Monday, August 10, 2009

Interesting short story discussion

There's an interesting discussion over at The Rumpus, where a blog post entitled "More Crappy News for Short Story Writers" brings us more of those quotes we short story lovers and writers have become used to hearing, from an agent writing in response to being sent a short story collection:
Publishers don’t like to publish short story collections in general unless they are VERY high concept or by someone very strange or very famous or Indian. In the current climate, it is harder to publish even those. Some of the authors I represent have story collections I have not been able to talk their loyal publishers into publishing. I can’t in good conscience encourage you to send them to me. It will just make both of us feel bad.
What is "VERY high concept"? And... he actually said "Indian"???!!

The writer of this post, Seth Fischer, argues wisely that
"The form of the short story collection is so uniquely well-suited to the Internet age. A good short story should grab you by the junk and make you yelp in that first line. So should good web copy. A good short story should be no longer than it need be. So should good web copy. I could go on. There are many very important differences between the two types of writing, but the publishing houses could be taking advantage of the similarities to develop a model that could turn a profit."
Exactly. He ends:
It seems to me that all it would take is a tiny bit of ingenuity to make money off the right short story collection. Why aren’t the publishing houses trying it?
I have been saying for a while that I see this attitude from mainstream publishing houses towards short story collections as a singular failure of imagination. If they have a marketing department that believes it is fairly talented at getting people to buy books, then why do they believe there is a whole swathe, no a whole world of books that they just cannot persuade anyone to buy?

The comments on this post are pretty interesting too, especially the comment that begins: "Could the problem be that many short stories are boring?" I encourage you all to go over there and weigh in....!


Julia Bohanna said...

So I am considering writing a novel about living high high on top of a mountain. I am very strange (ha ha ha....oh dear I don't think the manic laughter is working) But hoorah....I AM half-Indian. Does that mean I have to write half a novel? Dear me, I am feeling quite strange.

I have read so many novels that are stretched out short stories. Therefore I would much rather read a good collection of short stories.

The short form is in the literary knee-cappers can hurt it. So there.

Off to write my half a novel but can't decide to write the beginning half or the end half....

Tania Hershman said...

Julia, you are SO lucky, wow! You have half a chance of hitting the big time with the Indian thing, half a chance with the half novel highly written, and pretty much three quarters for the strange... which adds up to way more than one, so I think, actually, you are already very very famous. Well done.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Using the word "imagination" in the same line with publishing houses, surely you jest.