First off, a quick pimp of my story “Breadcrumbs,” which is now published here, at Blue Fifth Review: Blue Notebook Series. Many thanks to editors Sam Rasnake and especially Michelle Elvy who worked hard to trim off the fat and make this little 600-word piece work smoothly. I’m so honoured to be included in this wonderful, international publication among some really good, solid writers and artists.
Recently I had a conversation with a friend who was curious about why I publish my stories in magazines which offer very little (if any) financial compensation. He felt that I was giving away good material, which should otherwise make me money. I had to explain to him about the independent literary world and the fact that most of the online lit ‘zines don’t make any money, are run by dedicated, volunteer writers and editors, and in fact are struggling every day…every month to stay afloat and present good, independent writing, poetry, and art. Still, he didn’t quite understand then why I don’t send fiction out to the likes of The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Zoetrope, Ploughshares, etc. In fact, I am working on material which I think might be suitable for those aforementioned ol’ dinosaurs, but I pointed out to my friend that I am also in the middle of writing a novel, as well as living a full time life, complete with full time job, parenting, etc. Yes yes, but what about the money?
In a way, however, being able (and lucky) to publish my various stories in these wonderful literary magazines has indeed generated financial rewards; naturally not on the scale of powerhouse big boy/big girl sellers like Franzen or DFW or Meyer or Collins, but enough to make me happy. See, what has been happening is wonderful: publication in these various lit ‘zines has increased awareness of, as well as sales of my novella Short Lean Cuts. So, I explained to my friend, in a very direct way I am working to promote my book through publication of my short/flash fiction. I am certainly not writing short pieces with only that goal in mind; I enjoy very much spinning various tales in various styles, and then hoping to place them out there…they also serve as great companion pieces to the longer work I am trudging through at the moment. I find often that writing flash for the online venues “oils” up the machinery to later go back and work on the longer form novel.
Still, isn’t it just about the ego? my friend inquired. Isn’t it just about seeing your name out there published, if there’s no financial reward, really? I can’t speak for other writers, but looking at my acceptance to rejection rate (9-12%), I would argue against this being an ego stroking business. When nine out of ten emails I receive from editors and publishers reject your work as not suitable for their particular publications, I would say one has to have pretty thick skin to continue and persevere as I have for over 16 years now (I started out in ’96 sending SASEs w/my submissions). Looking at my Duotrope stats, I presently have 12 different stories being read (In-Progress) by editors. The current markets to which I’ve submitted are all ultra competitive so, realistically I expect at least 11 rejections, if not 12. So no…I don’t aim to publish my work in order to stroke my ego. Again, I had to explain to my sometimes thick-headed friend: publication of short stories in the end generates book sales. As my book is self-published and self-released, I am solely responsible for marketing and publicity. And one, if not the best, way to promote it is through publication of short stories in magazines.
I have never felt that I’ve conditionally given away anything to readers; there was a time a few years ago that I wrote short fiction incessantly…DAILY…on this site. I offered it gladly to the handful of people who started reading me initially, and came back often. I was then, as I continue to be now, grateful and humbled by those “regulars” to Swine; those who read my stories and sometimes useless expostulations. Most of them are still with me, still reading here or in the various places I am now publishing; my friends on Facebook or on Twitter…and some in real life.
I am grateful and indebted to all of them; to all who take the time to read my fiction, and to all the writers that I have met in the last year who have helped me move along in my writing career.