No News About A Short Story Collection

There’s this Facebook group called “Books of Horror” that has started doing author Q&A’s. Mine is set for Monday, January 27th, so on that day people will post questions (“Jeff, how did you become so gosh-darn awesome?”) and I will post answers (“It’s my readers who are the awesome ones!”) and everybody will have a delightful time.

People are allowed to post questions early, and I’ll answer them on the 27th. But it seems kind of rude to have a question just sitting there, unanswered, as if my time is so valuable that I’m taking an “I will answer questions on the scheduled day and no sooner, dammit!” stance. So I’m going to answer one in the form of a long-winded blog entry, and share the link.

The question, asked by Mr. Hans Curtis, is when there will be a fourth short story collection.

The official answer is: I dunno.

Like a total frickin’ nerd, I’ve got a spreadsheet that lists all of my post-Everything Has Teeth stories. Right now I’ve got nearly 80,000 words’ worth of material, not counting over 10,000 words’ worth of stuff that won’t be included in a collection, and not counting 19,000 words’ worth of stories that were written for my newsletter. So that’s a book right there!

But……I don’t have the contractual rights to reprint all of these yet. A few of them (“Captain Pistachio’s Charming Rampage,” “All I Want For Christmas Is Your Two Front Teeth,” “Ghetto Blaster,” etc.) are stories that haven’t even seen their first publication yet. And the trade-off for a story like “Good Deeds” from Hark The Herald Angels Screamwhich had a nice pay rate and high visibility, is that the exclusivity period is quite a bit longer.

Previously I’ve started compiling the books when I’ve got “mostly” enough material, and then written new stories to fill it out. Dead Clown Barbecue had seven unpublished stories, and Everything Has Teeth had six, one of which (“The Tipping Point”) was a novelette.

What I’ve discovered is that the new stuff doesn’t seem to matter much, and with Dead Clown Barbecue it actually backfired. The publisher went nuts when I sent over the book. “OMG! Seven brand new stories!” It was the focus of the marketing campaign. But we discovered that readers were looking at it from the opposite perspective: “Oh, so it’s mostly reprints?”

Single-author short story collections are almost always mostly or entirely reprints. In the horror genre at least, it’s rare for anybody to sit down and write a collection of short stories just for that particular book. Basically, you say, “Hey, I’ve published enough short stories to fill a book! Woo-hoo!” and then you publish the collection. Seven brand new stories for Dead Clown Barbecue was craaaaaaazy!

But many readers don’t realize that, because unless you obsessively follow everything an author publishes, most of the stories are new to you. Looking at this list of stories that’ll be in Collection IV, there’s stuff like “Pointy Canes,” “Rotten Eggs,” “Don’t Make Fun of the Haunted House,” “Parody,” “Clyde the Necrophile,” “The Last Thing You Want To Be,”….I know darn well you haven’t read all of those! (Jim Morey, who proofreads all of my short stories, is shouting “The hell I haven’t!” but he doesn’t count.)

So, this time out there’s less incentive to go with brand new stuff. Which means that when asked when my next short story collection will come out, the official answer is: “I dunno.” Probably sometime in 2021.

Follow up question: What’s the deal with the stories that won’t be included in a collection?

When a story was done specifically for a charity anthology (“Death to Trees” in Widowmakers, “Hologram Skull Cover” in Mister October, “Clickers Vs. Mandibles” in Clickers Foreveretc.) I don’t reprint it. I’m not vowing that I will NEVER reprint them, but for the foreseeable future, I like keeping them exclusive to their original anthologies. “Coping Mechanism,” from Into Painfreakis a shared-world story that would probably just be kind of confusing if removed from its original context.

Anyway, the Jeff Strand Q&A at Books of Horror will be at the following link (though you may need to join the Books of Horror group to access it):

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