“Short stories are murder to get into the public arena—the printed media rarely review them and many bookshops are reluctant to stock them unless they have a local relevance or are written by a well-known novelist.”
- Salt Publishing
Recently, the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award caused an outcry by bypassing the tradition of a short-list and announcing the outright winner as Jhumpa Lahiri, for her collection Unaccustomed Earth As a result, many in the publishing and literary world, (including the likes of Susan Hill and Elizabeth Bains), felt that, not only had the judges denied authors of their five (at least) minutes of fame, but had underestimated the importance of the short-list to the publicity of the genre in general.
“Writers, particularly writers of short stories, need all the help they can get.”
-Nicholas Lezard (Guardian books blog)
Why is it so hard for a short story writer to be recognised then? Surely they are the most suitable of all literary forms for today’s busy society, (you can even download short stories in podcast form now!): perfect to slip in between work, the gym, and that drink at the weekend? Well, evidently not. It seems that short stories are a high-risk for publishers and unknown writers, receiving little attention or acclaim from the media. They are what Richard Ford labeled as ‘the high-wire act of literature’. Dangerous. But then, so is sky diving, and there are still plenty of people willing to throw themselves out of airplanes. So, keeping that in mind, and with the increase in self-publishing and access to literature on the internet, it is unlikely the short story will die out just yet.
But just to make sure, CompletelyNovel (excuse the ‘novel’ name), is declaring war on the short story excluders with a competition to launch the website. Its aim is to produce an anthology of short stories from up-and-coming writers, selected by rising stars from the publishing industry, and ultimately, raise awareness of their new interactive method for becoming known in the industry.
And the debate goes on…
“Short stories are not easy to write; they can’t simply be written as a preparation for writing a novel, or as a break between writing a novel. Some good novelists are poor story writers”
-Jackie Kay (Author of ‘Wish I Was Here’)
“..it is a fact that fewer people are tempted to buy collections of stories. And because fewer people buy collections, publishers have to be realistic about how effectively they can launch or progress a career in this medium. A first novel will gain more critical attention.”
-Lucy Luck (Lucy Luck Associates, Publisher)
“I decided to publish them myself, as many publishers…did not see the book as something that would sell very well, and therefore, not something for them… “But come and see us when you have a novel…”
-Paul Ewen (Author of ‘London Pub Reviews’)
Has anyone ever tried marketing short stories specifically to commuters – would be great to know you can get through an entire plot on a bus journey before work!