Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Short Story Path to Publication: Fact or Fiction?

I've read many things about how important it is to get published in short fiction if you ever hope to have a shot at getting a novel-length work published. Obviously, getting published in short stories can't hurt you and can even draw the attraction of other editors/agents. It also gives you something to put in that dreaded third paragraph of your query letter aside from "I love long walks in the park and I'm a Sagittarius with Capricorn tendencies..." I'm so kidding -- about being a Sagittarius and about putting a sentence like that in your query.

Why I'm Wondering About This? 
One of my amazingly talented Sisters is going to be published in short fiction and I'm so excited for her. She even passed along a short story opportunity to me that involves the exact same topic as a novel I recently completed. I even got a cool idea that would work as a short AND worked as a companion to my novel. Yet, I stared at my computer and all that went through my head was I.Don't.Want.To. I realize many authors love writing short stories but I'm not one of them. I'm completely obsessed with my new YA ms and am spending every spare minute working on it. I may still do the short story as a sort of self-imposed challenge but it will feel like work, not fun.

Hopeful Statistics
I've said many times what a research nerd I am. Seriously, statistics are like crack to me. I especially love it when research supports what I'm already doing -- like the studies that show how drinking coffee and eating dark chocolate are good for you. So when I came across this study conducted by author, Jim C. Hines, I got excited. Out of 246 published authors who participated in the study, 116 sold their first novel with zero short fiction sales! My takeaway is that while short story publications can help, it's not impossible to get a novel published without them.

So what are your thoughts? Any published or soon to be published writers out there want to give their own experiences?


  1. Thanks for posting this Kristi I agree with you 100%. I love my MS but I hate writing short fiction, or at least I have every time I've tried it so far.

    I also love those stats, they certainly suggest that we can live our dream without submitting to the pressure to do the "work" of getting short fiction published first.

    Shameless self promotion:

    If you have time please stop by, read and comment on my guest post for today over at Justine Dell's blog:


    It's an interesting topic that will hopefully spark some discussion.


  2. Surprisingly, I've never heard that! But I'm not surprised to know that so many authors make it without short fiction credentials. Go Kristi!

    Next time I try to write a historical, I might let you help me with research. Lol!

  3. Cool study!

    I'm with you. To write a short story I have to be just as excited and obsessed with the idea as I am with a novel. It doesn't happen often. I would love to submit to that but I just have NO short story ideas in my head right now at all. Too full of my book!

  4. Matthew - thanks for stopping by and I loved those stats too! I'll check out your guest post. :)

    Lacey - your short fiction cred will definitely help you. I have a bit more of an uphill battle but these stats gave me hope!

  5. Interesting, but it doesn't really change the fact that for me, writing for magazines really helped. Not only do I enjoy getting those poetry and short story publications, it boosts my confidence along the way, gives me good practice in the art, and a second outlet for my writing. It might not have gotten me my agent directly, but it did start me talking about being a writer which led to networking which led to my agent... so I'm pretty happy to do it!!

  6. Valerie - that's exactly my issue - the excitement level, or lack of it!

    Lisa - that's great. Over half of those in the study DID have short story publications, so I think it definitely helps. I was more worried about if it would hurt me that I didn't, which is why the stats were reassuring. :)

  7. I had never given short story writing a chance until the opportunity for publication presented its self. It was fun for me, but I can see how it would feel daunting to some. I do prefer my novels though.


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