As many of you know, I have been going through my short stories, both those that I have posted here (over 110!) and those I haven’t (only looking at a handful of these) to pick out the best for a collection of short stories I want to self-publish. I’ve also been doing a little research into it. Instead of clarifying it, the research seems to muddy the waters. So, keeping in mind I am going to do with it what I want to do, I’d like to ask you a few questions.
Size is an important issue, both in the length of the book and the stories themselves.
The advice for novels is around 80,000 words. I’ve heard up and down, though mostly up. An 80,000 word book of short stories seems awfully long. What do you think? The only advice I’ve seen is to make it at least 40,000 since prizes usually only look at books of that length. I’m not going to win a prize. I’ve seen examples cited of short story collections by known names that range from 40 – 120,000 but most self-published collections I have read are much, much shorter.
OK, so lets say I choose 50,000, give or take. Most of the stories I’ve posted are very short, lets put an average of 1000 words. That would mean 50 stories. Does that sound like a lot of stories to you? Too many? It sounds like a lot to me, but perhaps not. I have books by big names that have 30 or 40 stories, but all of the self-published books I have contain less than 10, some as few as 4. OK, I have one that has 69, but that’s a different story.
Which gets to story length. Every bit of advice I’ve seen says to NOT publish any flash fiction or short-shorts. These were defined as 2 pages or less. A lot of stories I’ve been looking at are less than 750 words,which is about 2 pages, perhaps less. The advice-givers all state that only other writers like very short stories, “real” readers hate, Hate, HATE short-shorts with a passion and will not read them, period. All of these articles say, “Don’t believe me? Ask people.” So I’m asking you – If you are reading a book of short stories, do you skip those that are just a couple of pages long? Do you hate them? If you flip through a book at a book store and it is jam packed with very short stories, do you immediately put it back on the shelf? Of course if my stories are an average of 5000 words, then that 50,000 word book only has 10 stories, which seems like a good number. Or does it?
One thought I’ve had – I purposefully made most of the stories very short for the blog. I could fill them out a bit for the book. Of course I’d have to be careful. If something was written to be lean, I don’t want to lessen the impact by putting in filler.
Enough about size. There is an even bigger issue.
Every single article I have read about short story collections have said that the very, very worst thing an author can do, worse than bad grammar/spelling/story telling, is to mix genres. It seems to be the cardinal sin of short story collections, the biggest no-no imaginable. They all say that if you write in several genre, to only use stories from one. If you don’t have enough, do not put out a book. From what I understand, the lowest level of author-Hell is reserved for people who mix genre. Of course I do not write in one genre. How boring! I do not read in one genre. Again, how boring! So, if I put out a book with widely mixed genre, will readers hurl camel dung at me, if not literally, then verbally in the reviews? Note- I am 98% sure I will have a wide mix of genre, but I am very curious on what people think.
As i said, I am going to put out the book I want, but I’d love to hear what every one thinks.