Literary Agents for Short Stories

Q: I have recently written a short story and want to know where to go from here. Do I need an agent? Can I go directly to an editor or publisher? How do I find out if my story is any good? -Hazel


A:
You don’t need an agent at this stage, and in fact probably would not be able to get one. It’s customary for writers to market their short stories and articles themselves to appropriate publications (check the current year’s Writer’s Market); if you can place it, someone thinks it’s good. Also look for short story contests and enter your story in those. Join a local writers’ group to get your work critiqued.

If your goal is book publication, you’ll need a lot more stories, of course, and the more they’ve been published in magazines first and the more awards they’ve won, the more interested publishers will be. Armed with a strong collection of stories, most of which have been published in good journals and/or have won awards, you should be able to find a literary agent to take your manuscript to book publishers.

But keep in mind that most book publishers are looking for first novels rather than first short story collections, which tend not to sell as well. Also preferred are short story collections that are connected in some way–the same characters, the same issues, the same themes. Best of luck.

Nina Graybill
Literary Lawyer and Former Literary Agent