Always popular with readers, short stories have never been profitable enough to enjoy a vibrant publishing arena — until now.
Digital publishing means no replication, physical storage or distribution costs. With the ubiquity of mobile devices, easy downloads and the emergence of social digital publishing platforms, the short form can now be shared easily, at minimal cost.
“This has opened up options for writers”, says Professional Writing Academy tutor Tom Bromley. “The old fashioned strictures about book and story length have been loosened, which is exciting creatively”.
There are also increasing outlets for short-form writers: investors are seeing opportunities in the market and new opportunities are springing up around the short form. This makes it the perfect time for new short fiction writers to put pen to paper.
In June 2015, independent publisher Comma Press launched MacGuffin, an innovative approach to self-publishing short fiction.
Described by The Guardian as ‘the new platform luring readers into short fiction’, the free-to-use platform is designed to help writers get their work noticed, and readers discover stories they love. “We hope it’ll be a useful resource for authors who want to promote their short story collection.
You can upload a sample story (we don’t ask for exclusivity) and link it back to point-of-sale, where readers can buy the book”, says Jim Hinks, digital editor at Comma Press.
Galley Beggar Press
2015 also saw the launch of a new short story competition open to both published and unpublished writers, offering winners the choice of a cash prize or a year of editorial support.
Building on the success of the Galley Beggar Singles Club, which releases a short story every month for readers, the Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize is an annual competition that provides new short fiction writers with the opportunity for a valuable kick-start to their career.
2017/18’s winners have just been announced, and their work is available on the site to read for free. Keep an eye out for news on this year’s prize — you’ve got plenty of time to write something to submit!
Not only do we see short stories in the headlines, but story collections are crossing my desk more and more frequently, and finding new, young and enthusiastic writers and readers.
– Tom Bromley
The anthology editors scour a wide range of sources from short story collections to magazines, newspapers and websites to compile a collection of the year’s best short stories.
The annual publication has featured established authors such as double Man Booker Prize-winning author Hilary Mantel alongside emerging writers, and helps to place short-form fiction — and short-form fiction writers — firmly on the mainstream publishing radar.
BBC Short Story Award
Still going strong is the BBC National Short Story Award with the Book Trust. The award promotes the best in contemporary British short fiction and has celebrated both established writers and new writers over the last twelve years.
Speaking on the tenth anniversary of the award, judge and Editor of Books at BBC Radio Di Spiers said:
“Launching the first BBC National Short Story Award ten years ago, short stories seemed an endangered species. What a difference a decade makes.
Not only do we see short stories in the headlines — holding their own against novels in areas as diverse as the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the Edinburgh and the Guardian First Book awards — but joyfully story collections are crossing my desk more and more frequently, and finding new, young and enthusiastic writers and readers”.
Aspiring writers who dream of using short fiction as a springboard into longer forms will be heartened by the story of Glaswegian author Martin Stewart, whose first novel was commissioned on the strength of a 1,800-word short story.
Aspiring writers who dream of using short fiction as a springboard into longer forms will be heartened by the story of Glaswegian author Martin Stewart whose first novel was commissioned on the strength of a 1,800 word short story.
– Tom Bromley
“Every word of Martin’s story 1,031 was perfect, and kept me gripped and dying to know more”, says editorial director Amy Alward, who acquired world rights for the book after reading Martin’s “magical four-and-a-half pages”.
While traditional publishers commissioning authors on the strength of a piece of short-form fiction remains the exception rather than the rule — for now — the publishing landscape is changing.
Shifts and upheavals in traditional publishing models are uncovering new fertile soil where short fiction is firmly taking root.
The short story has always been a great way for aspiring writers to explore storytelling, and for novelists and non-fiction writers to tighten up their craft skills.
Now, it’s also a brilliant marketing tool and potential income-generator.
With big opportunities for new short fiction writers ripe for the picking, there’s never been a better time to learn the art of short story writing.
Further reading and watching:
Stephen King on the craft of short story writing.
Chris Power on masters of the short story through the ages in A Brief Survey of the Short Story.