Friday, July 18, 2008

How to sell short story collections

Very interesting guest post over at Dawn's She Is Too Fond of Books blog by Christopher Meeks, author of two short story collections, The Middle Aged Man and the Sea and Months and Seasons, about the process of getting published and how he marketed and promoted his collections. He hired a publicist for the second collection:

I hired a publicist so that the book might be reviewed in publishing industry journals such as Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, places that bookstores and libraries read to select what books they order. My publicist called to say she’d just spoken with Booklist, a major journal for librarians. “They said they rarely review short story collections—maybe two a year—and it has to be from a big-name author.” I wasn’t big name.

If librarians don’t see the book reviewed, how can short story collections get in libraries? If libraries don’t offer a lot of collections, then how do people consider short story collections? If book reviewers don’t consider collections, then it’s not on the radar of ordinary readers. Thus, it’s an extra challenge to get a short story collection seen.

It is saddening, this response from Booklist, as if short stories are so odd, different, unloveable, that of course Booklist wouldn't consider them. Where does this come from, this reaction? Why do we have to constantly defend the short story collection, prove and prove and prove again how it should simply be included - not put on a pedestal and lauded above the novel, just included. What a great loss for all those who miss out on wondrous writing because of this attitude.


Vanessa Gebbie said...

Well I am going to stick my neck out here.

I go from blog to blog, and read this sort of stuff. (what you've quoted)

And do we see it from novelists? From writers of non fic? Biographies, or text books? nah. And not all other books end up in libraries either.

We just have to WORK at it, T, and not fall into the trap of joining the whinging hordes.

because thats what we are seen as. mainly female writers, who are bleating like old witches about our wonderful work not being treated right.

I think they should stop bleating, and DO something ... like get out and do readings. Go and paint the road pink and write the book title in bright green so it can be seen by overflying planes.

Do something fun... the world hates a whinger.

Tania Hershman said...

EXACTLY!! V, I completely agree with you, I am FED up with the whinging etc... because that just reinforces the impression that something here is somehow "wrong". We just have to, as you say, get out and do the work. Exactly! No more whining. I don't think Christopher is one of those either, he was mainly just relating his experience, and that's always useful and instructive.

Nik's Blog said...

Hmm. I don't know. I'm trying to see it from the reviewers' pov here. I'm guessing that novels take priority. And there are a lot of them. And it's what people read. So they take priority. Not as many people read shorts, so they don't take priority. If they were reviewed and got exposure maybe people would read them more, but they aren't and so they don't so they can't take priority.

And that's not whinging. I think it's a proper viscous circle.

BUT, like Flash, I think attitudes towards it are changing. You'd know better than me what a great job people like Salt are doing. As V says, it needs exposure. If people are turning up to readings then there's a market. And those people will talk.

Um, a bit of a rambly post there. Apologies.


Vanessa Gebbie said...

There's all sorts we can do ... Ive been at several readings/book groups where the kind people who have enjoyed my work have said they will order the book at the library. Or the local bookshop. Its all a step in the right direction.

Tania Hershman said...

Nik - thanks, not rambly at all! There ae lots of different angles to come at this from - but I do agree with Vanessa's sentiment that there's no point just complaining about this situation, no writer will achieve success with their book through complaining, it's only through action. We all know that - but complaining about all the external reasons why our short story collection isn't a NY Times bestseller is easier than getting out there and doing the leg work.

I will post about this later, but I have been thinking in a quite interesting out-of-the-box way about how to get my book out there, and it seems to be paying off. Sorry to be cagey, will give more details soon.

Nik's Blog said...

Oh yes, I agree entirely. Promotion's the name of the game.

Look forward to hearing your plan - and you can take it as read that I'll do what I can to help.


Gay Degani said...

Love that cover too Tania. Congratulations. Also Alan Beard tagged me and I took the opportunity to add your site to my blog.

Tania Hershman said...

Hi Gay, thanks so much for stopping by, I am going to visit your blog. Ah, just saw the lovely mention of The Short Review, thank you! I will add your blog to my list too.

Women Rule Writer said...

Hi T
I blogged about this from the POV of book groups reactions' to short fic.

Of course promotion is v NB, and one has to be proactive, but after 10 years in this game, let me say it doesn't get less frustrating when people's eyes glaze over at the mention of short fic.
It's like any personal obsession - I can't see why everyone else doesn't just ADORE stories, as I do.
Good luck with the promo work, T!
N x

Gay Degani said...

Tanya, Thanks for putting my blog up at your site. I am flattered and pleased. Did I send you a note about the Vanessa interview? I really enjoyed it and sent the link to a couple of friends of mine.