November 4, 2021

Great Books That Started Out as Short Stories

We're in the middle of our Undiscovered Gems writing competition which invites authors to write a short story based on their unpublished book. The idea for this contest was inspired by the fact that many great works of fiction and non-fiction started as short stories.

How does this work?

The ultimate goal for the majority of writers is to publish a book, so why would you want to submit a book idea in the form of a story? 

First off, this is a great way to release a synopsis of your book where people other than your friends and family will read it. (I’m talking to you bloggers!) While there’s nothing wrong with having a small group of people as your readers, publishing your writing through a well-known publication, such as the literary magazine The New Yorker, offers you a larger audience and publicity. This is a way to achieve a reputation for your work and as a writer in the literary community. Careful though, many magazines will not publish previously published work, including on your blog or social media.

The second reason is to see how the audience reacts to your piece. You can see what readers gravitated toward the most within the story. Not only are readers and other writers reading stories online, but so are agents, editors and publishers. Your writing may catch the attention of someone in the publishing world who can take your career to the next level.

The last and most important reason is that many writers started their career when they received recognition for their short stories. Their ideas transformed easily as they expanded their story into a book.


The novel, The Vegetarian by Han Kang, came from her published story in Granta Magazine, “The Fruit of My Woman.” 

Michelle Zauner’s memoir is based and named after her essay, “Crying in H Mart” which was first published in The New Yorker. The essay is actually the first chapter of her memoir.

Maid by Stephanie Land was first published as an essay in Vox.

Kristi Coulter’s memoir Nothing Good Can Come of This was first published in Medium

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen is a self-help book that came into the world as an essay published in the Harvard Business Review

These stories were published and went viral after readers shared them widely. Remember, a book will sell if there’s an audience for it. These stories proved they could be successful on bookshelves, leading publishers to contact the authors about a book deal. 

There are many more examples, and your book could be one of them. Use this as inspiration to submit to our current writing competition, Undiscovered Gems! We can’t wait to read your story.

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