I am writing this because I want to be part of a movement to bring short story collections back as a first-degree literary form, on equal footing with, if not superior to, novels, so I thought I would share my experience as a first-time writer finding a publisher for my collection, especially with those in, or thinking about getting in, the same boat.
I had had no previous publishing credits. I spent three months querying agents while submitting the individual stories to magazines. They're literary. Very, very slowly, they began to be find homes. Not New Yorker, Paris Review, or anything like that. Just magazines I thought were cool, and where they would fit. Began to get partial, then full requests. 'Too literary,' 'too experimental,' 'collections just don't sell,' I heard back.
I changed strategy, and began querying small and independent presses. Got a long, very detailed feedback from FSG. Somewhat re-encouraged, but didn't take their suggestions for revision. Another three months passed. Finished my second book--a collection of essays (career death-wish?). Two more months of querying. Then, three publishers offered, including a quite prestigious one, with good terms.
I just want people to know it's not impossible, even if you're un-agented, have no major creds, no novel behind/in front of you. You just have to work hard, grow a thick skin, stay professional, have integrity in your work, and keep trying. Bang your head against the wall. The definition of psychosis is: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Writers have to be psychotic.
Just a little.
And Big Thanks again to Nathan for answering all my questions.