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I would like to know, from someone who has marketed a collection of short stories (or is otherwise knowledgeable in these affairs), about how many short stories a publisher is looking for to constitute a collection. Let's assume all the short stories are between two and ten pages long.

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Enough to fill a book. – SF. Nov 24 '12 at 1:14
How big of a book? – tylerharms Nov 24 '12 at 14:54
However big the publisher will offer a contract for. – Lauren Ipsum Nov 24 '12 at 20:11
I assume you have short story collections. Why not count 'em up? – Ken Mohnkern Jun 27 at 22:08
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Short story collections are notoriously had to place over the transom. Typically a writer will have published most or all of the stories in other venues and then work with an agent to market the collection...at which point the length will vary widely depending on the publisher.

At any rate, there's really no rule of thumb due to the differences between publishers. Do you have publishers in mind? Have you published any of the stories in publications that are likely to be of interest to a publisher?

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I have published three stories (of ten) with different, small publishers. None of these houses have published anything beyond a magazine in the past. I'm seeing more and more small, indy publishers publishing collections, but I haven't gotten my hands on many to see what's average for number of stories. Obviously, a complete collection is a complete collection, but I feel like I have a few stories that could be added or removed to maintain the integrity of the collection. – tylerharms Nov 24 '12 at 8:30
I think you're going to have to consider the number of stories as a function of the publisher you find. There's no real average to be had. Publishing your stories individually will hopefully open the doors to publishers willing to print a collection. I'd package up your collection with the stories you feel necessary and then, when you work with the publisher, discuss including more. Sorry I can't be more helpful, but it is such an individualized process. – Chris Nov 24 '12 at 16:54
Thanks, Chris. I will hit the Writer's Market. – tylerharms Nov 27 '12 at 20:50

I think the thumb rule is 40,000 words totally. The reader who buys your collection will feel he/she has got his/her money's worth if there are at least 40,000 words to read. At an average of 2500 words per story, that makes 16 stories. Less no. of stories if they are longer.

Hope that helps.

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A novella really cuts down the number of stories. I see that a lot in collections, one story will be a novella. – Mac Cooper Dec 12 '15 at 19:59

My rule of thumb: Publish when the paperback is thick enough to put a readable title on the spine.

I use CreateSpace for my paperbacks. For CreateSpace, you need a minimum of 110 pages to put text on the spine. That gives 1/8" of room for the title. That's maybe an 11 or 12 point font (assuming all caps or small caps with no descenders), which is pretty darned small.

So I figure a minimum of 130 pages total, including frontmatter and backmatter.

The amount of text you need depends on a bunch of parameters that affect page count: trim size, font, font size, leading (aka line spacing), margins, paragraph length, amount of frontmatter and backmatter.

I know numerous writers (including me) who publish collections with 5 stories. My one collection (so far) has 27000 words, including 24000 words of story content, an introduction for the collection, and 300–500 of author notes for each story.

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