Archive for 2011

Why I’m NOT Joining Amazon’s KDP Select Program?

Last week Amazon came out with the KDP Select program to entice authors in making their ebooks available through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library to earn a percentage of the $500,000 pool for this month. Mark Coker pointed out on the Smashwords blog and Huffington Report why the KDP Select program is bad for indie authors. If you want to be in the KDP Select program, your ebook must be exclusive to Amazon and unavailable elsewhere at any other ebook retailer. This was soon followed by a spat of “I’m joining Amazon’s KDP Select Program” blog postings being announced on Twitter. For these writers, they are making boatloads of cash and don’t mind selling out to the devil.

Why I’m NOT joining Amazon’s KDP Select program?

Unlike most Amazon authors, I’m not making boatloads of cash. I get 80% of my ebook sales through Smashwords from third party sales (i.e., Apple, Barnes & Noble, Diesel, Kobo, Sony, etc.). Throwing away 80% of my sales for an exclusive arrangement with Amazon without increasing sales to cover my losses doesn’t make good business sense.

I don’t know why my Amazon sales are pathetic in comparison to my awesome Smashwords sales. I doubt it’s because I’m “well established” on Smashwords. I started publishing my ebooks on both platforms last year and paid no special attention to either one. Amazon went south, Smashwords went north. Perhaps my short story ebooks for $0.99 have found a stronger audience among the non-Kindle crowd?

My sales numbers may change when I introduce my two essay ebooks this month, “Death At A Hells Angels Funeral: Driving Past The Memories” and “Experiencing The Death of Elvis: Another Childhood Tragedy.” (The theme for this month is Death, brought to you by the letter D, and don’t ask me why.) My first essay ebook, “The Cabbage Patch Doll Fight: A Christmas Shopping Tale,” has sold better than many of my short story ebooks.

My business plan for 2012 is to come out with one short story ebook and one essay ebook every month, and have at least 48 ebook titles on the market by the beginning of 2013. That market being both Amazon (Kindle readers) and Smashwords (all other readers). If I’m going to be an indie author, I can’t let Amazon call the shots.

Getting The Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market For This Year?

After I got serious about being a fiction writer five years ago, I always bought a copy of “The Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market” (Writers Digest Books) to find new markets for my short story fiction. Every six weeks I would spend a weekend browsing through the current N&SSWM, finding markets that fit my short stories, and preparing 20 or so snail mail submissions. (I had 50 manuscripts floating in the slush piles for several years.) And then the Great Recession in 2008 made an impact: submissions started returning unread as magazine publishers went out of business, and I could no longer afford to buy envelopes and postage for snail mail submissions. A year ago I started revising my work on the computer, submitting my manuscripts online, and publishing my short stories as original or reprint ebooks. I’m wondering if I should even bother to pick up the 2012 N&SSWM when it comes out in September.

These days I’m browsing Duotrope’s Digest for new markets for my short stories. Since I made the transition from literary to speculative short stories three years ago, the majority of my sales have been to genre anthologies that get listed for a few months at a time. N&SSWM caters to the traditional literary magazines and annual anthologies that accept submissions year round. I haven’t tried the online version of N&SSWM but I don’t expect those listings to be different from the dead tree edition. You can also find new markets on Twitter as editors reach out to find writers for their new anthologies, such as One Buck Horror and War Of The Words Press.

If I do pick up the new N&SSWM, it will probably be for the literary agent and book listings. Unlike the fast changing short story markets, the traditional publishing industry is still slow to change and a dead tree listing is still relevant months later. By the time my first novel is ready to be submitted, I just might publish it myself as an ebook.

Abandoning The First Novel To Write A Newer Novel?

Several years ago I set out to write my first novel within a year, following a broad outline and writing several pages a day. A year and one week later, I had finished writing the rough draft in 2008. Alas, a rough draft it remains to this day. My first novel about video game testers and a weird-but-pissed-off ghost became a sprawling mess. Several attempts to revise the rough draft convinced me that I needed to split it in half in 2009 and turn into a trilogy in 2010. The plan for this year was to start revising the first book in the trilogy as a stand-alone novel on July 1st, kick it out the door to find an agent, firm up the outlines for the next two volumes, and move on to the next novel.

As July 1st quickly approaches, I’m no longer enthusiastic about revising my first novel. It’s becoming a labor of love with no guarantee of success. Big projects that fall under the labor of love category are best put on the back burners and revisited when I’m a more experienced novelist. A first novel that happens to be the first book of a trilogy was also a hard sell in the traditional publishing world. Although I have some success in publishing my short stories in print and reselling them as reprint short story ebooks, I’m not yet ready to embrace the uncertain future of being an indie ebook author. What I needed was a shorter, less sprawling novel that I could write this summer and kick out the door in January 2012.

Yesterday morning I woke up with a vivid dream about finding food inside carved out pumpkins left on the doorstep of a hut on a tropical island, a big storm fast approaching, an old man talking gibberish, and a creature howling for blood from deep inside the jungle. The dream didn’t dissipate like most dreams do when I woke up. Most of the details were still vivid. I sat down at the kitchen table to write a one-page summary, divided the summary into six parts, and added a half-dozen questions to flesh out the story further. When I got finished, I knew I had the basis for a 6,000-word short story—or a 60,000-word novel that could sell.

Stephen King had written several non-horror novels that didn’t sell when a friend challenged him to write a short story from the female perspective. He started writing a high school shower scene with a teenaged girl freaking out from having her period and the other girls making fun of her, got stuck on the details and threw it out when he realized that it wouldn’t fit the 3,000-word limit for the short story markets. His wife, Tabitha, fished the pages out of the wastebasket, liked what she read, and told him to finish the story. He turned the story idea into a novel and submitted it to an editor who had previously shown interest in his work. This became his first published novel, “Carrie,” that started his career as a novelist.

Could I transform this one-page summary into a novel that could start my career as a novelist?

The first step is to creating a fully realized outline within a month. Having written the sprawling rough drafts of a first novel and 1/3 of a second novel, I don’t want to create something new that will be impossible to revise. I need to keep a tighter focus on writing the story this time around. I also need to do some research since I know nothing about the people, culture or mythologies of tropical islands. Since my writing niche is Silicon Valley fiction, I need to incorporate that into the story. I was recently reminded by my non-writing tech job that software engineers often take their laptop on vacation to remote into the server at work, and one disgruntled wife tossed her husband’s laptop into the Sea of Cortez while on a Mexican cruise. An engineer going through Internet withdrawal is a horror story all by itself.

The second step is to write a minimum of 500 words per day for the next four months. This goal is on the low side of what I can write daily. Since I’m still working two non-writing tech jobs (swing shift during the week and early mornings on the weekends), writing 500 words isn’t a problem. Having written numerous flash stories of 500 words each, the hard part isn’t writing the 500 words but revising the 500 words into something meaningful. Unlike my sprawling rough drafts of previous novels, I’ll be going back to revise a previously written section where necessary to improve the story.

The third step is to finish writing the rough draft. I did that for the first novel after a year and one week, but didn’t for the second novel after three months. With a tighter focus than my last two novels, I need to get this one done.

For better or for worse, I’m looking forward to writing my new novel this summer.

Keeping A Secret Writing Identity In Silicon Valley

When I became serious about writing five years ago, I did Google search on my name before I started submitting my short stories. Lo and behold, there was another “writer” with my name, who hasn’t published much of anything from what I can tell. I decided to combine the initials of my first and middle names to come up with C.D. Reimer to avoid being confused with the competition. Six months ago I decided to separate my professional technical life from my personal writing life.

I removed my middle initial from my resume and all the job search websites to become another somebody in Silicon Valley, and my full name from all my websites. C.D. Reimer became the “brand name” for my Internet existence. By day I’m the sophisticated Bruce Wayne who works as an anonymous technician for some Silicon Valley company. At night I’m the Batman who is breaking knuckles to get another short story out of the typewriter. (Sorry, Superman, but Clark Kent can suck it.) As any cape crusader knows, you need to keep your secret identity a secret from the outside world.

Why keep your writing identity a secret in Silicon Valley?

Most Silicon Valley companies, either officially or unofficially, discouraged moonlighting by their employees. A manager’s worst fear is a group of employees working together in a garage on the weekends to come up with the newest technological wonder, take one-third of the employees with them in a mass exodus to form a new company, and make a few billion dollars after Microsoft/Google/Facebook buys them out. Everyone and their grandmother were doing this before the dot com bust. Now people are being more discreet about moonlighting in fear of losing their regular paying job when the unemployment rate is at 10% and the overall job market is slowly improving.

I find it easier to be an anonymous technician while crawling underneath the desks of Silicon Valley. When people knew I was a writer, I would get all kinds of odd questions and weird looks. Being regarded as the eccentric uncle in a non-reading family was one thing I didn’t want to repeat at work. That was before I started publishing regularly. With my work being more accessible through ebooks, I’m sure the odd questions and weirder looks would have gotten odder and weirder if I wasn’t hiding behind a secret identity.

Now that I’m doing contract work after being unemployed for two years, no one knows I’m a writer when I show up for a new assignment. More specifically, I’m a Silicon Valley fiction writer. There are a bazillion non-fiction books about Silicon Valley, but almost no fiction books about Silicon Valley and certainly no writer making a name writing fiction about Silicon Valley (although the parody memoir, “Options: The Secret Life of Steve Jobs” by the Fake Steve Jobs, is a close competitor). Besides, this is California. If you’re a writer, everyone assumes you’re writing a Hollywood screenplay that will fetch $50,000 the moment you type THE END on the last page. I got some oddball looks when I told people that I write fiction. Everyone knows that there is no money in fiction if you’re not Stephen King, J.K. Rowling or Sarah Palin.

I’m an anthropologist of sorts studying the Silicon Valley culture, which is an ongoing project at San Jose State University that I may pursue a degree in if I ever won the lottery to go back to school, trying to relate a strange world through fiction to ordinary readers. Working anonymously in Silicon Valley is key to being a good observer and finding fresh material for my short stories and novels.

I had just finished a three-day assignment at a college textbook publisher that brought back memories of working at the San Jose City College bookstore warehouse, where I was once familiar with all the imprints that this company had bought up over the last 20 years. A boring job involving too many mouse clicks to convert online courses from the legacy platform to the new platform. The green palm leaves made from lightweight fabric to shade the desks from the overhead lights will make a fantastic detail for a story someday.

But maintaining a secret writing identity and being successful in two lines of work is a difficult task. This week we learned about the secret identity of romance author Judy Mays from a busybody parent looking for trouble and a TV station looking for a sensational news story about a female high school teacher writing racy novels under a pen name on her own time. If being exposed wasn’t bad enough, they also demanding that Mays choose between being a teacher or an author.

As I commented on Jess Haines’ blog, would there be a controversy if a male teacher wrote action/adventure novels about big guns, fast broads and shagging the carpet every other chapter? Probably not. If I was Judy Mays, I would send the Batman to break some knuckles and watch her book sale numbers spike from the controversy.

The Emotional Baggage That A Male Reader Brings To The Novel

Several months ago I started downloading free fiction ebooks from Amazon for the Kindle App on my iPod Touch. I normally don’t read fiction ebooks since I’m a dead tree traditionalist who prefers flipping the pages of paperbacks. Two years of unemployment and three months of being underemployed doesn’t leave much money for buying stacks of paperbacks, even if the local Borders stores are going out of business. Naturally, each of the free ebooks was the first book in a series. If you’re hooked on the series after the first book, you just have to read all the other books.

I read “Bright of The Sky (The Entire & The Rose, Book 1)” by Kay Kenyon, about spaceships fueled by black holes that creates an inter-dimensional rip to a strange world larger than our universe and how one man came back tell to everyone but no one believed him. I read the other books, “A World Too Near” and “City Without End,” the following weekends. I still haven’t the fourth book, “Prince of Storms,” since I’m taking a break from the series. The last two books were each read in a single eight-hour sitting from beginning to end. I like books that don’t demand being read all at once.

Some of the best science fiction in recent years has come from women authors. Having grown up reading science fiction written mostly by men during the 1970s and 1980s, I appreciate the different concerns, ideas and viewpoints that women authors can bring to the genre. But sometimes a woman author can provoke a strong visceral response in a male reader like myself.

The other free ebook that I downloaded was “Hunted By The Others” by Jess Haines, about a human woman private detective hired by the mages to retrieve an artifact being kept by the vampires that can take control of the werewolves. The Others, of course, hate each other, and a pro-human group wants to kill them all off. An interesting premise for a new urban fantasy series.

Unlike the heroines in all the other urban fantasy series, Shiarra Waynest doesn’t start kicking ass once the story gets started. She is a fearful woman who is easily intimidated and disrespected by anyone more powerful than she is; especially the men who like to shove her around. Like fingernails across a chalk board, I cringed throughout the first half of the book. I absolutely hated it. But, being a glutton for punishment, I read the second half and absolutely loved it. Why? The heroine acquired several magical items that boosted her physical abilities and confidence in herself to start pushing back against the guys. Everyone suddenly starts respecting her to avoid getting their asses kicked, and she gets the job done to her satisfaction.

I haven’t had such a strong visceral reaction to a book since I read “Cell” by Stephen King, where my favorite minor character got killed off in a senseless act of violence in a “you know something really bad is coming around the corner” scene. I threw the paperback across the room and let it sit on the floor for a week before I could pick it up again.

But my reaction to “Hunted By The Others” was much different. As a male reader, I brought a lot of baggage when reading this ebook that colored my perception of the characters.

Strong Resistance Threshold

Unlike reading other genres, reading urban fantasy requires a significant amount of emotional investment. The world building is often much more extensive than some epic fantasy or science fiction books. You got to learn a whole new set of rules about how the characters interact with each other and  the urban environment around them. Whatever you think you might know about magical creatures is often tossed out of the window (i.e., vampires may walk in sunlight because they’re not that dead yet or a separate species not related to homo sapiens). Sometimes I have control issues about letting going of the familiar world around me to embrace someone else’s fantasy world.

For the longest times, I was reading only Jim Butcher and Kim Harrison, then Ann Agguire came along, and I recently read Jeannie Holmes. I started branching out into reading more urban fantasy since my first novel is about a video game company haunted by a troll-like ghost, which could be either horror and/or urban fantasy. Horror has its own internal logic—cue “Twilight Zone” music—but urban fantasy is a much different animal. I haven’t read enough urban fantasy to decide if I want to revise the rough draft in that direction.

Kick Ass Women In Film

Starting with Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in the “Alien” movies, Milla Jovovich as Alice in the “Resident Evil” movies, Uma Thurman as The Bride in “Kill Bill” movies, Michelle Rodriguez in too many movies to name (although I thought she was too feminine in the recent “Battle: Los Angeles” movie), and even 13-year-old Chloe Moretz as the Hit Girl in “Kick Ass,” have all been kick ass women who weren’t afraid of picking up a weapon, shoving the men aside, and getting the job done. I rarely see movies about a weak and fearful woman being pushed around by men. I’m more likely to get ticked off at the husbands in some movies who are being jerks and want a divorce because their wives are trying to accomplish something meaningful (i.e., “Juno” and “Freedom Writers”).

If you read the summaries for most urban fantasy series, the heroine is almost always a kick ass woman. I think that is why I enjoy reading urban fantasy, being a reflection of the movies I have seen since the 1970s. Had I grown up in an earlier era, maybe I would enjoy reading more novels about big men, big guns and big boobs. Although the hero shagging the girl every other chapter would get on my nerves just as much as the obligatory five pages of romance porn found in most urban fantasy novels.

Mother Was A Fearful Woman

My mother had an overwhelmingly negative influence in my life. House and child were her exclusive domain that my father had no say in, and the garage was off-limits to her since that was my father’s exclusive domain. I was never allowed in the garage since I belonged to her. Throw in case of beer every Sunday afternoon after grocery shopping, hell hath no fury than a fearful woman on a drunken rampage. I ducked a lot of beer bottles, dishes and pots while growing up.

My father was a complete stranger to me until I turned 18-years-old, when he announced that I was his and we worked together in construction for two years in San Francisco (50 miles was how far he needed to escape from her). When I left home for college and joined the campus ministry, I still couldn’t escape from my fearful mother. For years I had to call her every night to reassure her that I was all right. I didn’t find freedom until she committed suicide by letting her breast cancer go untreated in 2004, and, through counseling several years later, I decided to become a writer.

An ideal woman for me is someone who has fiery temper and a very short fuse. Why? If she gets pissed off, she will get into my face and tell me why. Nothing makes me madder than a fearful woman telling me that she is afraid to talk to me because she thinks I might get mad at her. If I’m doing something wrong, I want to know about it so I can change. I can’t change myself for the better if no one tells me what is wrong. Maybe because I’m a big guy who comes across as being a natural for raping, pillaging and burning, people assume things that aren’t there. (One unpaid ministry leader strongly suggested that I rape a woman in the church to start my career as a future California serial rapist and make everyone happy by going to prison.) Or maybe because I’m conditioned by books and movies to live in a world filled with strong women that I have unrealistic expectations about real women in general.

A month after I reading that “Hunted By The Others,” I started dissecting why I hated and loved that book in #ufchat on Twitter. Then someone causally mentioned that Jess Haines was lurking in the background—Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!—and a moment later she started replying to my tweets. We had a nice conversations about merits of taking her urban fantasy series in a complete different direction. Last week she sent me signed copies of all her novels in the snail mail: “Hunted By The Others,” “Taken By The Others,” and “Deceived By The Others” (coming out on July 5, 2011). It’ll be interesting to see if I can leave my emotional baggage behind when reading the first book in paperback.

Amanda Hocking – Young, Ambitious and Whining About The Work?

The writing blogosphere is alit this with the news of Amanda Hocking, a 26-year-old writer from Minnesota who had written nine ebooks and sold 900,000 copies, was looking for a traditional publisher and signed a four-book deal with St. Martin’s Press. That’s like winning the lottery. For those of us tolling away in relative obscurity from the bright lights of the publishing world, the message is loud and clear: sell enough copies of self-published books and/or ebooks, the traditional publishing world will soon slobber for the opportunity to throw down big money on the next big thing. However, Hocking’s reason for wanting a traditional publishing deal is somewhat curious.

But here’s what I can say – I’m writer. I want to be a writer. I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling emails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full time corporation. As I said before in my post – Some Things That Need to be Said – I am spending so much time on things that are not writing.

What makes her think that by signing a four-book contract with a traditional publisher she will actually have more time as a writer who actually writes?

Some of the more bothersome tasks of being a DIY writer will go away with a traditional publisher. But, by signing a four-book contract, Hocking is trading in the idiosyncratic demands of running her own writing business for the idiosyncratic whims of a traditional publisher concern about the bottom line.

She will have to write, submit, revise and proofread on the publisher’s schedule. If she gets sent out on a nationwide book tour for several weeks or months, she may find it next to impossible to find time to write on the road. Or, if she does find the time to write, the quality of her writing may suffer. Although she may now be a successful ebook writer in the virtual world, her dead tree books may fail to find a broad enough audience in the real world to justify the large advance being paid out and the publisher could easily cancel the contract after the first book. If that happens, finding her next publisher will be problematic and going back to being a DIY writer even more so.

Stephen King, who spends every day writing, had to hire assistants to handle the administrative side of his publishing empire. Even living out in far-flung Maine doesn’t prevent the publisher, media and Hollywood from making excessive demands on his time that can take him away from writing. Every now and then, he reportedly drops out of sight to focus exclusively on his writing.

I mentioned on #writechat this past Sunday that I missed my early days of submitting short stories by snail mail. I would go to the post office with 20 to 30 envelopes, come home to write new short stories, and the responses to my submissions would start to tickle in six weeks later. The following weekend I would prepare all the rejected short stories for submission again, go back to the post office, and write new short stories for the next six weeks. Every seventh weekend I did nothing but admin tasks. I did that for three years straight.

Then two years ago I started submitting my short stories by email. This came about because literary magazines were starting to move away from snail mail submissions, and I started writing speculative fiction for anthologies that accepted submissions only by email. My office expenses for paper, envelopes and postage dropped by two-thirds.

Unfortunately, now that everything is done by email and I recently started publishing short story ebooks, it seems like I have less and less time to write because of all the admin tasks that need to get done. Even if I did finish revising the 700-page rough draft of my first novel and found a traditional publisher, the admin tasks will still demand more of my time. Being a writer these days is no longer about being a writer who writes.

Tallying Up Read An eBook Week

The Read An eBook Week (March 6-12, 2011) is now over. All my ebooks over at Smashwords were available for free with a special coupon code. I gave away 109 copies among seven titles, with an average 13 copies for six titles and 31 copies for one title. If these were actual sales, I would have earned $60. By giving the ebooks away for free, I’m hoping that readers will enjoy my work enough to seek out my future ebook titles.

The one title with 31 copies was “The Unfaithful Camera” (a short story that originally appeared in Transcendent Visions, January 2010). Was it because of the little boy who comes home angry from school when his father doesn’t pick him up? Was it because he found his father and older sister doing the bouncy-bounce in bed? Or was it because of the cover art with the scantily clad girl?

Hard to say why that title did so well. I’m going to assume that it was the well-written story, although I wouldn’t be surprised by the bouncy-bounce theory or the cover. Ebooks with obvious sexual content is a specialty niche on Smashwords.

Out of 109 copies, no one left a review for any of the seven titles. This is becoming something of a pet peeve for me. As all of these titles were reprints of previously published short stories, poems and essay, I know editors liked them well enough to publish in their publications. I really don’t know what readers think of my work.

I was also happy to find out this week that I sold another 10 copies through the Sony retail channel for February. I’m still waiting for the sales numbers from Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. For some reason the sales numbers for my Kindle ebooks through Amazon has been tapering off. From what I read elsewhere about publishing your own ebooks, you need to come out with a new title about every other month. I got two original ebook titles coming out in the next six weeks and four more titles in second half of this year. Sales should perk up with those new releases.

Meanwhile, I will need to do some black magic to modify my ebook sales tracking spreadsheet to account for this sudden surge of free copies. Looks like my Christmas shopping essay will no longer be my most popular title. I’ll find out in a few months if this week-long promotion will result in future ebook sales.

Eight Is Enough Q&A Interview

My Eight is Enough Q&A interview is up on Sarah-Jane Lehoux’s blog, where I answer eight questions about writing and what ebooks I got coming out in the near future. Please take a moment to read and leave a comment.

The last question was fun: “This is the most important question you ever answer. Your life depends on it. Zombie pirate or zombie ninja?”

Everyone interviewed so far went for zombie pirate. I actually gave two answers. Here’s the first answer that appears in the Q&A:

Zombie pirate. I can see a zombie pirate chugging down a bottle of rum and jumping overboard for shark brains.

Here’s the second answer:

A zombie ninja doesn’t make any sense. Ninjas are all about precision, which was why they took over consumer electronics and work for Steve Jobs at Apple.

This answer made realize that I needed to hone my reputation as being a Silicon Valley writer. Too many of my early short stories have generic locations to appeal to the widest audience. Of course, those were literary short stories. Unless a literary short story featured New York City, anywhere else would make that short story suitable only for the regional markets. The West Coast is a very small regional market.

When I found my grove in writing speculative short stories, the location sometimes became more important than the characters. This year I let all my unpublished manuscripts fall out of circulation from the slush piles to rewrite each one to fix any structural flaws and re-slant for the Silicon Valley locale before submitting again. Silicon Valley will be a prominent location in future stories whenever possible.

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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