Short Story Compilation: Do’s & Dont’s

short stories published authors

   LOOKING TO PUT together a short story compilation? If you are self publishing then you can be more cavalier than if you want a book in print, but there are some general guidelines to adhere to.

  • Length: Most publishers want around 40,000 words for a compilation or more.
  • Genre: The general consensus is that you are better to compile a number of short stories that fit into a common theme. Horror, fantasy, surrealism etc.
  • Sales: There is conflicting data on the short story market, and some websites appear to discourage the notion of even trying to get published in that format which is ridiculous, ask Alan Rinzler. There is definitely a market for short stories, just ask George Saunders, although you are not going to acheive the sales of a full length novel in all likelihood. Additionally, I believe publishing a short story collection is a great way to dip your toes in the cold waters of publishing, if nothing else you have published writing, an acheivement in itself, and it can propel you on to write bigger and better things. Potentially you might get noticed as well.
  • Story Selection: Be VERY selective about the stories you do include. It is easy to carried away and add in nearly every story you’ve ever written regardless of quality. Learn from Amber Sparks. When I look back on some of my works, my maxims are: Does it stand the test of time? Also, did I enjoy reading it? Yes? Good. Chances are they are solid works that others will enjoy reading too.
  • Story Order: How are you going to order your stories? Don’t just randomly smush them together. Ideally start with one of your strongest shorter works to kick start the book. Then introduce longer stories later on. That way the reader can be hooked in.

Remember, all of the above is advice, it isn’t chiselled into a stone tablet that all publishers use as reference. I like the general notions, but as in anything creative, rules can be destroyed. For instance, I quite like compilations with numerous genres; sci fi and horror for example.

From a marketing perspective it’s a tougher sell I guess. Self publishing gives you more freedom however, so there is always a viable option to get your book on shelves or on screens no matter what.

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