, and I had a great idea for a book. Unfortunately, it was for a collection of short stories and not a novel. I’ve been reading so much lately about how the short story is dead that I had all but given up hope that my chosen medium (I much prefer short fiction to both read and write) had gone the way of the dodo.

    Sure, I’m no Kurt Vonnegut, so my chances of getting my stories in The New Yorker are virtually non-existent, but at least I see a professional’s opinion that reinforces my idea just enough to make me think I might actually have a shot (no matter how small!) if I actually get to writing it.

  44. says

    It is about a year that I have discovered I love to write. I started with children’s stories. It took me a while to realize the meaning of “write in the genre that you love to read.” For me it was science-fiction short stories. Since I started writing them many thing have fallen in place. I still haven’t published any but I’m studying, learning and applying what I learn. There is great pleasure in writing and reading them. I have this weakness that I tend to skip descriptions when reading a story. For me short stories seem the right size. As far as publishing, I’m sending them to magazines that I have devoured since I was twelve. Thanks for all the helpful information. I have learned a lot and am still learning from The Book Deal. Thanks.

  45. says

    But . . . is the writer from this planet?

    For example, I’ve got one of those fat “Writer’s Market” books with all the listings of publishers and agents. I think about 5 agents out of a hundred or so claim they’re interested in taking short story collections, and all five of them are lying.

    Am I telling it like it is or not?

  46. says

    Hi RG-

    I may be an incurable optimist, but I’m not the only one. Did you happen to catch the good news for short story writers in the New York Time’s list of 100 Notable Books of 2009?

    Here’s a quote:

    “One heartening development has been the resurgence of the short story — and of the short-story writer. Twelve collections made our fiction list, and four biographies of short-story masters are on the nonfiction list.”

    Check it out:


  47. says


    Don’t believe the hype…

    I too am incurable optimist when it comes to the American short story….
    So much so that it sorta bothers me when the NYTBR spends a full 1/3 of a very brief introduction making the claim that their list somehow signals a “resurgence of the short story.”

    Especially when you consider this:

    The NYTBR 100 Notable books for the past two years (2008 and 2007) each include nine short story collections. Do this mean that when you go from nine to twelve, it’s a “resurgence”? And who’s to say that there weren’t three more great collections in 2008 and 2007 that could have been included? I mean, the 2009 list doesn’t even include Elizabeth Strout’s “Olive Kitteridge”….which is only the 7th collection of short stories to ever win the Pulitzer Prize. That’s not “notable”?

    Further, if one looks back a full decade, to 1999, the NYTBR suggestion of a “resurgence” appears even more suspect….

    1999 was a great year for the short story. Jhumpa Lahiri’s debut collection, Interpreter of Maladies, won the Pulitzer Prize; it was just the 6th collection of short stories to even snatch the award, and it was the first paperback original to EVER win.

    But, even more interesting, is that the 1999 NYTBR 100 Notable Books list includes no less than 29 short story collections! More than double the twelve collections on 2009’s list!

    So, we should be insisting that the short story is not having a “resurgence” because it has always been thriving!! People have never stopped writing short stories, and people have never stopped reading the short story. Enough already with the “resurgence” talk….


  48. says

    Short stories are not only fun to read; they are a blast to write! These Are The Moments, a collection of short stories that I have just published, brought me over a dozen different characters, in different situations.

    The idea for the book came when I was sitting in my living room one night, alone. I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye, but of course, there was nobody there as I was the only one home. I sat on the notion for a moment that I was seeing another dimension of life and that took my imagination away – but I’m not a SciFi type of girl, so I had to think in my terms of another dimension – this brought me to writing quick scenes of others life. A novel takes you through a period of time, a short story – or mine anyway, and most I read – give you a scene and leave you thinking about that person and their situation.

    Typically my writing comes out of my life, but this time, I got to do what I had always wanted to do, and make it all up. What fun. What wonder.

    Keep writing them, keep reading them, keep enjoying them.

  49. says

    I agree with you wholeheartedly – all this talk of “resurgence” implies that there has been a drought (sorry for mixing my metaphors) – and those of us who love short stories know that there are so many out there for us to read, a veritable richness and abundance. As the great Janice Galloway said to me a few weeks ago, you just have to know where to look. Exactly! A good place to start is The Short Review ( We’re trying to make it just that little bit easier to find them!


  50. Phil Malat says

    I have a short story that needs exposure. I am trying to to get it published. I do not know the best web sites available(those read by the largest nnumber of people both in and out of the publishing industry) for posting.

    Can You Help?

    Thank You


  51. wanda oxendine says

    I had my first fiction novel published , its not selling as well as I hoped , I have 5 more ready but can’t afford to publish right now .. If interested in reading it I would like your input on A better Ideal of how to promote it thank you wanda, (peace to the seeker) is the name of my book

  52. says

    I have a collection of short erotic stories with an emphasis on HIV education that I am self publishing called Keep Your Panties Up and Your Skirt Down. I have heard over and over how publishing a book of short stories is a bad idea. Short stories are my thing. It’s what I do! This article gave me more hope that what I am doing will be appreciated. Thanks!

  53. says

    Howdy!!! from Texas!
    I’d have to start by saying Jesus Christ Him-Glorious-Self, did not hit the ground a’runnin’ with long stories. You ever read any parables from The New Testament? Yes! Short stories is what they is! They give the character, setting, then to the point, to the story they go! One of the bloody Beatles once said they preferred to make their songs short, as to leave the hungry ears of the listener only half full. Keep ’em comin’ back for more! Hello? Any one home?
    I write because I love to. However . . . like most of you fellow scribblers, my goal is to eventually make a living at it. And I see that black, looming shadow of my first novel towering over my frightened head. But (like S. King), I don’t see me ever abandoning the short story.
    It LITERALLY CHANGED MY LIFE! when I read “The Jar,” by Ray Bradbury! My God, buy “October Country,” Bradbury’s collection of shorts. Each story is a world. Why waste pages and precious leaves of paper on too-long-too-drawn-out plots, for The-Master-Parable-Teller’s Sake!!!
    The thing of it all is (in my opinion) that before you can master the art of telling a 100K word story, you damn well better be an ace at telling a 2K story! If not, your story will find its home at the top of the slishy slush pile where it so obviously belongs!
    The cream will rise to the top (after much and much churning), the crap (no matter how brown and porous and spongy) will sink to the bottom. Write stories because you LOVE to write ’em. The money will be a natural bi-product of the talent, so sayeth the as-of-yet unpublished construction worker/best-selling author.

    Good luck to all aspiring scribblers such as me,
    Brad Neal Clark

  54. Sandesh Ghimire says

    Thank you for the article.

    I write short stories, and poems. I have just readied a collection of ten stories, and am hunting for publishers and/or agents who enjoy reading my work. Born and educated in remote part of Nepal, I, of course, have picked up the events of Nepal life. however, I believe the plots and the stories at large carry universal implications. The quest, the title story of the collection, for example explores the two early twenty boys’ aches of not being heard. Even if adroit at their respective professions, they are agonized at having to listen to the jitters. The protagonists, Kiran and Prasoon, after a drunk gambol, meander along the cities of Kathmandu wondering why they frequently drink and conclude they drink at forget. when they reach at a knoll which boasts of the view of Kathmandu, they abruptly decide to call names at Kathmandu, a quagmire that has been able to ‘fuck us’. The story culminates at their being tired and Prasoon reaching a lesson “we are not complete. why da fuck should the incomplete vain shout?”
    I believe the stories are really readable. Longer in size, the stories truly convey iconoclastic juggernaut that is about to spring up.

    if anyone is interested to read them.
    please email at moc.l1441340453iamto1441340453h@utn1441340453ascif1441340453ilorp1441340453

  55. says

    I love short stories and have many collection sin my favorite genre of ghost stories, dark fantasy, Gothic horror. Its was The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter that made me want to be a writer. But I just can’t keep them short. I wish I could so I could establish myself with short stories like so many authors and I really try to stay below 5,000 words. But then the ending doesn’t work or the motivations aren’t deep enough and if the story gets longer and longer. I could cut them down but then after all that work…

    I suppose one could , in the interest of science, ruthlessly cut a story down form long to short and still and also so stretch it out again and make a novel out of it. Re-purposing a product so web 2.0.

  56. says

    What an encouraging article! And it has engendered a phenomenal number of posts. The short story (collection or as individual items) is not dead. Yes, short stories can be the germs for bigger things – my published thriller novels The Prague Manuscript and Pain Wears No Mask started out as short stories! My western Last Chance Saloon started out as a short story. Yet some stories do all there is in their limited length, and I’ve sold over 90 of them. Long or short, it doesn’t matter, let the story write itself with your help and it takes as long as it takes – even if sometimes that’s booklength! I’ve sold over 20 stories about a single character and intend putting them into a collection and now I’m encouraged that perhaps there is a market for it after all. Thank you!

  57. Sarah Lolley says

    Hi Alan,

    I’ve just discovered your blog and am enjoying your entries. Thanks for so generously sharing your experience and wisdom with emerging writers.

    It’s heartening to read your assurances (and those of Joshua Bodwell) that short fiction is, indeed, valued by publishers. I’ve been working on a collection of linked short stories that all address medical ethics themes (the subject of my Master’s degree) and I’m wondering if it’s worth pitching the four highly polished stories I already have or if it would be better to finish polishing them all, then pitch.

    Any advice?

  58. says

    Hi Sarah –

    Four polished stories should be enough to give most folks a good sense of what you’re doing and where you want to go with it, but have any of them been published in a literary journal or other periodical? That would lend credibility to your pitch. And are you send them to a publisher with no agent? I strongly recommend finding an agent first. It’s not easy but can be very helpful.

    Do you know anyone who has an agent or publisher? Having a referral from someone they know can help get their attention.

    Good luck! And if the four stories alone don’t work, keep writing and polishing. It takes a lot of effort to write well and get published.

  59. Perry Winnwet says

    I’ve attempted several times so far to write a novel, but have been unsuccessful to each attempt. Less recently but still the most recent, I wrote the beginning of a story for which I could not find a bridge into chapter two. I have remained stumped as to how I can proceed with my main character, or even where I want to take the story, knowing only that it needs to maintain the quality of power as the first (and only completed) chapter.

    So for now, I was wondering if there was a publishing agency that worked with both short stories and novels so that I could publish what I have initially as a short story until I can move on with my writing and then later publish the finished work?

  60. Julian Jones says

    I’m…a storyteller trying to be a writer. I have all of these stories and ideas in my head, but no stable form of writing. I write and i write a lot, almost daily. I write short stories, novels, lyrics, screenplays, poetry what have you. most of my stories seem to go on forever and ever and i dont know if thats a good or a bad thing. i want to write so everyone can read and enjoy my stories…and i would also like to make some good money and make this my profession…how cool would that be right? making money from something you love to do…

  61. Sisao Tresed says

    I have written short stories for many years, my latest book was published by Xlibris. They seemed to like it, gave me a break on the publishing costs, and offered it in hard cover, e-book and paperback. It’s selling pretty well.

  62. John P. Ranney says

    Dear Alan, great blog you have, it is full of Ideas helpful testimonials. I have a selection of 50 short stories readied, at this time am looking for an agent. I also have 3 novels and many poetry pieces available to a publisher or an agency. I self published my novel, Pirates Gold in 2007. I am in need of a serious agent..If you have any suggestions as to how to find an agency or publisher, Alan, please let me know..Thank you, John P Ranney

  63. says

    I love this! It’s wonderful to hear of the possibilities in the publishing world.

    I love to write. It’s in my very core to express emotion in different forms from poetry to short stories to the one day all-inspiring novel.

    Thank you for providing hope and for that added push to get my written work published with a company instead of self-publishing E-books once and for all.

    Alexa Rosa

  64. says

    I write short stories and publish on websites such as, etc. Eventually I would like to publish them in a book format with a title “Holy Cow and My Tales” by Subba Rao

  65. Jenny says

    I have just spent nearly 2 hours scanning the internet for information on short story publishers and this site has completely lifted my spirits!
    I have been writing short stories for just over a year and had two published in Australian Woman’s Day but have so many of them I’d love to be able to publish them together in one book. I keep telling myself that I’m working my way up to a novel – truth is, I haven’t found a character I love enough to want to spend that much time with yet!
    Thanks again for making me smile!

  66. knut says

    To whom it my consern
    I write a lot of small stories from, mostly, Europa, and sometimes on the EDGE of sex and fantasy;
    Where on eart can one find a publiser, without having spend days by reading about all the things that normaly one know??

  67. says

    Hi, Alan, and all!

    I’m happy to have found this blog. I’m publishing my second collection of poetry this spring, but am still shopping around my collection of humorous short stories. I’ve always considered myself much more of a prose writer, so it’s strange that I’ve had such luck in what I don’t believe to be my strong suit, yet am struggling on the other side.

    An agent told me last year that unless your stories have been published in places like The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Missouri Review, etc., no agent will take on a writer selling a short story collection. I’m wondering how true this is? Also, how important is it that the collection have a theme?



  68. says

    I’m an established writer with many credits. I’ve recently taken to writing more short stories but cannot easily get them published. I’d thought no one was interested until I read all your interesting comments.
    Many thanks. Very encouraging.

  69. Ilya says

    I have a couple short stories edited, looking to make some money off them. Also ive recently been trying to get some articles published. Thanks for your intrest.

  70. Doris Cooper says

    I enjoy writing about anything that comes to mind. I do have a suspense short story and a 379 page nonfiction novel documenting pieces of history that I am looking for a publisher. If you have any suggestions or can refer me to someone who would be interested in looking at both manuscripts, I certainly would be grateful. The 379 page novel is God given and instructed to be published in 7 different languages and to go worldwide. And lastly, a movie is to be made.

    I could use some help in finding the right publisher.

    Best wishes,

    Doris Cooper

  71. says

    I was surprised, but pleasantly so, by the idea that publishers love short stories. This contradicts what I’ve ever heard or read. My short story collection, Once Upon a Decade: Tales of the Fifties, is one of three Finalists in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards 2011. This comes with a medal and invitation to dinner at the Plaza Hotel in NYC. My question is, will this increase the visibility of the book?

    Best wishes,
    Clark Zlotchew

  72. Khumbulani Ndhlovu says

    Well i love short stories so much so that i am thinking of giving it a try.Is it all rosy,if at all,for a teenage Zimbabwean to pop into foreign markets? Clark your book is already visible,take it from a strict follower of SS-collections.

  73. Chan says

    I’m a short story writer. My stories touch on all aspects of Chinese society and have been published in Europe. I believe that the readers can benefit from them. Now I hope to sell my work in magazines or journals in North America. I ‘m so sorry I don’t know who is the right publisher there who would accept online submissions. I would appreciate it if you could give me a bit of good advice.
    Best wishes,

  74. says

    This is absolutely great, I love short stories, and finally want to start organizing some of my best work. I was going to sell them online, when at the last minute I thought, what about an actual publisher! Thanks for your great work, and PS, I loved you in Tron. 😉

  75. Gary Villani says

    Dear Mr. Rinzler,

    Last night my neighbor and I sat on the porch of my house chatting about short stories. Traci is a busy-busy single mother of four who all-but-gave-up her love of turning pages—as a matter of survival—until we became friends and I seized on her as a potential New Reader!

    As we sipped from our cold bottles of MGD, Traci offered me a thoughtful review of the latest tale I shared with her. She followed with an encouraging thought that echoed words you expressed in your letter to we, the people who write short works, that the dynamic of easily-digestible, single-serving literature still works, and has a place in today’s market.

    “I don’t have time to read books anymore,” she said with a shake of her head, “and it always frustrates me when I start one and don’t get back to it until I’ve forgotten where I was or what it was I liked about the story.”

    Patting my hand, she added, “What I like most about your stories is they seem to stay with me at work, or while I’m driving to or from. They sneak up on me. I catch myself reconsidering your insights and the way you grabbed me with the first sentence and carried me quickly to the end. That’s really fun!” She further rewarded me with a wide-eyed grin that left me eager to return to the keyboard… and equally prepared to linger and listen to more.

    I find myself again torn this morning; do I work between the lines of once upon a time and the end? Or should I dash off some query letters, hit print, buy some stamps or just hit Send?

    I would conclude this letter with the words ‘To be continued’, but I’m not that kind of guy.

    To make a long story short, your concise advice was very nice. I just wanted to say thank you.

    Gary Villani

  76. says


    Thank you so much for your article on short stories! I was very surprised by what you said about publishers loving short stories. When I shopped the idea of writing a book of short stories, I was always told that I would have an extremely hard time getting an agent or a publisher interested. As a matter of fact, I was just repeating that same thing to a lady I was sharing space with at an exhibit. I’ve also worked in libraries for over 30 years, and I have to say that we, like most libraries, aren’t buying too many collections of short stories by unknown authors. And that’s mainly because publishers aren’t publishing them. At least that’s what I thought.

    The big push now is urban literature. Libraries and the public and falling all over themselves to purchase those books! It doesn’t matter whether it’s self published or traditionally published. Case in point: I wrote and published a book of short stories. Had it professionally done from the cover to the text layout and even had it edited professionally by two editors. To look at and read my book, one would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between my book and a book from a big publishing house. My library bought six copies. An author I know wrote and self published an urban fiction book through createSpace. She did everything, except the cover, herself. Immediately upon flipping the book over to read the back cover and opening the book to read the first few pages, it’s obvious that the book was self published and very much in need of a professional edit. My library bought 58 copies!–and counting! We shared a table at an expo. and she outsold me at least by 10 to 1.

    I would love to know who all the people are that are looking to read short stories. Gary Villani, your friend might be happy to know that there’s quality self-published short stories out there, besides yours, of course! Pass the word along.

    If anyone is interested in purchasing and reading my book, Transitions: short stories for a rainy day, be sure to check me out at: It’s an ecclectic collection of stories about everyday issues we’re faced with. What makes the collection unique is that most of the stories have a twist that reader doesn’t see coming. And it’s a clean read. The book is only $12.00. I hope you’ll give a look-see. I’ve been getting great reviews from those who bought the book. Many people say they can’t wait for the next book.

    I will be following this blog! It has great information!

    Cathy Jo

  77. says

    Alan – I found your article interesting and informative. The world of publishing is changing with ebooks etc. I have always written short stories even when I was in grade school, but have never been published. I am more interested in how? Yet still give me the time to wrote. Thanks for the wonderful article. Patricia

  78. Shahab Ahmad Khan says

    Hello everyone, I am in the process of finishing my first story. I don’t know if it is short enough. Looks medium to me. Are there any places where I can put it up for review and feedback? It is supposed to be a screenplay for a film but I am writing it in a story style.

    Stay happy!

  79. says

    I have written a series of short stories called The Caldecott Chronicles. The editor and the Beta readers liked it a lot so for starters I put an excerpt upon Scribd — I have had nearly 1,000 reads in just two months so will make it available as an illustrated ebook in November.


  80. Khanna says

    Hi. I recently won a short story writing competition in India, due to which my story is getting published in an anthology by a renowned Indian Author. I have a few other short stories with me, and am simultaneously working on more. What do you suggest i do with them?

  81. says


    You have many options: You can submit the story to Amazon as a Kindle Single (check my blog post of Sept. 11, 2011 for more information.) You can also search in the classified ads of the print magazines “Writers Digest” and “Poets and Writers” for short story contests and journals which might publish the story in the traditional media. You could post your stories online for free at sites like Scribd or Boxie. You could submit a collection of all your stories to an agent for traditional publication, or you could self-publish your short story collection either independently, or under the auspices of a vendor like Amazon, Author Solutions, or Lulu.

    Best of luck to you.

  82. Devon says

    I found your article very intriguing and easy to read. Sadly, most of my short stories usually end in some traumatic way, though I have written a humorous one about a teenage girl who finds herself alone and stuck in a bathroom stall with no toilet paper. However, most of my stories are only one to two word pages, is that bad? I mean, when we say short stories, how short are we talking here?

  83. glenda stock says

    I have written quite a few short stories. Some romantic, some with a twist, some family related,some sexy and some based on true experiences. Can I get them all published in one book?

    Thank you


  84. says

    I have written 9 ghost/short stories. I have also written a murder mystery, something I have never seen on TV or read in a book. That’s why I wrote it the way I did, I wanted something completely different than the expected. You don’t know who did it until the very end, that’s what I was looking for. The people who have read it came up with all these different people, but they were wrong! It was great!!!!

  85. says

    What I am looking for is for someone to read my stories and see if they are good enough to turn into a book. Do you know anyone who does this? I would like to sell my stories to them and if they think they’re good enough, they can take my stories and do what they want with them. Can you help me with this?

    Thank you

  86. says


    You can get feedback in a variety of ways these days. You can submit the work to online readers and writers groups. You can take a writing class in a local adult education program or college extension class. Or you can send it to a professional developmental editor such as myself for evaluation.

    Search online for your best choices and good luck.

  87. Lily says

    I am thirteen years old and for as long as i can remember i’ve loved to write. i really want something to get published, i usually write short stories and if anyone knows any sites thats reputable could they please let me know, thank you so so much…

  88. says

    Louise and I have recently retired and begun writing about our pastime…power boating in New England. Many of our short stories have been placed on our website,; some have been accepted by Diva Toolbox on their website, and one is to be published in September in a boating magazine. Any chance one of your “professional developmental editors” could review one of these stories to determine potential further development?

  89. says

    Captain Brown

    You can meet developmental editors at writers conferences, workshops and trainings, or search for them online. Choose carefully, evaluating their track records to see if they’ve worked on books you’ve read or recognize. Happy sailing!

  90. Dave McCluskey says


    I am a short story writer but am finding it very dificult to find what sort of market my stories would fit in. Basically I write in rhyme, but the stories are not for kids. They have a dark, twisted outlook to them and are written with a lot of humour.

    I am looking for someone to do some artwork for them and then maybe get them published. Like a Rhoald Dhal Rotten Rhymes type of vibe.

    Any ideas of where I could publish or any websites that may be interested would be appreciated.



  91. Marry Krakowsky says

    I love short stories, therefore, I’m happy that they are blooming in literature again, but I need to point out that despite the fact there are 19 000 collections out there at Amazon, it’s extremely hard to find works of really high value… I mean, recently I’ve read all the collections by Haruki Murakami (two I could find), and a lovely set of shorts by Joel Strivewell, called “Windowjumpers”. I also bought “The Nimrod Flipout” by Etgar Keret and it’s nice too. Can you people recommend something else worth reading? Please help!

  92. John Scully says

    I have a story to tell about my family home, which was left intestate after my parents deaths. If its possible to get it publish I can send it in.

    John Scully

  93. Ernie Johnson says

    I write Christian fiction short stories and an occasional piece just for fun or to be different. It is encouraging to know there are publishers who may be interested in what I write. I have not yet been published other than a few newspapers.

    God bless,
    Ernie Johnson

  94. says

    Just came across this and though maybe I could get something useful.I right short stories with African themes and ideas not widely known or written about. Maybe am wrong. I have a collection of 12 stories that I have posted on Authonomy for two months now. I have had so much support and improvement and my rankings are doing great! However, the reality that short stoeies are hard to publish just hit me. I guess I am wondering if someone would like to look at them.

    Josphine A

  95. says

    Josephine A.

    Glad to hear you’ve posted 12 stories on Authonomy and your rankings are improving. You’ve taken the first steps and now should continue. Search the Internet for other sites, groups, and blogs that are either interested in good stories or, specifically, in finding out something they didn’t know about Africa. There is a large market of readers who want to read good stories with original information and insight, so be patient and gradually build a following.

    Do you have your own web site and blog? Sounds like you would have a lot to say and could develop an audience. Eventually you’ll be in a position to either try for an agent and traditional publisher or self-publish a collection of your best work. Meanwhile, keep writing. Remember, it’s the quality of the work that ultimately counts more than anything.

  96. says


    First search all of the literary magazines and journals that publish stories and see what they’re looking for. If your work seems to fit, submit it and cross your fingers. Establishing a track record for publication with one or more stories is a way to develop a credible reputation among agents and publishers so you can eventually submit an entire collection.

    Meanwhile, post your stories on your own website as well as many other sites where original unpublished work is welcome. Study some of the answers already written for this post, like the one for Josephine, just above, and keep writing!

  97. Mariah Brown says

    I wrote a short story about my mom abusive life before moving to Georgia..but i don’t know how to publish it or any good websites for it can someone help me…because if anyone take my short story serious i will write a couple series to the story.. PLEASE HELP!

  98. says

    I love writing short stories and flash fiction. I have also ventured into personal essays, poetry and novel writing. I have been working on a short story collectionfor a few years and have published three of the stories in journals. The guidelines I’ve read say you should have already publsihed at least four of the stories you want to offer to a publisher of collections so I’m almost there. I am addicted to taking online classes and have found two instructors who are fabulous for short fiction of memoir. Melanie Faith and Len Leatherwood. I’m open to hearing from other short story writers about their journeys toward publication.

  99. says

    I’m all goosebumpy (and other words I immediately regret typing). Thank you for the inspiration.

    I’m a short story writer getting lots of nice feedback at my blog, but paralyzed by the process of finding an agent and getting published. While I have many people telling me they’d run out and buy my Blue Sky, Rhode Island book tomorrow, I have people in the business telling me no one will be interested in a collection of short stories, no matter how interwoven. I have three other short stories in the works that I’m all kinds of giddy about, but getting concerned that I may never escape the world of advertising-copywriter-and-aspiring-“real”-writer. Sigh.

  100. Claudia Talbot says

    I happen to be a character in an unfinished novel. I and my maker believe my life is at it’s halfway point. I am his second attempt at making a novel length project. He has several short stories, over twenty, as i recall. I can’t be entirely sure because i am never present for their creation. I have gotten a glimpse once or twice when my maker has been out of his head and confused his tales. He started putting a woman named Veruda into my pages. She is a complete stranger, but she sounded so interesting.

  101. hENRY wALOSIK says


  102. says

    These days there are fewer magazines willing to accept short fiction, especially in my genre, but as mentioned in the article, there is tremendous value in writing short stories. They are great preparation for the novel, because you can find your voice and treat them like exercises. I think Ray Bradbury suggested writing one short story per week for a year, saying that it’s impossible to write 52 bad short stories in a row (paraphrasing).

    Write them and share them freely with others. Ask for feedback. Keep going until you’re ready, then maybe a publisher will want to compile some of them after you write that bestselling novel. Stop reading this and get to writing!

  103. says

    Having written a few short stories and then found a good printer and publisher to produce the book at my cost I have worked harder to sell the copies than ever in writing them. Even though the stories are born out of my own experience and disasters. Disasters fall into two categories, the serious and the funny; I have them both.
    I can only hope that reincarnation is a possibility and that, as many others before me, posthumous success will be enjoyed by any new body the Divine Oneness might bestow upon me. . . as it doesn’t seem so likely in this life. I’ve also worked much on a web site and despite numerous hits. . . amazingly mostly from Russia, no enquiries by this route. Best sales technique, face to face with someone in a Pub. . . at least the anaesthesia takes away the pain of rejection. I had an idea that all us small authors could share links on web sites and by power of numbers climb the google ladder to fame. . . preferably before death. Good luck you all, Richard.

  104. Walter Conibear says

    I live in the Canadian Rockies and began writing short stories, as emails, to my brother when he lived in Brunei (south east Asia) and then France. I thought it fitting to keep him informed about back country Canada. He enjoyed them, eagerly waited for new ones and forwarded all to his family and friends around the globe. As a consequence I received positive feedback on my stories. The common thread is my experiences by foot, horse, snowshoes and skis throughout the mountains in this area. Many of my stories deal with elk, grizzlies and other creatures of the mountains, being encountered or hunted. A question is… “How well is the philosophy of hunting accepted in short stories?”

    Do you think I would be wasting my time creating an anthology with publishing in mind?

  105. says


    This article is very exciting! Though I am nothing more than an amateur writer, I’m currently in Rwanda helping a group of young writers at the National University to publish their work in an Ikinyarwanda/English anthology of poetry, short stories, etc. The aim is to promote a more accessible reading culture in the country both linguistically and financially (a small step to a large goal). Any suggestions or niche publishers that would be willing to help in this venture would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks again for your wisdom, Alan, and good luck to you all!

  106. says


    Glad to hear about this group of young writers in Rwanda you’re helping.

    Here are a few potential avenues for publication once you have your anthology manuscript completed:

    The Southern Illinois University Press has a collection of African poetry edited by Frank M. Chipasula, a professor at the Carbondale campus who has published many such collections of both poetry and short stories from Africa. I recommend getting in touch with him directly for advice since he clearly knows the field and probably would want to be helpful.

    Also, the great African writer Chinua Achebe has edited two books: African Short Stories, published by Longman; and Contemporary African Stories, published by Heinemann.

    In addition, Charles Larsen has edited a book of African short stories called Under African Skies, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

    I’d query the African Literature editor at these companies.

    Good luck!

  107. says


    A philosophy of hunting can certainly be accepted in short stories, if it’s well written, has great characters, a dramatic plot and a beginning, middle and end. You wouldn’t be wasting your time to put the best of them together into a collection. If you search “hunting stories” on Amazon, more than 5,000 stories come up, not all terrific, I’m sure, but there’s definitely a big market in this category. And if it becomes too time-consuming or frustrating to get a literary agent who can sell the collection to a publisher, this seems like a great candidate for successful self-publishing.

  108. says

    In my files there reside over 100 short stories,fiction and fact, ranging from two pages up to fifty about varying subjects. Many friends have read some of them and declared they were great. Naturally, I would like to publish them.
    I took a writing class while in college and had a short story stolen by the instructor!
    I self-published a fictional book, “LUG”, about a scientist saving a young yeti from certain death in Asia a few years ago. Trafford of Canada was the publisher. I was 85 at the time {now 89) and had not the energy to aggressively sell my book. Several copies were sold and the feedback was encouraging.
    Lug proves to be very intelligent as he matures, loves games and music, but becomes quite aggressive and a threat to humans. McKinnon, the man who found and reared Lug flies him to a Zoology convention seeking help with him, but the plane is blown far off course, runs out of gas and ends up landing safely atop a volcanic protrusion in Mexico. They are marroned there for years.
    Jerry, a far too curious oil worker, spots the strange towering formation on a surveying flight and is compelled to go there. He does so and is captured by Lug. Jerry knows his life is subject to the whims of Lug.
    Maria, Jerry’s intended, a fearless army veteran goes to the cloud tower hoping to help her lover.
    The book goes on to reveal the outcome.
    I will gladly send a copy of the book and/or a few hard copies of my short stories.
    Thank you, sincerely,

    Keith L. Simons
    Email: moc.o1441340453ohaY@1441340453yekol1441340453fs1441340453

  109. Bertina Anderson says

    Even though the original post of this article was dated over 3 years ago, I do hope that someone will help give me some advice. Currently, I have 2 short stories that I’m interested in publishing, but would like advice on them, particular whether it’s better to self-publish or find an agent. I’m debating whether or not to turn either of them into a novel because currently I’m only working on one of them seeing that it has pretty decent potential of being a novel if not a short story. Also, I would like to know if either of my stories would be of interest to any publishing company. Both of these stories are currently still “in the works,” but I would like to get a heads up as to what their potential may be.

    One story is about a boy who is royalty, is stolen away… raised by some other species of the story… then he looks for his mom as an adult. Various creatures inhabit this story and it mainly deals with racism with a moral to the story at the end.

    The second is a mystery about the first boy to ever investigate the reasons why a principal may be so out-of-this-world weird with unprofessional attire, mannerisms, etc. How weird is he and how does he behave, I can’t tell you. You’d have to read it- but I can guarantee you, you’ve never met a principal or ever read about one like him.

    Which of the above two stories has the most potential?

    Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

  110. says

    I am a Business Manager for a Nashville Singer/Songwriter and Retired. I started writing Western Short Stories when a Famous Old Country Western Star ask my Wife to writer some Western Songs. Since I was retired I wanted to help so I not being a Songwriter I tryed my Hand at collecting Ideas for Songs which to my suprise I was writing Short Story. I try to use facts to develop the story.
    Yes it would be Funny to be Published. Since I am enjoy doing it. I will keep on till I get a Book full or my wife finds one to turn into a song.

  111. Eggert Thomsen says

    I have written a short story. It is written so that it is very

    easy to read. It is simply worded a d could appeal to most

    anyone. Where do I go from here?

  112. says


  113. Rachel S. says

    I had written about four novels a long time ago. Now looking back, I acknowledge they are not my best work. Recently a traumatic event triggered me into writing short stories and in three weeks I have completed six short stories. Always wanted to get my work published. Searching online for publishers who are willing to publish unplublished authors, but its not easy. Trying not to be disappointed.

  114. says

    I’m a retired teacher who loves to write . I write what I know although it is not a true story. All the locations , mileage and details are very accurate . It is written based on the Vietnam War and a young wife who is left behind. I’m sure that the feelings don’t change , just the war .There is both humor and saddness as she goes about her daily life , She holds on to her strong love of her husband and of God

  115. Wendy Anderson says

    Hi there, thanks very much,I enjoyed reading your site. I felt encouraged, but the hard work has only just begun, I suspect!!! You have confirmed for me I will have to use Kindle. I have a 12 thousand word true story to publish, after I have found a good editor who won’t charge the earth! Yes I am new!!!!!!!!!!!
    Wendy also in New Zealand!

  116. michael devine says

    Hello I’ve been writing short stories on and of for about 6 years. That really came about on the back of my song writing, I’m signed to an English music publisher. I felt if I could tell a story in song, I could write one as well. I have 20 so far, fantasy, vampire, and ghostly dramas, all under 2,500 words. I won an award for one of my ghostly dramas a few years ago. How many words should my stories be and how many stories should I have if considering a short story book?

  117. says


    There are no hard and fast rules about this, but in my experience, short stories can range from 2500-7500 words and a collection can have from 10-15, depending on each story’s length, a good total being from 65-75,000 words.

  118. says

    I have written a book of almost 200 micro stories about Africa. Can anyone advise me which agent to approach? Introduction:
    This book aims at capturing in print images and experiences garnered for the most part during the nineteen-sixties in East Africa. It began as an individual exploration of memory in 2002 and evolved into a collective effort between 2012-2014. The author spent three years in Uganda from 1964 until 1967. The book’s backcloth is the descent from democracy to dictatorship. A group of mainly young men, fired for the most part by a vision of new ways of structuring society, experience a gathering storm of disharmony and chaos. Thoughts and images gathered since the sixties find their way into these pages. Fragments of experience are glued together by the imagination. The author is in touch with many of his colleagues from that period and is grateful to them for being able to bounce texts off them, just as they bounced ideas off each other in Kampala fifty years ago. The images are as clear now as they were then, perhaps clearer. The book was written as an attempt by the author to make sense of a complex period and an experience which often did not fully make sense at the time that it was happening. Several of these stories have appeared already in anthologies, magazines or blogs, in English and Spanish, in Spain, Mexico, El Salvador, Uruguay and Argentina.
    Robert Gurney

  119. Ricardo da Mata says

    Here in Brazil the publishers hate short stories (I am not exaggerating); most of them don’t even accept to read this kind of book. We have a tradition of great short story writers and translators but no one cares about it nowadays. The writers must bear part of the blame with their ridiculous and uninteresting plot less tales.

  120. says

    Hi, my name is Marilyn L Scott. I’m 67 yrs. old. I’ve written a short story and would like tot it published. It is about me and my dolls. It’s sort of like the three faces of eve. The only thing is I don’t know if I have multiply personalities or not. At the age of 10, I bought a doll & named her Gypsy, she was 8″ tall. I talked for her in a different voice., she was almost real. Her voice was different from mind and she had a different personality from mind, more out going. As time passed she got put away and I got another doll name Connie. Same thing, her voice was different from mine & Gypsies. She was also 8″ tall with a egg shaped head & orange hair. You would have to read the story in order to understand it. As I said, it was like Three Faces of Eve. Except my personalities came out in the for of dolls. The book is entitled: The Trilogy of, Me, Gypsy and Connie. If you know someone that might be interested in my story let me know. This is a real story, I once went to a counselor to make sure I wasn’t crazy. She said not really.

  121. Richard Bustetter says

    I published a collection of ten short stories to Amazon, Kindle Direct Publishing. I sold two copies so far. Wee! I was delighted to have published the book. I hope I get it published as a print book. The name of the collection is “Quandaries”. It’s available at Amazon as a downloadable e-book. The stories are in alphabetical order according to title, not in the chronological order of their conception. In 1989 I was asked by Karen Chamberlain, the coordinator of the Aspen Writer’s conference at the time, to read one of the stories at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen. I read the story “Chickens”, which is the year when I first wrote it. Then I revised it, hoped I made it better. I know it is very difficult to work jobs and write, have a family and write, but it’s worse to give up. So I wrote more stories and finally put them together in a collection. Just putting the book on KDP was a big boost of encouragement for me. I am delighted to know there are lots of writers out “there”, who are being creative. I am putting together a second collection at this time. I am also working on a novel, and some non-fiction. The success of completing one collection has boosted my self-confidence about getting things written. So if anyone who writes reads this, I say; keep up the good work. Don’t give up. Thanks for reading.

  122. says

    To be honest, I haven’t found even 1 traditional publisher who seeks to publish short stories in US, let alone ‘love’ them 😉 I’m currently novelizing about 200 radio drama scripts and teleplays, and I’m not sure with whom to publish them. It seems that my only option it self-publishing or submit to Canada, Europe, Australia, etc. So, if you know someone who really LOVES shorts in America (especially PG-13 and TV-14 sci-fi/adventure), let me know ASAP. If not, the word ‘Amazon’ is in my fortune cookie because, so far, their smorgasbord meal is GRATIS! Did I just mention ”free lunch?’ In America? That’s a first, eh?

    PS I can’t afford to POD myself for only $1,500 ‘full package.’ Full of what? Bogus? 😉


  1. […] Publishers would rather publish novels than short story collections, yet short story collections by not well-known writers are published each year. This is because it’s easier for publishers or editors to scout literary journals and magazines for talented writers and then take a chance on them by publishing a collection of their short stories. This is nicely covered in Alan Rinzler’s blog. […]

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