Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

What I learned at Muse in the Marketplace!

I tend to think of writing conferences as places I impart great wisdom (ow! OW! LIGHTNING!! OWWWW!) the stuff I've learned the hard way to writers who are looking for information on this crazy industry we all love.

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


Colin Smith said...

Most of what I've read indicates that agents are generally not inclined to take on short story collections because they don't sell. Is this changing? Or should authors follow the example of Katherine's client and go direct to publishers with their short story collections, hoping to get an agent based on a successful publishing deal?

OK, let's get specific: Would YOU be interested in queries for short story collections?

Michael Seese said...

So you're saying that when I finish my fantastic book of seven linked (REALLY linked) short stories, I should ping you? Just so that you can offer a similarly insightful presentation at next year's Muse in the Marketplace, of course

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

Three of my favourite YA authors have a collection of short stories released now. They all have published books, but I still believe they would have been successful as they've been posting shorts online for 4 years. They created their success. I've learned a lot about writing & social media by following them online. I'd like to write similar to Brenna Yovanoff. Maggie, Tessa & Brenna built their careers with hard work & patience. They also built a solid platform over the 4 years. Beautiful generous people.

Janet, thanks for sharing.

Janet Reid said...

Colin, right now I don't take on short story collections as the initial project. Other agents do. I think there is a robust market for stories, but I have to limit what I take on and this is one of the ways.

Janet Reid said...

SHx2 you're welcome!

Michael, sadly, no. You'll have to try new and weirder tactics!

Guilie said...

Awesome, Janet--thanks for sharing. Alan Rinzler recommended this conference to me in February, so perhaps I can make it next year. Great advice on the shorts collections--I've been thinking about selecting a few and checking to see if anyone's interested. Will definitely follow the advice here!

The BOCO Review Blog said...

The legacy of the e-pub revolution that will last past all the controversies is the revival of the short story as an art form and a way to make a living.