Best American Short Stories

Keep It Short

Why is it that short stories, and short story collections, are not as popular as novels, memoirs, creative nonfiction, or just about any other writing form?

This may be an odd first topic for a debut short story writer to address in his first blog post. But it’s something I’ve given a great deal of thought. I mean, even before the advent of Twitter, this was short attention span nation, right? Wouldn’t people flock to a form that can be read, start to finish, at one sitting? On a bus, or a subway, or waiting in an airport security line?

I should confess off the top that my evidence for the unpopularity of short stories is anecdotal. Publishers have told me that selling just a few thousand copies of a short story collection would by most standards be considered excellent. Every literary agent I’ve ever met has told me that short story collections don’t sell. It’s great that you’re writing stories, they say, over and over, but have you written a novel?

I’ll address how I came to write short stories in another post. For now, I’ll just say that after awhile, this line of inquiry gets exasperating. So much so that in one meeting, when the umpteenth agent asked if I was working on a novel, I said yes, as a matter of fact I was – and promptly made one up, on the spot. Continue reading