About Comma

Comma Press is a not-for-profit publishing initiative dedicated to promoting new writing, with an emphasis on the short story. It is committed to a spirit of risk-taking and challenging publishing, free of the commercial pressures on mainstream houses. In April 2012, Comma became one of the Arts Council's new National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs).

Mission Statement:

Comma's Mission is to put the short story at the heart of contemporary narrative culture. Through innovative commissions, collaborations and digital initiatives, we will explore the power of the short story to transcend cultural and disciplinary boundaries, and to enable greater understanding across these boundaries.

Our Aims are:

(i) To commission and publish new short fiction in a way that demonstrates the potential of the form, and speaks to the diversity of perspectives that make up contemporary England.

(ii) To create opportunities for emerging and established authors to develop, as writers, and to share their work in new contexts, be these interdisciplinary, intercultural, or digital.

(iii) To develop new and diverse audiences for literary short fiction, and new ways for these audiences to access, experience, and interact with it, as well as with each other.

(iv) To support the wider publishing ecology for literary fiction, throughout England, creating new opportunities for translators, editors, and other publishing professionals to enter and prosper in the industry, where those opportunities are often geographically or socially biased.

Comma's award-winning publications include collections by new and established authors, interdisciplinary collaborations between authors and scientists, and translation commissions devised to identify cutting-edge (often marginalized) voices from across the world.

Our digital initiatives have helped thousands of aspiring authors to self-publish and then learn from the reading habits of those who download their work (MacGuffin). We have also enabled readers to virtually interact with cityscapes around the world, through short stories in translation (LitNav).

Comma delivers masterclasses and creative writing courses throughout the year. We host the National Creative Writing Graduate Fair, which gives aspiring writers access to key agents and editors, and we support the wider publishing sector through the Northern Fiction Alliance.

Read our 2016 Annual Report here.

Read our Comma Survey 2017 Results here.


Why the Short Story?

In his essay The Lonely Voice (1962), Frank O'Connor* famously distinguished the short story from the novel in terms of the types of characters you find in each: 'The short story has never had a hero,' he argued. 'What it has instead is submerged population groups.' By this O'Connor meant characters on the fringes of society, disenfranchised, without voice or audience.
      Publishing short stories is an act of giving voice to these characters on the margins, individuals like Chekhov's Iona Potapov in 'Misery', who have no one to tell their story to, no audience that will listen to them in their daily lives. In this sense, publishing short stories is an attempt to democratize literature, to make sure voices and characters aren't excluded from the narratives we tell ourselves. It is also a call for pluralism, for differing, contradictory 'discrete moments of truth', as Nadine Gordimer calls them, 'not THE moment of truth, because the short story doesn't deal in cumulatives. 

In this sense, an anthology of short stories has certain advantages over a novel: it is better equipped, for example, to give readers access and insights into new cultures, because it is able to embrace difference and diversity within any one culture: an anthology of short stories can accommodate a series of discrete, contradiuctory truths, rather than promote one single, cumulative, 'Truth'.
     When wider public debate sometimes reduces subjects to simplistic, one-sided narratives (often perpetuating myths like the 'Great Man Theory' that assumes 'the history of the world but the biography of great men'), short fiction can offer an alternative perspective, something closer to Tolstoy's version of history in which an emperor plays no greater role than a humble hussar.
    At Comma, we believe that short stories have other tricks up their sleaves, too. Short stories are so tightly coiled, structurally, that they are already well predisposed for translation and transplantation: a short story gathers up it references, its back-stories and its contexts, and travels light - meaning it can be transplanted into new cultures, new languages, or indeed new audience groups. In this, we feel the short story is the most 'smuggle-able' of literary forms, and all of Comma's commissions, be they translation projects or 'science-into-fiction' collaborations, build on the belief that short stories can cross borders!

*Frank O'Connor's 'The Lonely Voice' & Nadine Gordimer's 'The Flash of Fireflies' are both available in Charles E. May, ed., Short Story Theories (1976). 

More on Thomas Carlile's 'Great Man Theory' here.

Praise for Comma:

'Unapologetically political, Comma Press are in the vanguard of UK literary culture.' - HUCK Magazine (2019)

'We are living through a golden moment in the history of the short story...Eudora Welty called [her editor] William Maxwell "the headquarters". I'm not sure where the headquarters of the current excitement lies, somewhere between McSweeney's in America and Comma in Manchester, perhaps...' - The Guardian

'Remarkable for its consistent brilliance and commitment to the short story, you will be hard pushed to find a better short story publisher than Comma Press.' - Ink Sweat and Tears

'Trailblazing.' -Arts Council England, Autumn Report, 2007

'It's not too great a stretch to see Comma as the literary equivalent of Factory Records.' -  The Herald

'The fiction landscape would have been a lot flatter without Comma.'
- M. John Harrison

Named as one of the 'Top Six Publishers Outside of London' - New Statesman, 2012

'For the near future at least, short fiction is in good hands.' -   The Independent on Sunday

'A small but powerful champion of the short story.'
- The Guardian

'Fills you with hope for the form.'
- Time Out

'Manchester is fast becoming the UK's most influential centre for short story writing.' -  The Observer

'A high-performing specialist imprint with a robust commitment to the briefer forms.' -
The Independent

'Increasingly impressive.' -TLS

Read Comma's Single Equality Scheme (SES) here.