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Short stories finding a market

15 January 2018

A story in the Bookseller, unfortunately behind the paywall, has provided encouragement for short story writers this week. Short story collections have sold 692,087 units or £5.88m in value in the UK during 2017. This is up 32% by volume and 45% by value over 2016.

Although ‘celebrity' collections from Tom Hanks and Jojo Moyes had contributed significantly to these numbers, it is very encouraging that the overall market for short stories seems to be growing fast. Stories also have the advantage that they are easy to read online, compared to novels at least, there are a number of competitions and prizes for short stories and it looks like they may particularly lend themselves to promotion on social media.

Michal Shavit, publishing director at Jonathan Cape, snapped up Kristen Roupenian's debut collection of stories shortly after it went viral, with a deal going for seven figures in the US with Scout Press. Shavit told the Bookseller that the attention around that story "shows the power of the short story and demonstrates that the form is very much alive and kicking".

However, she said the necessary skill for the form should not be underrated, adding that "short story writing is an art form in and of itself and it's not a given that if someone can write good novels they can also write short stories".

There is also considerable resistance to stocking short story collections in the book trade, unless the author is well-known, but this may be a hurdle that is being overcome through the development of other ways of finding an audience for short stories.

This week's short story opportunity - The White Review Short Story Prize 2018.