Archive for 17 February 2011

Does Borders Closing 200 Stores Mean The End of Writing?

After Borders made the announcement that they were filing for bankruptcy and closing 200 stores, my father asked me if I was going to give up writing. This was a rare conversation. I came from a non-reading family where the daily newspaper and a rare New York Times bestseller was the maximum threshold for reading material.  When my father stayed with me for two months after being discharged from the hospital last year, he became bored because he had nothing to watch on television. (Over-the-air HDTV in Silicon Valley has many clear channels in different languages but none of the major networks in English.) I pointed to my personal library of 400 books. He told me he wasn’t that bored. Being a published writer secured my reputation as being the eccentric uncle in the family.

Does Borders closing 200 stores means the end of writing? Uh, no.

As I explained to my father, Borders having 200 fewer outlets to sell books may impact dead tree writers in the short-term. Independent bookstores have been going out of business for years—usually one at a time—without raising any questions about the general state of writing. With Borders closing so many stores over the next several weeks, the general public may conclude that the end is nigh for writing if they can’t walk into a big box bookstore to find the New York Times bestsellers lining the entrance.

Then again, they’re just ignorant Americans educated not to think too hard about anything or question the status quo around them. For serious readers and intellectual anarchists, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores are still around to fill the void.

As short story writer, I’m still writing short stories. I’ve seen many snail mail magazines go belly up during the Great Recession because they haven’t transitioned over to online submissions and selling their publications over the Internet. Many new magazines, anthologies and ebook publishers have popped up in their wake.

The challenge I have isn’t having enough places to submit my short stories but finding the right places that will accept and pay for my short stories. (Would the world have known about Shakespeare if he didn’t have any paying customers?) There are plenty of publications that accept short stories for free or contributor copies.

I’m encouraged to see some publishers are starting to pay for the first time or pay pro rates (i.e, $0.05USD or better per word). If for some reason I can’t place a short story somewhere, I can always make it available as an ebook and make a nice profit for myself. Writing is alive and well in my nick of the woods.

Anyone else being asked if they are giving up writing because Borders are closing stores?

The Fiction Reprint Market Is Dead!

The most frustrating thing about being a short story writer is that the fiction reprint market is dead. A non-fiction writer can write an article for one magazine, slant the focus of the article for other magazines, and have a back catalog of articles to sell as reprints with minor changes. (Since I rarely write non-fiction outside of my blogs, I’m assuming that the Internet hasn’t killed off the non-fiction reprint market as well.) Once a short story is published, its life cycle comes to a dead end.

Very few print magazine and anthologies will take reprints, and some e-zines will take reprints if they haven’t appeared on the Internet. Most will pay little or nothing for reprints, and aren’t worth the trouble in chasing down. A short story collection is good for entering the annual contests, but don’t expect to find a publisher unless you’re already a prize-winning literary writer and/or best-selling novelist. The fiction reprint market is dead—or is it?

Several months ago I was finishing up some maintenance work on my websites when I caught the tail end of the #blogchat conversation on Twitter, where Georganna Hancock mentioned something about publishing ebooks for the Amazon Kindle. I asked a few questions and she pointed me to Kindle Direct Publishing.

Doing some more research, I came across Smashwords and their fantastic style guide for formatting ebooks. I soon uploaded my first ebook, “The Uninvited Spook,” my first published short story that I long had the reprint rights for, to both Amazon (Kindle) and Smashwords (all other ebook readers). Since then I have published a half-dozen ebooks featuring 10 reprints and seven original flash stories to earn $12 USD on 17 copies.

The traditional fiction reprint market is dead, but publishing reprints as ebooks is alive and well. Short stories published in hard-to-find magazines can now be read by new readers in widely available electronic formats. The one question I hated to hear from my readers—okay, only one person ever asked—is where they can read my work. I used to point readers to my credit list and anthologies page. Now I can point to my ebooks page, where my work is available for reading.

Half of my ebook sales came from the reprint of a Christmas shopping essay about how far my mother went to get her granddaughter a Cabbage Patch doll. While releasing a holiday-themed essay before the holidays may explain why it may be my most popular ebook title to date, I read elsewhere that original non-fiction sells well as ebooks. I’m planning to release a dozen ebooks coming over the next two years, mostly reprints and some original essays.

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