Before you submit your collection, I strongly recommend that you get as many stories as possible published in literary magazines. Having a track record will help, and prior publication will not harm your chances of getting a collection published. (However, you should avoid publishing in magazines that are online. If people can read your stories for free, why should they buy them?)
For where to publish short stories see:
297 Paying Markets for Short Stories, Poetry, Nonfiction
Speculative Fiction Magazines Accepting Submissions
18 Paying Markets for Humor
And if you prefer to submit directly to a publisher read:
17 Publishers Accepting Unagented Short Story Collections
IMPORTANT: These twelve agents have listed Short Stories on their MSWL (manuscript wish list) profiles, however you should NEVER query an agent without checking the agency website first. Submission requirements change, and agents may close their lists, or switch agencies.
Jennifer Kim (Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency)
A graduate from the University of California Irvine, Jennifer holds a B.A. in English Literature and Spanish Literature, and spent a year studying Spanish literature and culture at the University of Barcelona. She also works as a bookseller, having done so since 2012.
Renée Zuckerbrot Literary Agency
Renée Zuckerbrot founded the agency after working as an editor at Doubleday and Franklin Square Press/Harper’s Magazine. She is a member of the AAR and Authors Guild. She serves on PEN’s Membership Committee, and is a Board member of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) and Slice Magazine. You can read an interview with Renée and her colleagues at Poets & Writers. See her top ten list of short stories at Storyville.
Waverly Place Literary Agency
Seeking short story and poetry collections with popular appeal.
Helen Boyle (Pickled Ink) (UK)
Helen Boyle has over fifteen years experience in the children’s publishing industry. She began her career at Hodder Children’s Books in the marketing and publicity department but quickly felt the draw of editorial and design. She has worked as a consultant, editor and reviewer for UK book and magazine publishers and has an extensive knowledge of the global children’s book market. She is seeking YA connected short stories. (A novel told as a series of short stories.)
Chad Luibl (Janklow and Nesbit)
I tend to lean more toward darker tales and gritty settings, culture-crossing perspectives, structures that are a bit experimental (see David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas), and always narratives with a strong emotional core. Having lived in Poland and Hungary, I have a niche-interest in books that feel Eastern European in voice/perspective (or explore post-Soviet and Cold War themes), and I find anything that deals with exile and expatriation immediately arresting.
Jessica Sinsheimer (Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency)
I’m officially open to all genres. Whatever the age group, I tend to love contrast–highbrow sentences and lowbrow content, beautiful settings and ugly motives–the books that are beautiful and scary, heartbreaking and hilarious. I love secrets, scheming, revenge, plotting–and stories that have to be written forward and backward to make sense (I LOVE discovering a very cleverly planted clue that makes sense in retrospect).
Katie Grimm (Don Congdon Associates)
Most generally, I focus on adult literary fiction, narrative non-fiction, middle grade, and young adult fiction. Across all genres and ages, I’ll always be interested in the darker and weirder side of the human condition as well as previously under- or misrepresented experiences and voices.
Kimberley Cameron (Kimberley Cameron & Associates)
I’ve enjoyed being an agent for 26 years, and love to find new voices. I love to lose myself in a story and to be transported to another reality, whether it be in the future, contemporary, or in the past. I am a complete francophile and have spent lots of time living in Paris and the South of France, and yes, I have sold lots of books from abroad, as I’m always working! I love to read.
Laura Biagi (Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency Inc.)
Some things I’m especially interested in at the moment: Magical realism in the vein of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a literary fiction journey story where the characters change as much as the landscape around them, absurdism a la George Saunders, anything reminiscent of Karen Russell, strong female edgy voices like Miranda July, a story with a gothic or magical realist twist set in Kentucky or the South, literary YA with Romani characters, and contemporary YA with characters following their passions and trying to figure out life as in Rainbow Rowell’s novels.
Monica Odom (Bradford Literary)
Monica is most actively seeking adult projects, but is open to some YA and MG (especially if it is NF or illustrated). She holds the same criteria no matter the age group: original storytelling, incredible voice, compelling characters, and vivid, detailed setting. She also likes to see a strong sense of narrative tension. Monica is serious about the fact that We Need Diverse Books and is looking for authentic representation of all characters, diverse or otherwise
Rachel Crawford (Wolf Literary)
I’m on the look out for literary and commercial fiction and YA. I’m drawn to stories that defy genre conventions and play with reader expectations, and I particularly enjoy dystopian fiction, eco-fiction, and apocalyptic narratives, as well as anything with a scientist protagonist. I love books that explore big ideas through compelling narrative.
Sarah Yake (Frances Collin Literary Agency)
A quirky, interesting voice is my number one consideration. I love a touch of humor, whether overt or sly. My reading tastes are wide-ranging and my goal is to keep building a similarly diverse, multi-genre list.