Monday, April 2, 2012

The Short Story

The initial reactions to my self-published short story, Blackskull's Captive!, has got me thinking about a few things. I have long wanted to be a "published" writer, and I guess I am now, technically (ok, "technically" I have been since about 1996, when I got an article in the then-print Dragon Magazine, but I'm thinking about fiction here). But am I really?

Traditionally, you need a professional publishing in some sort of mass-market publication, such as an anthology or magazine, in order to be considered a "published" short story writer.  And there is merit to this view. After all, anyone with a word processor program and an internet connection can be a published writer, thanks to places like Amazon and Smashwords. But, unlike the pro markets, self-publishing has the stigma of being unpolished, unedited, and generally of lower quality.

Now, this is not to say that all self-published fiction deserves those descriptions. But, unfortunately, a large share of what's out there does.

So, the question becomes, how do I make myself stand out? How do I market a story that, despite the rejection notes, is worthy of publication? Or should I even try? Is there a negative side?

It should be noted that, as of this moment, there are a couple of factors that effect this decision for me personally. First off, I am not a full-time writer in the sense that writing is my only source of income. It is primarily a "hobby" with money-making potential. And even though I dream of striking it rich with the next "Great American Novel (TM)" (just like every other fiction writer), I don't expect it to happen any time soon.

The other thing is that I am only looking at publishing the odd short stories that seem to have a hard time finding a Pro Home. I am also working on a novel, with a few others in the wings, and those will all be taking more traditional routes to publication. But I am a whimsical writer at heart, and I will sometimes write a story without any thought as to where it could get sold or published, and often in a little-utilized genre for the medium.

One option I have considered is simply to create a "publisher" for my eFiction. Charles Gramlich has done this with his Razored Zen Press, and I am already beginning to pester him about how that works for him. So, that may be an option.

Anyways, I guess what I'm really wondering is whether there are ways to get my stuff in front of more readers as a self-publisher of short stories. Any ideas?


Charles Gramlich said...

I think it's a good idea to pursue both avenues, self pubbing and traditional. I'm trying various things now with the self pub stuff and will let you know if anything really ignites.

Keith said...

I'm not sure there is a single answer to your question, Tom.

There's been a lot of discussion on this topic in a number of places the last few days. Different people seem to have different luck with the same approach.

A lot depends on random chance. I reviewed a history book last summer that only got three page views. Then last fall, that post took off and is the most viewed thing I've done, with 50% more page views than the second most viewed post. The more you have out there, the more likely lightning will strike.

Still, I think it's possible to maximize the chances of lightning striking. You have a blog with interesting things to say, and you comment on other blogs. That makes you part of a community. Word of mouth within that community will spill over into related communities, which in many ways is the most effective marketing there is. If you've got more stories available, then readers who like your work will come back.

BTW, I just saw your reply to my comment on the story announcement this morning. I bought "Blackskull's Captive!" to read on my Kindle app during lunch as soon as I saw the announcement. I'm going to try to read and review at least one piece of short fiction a week on my lunch break. Charles Gramlich's "Harvest of War" is first (since it was published first), then your story will be next. I'll shoot you an email when I post the review.

Tom Doolan said...

Thanks, Keith. That was the sense I got from my limited research and questioning. So, it's nice ot hear my thoughts were kind of on the mark. :)

Looking forward to your review! Thanks again!

Joe Bonadonna said...

Hi, Tom. Let me give you a little personal background, first. Back in the late 70s, when I was in my late 20s, I sold 4 stories to Charles Saunders. Unfortunately, his magazine folded and I was never published. In 1984 I published 2 short stories in a fanzine, which then folded. In 2011, at the age of 59, I self-published a novel. That same year, I sold a novella to Weird Tales. This past January, at the age of 60, I sold a novel to Airship 27. I started writing at the age of 18. It's taken me a long time to get here, but I got here, and i hope to go further, if possible. I currently have 2 stories and another novella under consideration. Do NOT stop submitting to professional markets or amateur markets. There are a lot of both out there. The stigma of self-publishing is rapidly fading. There are just as many typos and poorly edited "professional or traditionally published" novels out there as there are self-published novels and stories. And there is plenty crap on the shelves of Barnes/Noble. just because a writer has an agent, has a book deal doesn't necessarily mean he/she has talent: it just means they got lucky. That's my stance. You ARE a published writer. I stand against all these "voices" who claim that the indies are not published writers. Look at indie films -- far more interesting, far better than most of the pap and pablum dished out by Hollywood. Many "professional" writers feel threatened by the indies, ,aybe because their starts are starting to fall, or they want all the attention and money. In the future, agents may become a thing of the past, and maybe they're scared, too. But there is room for all of us. I would tell you that you have a good idea going, and there is a market for you out there. To catch someone's "eye," I believe that the humber one thing a writer needs to do is establish great characters and their relationships. A fan of the Twilight Books says told me that the novels aren't all that original, that it's the characters and how they make the stories work that keep her reading. Ideas are a dime a dozen: it's the spin, the twist you put on them. It's not the idea, it's what you do with it, how you execute or work it out, that's important. And, as one instructor told me: it's not about action, narration and exposition -- it's about character, character, character. What would Lord of the Rings be without memorable characters? Just another quest story. I believe it's the characters you build, the drama, the tragedy, the emotion you create that will set your work apart from others, and that will get people to reading your stuff. Just don't stop. Keep it going. Keep submitting to whatever market you think is a good fit for your stories. Submit, submit, submit, as one writer told me.I hope this helps you. Sorry to be so long-winded.

Jason E. Thummel said...

One common mantra on the Kindle Boards Writer's Cafe is that the best promotion you can do is to write another book. Or in your case, another short story, perhaps.

As to the rest, I don't know. I'm not comfortable promoting. It just isn't my thing, and truthfully I wouldn't know where to begin anyway. But keep writing? That I can do.

Baby steps, right.

Good luck to you sir.