How to Get a Book of Short Stories Published

an illustration of a woman typing manuscript on a typewriter
•••

Askmenow / Getty Images

Getting a book of short stories published takes persistence. Most manuscripts get rejected, though, and you can’t take the rejections personally. You have to keep writing, revising, and submitting. These tips will put you in the best position to grab an editor’s attention.

Getting Published All Starts With the Pitch

Putting together a proper proposal is the first step in capturing any editor’s attention. When you’ve got a batch of stories that you love, compile the best ones together in one document. This way, you can see how each story works together as a short story collection. From there, you can create a presentation that has continuity when you pick which stories to highlight. When that's settled, you can start putting your proposal together, and here's what it should include:

  • Include a Pithy Introduction: This section of your proposal is where you get to sell your book. Strive to make this section riveting. Like a lede in a newspaper or magazine article, it has to capture a reader's attention immediately or else they may not keep reading. Briefly explain what stories are about and what makes worth buying as a collection. And keep it short—not quite as condensed as, say, composing a tweet on Twitter, but employing an economy of words is wise here.
  • Give Some Background on Who You Are as An Author: You're still in sales mode when you move on to this part. Only here, you're selling yourself. Create a compelling case with your credentials, but this section shouldn't read like a rigid resume. Share your experience as a scribe, noting all the things you've written professionally, but at the same time, shine a light on what makes you appealing as an author.
  • Identify Your Readers and Competition: Pinpoint the type of readers your stories will appeal to if published. And explain why those folks would want to read your book as opposed to the works of others. You should also point out what similar types of other books or authors your readers are drawn to currently. If there is something in particular that sets your stories apart, indicate what it is.
  • Identify Your Platform: List all of the avenues where you've already gained traction as a writer. Point out if you already have thousands of followers on social media, for instance, or you write for blogs that have sizable followings. If you've done media appearances or been hired for speaking engagements, highlight that. The goal is to spotlight any renown you have that you think will help generate book sales.
  • Explain How You Can Help with Promotion: Most publishers have departments and teams dedicated to promoting their books to readers and publications. So it's unlikely you'll be expected to craft an extensive plan for how your book should be pushed. At the same, however, if you have resources that can bolster publicity efforts, make it known. Perhaps you have contacts in the media you can point them to for coverage or thousands of fans on social media that you can reach out to.
  • Give More Details About Your Book: In this section, you'll go into greater detail about your book, including a title, what the word count is, and, most importantly, what the stories are about and how they tie together. This is where you can layout a sketch of the main characters, plotlines, and pacing of the various stories. You don't have to give all the nuances away, but you should include enough of the highlights to generate sustainable interest.

    Once you’ve nailed down your pitch, do some legwork and make sure you’re reaching out to the right person and that your stories fit within the publisher's wheelhouse. Perhaps try small presses that publish works similar to yours or works you admire. 

    How to Get Experience Practicing Pitches

    Maybe you're not a seasoned writer, or perhaps you’re not ready to start pitching book editors yet. In this case, you might consider presenting your individual stories to online publications or literary magazines first. There are some practical ways this can be productive. 

    For starters, it can help you become proficient with the process. It can also help strengthen your resolve and make you resilient to rejections. And when you do get published, you’ll gain insight into which stories editors consider compelling. You’ll also build a body of work to bolster your credentials.

    Submitting your work to online publications and magazines is more streamlined and convenient compared to conventional publishing. As a result, you can spend more time developing pitches and less time tracking down pitching candidates and studying submission policies.

    Many publications use submission management software called Submittable to accept and review submissions, allowing writers to upload their work and cover letters. The site's searchable database resembles a job board in that it lists the publications that are currently accepting submissions.

    The listings themselves include information on associated fees, submission requirements, and writers can submit all the files electronically. Even better, when you sign up for a free account, Submittable keeps track of your submissions and recommends other opportunities based on what you’ve already submitted.

    Alternative Publishing Avenues

    Pitching, of course, is the most prominent way to get published, but it isn’t the only way. Another road some writers take is self-publishing their stories digitally through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). 

    Publishing an e-book is relatively easy, and it’s a great way to gain notice as a burgeoning author. If you sign up or already have an Amazon account, you can upload your manuscript and be exposed to a broad audience almost immediately. 

    For its part, Amazon provides plenty of resources to help get started with KDP. There is also a built-in community of established writers to answer questions and offer advice with formatting, marketing, and more. 

    Participating in contests can also sometimes lead to getting published. There are many short story contests (Press 53, the New Millennium Awards, the University of Notre Dame's Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction) that you can find on sites like Poets & Writers to enter.

    Several renown authors, including Antonya Nelson, Gina Oschner, Amina Gautier, Hugh Sheehy, Nancy Reisman, and Anthony Varallo, among others, have had short story collections published as a result of winning a contest.