Monday, December 27, 2004

The Short Story Market UK -- Part 2

Continuing my review of the marketing study of short stories in the UK, booksellers saw marketing collections or anthologies from the publishers as poorly done. This statement indicates that UK publishers do market collections and anthologies, however poorly. I haven't noticed a lot of that by US publishers. Those of you who have worked in bookstores (Kevin Tipple, are you out there?), what have you seen? Do US publishers market collections to the booksellers?

The booksellers also said that the publishers will sometimes try to market a collection as a novel to increase the orders from people who don't read the fine print too carefully. The impression I got was that the booksellers are a tad ticked off by that.

One reason that the publishers gave for not being more enthusiastic about short stories was that they have difficulty selling "subsidiary rights". Unfortunately they didn't define what they meant by subsidiary rights other than saying that it was "bloody hard for translation rights." They went on to say that there was a "hostility to stories in European culture greater than it is here [UK]." Now in the little bit of reading of other papers listed under research on the "Save Our Short Story" site, I saw references to how healthy the short story was in Russia, Germany, and France. Those of you who have published abroad (Dave Z?), have you talked to your publishers about short stories?

One publisher said, "Anthologies do best if they have young edgy writers, and are cutting edge. The nastier ones do well - best are the erotic collections. Middle of the road collections do less well." They also said that collections do better from small and independent publishers than from mainstream publishers. One strategy that has proven beneficial to sales is including short story volumes in "3 for 2" promotions. Borders is already doing this, but I haven't seen any anthologies included.

Another "revelation" was that themed anthologies sell much better than non-themed anthologies and that a quarter of all short story volumes are bought as gifts. This seems to be borne out by the experience of Mary Anna Evans, co-author of "Starch". She granted me permission to quote what she sent me in an email.

"Regarding your crusade to publicize short fiction, I had an interesting conversation with a bookseller recently. She says that she sold case after case of Algonquin's southern Christmas story anthology last year, and that she's selling the heck out of this year's anthology, too. In fact, people are still buying last year's anthology, buying the two as a set. One is red and the other is green, and the price is right--$15.00 apiece for a small hardcover.) It seems that anthologies with a gift-giving hook will sell if they're put out by a publisher big enough to get wide distribution."

One last comment about anthologies and marketing. The report says, "since most short story collections are bought on impulse, visibility within bookshops is very important." They also said that putting short stories in their own section didn't work as well as putting them in among the regular novel-length works.

In the next installment I'll wind up this review with how the readers felt and what might be done to increase readership.


At 9:14 PM, Blogger Kevin R. Tipple said...


In my experience, which may be a bit dated now, publishers rarely marketed to the bookstores. When they did, they often passed it off as a novel and it wasn't which was not cool at all. Sometimes, like with the NAKED CAME THE MANATEE title and a few others it worked as a novel. But often, the only thing they had in common with a novel was that it came in the same format.

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