Tag Archives: short stories

Should authors seek agents for their book-length collections of short stories?

I’ll bet you thought there could be a yes or no answer to this question. Reality is much more complicated and ever changing.

It’s possible, but rare, for a creative writer to be so talented that, even though his or her first book is a collection of short stories, an agent would find it logical and worthwhile to begin working with the person in anticipation of future, more commercially viable, creative output. By “commercially viable,” I mean desired by big trade book publishers. In almost six years of agenting, I’ve encountered only one such writer, and I asked the person to get back in touch with me when a novel-in-progress is completed. However, there are quite a few literary agents in the U.S. who happily take bigger risks than I do. Every agency is different, as a look at each of our websites will reveal.

Almost every time I receive a query from a short-story writer looking for an agent, the letter I’ve copied and pasted below is the basic form of my response. Of course, my form reply doesn’t cover everything I’m looking for in a client, which is what the guidelines on my website are intended to convey to writers.

My form response is designed to encourage novice writers of short stories to begin learning about the business aspects of a professional writer’s career. Some eventually will decide that they don’t want their writing to be more than a hobby, because turning it into work isn’t pleasurable for them. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, except when hobbyists are unfortunately misguided into believing they’re entitled to demand that literary agents invest time and money to assist them as a courtesy, pro bono. Most writers are smart enough to catch on to business realities very quickly. There are many terrific publishing options for hobbyists.

My agency’s form reply to queries from short-story writers

It’s nice of you to contact me about representation. Please note that detailed query guidelines are posted on my website.

For an author of short fiction, accumulated writing credits are an important part of a query. Major book publishers in the U.S. typically prefer to acquire book-length collections of short stories only if the authors already have had a considerable number of the stories published in reputable literary magazines or anthologies. If you’re not sure which literary journals are the most prestigious, then you can find out where some prizewinning short stories first appeared by taking a look at these books, which should be available at your local library:

Pushcart Prize

Best American Short Stories & Best American Nonrequired Reading

The O. Henry Prize Stories

More of these types of anthologies are listed at:

Treated & Released

You can learn about submitting your work to literary journals and magazines by reading:

Poets & Writers

The Writer‘s Guide to Publishing in Literary Magazines and Entering Contests
by Ayelet Tsabari

The Review Review

I wish you the best of luck with your writing career.

isolated pen

© Geotrac | Dreamstime Stock Photos

For writers who have succeeded at having short stories published individually, a few agencies actively call for submissions of book-length collections of short stories. As of October 2014, two of them are the Renée Zuckerbot Literary Agency and the Waverly Place Literary Agency. An agent’s submission guidelines are subject to change at any time, so please alert me if I fail to notice when the current information about these agencies becomes obsolete. If I see it’s no longer true, I’ll cross it out.

There is hope that ebook publishing will permit a short-story renaissance. In all honesty, it’s more likely that the ease of self-publishing ebooks and POD books, coupled with the increased numbers of free online literary journals, will make many more short stories available to readers at little or no cost, and then the supply will outpace the demand from readers. At the same time, it’s interesting to note that more online literary journals are paying their contributors a modest amount, perhaps to attract better stories to publish, because they have lots of competition for submissions these days.

Dynamic, isn’t it?

Please feel free to share in the comments section the links to or names of any literary agents asking to see short-story collections. I hope this information is helpful.

Litmags that specialize in literary travel writing

From my public literary magazine database, I’ve gathered a list of publications devoted to literary travel writing (usually not including space or time travel, for which there are many other outlets). The travel theme gives these journals an identity that appeals to someone like me, who enjoys meandering.

Did you know there’s an International Society for Travel Writing whose website includes information on conferences and publishing opportunities?

White Sands (Fré Sonneveld)

(Photograph courtesy of Fré Sonneveld)

Don’t hesitate to tell me if I’ve overlooked your favorite literary magazine that specializes in travel writing. Perhaps I should have included better-known glossies like National Geographic and Travel + Leisure. I do like to read those at the dentist’s office.

Bibliophilic Wanderlust

Boat

Bunyan Velo

Caligae Travel Files (for sale)

The Journal of African Travel-Writing (no longer published)

Literary Bohemian

Lowestoft Chronicle

Nowhere

Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine

Perceptive Travel

Pure Slush: A Year of Travel (during 2014)

Roads & Kingdoms

Silk Road Review

Tales To Go

The Travel Almanac

Travel Chronicles

Travel Classics

The Travel Itch

Travelers’ Tales: Editors’ Choice Flying Carpet

Traveltainted

Vela

[wherever]

The Telegraph holds a weekly travel writing competition. Writers can email their entries.

Are you traveling and journaling this summer? Would you post a link to your story, if your travel writing is published this year? (This is a new blog theme. The comment link is just below the title for each post, which is a little counterintuitive, I think.)

Additional resource

The Review Review occasionally publishes lists of literary magazines that share a particular theme or orientation. Head on over there for the lowdown.

NewPages opens a literary magazine webstore

NewPages is in my RSS feed. It’s a good resource among many for writers who are submitting work to literary magazines. The site just announced the NewPages Magazine Webstore, an online storefront offering single issues of literary magazines. It is beautiful.

Prices for individual magazine issues in the webstore currently range from $4.50 to $18.95, plus tax and shipping. NewPages is shipping only to U.S. and Canadian addresses, but inquiries from customers in other countries are encouraged. I’m not affiliated in any way with NewPages.

If you’re just starting to submit creative writing to literary magazines, you should grab “The Writer’s Guide to Publishing in Literary Magazines and Entering Contests” by Ayelet Tsabari. It’s free. Tsabari’s certainly an example of the writers-are-generous-people meme. Do thank her, and don’t forget to pay it forward.

Another person to thank is John Fox, whose Ranking of Literary Journals links out to additional lists that use different selection criteria.

I’m gradually pruning defunct publications from my Delicious list of more than 4,000 that feature creative writing. By the time I finish updating the links, I’ll need to start over. By the way, I began updating from the far end of the list—the oldest links.

Engaging

I’m no good at distilling lessons, so I appreciate people who can be succinct. Last weekend, at a Litquake event called “The Art of Short Fiction,” Thaisa Frank reminded the audience that the meaning of a work of fiction is not determined entirely by the author, because “the reader is co-creating the story.”

Readers’ sense of involvement is why stories in written form remain so popular as entertainment. Reading a story is more like computer gameplay than we care to acknowledge.

Got questions about litmag submissions?

I’m going to steal the last line from Lynne Barrett and use it over and over:

Not long ago, within a few days, three aspiring writers stopped me (in the office, in the parking lot, and at an airport gate) to ask: “Where should I send my story which is over 20,000 words long?” “Where should I send my work where it will be accepted as fast as possible? The agent I approached about my novel says I have to have a track record.” “What magazine likes grown-up fables that are a little weird?”

They were asking for a shortcut. It’s natural to want one, when you feel small in a big unknown world, and impatient, wanting results immediately. But I said, to each: “You can’t expect to be a professional if you don’t do your own homework.”

Lynne BarrettLynne Barrett is founding editor of Gulf Stream Magazine and current editor of the Florida Book Review. If you’re a writer hoping to be published, your assignment today is to read her explanation of what editors look for in submissions to literary magazines.

The Review Review, as Barrett mentions in the linked post, is a dandy resource for creative writers. And with more than 4,000 literary journals in existence, there must be one that’s right for your work.

 

Photo: Florida Center for the Literary Arts at Miami Dade College

Annual “Best of” anthologies – stories, poetry

Don’t we love these? Let me know if I missed any.

The Best American Mystery Stories (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

The Best American Nonrequired Reading (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

The Best American Short Stories (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

The Best American Poetry (Scribner)

The Best Canadian Poetry in English (Tightrope)

Best Horror of the Year (Night Shade)

Best of the Net (Sundress)

Best New Poets (University of Virginia)

Best New Writing (Hopewell)
[added on May 26, 2012]

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (Night Shade, and other publishers)

Million Writers Award: The Best New Online Voices (Spotlight)

Million Writers Award: The Best Online Science Fiction and Fantasy (Spotlight)

The Journey Prize Stories (McClelland & Stewart)
[added on August 31, 2012]

The PEN / O. Henry Prize Stories (Anchor)

plain china: Best Undergraduate Writing (Bennington College)

Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses (Pushcart)

The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror (Prime)

The Year’s Best Science Fiction (St. Martin’s)

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy (Prime)

The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens (Tor)

My clients make me happy

Miha Mazzini, photographed by Robert KruhMiha Mazzini ought to be celebrating, but instead he’s hard at work completing a documentary film. Earlier this week, he was awarded a PhD in anthropology. On the heels of the degree ceremony came confirmation that he’s received a Pushcart Prize for his short story “That Winter,” which appeared in the fifth-anniversary issue of Ecotone. The journal’s editor, Ben George, deserves high praise for contributing to the achievement. “That Winter” was the first of Mazzini’s stories to be published in a magazine in the US.

Lest I make such accomplishments sound easy, I should mention that Mazzini’s short stories have been included in a dozen anthologies published in countries around the world. Nor am I accountable for his successes. On the contrary, I’m confounded by my good fortune. Having such talented clients makes an agent’s job infinitely easier.

Bringing translations of an acclaimed author’s work to readers in the English language is a particular pleasure, which Ben George expressed when he introduced Mazzini in Ecotone last year:

Can one “discover” someone who has written the best-selling novel of all time (The Cartier Project) in his native country? Who has written a separate novel (Guarding Hanna) whose translation was long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the largest cash prize in the world for a book of fiction published in English? Perhaps. If you can be a willing penitent and confess your ignorance.

Early in 2012, Charles Boyle, the publisher of CB editions in London, will enjoy the same professional satisfaction when he presents Urška Zupanec’s English translation of Mazzini’s entertaining and satirical novella The German Lottery to readers in the UK.

Yet another English translation of Mazzini’s work will appear in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 4 later this year.

The author-screenwriter-director, who writes in the Slovene language, also works as a usability consultant and until recently turned in a weekly column for his employer’s news portal, SiOL.net. Apparently the word leisure only amuses him.

I could ask Mazzini if sustaining this level of productivity gets easier with experience, but I already know the answer. It doesn’t get easier, but perhaps the challenges of a career as a creative writer are slightly less frustrating when all the obstacles have become such familiar landmarks.

Have you written a short story?

Why don’t you submit it?

cyanotype

My Delicious list of magazines that publish fiction (literary, genre, and flash), creative nonfiction, and poetry has expanded to more than 2,400. Autumn is a good time to call them to your attention again, because quite a few of the publications are running contests now.

Look for the link to “Literary journals” in my “Resources for writers” menu.

If you click through to Delicious.com, you’ll notice the magazines are bookmarked in no particular order. If you’re looking for a variety of opinions about which are the most highly regarded, refer to a previous post, “Which literary publications get the most attention online?” In the comments below that post are links to any pertinent rankings I found online in the spring of 2010.