Baum's short stories make up a significant portion of his literary output. Though he is best known for his fantasy novels, L. Frank Baum wrote shorter pieces throughout his literary career. As with his novels, his short stories were mainly directed toward children; examples fill his collections Mother Goose in Prose, The Twinkle Tales, American Fairy Tales, and Animal Fairy Tales. Except for the first book, the stories in these volumes were published separately prior to collection — The Twinkle Tales in individual booklets, and the stories in the other two collections in periodicals.
Additionally, Baum wrote short stories for adult readers. Here, however, he was less successful: he tried to place his stories in the magazines and periodicals of his era, but his efforts were rejected surprisingly often.
When he was at the beginning of his career, Baum tried working through a newspaper syndicate; but even this approach did not yield reliable positive results. The Bacheller Syndicate copyrighted two early Baum stories, "My Ruby Wedding Ring" (1896) and "How Scroggs Won the Reward" (1897) — but neither story is known to have appeared in print in Baum's lifetime.
Baum did have some success, placing stories (for adults or children) with national periodicals like Short Stories ("The Mating Day," 1898) and The Delineator ("A Kidnapped Santa Claus" and the Animal Fairy Tales, 1904 and 1905), St. Nicholas Magazine ("Juggerjook," 1910, and "Aunt 'Phroney's Boy," 1912) and The Ladies' World ("The Man-Fairy," "The Tramp and the Baby," and "Bessie's Fairy Tale," 1910 and 1911). Yet his misses were notably frequent too.
Baum's trouble selling his stories continued to the late phase of his career. On 11 September 1915 he wrote this to his publisher Frank Kennicott Reilly:
- If you hear of any chance for me to place any stories anywhere, please give me the tip, as I'd like to get hold of a little extra money....I'm devilish hard up and need money.
At that time he was still trying to sell stories written a decade earlier, like "The Diamondback" and "Chrome Yellow." Yet his efforts remained unsuccessful: Baum published no short stories between 1912 and the end of his life in 1919.
Baum's 1915 to Reilly, quoted above, mentions the titles of two stories, "Mr. Rumple's Chill" and "Bess of the Movies," which apparently have not survived. [See: Baum's lost works.]