Publish Your Own Short Story Collection: Step-by-Step

Hannah Lee Kidder
NovelPad Author
If you write short stories, you may have noticed that it's hard to get a lot of professional mileage from them. They can be fun, captivating little reads, but when it comes to marketability: A short story just doesn't get you as far as a novel.
So what do our short story writers do when they want to go pro? They publish a collection! Read on to learn everything you need to know about publishing your own collection of short stories.

What is a short story collection?

A short story collection is a compilation of short stories, flash fiction, and/or micro fiction written by the same author. These pieces are most often organized around a particular theme, subject, or writing style.
An anthology, while similar, is a collection of stories written by multiple contributors. Today we're talking about short story collections.
The short stories might be previously published or unpublished—if previously published, the author must ensure that the publishing rights have reverted to them before publishing it in a collection.

Should I self-publish my short story collection?

Self-publishing a short story collection will give the writer the most control of the process. Many short story collections are self-published, as it can be a more difficult genre to sell. Traditionally publishing a short story collection (and anything, really) is much more attainable for authors with a pre-existing readership.
Publishers want to buy books they know will sell. If you have a proven audience, they can feel comfortable knowing that you will sell copies. Think of when all of those YouTubers suddenly became authors in the 2010s.
Without an audience, the only way you'll get a publisher interested in your collection is with an original, compelling, and/or topical theme. Preferably a strange or controversial theme. It's also typical to see essay, poem, and short story collections from authors who are from a niche demographic. A strange, experimental genre might be an easier sell as well.
Traditional publishing requires a particular balance of consumable and unique, plus a ton of luck.

Should I traditionally publish my short story collection?

Traditionally publishing a short story can be a difficult feat. Without an established audience, an industry contact, or a killer theme and a ton of luck, your chances are slim.
That said, many authors find they need the validation of a third-party publisher in order to feel like a real writer. The majority of the time, that choice comes down to ego, since self-publishing can be much more lucrative. But how you feel about your choice is an important factor, so I'm definitely not knocking third-party publishing routes.
Short story collections are a long-shot to trad publish, but not impossible! If you feel strongly that you want to traditionally publish, there's no harm in trying. Self-publishing will always be an option later.

How long is a short story collection?

The length of a short story collection depends on many factors. Some readers think the collection should be as long as an individual novel (which means a minimum of 50,000 words), while others accept pamphlet-sized books as collections.
$ KDP$  requires a minimum of 79 pages in order to include text on the spine, so that may be a factor to consider. On the other hand, you might prefer to publish your collection on a personal website as a PDF containing only a few stories.
The length of an individual short story is$  between 1,000 and 10,000 words$ . That means the story count range is pretty wide for a collection: You might have 30 stories around a thousand words each, or perhaps four or five stories around 10,000 words.
All in all, consult your creative instincts and write a collection that feels complete to you. The length it ends up will dictate the format, venue, method, and marketing of your finished product, so choose carefully.

Do collections of short stories sell well?

A well-written short story collection has the potential to sell many copies with an existing author platform, solid marketing, and/or a tight theme. On average, a collection will sell fewer copies than a novel, but the ultimate numbers are up to many factors—most of which can be controlled by the author.
In short, your collection can sell well if your content is good and you know a thing or two about marketing. Plus, as always, lots of luck.
Copyrighting your book is not a legal requirement, but it can be helpful for some legal protections, and if a lawsuit or infringement occurs. Copyrighting a collection should only cost you $35, so why not take that extra step to protect yourself and your property?

What is the average price of a short story collection?

The price of a short story collection can range from $0.99 for an ebook to $80 for a box set of story collections from a famous writer. The price of a short story collection depends on genre, length, popularity, and content.
For genre differences: In the erotica short story category on Amazon, you'll see most of them listed from free (through Kindle Unlimited) to $0.99. These are typically very brief collections, or even a single story, written in a short amount of time.
While if you look at literary collections, the prices trend toward $15 or more.
For length: Some publications contain one or two short stories, like erotica, where they sell for under a dollar.
Collections closer to the length of a novel usually sell between $12 and $35.
And as always, the popularity of the author and the marketability of the content will be two of the biggest factors affecting how well a book sells. The better it sells, the more a writer can charge.

How much does it cost to publish a short story collection?

The average cost of self-publishing a high-quality book is around $3,000. For a short story collection, more factors affect the cost, like length, imagery, and cover design.
Self-publishing is very much a choose-your-own-adventure moment when it comes to cost. Do you want an error-free manuscript? $ Hire an editor.$  Do you want an eye-catching, trendy cover? Yes, you do—covers are your #1 marketing tool. Do you have complicated ideas for the interior that you can't design yourself? Add designer fees to your budget.
To produce a truly quality book, you can expect to invest a little money. If you want to $ publish it totally free$ , that's feasible, too! You'll just have to sacrifice some quality. Let's get into the weeds of publishing a short story collection so you have more information for budgetary decisions.

How to publish a short story collection step-by-step

Here's how to publish a short story collection, beginning to end, and every step in the middle.
You might not hit every single step here—publishing is a very personalized experience, so be open to trial and error and a little experimentation. Not everything will work for every writer and reader.$ $ 

1. Write the stories

When you're putting a collection together, it's great to have a huge bowl of stories to fish from. One of the most important things to keep in mind when choosing stories to publish together is theme. A cohesive genre, theme, or "point" makes your collection much easier to market. It can be helpful to have a theme in mind when you begin writing, but if you feel like that will hold back your creativity, worry about it later. Write what you want!
You might build up your story pile, then look through them to decide on a theme. Naturally, writers tend to hit the same few emotions or themes throughout their stories, so a theme usually develops on its own.
I try to keep my pieces organized as I write them. For example, I have a $ poetry collection$  in progress that I sort by mood. This is my $ NovelPad$  project where I drop any stories that fit into my Dystopian short story collection:

 novelpad for short stories
Don't forget to save any stories that don't fit your theme! They might find a home somewhere else. For example, when I was putting my collection $ Little Birds$  together, I had a few pieces that beta readers found a little disturbing. I set those aside, then used them in $ Starlight$  two years later.$ $ 

2. Select the stories

Once you've got your bucket (file folder) full of minnows (stories), it's time to fish around for the fattest boys (most thematically cohesive pieces) and dump the rest back in the ditch (leave them safely in a file folder).
If you already chose your theme, fab! If you need a little help, a theme can basically be anything. You could base it on region, tone, mood, writing style, content, target demographic, author demographic, or anything else.
You might have a collection with multiple themes! For example, $ Starlight$ 's themes types include genre (spooky), regional (lots of swamp), content (childhood trauma, alienation, transformation, etc.), and probably lots of others if I really sat down to think about it. But I marketed it as a Spooky Story Collection, because that was the most tangible and sellable.
And don't get too worried about adhering to the theme. If you have a few odd stories that aren't so far off that they ruin the flow, that's fine! A loose common thread throughout can be enough.

3. Organize the stories

Once you've chosen the pieces you want to include, it's time to put them in order. There are a few things to consider in this step, and the order of the stories can be an artistic choice on its own. But if you're looking for some general guidelines, you'll want to be careful about your first piece, last piece, and diversity throughout.
The first story should represent your collection. If a person only reads that one, they should have a decent idea of what the rest of the book might be like. It should also be one of your strongest stories, because the first story is a selling point for your reader. If you lose them on the first one, they might not keep reading.
I am always stressing $ the importance of endings$ . The end of a story, chapter, or book is typically what your reader will remember, especially in a collection. The last story should be strong, memorable, and end with the mood you want your readers to leave with.
For diversity through the collection, you'll want to check for stories that are a bit too similar—you won't want those close to each other. You might also order the stories for a roller coaster mood, where the mood at the end of one story is the opposite as the beginning of the next (or consider the mood of the entire stories, depending on how they play out).
Take some time on this step.

3. Readers and edits

Now it's time to see what people think! Recruit a few beta readers (or a couple friends) to read your collection and give you feedback. You might ask them if they felt one piece stuck out in a bad way, if the first and last stories are the strongest, and how they felt about the order of the pieces.
Use that feedback to do your final self-edit. If you're $ hiring an editor$ , they come after! No matter the genre or format, you want to get your piece as clean as you can before sending it off, because it will save you money in the long run.

4. Design the collection

The design of a book includes the interior format and cover design. You might attempt these things yourself—there are $ tons of tutorials for different programs$ .
If you want to allocate some of your budget for the design, I recommend paying for a cover design first. Readers absolutely judge books by their covers, so you'll want a compelling cover that's appropriate for your genre and target demographic.

5. Upload and order proof copies

Now that your book is put together, it's time to upload! You should decide where you're publishing your book before the design, since each platform might have slightly different requirements for things like page count, dimensions, color, and bleed.
You actually have quite a few options when it comes to self-publishing. The most popular choices are KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), IngramSpark, Barnes & Noble Press, and Draft2Digital.
Each option has different royalty rates, requirements, format availability, and preorder capabilities, so do your research to choose the right one for you and your book!
Once you've got your book matter uploaded, it's time to order a proof copy. It's common for books to get a little wonky in the printing process. Even if you hired a professional for the design, mistakes happen! Proof copies are your last chance to catch those mistakes and make alterations before publishing.

6. Publishing your collection

With a shiny, finished book, it's time to get rolling! There are lots of things to consider before hitting "publish," so let's get into your pre-pub checklist.
  • ARCs: ARCs are Advanced Reader Copies that authors strategically share with certain people. It's good to have a mix of people, including your biggest fans (if this isn't your first publication), professional reviewers of your genre, and readers with large platforms. The purpose of ARCs is to get some reviews up before your book is available. These come into play during the presale period.
  • Description: After your beautiful book cover pulls people into your listing, the description sells them. Write a compelling and accurate description of your book (no spoilers). Other elements can include reviews, previous accolades, trope lists, and trigger warnings.
  • Metadata: Metadata is extremely important for online sales. Do your research to figure out the best categories, subcategories, tags, and other information will best serve your book and target readers.
  • Social posts: If you're marketing on social media, it can be a great idea to backlog some of those promotional posts in advance. The more material you can prepare ahead of time, the easier your presale and launch will be.
  • Press kit: A press kit is a document with book elements like high-quality cover images, author and book info, blurbs, genres, trigger warnings, reviews, and promotional images. You can send this document to review sites, news outlets, interview opportunites, and whatever other marketing route you decide to take.
  • Preorders: If your publishing platform allows preorders, absolutely do it. This is a perfect opportunity to get some hype going for your release.

7. Market the collection

The toughest part of self-publishing for most writers is the marketing. It can be confusing, awkward, and overwhelming if you've never done it before. So don't feel alone if you're flustered and lost when it comes to book marketing! Here are a few different strategies you might consider.
Street team
A street team is a group of volunteers who want to help you promote your book. These people are angels, so treat them as such! If utilizing a street team, you'll want to keep them organized in a Discord channel, Facebook group, or another platform that you can moderate. Once you've collected them into one place, you'll give assignments and rewards for completing those assignments.
Street team assignment examples:
  • read the book (give them time for this before you begin promo)
  • keep note of your favorite quotes for promotional images (other people are usually much better at this than the writer)
  • post a Goodreads review
  • create social media content (challenges are great here)
  • call your local libraries and book stores to request the book
  • scout for podcast and interview opportunities for the author
Street team reward examples:
  • physical goodies, like bookmarks, candles, plants, etc.
  • social media shout-out (if you have a significant platform)
  • writing critique from you (if that's something you can do, and if they are writers)
  • your own merch
  • your services as a beta reader, ARC reviewer, or street team member for their next book
It's very helpful to plan these things out ahead of time. You might find the time to do this during the street team application process.
ARC reviews
Advanced Reader Copies are a great way to get some reviews up before your book launches. Readers hesitate to buy books with no reviews, so give yourself a leg up by having some before it's even available for purchase.
Note: Storygraph, GoodReads, and most review sites allow users to post reviews while the book is only available to preorder. Amazon does NOT allow reviews for books that aren't available for immediate purchase, so keep a list of your reviewers to remind them to post their reviews to Amazon after the book has launched.
After your book is published, you'll still want to prompt your readers to leave reviews. For Amazon, the review minimum for it to make a difference is around 30 reviews. But the more reviews, the better, especially if you can keep a decent star rating through it.

 short story colletion reviews
Online events and games
Online events are an affordable way to interact with readers and hype up your upcoming book. They can be as simple as a Q&A, streaming a game, or hosting social media competitions. Try to plan these in advance of your presale period.
In-person events
In-person events are appropriate for many genres, particularly children's books. If you've written a collection of children's stories, you should absolutely try to do readings at schools, libraries, and applicable children's events. This is an opportunity, not only to appeal to children, but to get on their guardians' radar (the people actually buying the books).
Newsletter/social media swaps
If you're trying to gain an audience for your genre, guess what! Other authors have already done that. Other authors are not our competition—if someone has an audience of readers who love short stories, they likely read short stories from many writers.
Reach out to authors in your genre for cross-promotions through newsletters or social media.
If you want a more in-depth look at marketing a collection, check out $ this post$ .

Tips for publishing a short story collection

Here are some general tips for producing and publishing the best collection we can!

1. Set goals

Writing and marketing a book can be overwhelming. Without intentional goal-setting, you might end up directionlessly bobbing in the soup. Let's gracefully swim in the soup by setting specific goals.
Not to sound like an Online Business/Wellness/Vibes Coach, but step one is your Why? Knowing your goals with your career, platform, and books will give you structure. Are you publishing a book to build up a platform or business? Are you publishing because you're retired and love writing? Are you trying to grab the bag? Figure out your why, then reverse engineer that greater goal into bite-sized spoonfuls (of soup).
For the writing process, your goals might look like a timeline. Finish drafting Story A by this date. Go through beta feedback by this date. Hit the Gantt Chart if you need to.
For marketing, our goals can get a little spicier. You might set ideal numbers for preorders, sales, reviews, revenue, etc. These are fun, and I set them myself, BUT—be careful to set some real, actionable goals as well. We all love making sales, but we don't really control that. We control our actions only. Here are some crispier examples of goals for marketing:
  • 5 promo posts on Instagram per week until August
  • create 3 newsletter funnels by the end of this month
  • send out 15 ARCs
  • review swap with Author, Author, and Author
Get real specific with your timeline for goals, too!

2. Nail the theme

Themes make things so much easier on the marketing side of publishing. If you have multiple themes, do some research on which one might be best to emphasize for your target audience. Not every book is for every reader, so you want to make sure you're getting it in front of the right ones.

3. Utilize the book itself

And so, my fellow Authors: ask not what you can do for your book—ask what your book can do for you.
Anytime you produce some kind of product (like a book), it's an opportunity to collect readers/viewers/followers/fans. Don't let the chance to build your platform slip by. Even if the only thing you create is books, you want to keep those readers around to read more of your books!
This can be as simple as dropping a buy link for the next book in your series at the end of each ebook. You could include a teaser for another book. You could provide some incentive for the reader to join your mailing list. Whatever suits your goals, utilize your book for it.

4. Hire a professional designer if you can

Strong cover designs are an essential element of a good book, but interior design gets more important with collections. Since a collection is broken into many smaller narratives, reader immersion isn't a huge factor.
In a standard novel, dropping illustrations and unusual formatting might distract from the story and ruin immersion, but that isn't an issue with collections, since the immersion ends with each story/poem. So you might get a little more creative with the interior of a collection than you would with a novel.
For example, in a poetry collection, you'd likely play around with formatting, enjambment, and white space.

Shapes on the Page: How to Format Poetry — Read Blog — Ignited Ink Writing,  LLC | Book Editor | Website/Blog Content Editor/Writer
With a short story collection, you might see sketches, illustrations, crazy drop caps, or unique title pages and scene breaks.

 short story collection interior design

5. Host a preorder giveaway

My best marketing results have come from preorder giveaways. They're super effective, especially if you have an engaged readership. If you're a brand new author with no audience of any sort, you'll have to put in a lot of legwork to find success with any marketing endeavor, but a preorder giveaway is a great place to start.$ $ 
A preorder giveaway can generate interest and excitement before your book launch, give you lots of social media content, get your audience involved in the process, and provide an excuse to host fun events!

Publishing a short story collection can be fun, fulfilling, and—if you're smart and lucky—profitable.
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