Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tuesday Tip: Short Story Markets

According to the Guardian UK, 2009 was the year of the short story. This is heartening news in one way for me as someone who publishes short stories, because it means that there is still a market out there. On the other hand, the tone of surprise in the article makes one wonder just how long this train is good for. Oh well, I'm not pubbing in the same markets they're talking about anyway.

Short story markets can be incredibly tight, depending on your genre. If, like most of us, you are not planning on doing a compilation of your own work, then you're looking for an open anthology or a magazine to publish your work in. Fortunately, an hour or two of internet searches can net you a bunch of submission calls. Unfortunately, many of them don't pay very well.

Ultimately, the submission calls you answer will be up to you. Is it worth it to sell a story for less if it's a market or editor or publisher you really want to work with? Are you willing to write off some of your work as marketing material? Do you want to take a chance on that short story contest, where if you win you get a nice paycheck, but if not you could end up having given them your story for nothing?

Your standards will probably change after the first few sales too. For example, for epub I'm not selling stories for flat rates anymore unless that flat rate is at least five cents a word. Especially now that I'm back to working full time, I need to maximize my return on time investment. Royalties are different. I'm still hoping that if I can get enough royalty-paying stories out there they'll add up to something eventually. However, I'm also trying to broaden my fan base by publishing with many different publishers, and once you have one royalty-paying sale with a publisher it makes it that much more attractive for you to get more with that publisher, in the hopes that they'll add up to a check sooner.

Of course, I have the leisure to do this because I chose a genre with a lot of open markets. If I were trying to do this in horror, it might be quite different. And I'm willing to write for specific markets as opposed to writing what I want to write and then trying to find a market for it. I think a lot of writers start out writing the stories they already have in their heads and then trying to sell them, which is much harder. I can't remember where I read it now, but there was an author that I read talking about his early career, where he decided to stop trying to sell what he wrote, and only wrote what he sold. That is to say, he would send in a proposal for a novel, and only if the publisher was interested would he actually write it. I'm not quite to that level yet, of course, but I'm at least writing for what I know I could sell. And I've been able to find homes for a few stories that have been floating around in my head for years, but which have never been able to steal priority away from the novel.

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