Wednesday, October 23, 2013
I get a lot of questions about short story collections. How do you write a query letter for a short story collection? Do publishers want them?
Well, it's complicated.
Short story collections do get published, usually by the cream of the crop of the literary fiction world. (Note that I'm not talking about anthologies with multiple authors, which can sometimes be published around a high-concept hook.)
It's rare for a debut short story collection to be published unless:
a) The publisher wants to whet the public's appetite for a debut novel
b) The author has previously been published in All The Places (think: The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Tin House, The Atlantic)
Think: Junot Diaz's Drown as a (decade-prior) prelude to The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, or Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies as a prelude to The Namesake.
Yes, there are authors like Alice Munro, Nathan Englander, and George Saunders, who are primarily known for their short stories. Please see rule b.
So how do you query a short story collection without an accompanying novel? Well, in my opinion, you don't. If you've achieved enough literary success to get a short story collection traditionally published, the agents will come to you.
Art: Der Brief an den Liebsten by Adolf Schmidt