Posts Tagged ‘short stories’

Cover Reveal: The Short of It

Today, Squiders, I am pleased to reveal the cover for my short story collection The Short of It: Speculative Short Stories which will be released on February 8th.

Short of It cover

(Let me tell you how many times I have typoed that as “Shirt of It.” It is a lot.)

The collection includes four previously published short stories from 2011-2013, as well as one new one. As I previously mentioned, I’m going to release the collection on Kindle exclusively, at least at the beginning, to see if there’s any merit to that particular brand of madness. The collection will be $0.99.

Stories included:

  • Time Management, science fiction, 2011
  • Doomsday, science fiction, 2012
  • The Knight in the Lobby, fantasy, 2017
  • The Door in the Attic, horror, 2012
  • To the Waters and the Wild, magical realism, 2013*

(*To the Waters and the Wild is also included in The Best of Turtleduck Press, Vol. I.)

So, tada! I’ll let you guys know next Wednesday when it goes live.

Thursday we’ll go back to the nonfic posts and jump on the madness that is self-publishing novels.

Amazon Singles (Hybrid Publishing for Short Stories)

I want to take a moment to discuss Amazon Singles while we’re talking about self-publishing short stories.

Amazon Singles is a program you can submit your previously self-published or unpublished short stories and novellas (between 5000 and 30000 words). They also accept proposals.

They promise a turnaround time of six weeks. Stories need to be previously unpublished anywhere except Amazon to be accepted. If previously unpublished, accepted stories are published on the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform and authors receive normal KDP royalties.

There seems to be no additional monetary compensation to the program, but stories selected for Amazon Singles are then listed on the Amazon Singles page, which could potentially boost a story’s visibility and improve sales.

NOTE: At this time, Amazon Singles does not accept how-to manuals, public domain works, reference books, travel guides, children’s books, or short story collections.

I was going to put this program into the options for self-publishing short stories, but there is some level of gatekeeping to the program as Amazon has to accept the stories for inclusion. But they don’t actually do anything a “traditional” publisher would do in this sense–the author still uploads the manuscript, provides a cover, sets the price–so they’re just putting the book on a page.

What do you think, Squiders? I’d put this as an example of hybrid publishing myself.

(Also, if anyone has any experience with Amazon Singles and would like to share, please do so! I haven’t published anything in the accepted word count range so I have no first hand experience myself.)

Self-Publishing Short Stories (Part 2)

Continuing from yesterday’s post. Just a reminder that there’s not really a submission process for self-publishing, since you make the decision on what you want to publish yourself, so this section mainly focuses on possible publication locations and how they work.

Online Retailers

Most retailers that sell ebooks allow you to upload a short story directly, or you can use a distribution service to upload your story once and have it sent to a variety of different markets. Retailers in this category include:

  • Amazon (KDP)
  • Barnes and Noble (Nook Press)
  • Kobo
  • iTunes
  • Google Play

The largest ebook distributor is Smashwords, though there are others, such as Draft2Digital. Distributors take a single file (often a Word document), convert it into a variety of formats (mobi, epub, PDF, etc.), and then list your book at many of the retailers noted above, as well as other, smaller ones. Smashwords also has some partnerships with various library systems, meaning that libraries can put your book into their system for their patrons to check out.

NOTE: Amazon does not currently allow ebook distributors to list ebooks on their site. If you want your ebook to be available on Kindle, you will need to deal directly with Amazon.

Some retailers may have a minimum word count that you need to meet before you can publish your short story as an ebook. Amazon, for example, recommends that an ebook have at least 2,500 words.

NOTE: If you are doing children’s books, such as picture books, there may be different criteria. Amazon offers a KDP kids program to help create picture and chapter books that will be properly formatted for reading on the Kindle.

When you self-publish through an online retailer, you can set the price of your short story. Most retailers allow you to set the price for free; Amazon requires a $0.99 minimum, but if you have the ebook for free on other retailers, you can get Amazon to match the price.

Pricing is a subject of much debate, but be aware that readers will expect to get their money’s worth out of an ebook. Pricing a 5,000 word story at $4.99 may earn you some bad reviews.

While you can also create POD versions of short stories and sell paperback copies through online retailers, it may be cost prohibitive if your story isn’t closer to novella-length. Many POD services charge a base price based on the size of the book and the number of pages. CreateSpace is one of the most popular POD services as it is associated with Amazon and easy to get your book listed on the mega-retailer.

Short Story Collections

Like individual short stories, you can also self-publish short story collections through online retailers and ebook distributors. The process is much the same. Collections typically have at least three stories, but could have up to a couple dozen, depending on the length of the stories and what your goal with the collection is.

The appeal of doing a collection over an individual short story is that some readers may feel like they’re getting a better value for their money, since they’re getting more than one story for their effort.

Additionally, since collections tend to be longer, they’re a better value if you decide to also sell the collection as a paperback.

(Hey, Squiders, how important do you feel it is to go into an in-depth discussion of POD services? The main point of this book is to explain the submission/publication options and generally how they work, rather than explain all the details, so writers can decide on the best course of action for them and their works, and get started on putting those methods into action. I’m unsure if going into a lot of detail on POD, aside from what it is and how it generally works, is out of scope.)

Questions? Anything confusing? Let me know!

Self-Publishing Short Stories (Part 1)

All right, Squiders! Today we’ll start talking about methods for self-publishing a short story. Unlike “traditional” publishing, there is not really a submission process for self-publishing, since the only gatekeeper, in most cases, is yourself. You decide you’d like to publish something; you go for it. The only thing to consider is the best method/location to do so.

NOTE: Because there are no gatekeepers for self-publishing, you are responsible for the final product. That means that your cover, your editing, your formatting, etc., all reflect on you. You may find it beneficial to hire professionals for areas you may be lacking in, or to otherwise improve your skills in order to ensure that your final product meets the quality standards expected by readers.

Self-publishing locations for short stories fall into the following main categories:

  • Blogs/websites
  • Online fiction/book websites
  • Online retailers
  • Short story collections

Blogs/websites

The easiest way to self-publish a short story a short story is to post it on your blog or website. For a journaling website such as Tumblr, LiveJournal, WordPress, etc., you can include a short story as its own post, which, depending on the platform, may then be shared by your followers.

Some authors also include a short story section on their author websites. This is a place where they collect the short stories they have available to be read through their site, making it a static page people can visit.

WARNING: Many publications consider posting a story on your blog or website as the first publication of that story. That means that if you later decide you’d like to sell that story to a magazine or anthology, they will consider the story already published, and will consider your submission a reprint, which may be a harder sell, if the publication takes them at all.

Online fiction/book websites

Many websites exist where you can post your original fiction of varying lengths, including short stories. Often these are websites where you create a profile and all your works are collected under that one name. There is often a community aspect to them, with readers/other members being able to favorite stories and leave comments.

While there are a large number of these sites available of varying sizes, popularity, and focus, the major ones are Wattpad,  FictionPress, and Figment. Some sites are more focused on critiquing and reviewing than on building readership, so make sure you understand a website’s main goals before posting your work.

Some fanfiction-based websites such as Archive of Our Own also allow original fiction to be posted, though it may be harder to find.

Book websites where people can track the books their reading and rate them, like Goodreads, may also have sections where authors can post short stories or excerpts from longer works.

Question, Squiders–do you think I need to specify that these are non-paying markets, that their main purpose is to build readership and get feedback? Or is it obvious?

Anything I’m leaving out here?

Publishing Short Stories Traditionally (Part 3)

Here’s our final stop on this particular story type/publication method combination, Squiders.

Short Story Collections

Like anthologies, short story collections are, as the name implies, a collection of short stories. The main difference is that an anthology features the work of multiple authors, while a short story collection includes the work of only one. As such, short story collections tend to operate more along the same principles as novels than selling a single short story at a time.

The first step toward submitting and publishing a short story collection is to have written a number of short stories. These can be ones that have been previously published, or they can be new ones. A number of stories is necessary; most traditionally-published collections are equal in length to novels. These stories can be related, such as all featuring the same characters, or the same universe, but they do not need to be.

If you have an agent (see agents section–note for blog: not written as of yet, so don’t be confused that you can’t find it), you can have them submit to publishers for you; some publishers will accept submissions from unagented authors. Like novels, you will need to write a query letter that you or your agent can send out. The query letter will need to have statistical information about the collection (number of stories, word count, genre if possible, etc.) as well as some sort of hook to inspire a publisher to look closer at your stories. An interested publisher may ask for a sample, or may ask for the entire collection to aid in the decision-making process.

NOTE: Short story collections are notoriously hard sells, especially if you are not an established, traditionally-published author. Publishers typically find them hard to market, and readers may not pick up a collection if they are not previously familiar with the author in some way. Previously published stories may be an easier sell in this case, especially if they’ve been published in top-tier markets or have won industry or genre-specific awards. Alternately, short stories that are linked to a novel series can also be easier sells, since readers are more likely to seek them out to augment their reading of the series in between novels.

A publisher will have a contract you will need to agree to before they’ll publish your collection. If you do not have an agent, you might consider asking one or a rights-specific lawyer to look over the contract to make sure that you’re getting a fair deal. Some publishers will pay some amount of money up front, called an advance. You have to “earn through” your advance before you can start earning royalties. Others may not pay an advance at all.

All right! That’s it for traditionally publishing short stories. Please let me know if you feel I’m leaving anything out, or if anything is confusing.

I’m going to take about a week off of the book posts (I’m reading a terrible Star Trek novel to share with you guys on Friday) and then we’ll jump into self-publishing short stories (which is a massive beast). And then another break from those sorts of posts and then into the novels, egads.

Happy Tuesday!

Publishing Short Stories Traditionally (Part 2)

Continuing on from Tuesday. If you missed that post, I recommend clicking the handy link at the top or bottom of this entry (depending on whether you’re on the blog or website) or simply scrolling down and reading that one first if you’re on the main blog page.

Picking up where we left off:

Anthologies

An anthology is a collection of short stories (or longer works, such as novellas) that center around some sort of theme. These themes can be very specific or very broad, depending on the publisher and the particular anthology in question. Publishers that regularly release anthologies may have the next several themes available on their website so you can plan ahead.

Submissions for anthologies work in two distinct ways:

  • You can be invited to submit work for an anthology. This is more common if you’re an established, decently-selling author who has been traditionally published by major markets, or if you’ve worked with an editor before and they’ve been impressed with your work.
  • A publisher releases a call for an anthology, which is open to established and new writers alike. (In some cases, publishers may be looking specifically for new authors; the submission guidelines for the anthology would state this.)

Like magazines or journals, market websites like Duotrope and the Submission Grinder list open anthology calls on their websites, and you can search specifically for anthology markets by using their advanced search function. Anthology calls often have a deadline associated with them (i.e., stories must be received by November 15), though some publishers may keep submissions for a particular anthology open until they feel they’ve received an appropriate amount of acceptable submissions. Often, an anthology call will also include the intended publication date for the anthology.

Pay rates for anthologies follow the same methodology as magazines and journals, falling into pro, semi-pro, token, and non-paying or exposure. Anthologies are more likely to pay a flat rate per story, and also may include a copy or two of the anthology. Some anthologies may pay authors a share of the royalties, either as the main form of payment, or in addition to whatever the original buying rate was. Some anthologies are created to make money for charitable causes–the submission guidelines will normally specify this.

Like magazines and journals, you can try to fit a previously written story into an anthology, or write a story specifically to match an anthology theme.

NOTE: Depending on the anthology theme and how specialized it is, it may be hard to place an anthology-intended story elsewhere if the anthology does not accept it.

In many cases, the submission process for an anthology is similar or identical to submitting to a magazine or journal, with most using either an email submission process or an online portal. An anthology may accept a wide variety of story lengths or be focused on a specific type of short story (such as flash fiction), and pay rates may be different depending on the length of the story. For example, some anthologies may pay a pro rate for very short works, such as flash or micro fiction, but pay semi-pro or token for longer works.

If your short story is selected for inclusion in an anthology, the publisher will send you a contract specifying rights and when/if the rights will revert to you after a certain period of time. The editor or publisher may also ask for some edits to be made to the story. These are normally fairly minor–small plot issues or copyediting–as the time frame and demand for an anthology does not allow for more major changes; if a story is not working on a larger level, it is very unlikely to be selected.

Here’s part 2, Squiders! Again, let me know if anything is confusing or if you feel I’m leaving something out, or let me know if the format isn’t working for some reason. I’d hate to go through the whole thing if the format is inherently wrong! Otherwise, we’ll continue next Tuesday with the third and final part of traditional short story publishing and then take a bit of a break on the subject before we jump into self-publishing short stories.

Otherwise, I hope you have a happy weekend, Squiders!

Publishing Short Stories Traditionally (Part 1)

Okay, Squiders! Let’s get into the meat of things. Today we’ll be talking about “traditional” methods of short story submission and publication. As a short recap, “traditional” publishing is the method of publishing that has been the norm for the last several decades, where authors send out a story to a market with the hope that said market will buy it and pay them money.

For short stories, your traditional paths fall into three main categories:

  • Magazines (including e-zines) and journals
  • Anthologies
  • Short story collections

We’ll take a look at each of these in order.

Magazines/Journals

A magazine is a soft-bound publication that often features a mixture of articles, advertisements, and pictures, often centered around a theme, that is released on a regular basis. A journal, in this case, is similar to a magazine but tends to focus more on publishing stories. These are sometimes known as a literary journal, but many people use both magazine and journal interchangeably. There are publications that combine the two, featuring a mixture of articles and stories.

And e-zine or online journal is essentially the same idea, except the final product is digital. These can be an e-book type file, which can be downloaded and read on e-readers, or everything might be hosted on a website.

When submitting to a magazine or journal, it’s important to do your research beforehand and make sure the publication in question is open for submissions, and that they publish the type of story you’re trying to sell. Most publications will clearly list their submission guidelines on their websites.

Various websites will list open markets. The most well-known of these is Duotrope. Duotrope keeps track of short story markets and also provides acceptance and response time stats. It is a subscription-based website, costing $5/month at this time, which can be somewhat costly if you aren’t using it regularly or aren’t selling on a regular basis. A free alternative is the Submission Grinder, which also keeps track of markets and stats. There are others, and websites also exist for specific genres.

Markets tend to be divided by pay rate. Short stories tend to be paid on a price per word, though many markets pay a flat rate per story as well. The highest rate is known as pro, and tends to be at least $.06/word, though some publications do offer higher. So, for example, if you had a 2500-word short story, you’d get $150 for it at a pro rate of $.06/word. Some professional writing associations, such as the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), will only accept pro-level short story sales as a consideration for membership.

The next highest level is semi-pro, where pay rates are greater than $.01/word but less than $.06/word. Then you get into token, which is where you get paid something, but it’s typically $.01/word or less. A lot of token markets pay a flat fee, often somewhere between $5 and $25 per story. Markets that pay a larger flat fee (such as $50 or $100) may be rated as a semi-pro or pro market, depending on the word count on stories they accept.

The final payment category is non-paying or exposure markets. With these, you’re not paid in money, but in exposure and experience. This means that you often receive a bylaw at the top or the bottom of the story where you can advertise or link to something else, such as your website or a recent novel release.

Many websites that list short story markets allow you to search specifically by payment category, as well as genre and accepted word count. They also allow you to search for anthology calls and contests, which will discuss later.

There are two main ways people go about choosing submission markets. The first is to write and polish a short story, and then do research to see what markets would be acceptable; the second is to choose a market and then write a story that feels like it would be a good a fit. Either way, once you choose your market and finalize your story, you can start submitting.

WARNING: Some markets only accept submissions during certain times of the year, called reading periods. If you submit a story outside of these periods, or while a market is closed to new submissions (which sometimes happens if a publication gets too backlogged), your submission will be deleted unread and you will have wasted your time.

Most short story publications accept submissions one of two ways:

  • Through email
  • Through an online submission portal

Some publications still accept or insist on snail mail submissions, though these are lessening. When submitting a short story for consideration, you will need a cover letter. These can be very short and essentially just need to include the story title, genre, and word count, as well as your name. Some publications will also ask for a short bio. If your story has been previously published elsewhere, you would also note this in your cover letter.

NOTE: Not all publications will consider a previously-published story, also known as a reprint. Their submission guidelines on their website will specify. Publications that do accept reprints often pay less than they would for an unpublished story.

In almost all cases, you submit the complete text of your story with your cover letter. The publication will specify their preferred format in their guidelines, but many accept a standard manuscript format, which you can find through an Internet search. (This is mainly for email submission; oftentimes online portals strip out most of the formatting and a block paragraph style may be the most readable option.)

Once you’ve made sure your story is in the proper format and you’ve met all the submission guidelines, you can go ahead and submit.

BEWARE: In many cases, you’ll have to send your story to one market at a time. Sending it to more than one market at a time is known as simultaneous submissions, and many publications don’t accept them. Though, in theory, they may never know, if you’re caught in a situation where more than one publication has accepted the story, you’ll be stuck in the awkward situation of having to explain to one what’s happened, and you might find yourself unwelcome from submitting to that market in the future.

Short story publications will have you sign a contract upon acceptance of your story that specifies which rights they’re buying (varies by publication, but may include first publication rights, serial rights, audio rights, etc.) and how long it is before the rights revert to the author.

It often takes several months for your story to appear in an issue or on a website, as many publications buy more stories than they immediately have slots for. The publication should tell you when your story will appear and, in some cases, may offer you that issue for free.

Tada! That’s part 1, Squiders. Hopefully it’s helpful. Please let me know if any steps are unclear so I can tweak them! Part 2 will be on Thursday.