OK - I know most agents do not handle short stories because then they'd be even more overworked than they are now. Does that run true for short story collections, too? Is it better to query on (and sell) a novel or two before trying to sell a collection? What if the collection has a common theme that ties all the stories together?

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I got nowhere with a set of linked stories last year. I only pursued it with ten agents but four advised me I'd have to have a novel first or at least make the linked stories into a continuous narrative. Maybe unlinked stories will fare better.
Wow, Patti, really? I'm surprised; I'd have thought it would be the other way around. Thanks for the heads-up, though. Anthony, I guess that advice feeds into yours as well!
Yeah, I think the novel is the way to go. You usually only see collections after a writer has already made his/her bones. Of course, there are exceptions, like Harlan Ellison and Clive Barker. But those strike me as long shots.

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