A short story collection is a great way to add another title to your author profile on Amazon. Short stories are also a popular format of story-telling for the fast-paced modern world because they allow readers to digest a story or two on their phone screen during their commute.
I have learnt a few lessons whilst putting together Breadcrumbs which I thought I would share with you. Here are my top five tips for publishing a short story collection.
1. Opening Number - put your best stories at the beginning because these will be contained in the free samples which are offered by Amazon, Smashwords and similar e-book stores. This is your opportunity to win over the reader. Also, for the same reason, do not write a foreword. This would occupy valuable space in the free sample which could otherwise contain evidence of your brilliant story-telling.
2. Order Carefully - you need to think carefully about the order of your stories. It is easier to hold the interest of the reader if you offer them variety, so mix up the lengths, genres and narrative forms of your story. For instance, do not put two haunted house stories one after the other. Always cushion a long story with two shorter stories. If you write poetry then intermingle this with the prose. Mixing up your stories will keep the collection fresh and the reader will find new surprises when they turn each page. A final thought: if you have written a long novella then cut this into parts and distribute throughout the collection. Breadcrumbs features a 20,000 word novella called Little Girl Lost, which I separated into three parts. Now the story is more digestible and will not prompt accusations of false advertising. "I thought this was a short story collection!"
3. Signposting - you may wish to write some stories that signpost readers to your long projects. For instance, Breadcrumbs contains a story called Circus of One, which features my character Mungo the Clown from the novel Circ, Also, the novella described above, Little Girl Lost, is set within the world of The Sheriff and features Sheriff Denebola and his sky-horse Palladium. My hope is that readers will enjoy these stories in the collection and buy my other novels as a result.
4. Afterword - Stephen King ends his short story collections with an afterword that contains fun facts about each short story. I have done something similar with Breadcrumbs and it was a lot of fun. It gives you the opportunity to tell readers how you came up with the idea and tell them bits of trivia, such as the meaning behind character names or how the final version differs from earlier drafts. It is the literary equivalent of a DVD commentary.
5. Title and Cover - this is the tricky part. You need a title and cover that draws all of the stories together. This is a lot easier if your stories all belong to the same genre. I was in the difficult situation of having a mixture of stories, including horrors, fantasies and children's stories. In the end, I noticed that each story had a fantastical element and therefore decided that fairy tales could be viewed as a tenuous genre for all of them. I therefore came up with the title Breadcrumbs, which is a reference to Hansel and Gretel. The front cover was equally tricky because I wanted to represent all twenty-one stories. I therefore asked my illustrator to create an icon for each, which could combine to form an overarching image. I chose a gingerbread man, which is the title of one of the short stories and semi-references the title. You can see my cover above, designed by my illustrator Matt Miles.