THU, FEB 19, 2015 10:52 EST

Before a book can fly off the shelves, it usually has a long, methodical process to get there.

Every year, thousands of writers try their luck in the world of freelance by sending out manuscripts to publishers with hopes that they’ll land a writing gig. The ugly truth at the end of the paper trail is that it’s really hard to get a work of fiction published — and even harder to publish something that will gain a large following and become a bestseller.

As a writer in college, the initial hump of publishing can be pretty discouraging. Yet starting small and starting early when it comes to fiction writing often promises more uplifting results.

Aubrey Hirsch, author of the short story collection “Why We Never Talk About Sugar,” says it’s possible to sell short stories in college — speaking from experience.

“It’s a much easier path to master the short form [before trying to sell a novel] and gain an audience,” Hirsch, a visiting lecturer in Pitt’s writing department, said. “[Later], when you’re selling your manuscript, it’s helpful to say you already have a following. You’re much more likely to get an agent.”

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