Story collections are experiencing a resurgence, driven by a
proliferation of digital options that offer writers creative
opportunities, exposure and revenue.
The Internet may be disrupting much of the book industry, but for
short-story writers it has been a good thing.
Story collections, an often underappreciated literary cousin of
novels, are experiencing a resurgence, driven by a proliferation of
digital options that offer not only new creative opportunities but
exposure and revenue as well.
Already, 2013 has yielded an unusually rich crop of short-story
collections, including George Saunders's "Tenth of December," which
arrived in January with a media splash normally reserved for
Hollywood movies and moved quickly onto the best-seller lists.
Tellingly, many of the current and forthcoming collections are not
from authors like Mr. Saunders, who have always preferred short
stories, but from best-selling novelists like Tom Perrotta, who are
returning to the form.
Recent and imminent releases include "Vampires in the Lemon
Grove," by Karen Russell, whose 2011 novel, "Swamplandia!," was a
finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; "Damage Control," a first
collection by Amber Dermont, whose novel "The Starboard Sea" was a
best seller in 2012; and another first story collection, "We Live in
Water," by Jess Walter, just off his best-selling novel "Beautiful
"It is the culmination of a trend we have seen building for five
years," said Cal Morgan, the editorial director of Harper Perennial
Originals, who until last year ran a blog called Fifty-Two Stories,
devoted to short fiction. "The Internet has made people a lot more
open to reading story forms that are different from the novel, and
you see a generation of writers very engaged in experimentation."
In recent decades the traditional outlets for individual short
stories have dwindled, with literary magazines closing or shrinking.
But the Internet has created an insatiable maw to feed.
Amazon, for instance, created its Kindle Singles program in 2011
for publishing short fiction and nonfiction brief enough to be read
in less than two hours. Although the list price is usually modest,
a dollar or two, authors keep as much as 70 percent of the
royalties, welcome revenue for fledgling authors and a potentially
big payoff for well-known writers.
In addition, a group of smaller Internet publishers, like
Byliner, are snapping up short fiction and gaining traction as
distributors of stories. And the shorter format, writers say, is a
good fit for the small screens that people are increasingly using to
"The single-serving quality of a short narrative is the perfect
art form for the digital age," said Ms. Dermont, whose collection is
due out next month. "Stories are models of concision, can be read in
one sitting, and are infinitely downloadable and easily consumed on
Stories are also perfect for the digital age, she added, because
readers "want to connect and want that connection to be intense and
to move on." That is, after all, what a short story is all about.
Mr. Morgan said that years of editing short fiction for his blog
had shown him that digital communication was influencing writers
just coming of age.
"The generation of writers out of college in the last few years
has been raised to engage with words like no generation before," he