At Muse in the Marketplace however, this past week in Boston, I learned a thing or two myself! I was on a panel with Mollie Glick of Foundry Media and Katherine Fausset from Curtis Brown. We each talked about an aspect of agenting and it was from Katherine I got a lot of good notes because she talked about short story collections.
She told us about one of her clients who sold a collection on his own to Carnegie Mellon, a respected university press. He then announced the deal in Publisher's Marketplace. Katherine saw the deal, saw he'd done it without an agent and made contact. She sold his next two collections to Graywolf and then his novel to Grand Central. Sweet, huh!
Katherine's suggestions about how to handle collections include these points:
1. Is there a link between the stories? Is it perhaps a novel-in-stories? What is the over-arching theme of the collection? Mention that in a query.
2. Look at all the stories and see if perhaps the characters are all the "same guy." If the stories are all the same character, change the names to that character. That unifies the collection nicely as well.
3. Include comparable collections of stories in your query. (This was new to me, and blindingly obvious -- right after you hear it!)
4. Query stories to lit mags and collections to small and university presses without an agent. Keep moving forward.
All in all, this is outstanding advice and I intend to follow it.
And if you'd like more brilliant insight, you might think about attending Muse in the Marketplace next year. It's in Boston and sponsored by Grub Street