mythical one-eyed peace officer asked
"If you write short stories, you'll need to have six-ten in your quiver, and they should already have been published in periodicals before you query"Yes.
That's interesting. Would the same apply to nonfiction collection? Memoir essays...?
Part of the reason is that editors want to make sure someone out there has heard of you and will buy a book of your essays. Previous publication is a very good way to say "yup, I've got fans."
Colin Smith asked
First off, my interest is piqued by the fact you even suggest that short stories could be considered by agents. I'm currently writing some shorts to get publication credit, as well as some professional validation (and candy money). Here you seem to open up the possibility that, if these stories are good enough, I might query them for an anthology...? Am I hearing you right?No.
First, if you are querying for a group of your short stories rather than a novel, it's called a collection
of short stories, not an anthology. An anthology is a group of short stories by DIFFERENT writers.
I had to have this hammered into my head when I began representing Laird Barron.
The reason you need to know the difference between collection and anthology is that editor you're pitching (or the agent) knows the difference and you don't want to pitch what you don't have.
It would be extremely rare to have a collection of short stories pubbed before a novel in any genre category. It's rare, but not as rare with literary fiction writers.
Colin inquired further
Then we come to the question of definition. By "periodical," do you mean any magazine or journal that is published (online or in print) on a regular schedule? Does it matter which magazines/journals, or is the fact that an editor parted with money for your work good enough?Which periodical matters a LOT.
The more prestigious the better.
The less you have to do with running the periodical the better.
Thus, if you're pubbed in the New Yorker, you've got my attention.
If you're pubbed in the Carkoon Feed and Bleed Newsletter, and are also a contributing editor and font sharpener there, not so much.
Here's an example of a deal announcement from yesterday's Publishers Marketplace demonstrating what I mean:
Published in journals including The Yale Review and The Iowa Review, as well as Best American Non-Required Reading, Iowa MFA graduate Anjali Sachdeva's ALL THE NAMES THEY USED FOR GOD, a story collection that explores—through the lens of surrealism, realism, and science fiction—the isolation we experience in the face of the powerful, mysterious, often dangerous forces that shape our lives
From Carkoon, Joseph Snoe telexed:
It’s interesting to me too that short story collections are more marketable if they’ve already been published. I guess it makes some sense. Jean Shepherd published at least two books of short stories that had appeared elsewhere (but I hadn’t read any of them anywhere else).
It does seem there ought to be a market for original short story collections (I think I have one by Neil Gaiman), and not just the books that compile several authors.
There's a market for alphabetized grocery lists if you're Neil Gaiman.
There are actually quite a few collections out there from writers who aren't Neil Gaiman (yet)
In fact, Laird Barron has a pretty good one out right now.
And of course Craig F made my hair stand on end here:
Please be careful when you try to publish shorts. It is a different world for newbie writers than it is for established writers. Established writers get a lot more money than newbs. There is also a sticky little thing called publishing rights. A lot of periodicals like to keep those.
I had an offer from Short Story America. For the whopping fee of $50 they got to keep my publishing rights for entirety of their life. Be very careful to read, and understand, the fine print. With e-periodicals it is hard to do that at times.
First and foremost if you take away nothing else from this blog EVER,please remember this: CONTRACTS ARE NEGOTIABLE.
If you sell a short story and the contract they offer licenses the rights in perpetuity, DO NOT AGREE.
Suggest an alternative.
In every short story contract I review (there's that word again!) for my authors I make sure the scope of the license is clear: how long the periodical can publish this story exclusively and when that exclusivity ends.
It's IMPERATIVE that you do this if you want a career, because if you tie up rights thoughtlessly, you can pay a severe penalty down the road.
Remember that wonderful movie Arrival I mentioned the other day? It's based on a short story. If the publisher of that story had hung on to film rights (which some short story publications try to do) it would have wrecked havoc on making that film deal.
Plus, film contracts license CHARACTERS. If you've got a story with a character you intend to use down the road, you sure as hell don't want to tie up film rights to that character with the Feed and Bleed Gazette.