Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What if no-one sees short story collections?

This was going to be another mini-rant in the style of last year's complaint about some literary agents who have a "no response means no" policy, but then I started thinking. Over the past 8 years or so I've been in touch with maybe 20 literary agents, in the UK, US and Canada, and heard about many, many more from writer friends, and the refrain is always the same:
[I really like your writing but] I can't sell a short story collection (or novella), publishers don't want them; come back when you've got a novel. 
This week I had a slight variation on that theme in a reply from an agent (to whom I am very grateful that she replied and so quickly!):
Come back when you have a full length novel
While I'm not exactly sure what the requirements are for a full-length novel, this is not what I wanted to discuss. The thought suddenly struck me that if agents are blocking us at the first hurdle, publishers never get offered short story collections (or novellas). They never even see them. So how are they supposed to know whether they want to publish them or not?

Of course, it may be that the publishers are sending instructions to the agents along the lines of: Don't bring us short stories, poetry, novellas, science fiction, paranormal detective fiction, novels under 150 pages etc..etc.. etc.. and the agents are just acting as their gatekeepers. But with such gatekeepers, who aren't prepared to even try and fight for something that's slightly off-message, what are we to do, and, more importantly, what does it say about the state of mainstream publishing?

Once again, I give thanks for the many amazing small independent presses - Salt and Tangent Books in particular, on a personal level - who publish whatever they like, whatever they love, with not much thought of breaking even let alone profit. But is this the situation the major publishers want to be in? Do they not want to be persuaded - and in turn attempt, using their marketing wizards, to persuade a public that does, it seem still remain hungry for some novelty - by something different, something that isn't a novel?

I would love to hear from literary agents and publishers here - please pass on this blog post and see if anyone will comment. Am I not thinking commercially enough? Where is my thinking going wrong here? Be honest with me, am I being clouded by my own failure to find representation?

35 comments:

Annalisa Crawford said...

I'm a short story and novella writer, so I'm always on the lookout for collections in bookshops. They are there, if you look hard enough, but a lot of the larger publishers will only take them from established novelists. As the style is so different, is that not like saying to a musician 'thanks for the rock song, come back when you've written an opera'?

Tim Love said...

Perhaps the agents have a point (but for the wrong reasons). Few short story collections are integrated units. They're like LPs before the days of concept albums. Why should the public wait for the writer/musician to have enough pieces to fill an arbitrarily-sized sellable/marketable container? Why not release the tracks/stories as they become available? It already happens in music. maybe the written word will soon follow suit.

Jim Murdoch said...

I wonder how many great writers got known for short stories first. I can think of two off the top of my head: Ian McEwan and A.L. Kennedy. There will be more but it certainly won’t be a long list. And the same goes for novellas: is L'Étranger a novella or just a very short novel? Maybe this is where ebooks will turn the tide since both short stories and novellas seem (so I hear) to be popular. One of the reasons I didn’t pursue a traditional publisher more aggressively was because only one of my books is over about 55,000 words although if I’d realised how things were going to change over the next five years I might have tried a bit harder; it feels like everyone and his cat is trying to plug a book these days. The daft thing is when I do go into a bookshop—which, I admit, is rare these days—the first books I pick up are the thin ones and I can’t be alone there. I’ve just been sent a novel to review and it’s 550 pages long; I’ve read fifty which could have got away with being thirty and maybe twenty-five further into the book; even I accept a bit of exposition is needed.

Tania Hershman said...

Annalisa, Tim and Jim, thanks so much for your comments - but I would hope my blog is one of the places where the short story collection or novella need no defending! We can just take it as read that we love them, we write them, we want to see them published. And yes, ebooks may change things and single short stories may find markets like music has.

What I was wondering here - and I may not have put this very clearly since I was feeling a bit emotional - is whether any publishers would actually like the chance to consider them, but are not getting that chance because none ever cross their desk because agents don't consider them.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I was reading a post somewhere the other day which wondered whether agents had too much power - your post seems to agree with that?

Years ago I read another article saying that as we were all so time-poor (hate that phrase, but they used it) short stories would become more prominent... but that never really happened.

I wasn't really defending short stories, more just introducing myself because I don't post here very often :-)

Tania Hershman said...

Annalisa, so sorry, I meant to say it is lovely to meet you, thanks for stopping by! I am pretty grumpy today because of all of this, but I had a wander around your lovely website, which cheered me up!

And yes, interesting point about agents and power, I really don't know, I really don't understand this business much.

Annalisa Crawford said...

Well, if you don't understand it, I've got no chance :-) Thanks for checking out my blog.

Elizabeth Ducie said...

Hello Tania I'm a self-published author of short stories, currently spending a week with loads of wonderful writers at Swanwick Writers' Summer School. Spekaing to an agent yesterday, she implied that it was the publishers, rather than the agents who are calling the shots of not taking short stories - but she also said that agents tend to be very conservative.

Hayley N. Jones said...

I think there are problems and misconceptions at all levels - agents, publishers, retailers and readers - regarding short stories. The major one is a lack of visibility. Lots of my friends say they enjoy short stories and would buy collections, if only they knew where to start.

Most of my friends are highly educated and read for pleasure, but they don't have the time to research short story writers and figure out which collections they would enjoy. They haven't heard of Alice Munro (or, rather, they didn't until I started my obsession with her); they don't know that Margaret Atwood and other novelists have also published short story collections. They are completely unaware of collections by new writers.

They might occasionally come across a reliable review in a newspaper, but they encounter so few mentions of short stories that they're reluctant to risk buying a collection based on a single review. And reviews on Amazon and suchlike aren't reliable or helpful enough.

In bookshops, short story collections are usually hidden amongst novels and only those by well-known writers (mostly novelists) are stocked. There are some exceptions - my local independent bookshop has yielded a few treasures and last time I was in Waterstones they had a stand of short stories - but these can do little to address the balance. It doesn't help that story collections are omitted from low price deals and promotions, when people are more willing to gamble on authors they haven't heard of.

I think there needs to be more campaigning and publicity to make people aware of the range of short stories available. How can the public be expected to buy collections when they are given so little information? Many exquisite collections have already been published: once publishers and agents see that people are buying them, they will publish more. That's the theory, anyway... But first, people have to know about these collections.

Dan Purdue said...

I get the feeling we're dealing with an interlocking set of vicious circles. Agents don't want to see short story collections because publishers don't publish them. Publishers don't publish them because booksellers don't order them. Booksellers don't order them because the public don't buy them. The public don't buy them because it takes so much effort to find them in a typical bookshop, because so few get published ... and back we go to the beginning.

Demand (almost) always precedes supply, so I think it's not a problem that's confined to the agents and publishers. Personally, I feel the likes of Waterstones and even Amazon are missing a trick by not using awards like the Edge Hill and Salt's Scott Prize to boost the profile of short story collections. They'll happily dedicate a store front table or shelf display (or an online banner ad) to the Booker or Costa shortlist - why not do the same for the Edge Hill, which has highlighted some fantastic books (including many by authors not already established as "proper" novelists)? Short story collections might not sell very well mixed in with the novels or tucked away in a dusty corner, but what about if they were up front, under the heading "Award-Winning Fiction"? Has anybody tried it?

I'm sure there are all sorts of reasons why this is unlikely to happen, but I don't believe it's not possible. But unless things change and bookshops are confident they'll be able to shift plenty of copies, the agents manning the other end of the literary chain aren't going to be under much pressure to seek out new authors writing anything other than novels.

Things like Short Story Week and the BBC National Short Story Prize will help, but I get the impression it will be a slow process. But at least it's heading in the right direction.

Tim Love said...

"Lots of my friends say they enjoy short stories and would buy collections, if only they knew where to start" (Hayley) - it's not an attitude I've noticed amongst my friends or family. My wife in particular finds story collection hard to finish.

"I get the feeling we're dealing with an interlocking set of vicious circles. agents ... publishers ... booksellers ... public ... and back we go to the beginning (Dan)" - It might be even worse than that. My local writers group has story and novel sub-groups. Lately at the story sub-group novelists have outnumbered story-writers.

Maybe libraries could help more. Some have "Short Story" sections or "SS" stickers on spines, and have short story displays at certain times of the year.

JulietP said...

Speaking as an agent *ducks*, I will read and admire short story submissions, but I may think it hard to take further unless they are exceptional. That's because editors tell me that as much as they might love short stories too, they are difficult to publish; they are difficult to publish because the public won't buy big numbers of short story collections. The figures speak for themselves I'm afraid, even with the better-known authors. I work with several incredible short story authors, all of whom also write longer fiction and some of whom are household names, and the sales figures for their collections are enormously disappointing considering the wonderful writing in their pages.

It is true that many agents might encourage short story writers to try longer fiction (it might be worth noting that two of the most admired novels I've represented - including Kerry Hudson's Tony Hogan... mentioned in this blog a couple of posts ago - have been born from terrific short stories that I got very excited about when I first read), but we know that these are two very different writing disciplines and you could be an exemplary short story writer and yet not quite be able/willing to tackle a novel. However I do believe that, in most cases, for agents it is down to whether you're a good writer first and foremost when reading a submission. And there are editors out there who are equally enthusiastic about short stories [and novels], but they are fewer and they will face tough questions from their sales teams if they want to acquire a collection.

So I will read short stories on submission and I would love to send them to publishers, but I have to know that - as with any book I represent - there is likely to be a place for them out there in the big wide world. And there is nothing I would love more than for a huge surge of short story collections to be well written, published and read by many. Here's hoping...

nmj said...

I understand your feeling emotional, Tania, it seems the situation has not changed since late nineties when I myself first started submitting, I was also told, we love your stories, but do you have a novel? I didn't then but I do now, though I write very slowly because of my health. My story ended happily enough a few years ago (excuse pun), though it was Herculean struggle to get there (agent dropped me, I found publisher myself)... I love reading short stories, I still think of your story 'The White Road', it stayed with me, and was recently rediscovering Ray Bradbury, his stories are breathtaking (and remarkably un-dated). It perplexes me that publishers/agents are not more accessible (I guess still all down to marketability/profitability as others have pointed out). I wonder is it still the case that USA publishers are more open to short stories? Jhumpa Lahiri wrote stories before her novel, didn't she? And I am just about to order Daniyal Mueenuddin's 'In Other Rooms, Other Wonders'. A.L. Kennedy did indeed start out with short stories, so it *is* possible to find representation, though that was a good while ago, and, of course, short story writers are not using their stories as 'stepping stones' to novels, short stories is what you do, and why on earth should you be under pressure to write a novel, it makes no sense.

Tania Hershman said...

Elizabeth - hello and welcome! Thanks for passing on what the agent said, that's very interesting. I suspect there is no one person/entity to "blame", and I certainly am not trying to blame anyone, just to understand the system a bit better.

Tania Hershman said...

Hayley - that's an excellent point and that is precisely the reason that I started up The Short Review almost five years ago, to try to at least strengthen that link in the chain, and get more collections reviewed and "visible". However, 5 years later and having failed to get funding to increase our outreach, I can see that we were only preaching to the converted anyway, I believe most of our 1000 or so newsletter subscribers are short story writer themselves, and while I am delighted to be able to bring them more short story collections to read, we are just not reading those, like your friends, who don't know where to start, don't know that if they did start, they might get hooked too! There are no easy answers. It really is a vicious circle - I can't help but feel that the publisher who has faith in its marketing team could do something truly innovative - give out free short stories on the Tube in London, for example, as tasters. I am sure all of us could come up with a great list of marketing ideas!

Tania Hershman said...

Hayley - that's an excellent point and that is precisely the reason that I started up The Short Review almost five years ago, to try to at least strengthen that link in the chain, and get more collections reviewed and "visible". However, 5 years later and having failed to get funding to increase our outreach, I can see that we were only preaching to the converted anyway, I believe most of our 1000 or so newsletter subscribers are short story writer themselves, and while I am delighted to be able to bring them more short story collections to read, we are just not reading those, like your friends, who don't know where to start, don't know that if they did start, they might get hooked too! There are no easy answers. It really is a vicious circle - I can't help but feel that the publisher who has faith in its marketing team could do something truly innovative - give out free short stories on the Tube in London, for example, as tasters. I am sure all of us could come up with a great list of marketing ideas!

Tania Hershman said...

Dan - excellent points too. I have been into several Waterstone's branches and talked to the booksellers who have told me what great fans they are of the short story, really passionate, but I wonder whether the promotional tables/sections are all paid for in such a way that each branch can't commandeer one for itself? Sara Crowley at Brighton Waterstone's has at least two displays devoted to short story and flash fiction collections, she's a real inspiration! It doesn't sound so hard, does it? Foyles here in Bristol had a gorgeous display of Summer Shorts which was all short story collections, and I wanted to buy them all, they looked so wonderful. It isn't so hard, is it, to give collection a bit of a push and then the whole system might tilt a little...

Tania Hershman said...

Tim - the libraries idea is one I am working on here in Bristol. I've met several library reading groups, most of which had never read a short story collection, and the library has been planning something for National Short Story Week... Very good idea!

Tania Hershman said...

Juliet - thank you so much for commenting here as not just a literary agent but such a sane and intelligent voice, it's great to hear! I do wonder whether the sales teams you mentioned have a knee-jerk response to short story collections which causes them to expect low sales from the outset? As I mentioned above, just those of us chatting here could easily come up with a list of innovative ways to market short story collections and spread the word. All I know about marketing, sales and advertising comes from Mad Men (!) but I would have thought that a crack marketing team could rise to the challenge, spurred on by the "reputation" of short story collections and try some really innovative methods, no?

Bloomsbury's done wonders with their Year of the Short Story marketing for their 5 short story collections (although one of the 5 is about to published in the US as a novel, oddly enough), I hope that continues and others follow their lead - but the impetus for this discussion was whether other publishers would get the chance to even consider short story collections in order to perhaps take that chance. Perhaps there needs to be some kind of Short Story/Novella/Short Novel Summit or Truce, where writers, agents and publishers come together, decide to start from scratch with no preconceptions about brevity and come at it from a new angle. It's clear that the publishing climate is changing hugely right now, maybe this is the time? So many short story writers I know are deciding to publish themselves - it may be that the mainstream publishers end up missing out. No, short works may not end up being huge bestsellers (but they might) but that's now always a publisher's prime consideration, is it? Earnings, yet, but megabucks... ?

Tania Hershman said...

Hi NMJ,
first, thanks for your kind comments about The White Road! And interesting, this situation has been going on for a long time, eh? Maybe enough is enough. Like Jim above, I too look for slim books when I go into a bookshop or library,and subscribe to lovely indie pubs like the Pereine Press, who publish novellas. From what I hear from American friends, the situation is pretty much the same in the US, agents aren't interested in short story collections at all.

Re short story writers being asked to write novels - I had a tweet from Carol Birch to tell me she has written an article about how ridiculous this is in the Times Literary Supplement this week, yippee! And poet John Siddique told us he's being told by agents all the time not to write poetry but to write something else and then they'd represent him. Madness!

jonathan pinnock said...

I love reading short story collections, but is that simply because I'm a short story writer? I don't think so, because I remember buying Ian McEwan's two collections back in the late 70s (and it wasn't just because of the covers), when I couldn't even begin to contemplate the possibility of having anything of mine published. Ditto Borges' Labyrinths. And surely Roald Dahl must have sold loads BITD? I didn't even realise he wrote children's stories then. So I'm sure there's a market for them.

I'm not sure I buy the idea of purchasing individual stories, a la iTunes, because I like the idea of immersing myself into one writer's work - especially if it's varied and diverse. I'm not sure I go with Tim Love's suggestion that concept albums were a step forward (I mean, I like 666 by Aphrodite's Child, but not every day of the week, surely?)

I wonder if anyone's ever done any kind of research on why people don't buy collections? Would be interesting to know if it's because they aren't aware of them or if it's because they genuinely don't like reading them. I'd like to think it's the former - but even if it's the latter, maybe some gentle re-education might be possible, with the right support from the media. But that's a whole other problem.

Tim Love said...

I didn't mean to suggest that concept albums were a step forward, only that they made the bundle of songs less arbitrary. If a group only had one side's worth of worthwhile songs they either had to wait (if their contract allowed it) or add substandard stuff. I think the latter option still happens in the poetry world.

Re: "I wonder if anyone's ever done any kind of research on why people don't buy collections?" - prior to the "Save our Short Story" campaign some years ago I think some research was done - see The Short Story in the UK Report

jonathan pinnock said...

Ah, in that case I'm with you all the way, Tim :) And thanks for that link - interesting.

Gary said...


There is no doubting the commercial reality that recent and past collections of short stories sell poorly. The last one I bought was by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

If the case is that a collection is so brilliant that it will lead the market, that case needs to be made. Publishers love to trail - blaze, but need to have the material to do so. Is it that publishers won’t publish, or that writers are not writing marketable stories?

The short story marketplace is now defined by magazines , periodicals, and the burgeoning flash fiction event scene. I suspect that it is the embryonic success and innovation of the latter which may create greater interest in short stories.

Any argument that is predicated on a break even or loss for the publisher becomes a vanity project. The sale volume of books required to make a profit is not that high. Anyone looking to have a book published has to confront the question,” does anyone else want to read it?”

The above comments are generic, and pass no judgement on your own excellent work.

lane7 said...

Hi Tania

Maybe some newer research is needed. The last book I bought was a collection of short fiction, no, the last two books... One from Amazon and one from a second hand shop.

I have also been told, re my own short fiction, 'yes very nice come back to us when you have a novel'.

But I am not convinced the decision to favour novels over stories is simply a commercial issue, it is partly about the immersive nature of the reading experience as Jonathan Pinnock said earlier. Which is more likely to happen with a novel. It lets you shut down your life and enter someone else's, which isn't really true with shorter fiction as the episodic "real-time" nature of it is not there, it is so much more condensed. It's partly, also, about being able to answer the question afterwards 'what is the book about' and with a collection of short fiction there may be so many answers to that... Whichprobably makes it harder to sell in a bookshop. But in a post-bookshop world this may not still be true.

Anyway, I'm happy to be polled as proof that short story buyers do exist.

;)
Lane

Ossian said...

I would like to see television series and films dramatise short story collections. Not only that but I've always agreed with William Boyd that a short story is a better basis for a film, in principle, because a film based on a novel has to be a travesty unless it's an extremely lightweight novel. There are so many collections that would make wonderful television series. There is already a film based on some of Carver's stories - isn't there, Short Cuts? but what a prospect to have series based on Dubliners, "Winesburg, Ohio", The Magic Barrel, take almost any of your favourites, a selection of Lorrie Moore's stories, Alice Monro of course - easily imagined, Hanif Kureishi, Hemingway, Annie Proulx, just the names conjure marvellous visions; and the list is endless. So, that's my tuppence worth, where television and film leads, book buyers will follow. Where does that leave writers then, how about either dramatising their own stories or collaborating with filmmakers?

Ossian said...

Just read Lane's comment again and thinking about the immersive experience. I want to mention the Sherlock Holmes stories and also, for similar reasons, the P G Wodehouse's various series, Jeeves and Wooster being the most famous. I am re-reading Blandings Castle at present, and even though it's short stories, it does have that immersive feeling. The test is when you reach the end do you wish there were more - and I do. Exactly the same applies to reading Sherlock Holmes stories, at least speaking for myself. Just can't get enough. Without starting the litany again, it does apply to other collections though only the best; but that is no different, the same applies to novels. So here is a challenge to short story writers, give us that feeling! :).

Tania Hershman said...

Jon - thanks for stopping by. No, I don't think it's just short story writers who read them, and I'm with you on varied and diverse collections.

Tim - thanks for that link, will check it out. I am planning a follow-up blog post collecting what we've been talking about here in the comments, so will refer to it

Gary, thanks so much for stopping by, very good points you make. It's a confusing situation - it used to be that a publisher would use the profits from the Big Sellers to fund the books with small but dedicated readerships. I've no idea if that happens anymore.

Lane - thanks so much for taking the time to comment! Re immersive experience, I think it is less about quantity of immersion - I get utterly absorbed in a short story when I am reading it, I think you focus more on a story - than the time period you are immersed. But I really really don't believe there are absolutes here - I believe readers can be persuaded to try anything by skilful marketing. And I would never - and will never - say people should either read short stories OR... well, novels, non-fic, poetry, etc... I just wanted to persuade readers/publishers not to be put off in advance by size/length, which we all know well has nothing really to do with quality of story or reading experience, or the ability of a piece to be absolutely unforgettable. And yes, perhaps more research is needed! Now we're buying online, shouldn't it be easier to find out what we're buying?

Ossian - I'd like to see that too! But I doubt that that will lead to short forms being more popular. I remember listening to the strangest interview on Front Row, BBC Radio's culture program, where the interviewer was interviewing a film director whose film was based on a short story. He kept saying "and yes, in the short story..." and she, the interviewer would say, "How interesting, so in the novel..." and it was almost as if she couldn't even hear the phrase "short story", it made so little sense to her that she did an auto-replace!

And yes, I do agree with the immersive potential of shorter forms - I want to stress here that I have moved slightly wider than my usual remit, am talking about short stories, novellas, short novels... poetry too!





Cheryl said...

I'm wondering if this is a market size issue. I was going to comment that there are plenty of markets for shorter work in science fiction and fantasy, both in magazines and publishers wiling to take anthologies and collections. Then I realized that all of the ones I know of that pay decent rates are based in the US or Canada, where a small press can hope to sell a reasonable number of copies. Are there equivalent markets for other sorts of short fiction across the pond?

Tania Hershman said...

Hi Cheryl, thanks so much for stopping by! Re markets, there's my list above, at the top of the blog, of UK & Irish lit mags that want short stories, but few of them pay. It's up to 144 magazines, which is fairly small compared to the US, at least. Interesting point, though, about whether the size of this market, for individual stories etc..., impacts on the possibilities of book sales and perhaps publishers' and agents' willingness to take on shorter forms. There are many many poetry magazines, but still publishers don't think poetry sells! I dunno. I wish there was some science about this process ;)

I do know, however, that there seems to be excitement in Australia over short story collections, and it's not that they have a massive market for single short stories. But their major literary prizes for fiction - The Age Book of the year, NSW Premier Literary Awards - I believe are all open to short story collections and novellas, am I wrong? Perhaps THIS makes all the difference. If the Booker, Orange (as was) Award, Costa prize etc... identified themselves as prizes for book-length works of fiction rather than just for novels, this might buoy the entire market.

Cheryl said...

Well I note that most of the major SF&F awards either have categories for short fiction or allow at least collections into long form categories (anthologies are hard if the prize goes to the author).

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Coming in late to this great discussion, as I’ve been away with only my phone for internet access - not ideal.

I don’t want to write a novel in a comment (!) so will put a few bullet points down in response to the topic thus far.

1) I bought several books whilst on holiday (in the wonderful Browsers Bookshop, Porthmadog, north Wales) - including a brilliant short story collection by Tove Jansson. And I bought a novel or two. I didn’t start the novels, and finished the short story collection. But it struck me - had I started a novel as well, I might have returned to that between trips out etc as opposed to picking up another story. I always have several books on the go at home. Novels tend to get finished before collections. Is that because I am seeking to re-immerse in the world of the novel, or find out what’s happening next on the journey? I’ll leave that as a comment not a question, as I don’t know the answer.

2)I am sad, but not surprised that more editors don’t buy collections (hats off to Bloomsbury for doing so several times over...). Seems to me that at acquisition meetings, the sales and marketing teams have a real upper hand. It’s hard enough selling books anyway - if you are paid by results, you go for something you know you can sell, right?

3)Said bookshop above is never visited by sales teams, so choose books they like the look of from the promotional material.

4)If there were short story shelves at bookshops, I’d go there immediately, as I know I have a good chance of finding something brilliant, as opposed to something OK. That seems to contradict the first point...tough! But I am speaking as a writer who actively enjoys brilliant writing - the longer I’m in this business the more I realise that the average reader doesn’t care overmuch about the writing so long as it isnt intrusively bad - they just want to be entertained. Perhaps the short story is a breathtaking fairground ride as opposed to a week’s journey through the Rockies, picking up Lane7’s point?

5) I was very saddened to see this (see link below) blog from a bookseller ripping into writers’ attempts to weave short fictions into novel type things, encouraged by agents, to shreds. (aside - I thought they wanted to sell books, not the other thing...?!) http://nocupcakesforyou.blogspot.co.uk/ The Coward’s Tale had the Cupcake treatment - with a liberal dollop of book-destroying acid. Roshi Fernando seems to have got off a bit lighter - but the blogger still uses the words ‘dreaded’ for short stories. I think we get the message! But behind the vitriol there is probably a point.\

6) A few years back, I was one of those ‘only short story’ writers who was pushed to write something that could be sold as a novel, by my agent. I’ll eternally be grateful for that shove. It’s not that different - just takes longer, is all.
7) Finally - I’ve lost count of the times Alice Munro’s stories are referred to ‘as a whole novel in a few pages’. Maybe there is something to take account of there? I’ve read a couple of the collections Bloomsbury published this year (Fernando and Wilson). Those stories deliver in scope as well as flashes of brilliance. Perhaps it is scope as opposed to crafted concision that publishers are looking for?

gailaldwin said...

I went to a talk about short stories at the Edinburgh Book Festival last week given by Tessa Hadley and Sarah Hall. They both have collections out - it's a pity I didn't have the sense to ask about the difficulties in getting short story collections published during the Q & A

The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy said...

Goodness Vanessa! Just read the Cupcake analysis not being familiar with the blog or this manner of treating books. I took 'The Coward's Tale' away this summer and savoured it every afternoon for many and diverse reasons, without once wondering Are these short stories? Is this a novel? As you say, a startling work requires scope and flashes of brilliance, and form fits the story to be told. Not sure there was a universal point behind the vitriol!

Great post and comments Tania and to a degree you may be preaching to the converted with The Short Review, but I think - I think of Conrad! - short story appreciation is as old as the hills.

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