Short Stories and Small Presses

Fri, 11 Dec 2015 18:00:56 +0000

Short stories have long been considered something of a necessary evil in the world of publishing. It is a truism that “short stories don’t sell,” and the major publishing houses are usually reluctant to take on any anthology that doesn’t feature at least one superstar author. A small-scale press, on the other hand, can be an ideal fit for short-and-sweet literature—indie publishers tend to value quality over mere profitability, and they are more likely to take a chance on new writers and unconventional forms of storytelling.

One of the best ways to get a short story published is to submit it to a literary journal or magazine, most of which operate out of their own dedicated presses. In fact, it’s common for aspiring writers to break into the literary world and start building their reputations by submitting their work to such journals. Many famous authors—such as Mark Twain, John Updike, George Saunders, Joyce Carol Oates, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Raymond Carver—began their illustrious careers this way. Even several of the writers published by Ooligan Press have contributed short pieces to various literary publications, including The Bushwick Review in New York City, San Francisco’s ZYZZYVA, famed feminist journal CALYX, and the cutting-edge online magazine Guernica.

Ooligan Press itself has developed discerning taste in anthologies, which has proved to be one of the most flexible mediums for showcasing the diverse voices of the Pacific Northwest. Ooligan’s most recently published example is Untangling the Knot, a provocative collection that explores the often mixed opinions about same-sex marriage within the LGBTQ community. Ooligan’s next anthology coming down the pipeline is Memories Flow in Our Veins, a joint project with CALYX, Inc., celebrating forty years of writing from the best women authors in the country. The tradition continues with Ooligan’s most recently acquired manuscript—a family-themed short-story collection by emerging writer and Ooligan alumna Kait Heacock. A complete list of the press’s anthologies can be found on its website.

Graywolf Press is another small publisher that has made a name for itself in the short-story market. Originally a press dedicated exclusively to poetry, Graywolf has since diversified into the full range of genres and acquired a reputation for producing high-quality literature. Short-story collections from Graywolf Press consistently win the Bakeless Prize for Fiction and garner rave reviews from big-name publications like Publishers Weekly, The New York Times Book Review, Library Journal, and The Huffington Post.

If there is such a thing as a perfect union between the small-scale publisher business model and the short-story genre, then Pushcart Press has surely achieved it. Pushcart Press is the publisher of the Pushcart Prize series, which annually collects the year’s best short stories, essays, and poems produced by small presses all over the world into a single volume. With this one book, readers gain access to some of the highest-quality literature available from the most innovative indie publishers. In recognition of this legacy, Publishers Weekly has dubbed the Pushcart Prize one of the most influential players in the history of publishing.

The big houses in the publishing industry often regard anthologies as throwaway extras, but small presses dedicate just as much time, labor, and love to their short-story collections as they do to full-length works. In fact, the little publishers seem to be the biggest supporters of the short-story genre—journals printed out of their own presses are the primary medium for shorter works and emerging authors, and the foremost short-story prize not only accepts submissions exclusively from small presses but is itself run by an indie publisher. It seems fitting that smaller-scale presses and short stories would work so well together.

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