I’ve been a terrible lurker around the internet spat that John Scalzi started about Black Matrix Publishing offering the princely sum of one-fifth-of-one-cent per word to their esteemed writers. Scalzi’s posts were followed by a guest post from Rachel Swirsky on Jeff VanderMeer’s blog and a post by Ann Leckie on her live journal blog about what type of credits they notice. (They’re both editors of PodCastle and short story writers themselves.) Then things got a tad heated in a guest post on SF Signal by a new writer, Jennifer Marie Brissett.
It all got me thinking, re-examining exactly what it is that I want to get out of my short stories… not the writing part, but the publishing part. The plan to take “A Fine Arrangement” directly to Kindle grew out of frustration from my last short story. It’s called “The Stain,” made the rounds of everywhere I would want to see it published, and got rejected by one and all. I then found myself perusing websites that looked like they emerged out of some high school kid’s basement–perhaps some of them did–for newly sprung up publishers. I couldn’t bring myself to send them “The Stain” so that it could be “published” for a pittance. I worked damn hard on that story, and if it couldn’t find a good home then no home would do. Until the Kindle idea came along, that is.
But this all misses the point. The better publishers–the pros and some of the semi-pros who know a whole lot more than me about fiction–offer a lot more than just pay, pay that self publishing on the Kindle could potentially surpass. With established publishers, there’s potential to be included in year’s best anthologies, qualify for membership in the SFWA, work with a solid editor, gain a credit that other editor’s will recognize, and if nothing else get a little feedback on the story that can help me improve it and grow as a writer. “The Stain” got responses like: “The tale is well told, and has a certain touch of the surreal” and “The storyline is good [rather like something out of Twilight Zone]” from some of the pros out there. Of course, this was followed by a “but” and some other not-quite-so-rosy bits. Though now that I have a little more distance from it all, that stuff that follows those “buts” are tips on how I can both improve that story, and create better stories going forward.
So while painful and slow, the process is working. “A Fine Arrangement” is a much stronger story than “The Stain.” It deserves a shot at the pros, but first it needs to be attacked with a meat clever so it’s not quite so long. And “The Stain” after a “merciless rewrite” as suggested by one editor, may make for a fine Kindle candidate.