How NOT to Put Together a Short Story Collection

A repost for HTMLGiant by author Amber Sparks:

I have this short story collection called May We Shed These Human Bodies that just came out from Curbside Splendor, and I think probably the thing people ask most often about it is “how do you put together a short story collection?” And honestly, I have no fucking clue. But I can tell you that this version of the collection, the version that Curbside Splendor picked up, is probably the tenth version of this collection. It has had other names, other stories, other orders and versions, has been longer or shorter, and at one point in its long history of rejection sat in my laptop’s trash for four months. It has been rejected or ignored by nine publishers in its various forms. So what I can tell you, judging by my own experience only, is how NOT to put together a short story collection – at least, if you want it to be published.

DO NOT say to yourself, Well, I’ve got a lot of stories now, so I guess it’s time to shove them all into a manuscript and send it around. This is not a good reason to compile a short story collection. Are your stories good? Do they complement each other in some way? Do they reflect the very best of your writing? Then by all means, go to it. But be aware: selling a short story collection is very difficult. Editors like novels. Some presses only publish novels. This doesn’t meant that you won’t be able to sell your collection but do not think that this will be an easy task. As a short story writer, you already have an uphill battle to fight. If you’re working on a novel, or have a fantastic idea for a novel, it might be better to just do that instead. If, like me, you are deep-in-your-soul a short story writer, then I am sorry for you and glad for you. Just be prepared for a long slog.

Read the rest of the essay (650 words) here.

One thought on “How NOT to Put Together a Short Story Collection

  1. John Bartelloni

    One of my greatest joys comes from sitting on my balcony after work with a cup of tea and reading from one of the many anthologies and short story compilations from my six bookcases until the sun goes down. Many contain selections available in others in my collection. Doesn’t matter to me. Recently I have been availing myself of BREAKING ICE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN AMERICAN FICTION,. Published in 1990, it remains a valuable link to this genre.

    Today, from the freebie table at the City of Fairfax Regional Library where I obtained BREAKING ICE, TELLING TALES, edited by Nadine Gordimer, was up for grabs. Of course I snatched it.


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