Over at the Rumpus, Seth Fischer has kicked off a discussion about the viability of short story collections in these tough economic times. Though it’s well known that these sorts of books have never been an easy sell, it seems the big-house publishers have become even more wary of taking a risk on them, despite the fact that the short story form seems ideally suited to today’s ADD popular culture. So what’s to be done? Fischer’s scenario involves marrying the short story and viral marketing, with publishers posting samples of an author’s collection online and including a link to buy the entire book, along with more inventive methods like creating trailers for their products. I’m skeptical about this latter suggestion but Thomas Pynchon’s publishers have managed to drum up quite a bit of interest, or at least quite a bit of publicity, with the trailer for Inherent Vice. I enjoy it because the narrator (reported to be Pynchon himself) sounds like The Dude but it still strikes me as an odd way to advertise a novel. Plus Pynchon is a well-known enough name that he’ll probably sell alright anyway. I’m not entirely sure it would work for a debut writer, though I would love to be proven wrong.
Regarding the first idea, Amazon has starting offering individual short stories from new collections (such as One Story author Lydia Peelle’s Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing) but for now, this is the sole privilege of Kindle owners. Harper Perennial is doing a promotion via the website 52 Short Stories, which offers a free short story from the back catalog once a week for the entire year. Admittedly most of these are classics (though Lydia is there too) and I have no idea how well it’s generated sales. But it’s definitely an intriguing start and I hope that they continue to offer it into the next year.
So what are your thoughts, One Story readers? Aside from enjoying authors you’ve read in our publication, what would induce you to buy a short story collection by an entirely new voice? Are you open to internet marketing or do you prefer more grassroots efforts? What could make short stories something readers get excited about again? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.