Friday, July 4, 2014

Can I land an agent with a short story collection?

Hi Noah,

I'm a short story writer with a finished collection. I've published 6 of the 11 stories in literary journals -- reputable journals, but not the New Yorker. What is the likelihood of my landing an agent? Is it highly unlikely? I've been contacted by a few agents when my stories have appeared (a good sign) but they've lost interest when I didn't have a novel in the works. Is this more or less how it will go if I start querying agents? Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for your generous blog!

The fact that you've landed several stories in reputable journals and that agents are contacting you is a very good sign. It is not impossible to land an agent with just a collection, particularly a younger agent who is just starting out and has a passion for literary fiction. But it is much harder to do so without having a novel ready, too--or at the very least a synopsis for a novel and the first 50 pages. I would really suggest, if at all possible, having the novel synopsis and pages ready before querying with the collection. On the other hand, if you don't plan on writing a novel, then query with what you have. Nothing is impossible!

"Should I pay a fee to get published?"

"Hey Mr. Lukeman, I hope you can offer some advice, experience, suggestions and knowledge about publishing a book for me. I tried to self publish my first book but it was very costly. I recently finished my second book and was looking for a publisher. I was contacted by and chatted with Page Publishing in NCY. When I described my book to the guy and told him everything is done, illustrations, type, cover he said to send the file to the submissions link for review (this was Friday), I got a call today saying they loved the illustrations and the story and that it would do very well and they want to take it to the next level. So I get the contract and they want $795 initial up-front payment and (10!!!) monthly payments of $295 for a whopping total of $3745 for them to publish my completed book. I have everything ready for publishing and they want to publish my book but it's costing me this much! I had several people tell me I shouldn't have to pay up front fees. Are there publishers out there who will accept new artists and publish a first time illustrator? Any advise would be greatly appreciated."

As I have mentioned several times throughout this blog, NEVER pay a fee to get published. In nearly all cases, that means the "publisher" is just trying to take advantage of you--and in this instance, that certainly is the case.

It is difficult to get published, and even more difficult if dealing with an illustrated work, but the answer is not to pay money to "publishers" who are likely illegitimate anyway.

If you have a strong desire to self-publish, then I would suggest you publish your book as an ebook, via self-publishing portals like KDP, Play, KWL, B&N and Apple. If you want a printed edition, then use a service like CreateSpace or Lightning Source.

If you have a strong desire to be published by a traditional publisher, then you must first seek out an agent (I describe how to do this many times on this blog and in my free ebooks). If your work is heavily illustrated it will be much harder--and it's hard to say exactly without knowing the genre and subject matter of your book. But that doesn't mean it's impossible.

Please take some time to read ALL the questions and answers on this blog and to download the free ebooks. This question is covered many times.