Publishing short stories may not allow you to quit your day job, but that’s not why you began writing in the first place. You write to share truth. You write to entertain. You write short stories to do both, in less time. So now you’ve got this beautiful pile of short stories, some published, many beloved, and you’re hoping to find a publisher to bind them all up in one pretty package.
So here’s what you need to know before submitting: First, have many, more stories than you hope to submit. Write and write until you are struggling to choose only the best ones. You’ll want around 40,000 words in a collection; write 60,000 and axe 20,000.
Select your stories along a theme or genre. Perhaps they’re all horror stories, testaments to the healing power of nature, or tales of young mothers in crisis. Next, choose a title that ties this all together in a pretty bow: Night Terrors; The Magic of the Willow Tree; Please Hush, Little Baby. If some are previously published, it’s fine to include them as long as they fit into your theme and you either own the rights or acknowledge the previous publisher.
Lastly, order is important. You’re like a wedding DJ: You don’t want to start with a ballad and clear the floor. Open with a bang to get everyone dancing, and then do your best to keep them there. Start with your strongest story. (Many advise to end with your strongest as well, though there’s a current vogue to end with your longest.)
And, as ever, polish them until they’re as perfect as they can be. Then, and only then, submit.
—Dionne McCulloch, U.S. managing editor, Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, cornerstonesUS.com
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