Posts Tagged ‘collections’

Publishing Short Stories Traditionally (Part 3)

Here’s our final stop on this particular story type/publication method combination, Squiders.

Short Story Collections

Like anthologies, short story collections are, as the name implies, a collection of short stories. The main difference is that an anthology features the work of multiple authors, while a short story collection includes the work of only one. As such, short story collections tend to operate more along the same principles as novels than selling a single short story at a time.

The first step toward submitting and publishing a short story collection is to have written a number of short stories. These can be ones that have been previously published, or they can be new ones. A number of stories is necessary; most traditionally-published collections are equal in length to novels. These stories can be related, such as all featuring the same characters, or the same universe, but they do not need to be.

If you have an agent (see agents section–note for blog: not written as of yet, so don’t be confused that you can’t find it), you can have them submit to publishers for you; some publishers will accept submissions from unagented authors. Like novels, you will need to write a query letter that you or your agent can send out. The query letter will need to have statistical information about the collection (number of stories, word count, genre if possible, etc.) as well as some sort of hook to inspire a publisher to look closer at your stories. An interested publisher may ask for a sample, or may ask for the entire collection to aid in the decision-making process.

NOTE: Short story collections are notoriously hard sells, especially if you are not an established, traditionally-published author. Publishers typically find them hard to market, and readers may not pick up a collection if they are not previously familiar with the author in some way. Previously published stories may be an easier sell in this case, especially if they’ve been published in top-tier markets or have won industry or genre-specific awards. Alternately, short stories that are linked to a novel series can also be easier sells, since readers are more likely to seek them out to augment their reading of the series in between novels.

A publisher will have a contract you will need to agree to before they’ll publish your collection. If you do not have an agent, you might consider asking one or a rights-specific lawyer to look over the contract to make sure that you’re getting a fair deal. Some publishers will pay some amount of money up front, called an advance. You have to “earn through” your advance before you can start earning royalties. Others may not pay an advance at all.

All right! That’s it for traditionally publishing short stories. Please let me know if you feel I’m leaving anything out, or if anything is confusing.

I’m going to take about a week off of the book posts (I’m reading a terrible Star Trek novel to share with you guys on Friday) and then we’ll jump into self-publishing short stories (which is a massive beast). And then another break from those sorts of posts and then into the novels, egads.

Happy Tuesday!

Speculative Fiction is a Product of its Time

If you remember, last year I acquired and read a short story collection of the best science fiction and fantasy stories from 1959. For those too lazy to click the link, I mentioned that I thought that most, if not all, of the stories included would never be published in today’s climate.

I’m currently most of the way through a volume of the best science fiction and fantasy stories from 2011. Earlier today (while building a snow dinosaur in the backyard) I was pondering the differences between the two collections. The current collection is much more what I would expect to find in a scifi/fantasy short story collection, and I’ve picked up a couple of authors to look more into based on their included stories.

But I think it’s wrong of me to say that the 2011 collection is better than the 1959 one. I think that it’s more of a generational thing, if you will.

Authors don’t write in a vacuum. They absorb the culture around them–pop culture, religion, politics, the concerns of the day. The more modern authors and I probably share a lot of the same influences, so these stories feel more natural to me.

On the other hand, the people in the ’50s had different worries. There was the constant threat of nuclear war, and they were still recovering from the horrors of WWII. It seemed perfectly plausible that an invading alien race could show up at any time.

Those worries have disappeared into climate change, terrorism, school shootings, and government oversight.

That doesn’t make our stories better–just reflective of the times we live in. If you handed the 2011 collection to someone from 1959, it’s entirely possible that they would think it was crap. They might think we take too long to get to the point of the story, that we rely too much on twist endings. They might wonder why we’ve already given up on space travel instead of being excited by the possibilities.

Any thoughts, Squiders? Do you agree that stories are a product of their time? Why or why not?