Sunday, February 18, 2007

Short Stories, Queries, Publishing, Agents & All The Rest

I know I write a great deal about short story submissions and publishing. Probably because over the past 18 months I have been in "short story" madness. My mind seems to want to write those stories and writing always gravitates back to them even if I force myself to concentrate to either editing or writing other WIP's.

Publishing short stories these days is a bitch. Legitimate markets are incredibly limited. Agents, rightfully so, will not handle one story at a time. Who the hell can blame them? No money in it and too much effort.

Short story collections are worse. Go ahead. Try writing a decent query letter for a short story collection even if you can find one of the rare breed of agent that will agree to look at such a query letter. Go ahead. Write it. See what I mean? Find the hook? Find the thread? Find the one line you can concentrate on and develop in your allowed 100 words?

Over the past 18 months I have had thirteen short stories published on a legitimate site on the Internet, which even charges readers to join. The Deepening publishes 10 stories a month in all genres. At the beginning I was ecstatic thinking maybe I could parlay this into a collection. And yes, as readers of Cobwebs Of The Mind know I did create the collection - "Ancient Tales, Modern Legends". And the stories were incredibly well received and written up. Beyond, as they say, "my wildest dreams".

Yet, to get an agent to look at them in terms of a collection, just to read say four or five of them and say "yeah or nay" is really a trip from hell - a herculean task of no small need for valium. I assumed though that most agents would never consider publishing even in a legitimate site as The Deepening was worth a credit.

The other day in perusing Miss Snark, I was kind of surprised and pleased when reading her reaction in a post entitled: "It's not the New Yorker but...". I am going to post the question and part of the answer by Miss Snark, but the link is here so please go over and see the whole thing. The author asked simply and to the point:
My short story was published online on the emag Johnny America. No payment was involved, just posting on the site. Now, here's the question: Am I a published author? Can I include this in my query letters?
Miss Snark said in her answer:
This is a pretty funny site. If you sent me a query letter and mentioned it I wouldn't think you were a nitwit.
Putting the snark-ism aside for just a moment, (even though such a separation of snark-ism from the blog of Miss Snark is grounds for being tarred and feathered), I found this comment to be particularly interesting.

In short, Miss Snark says that short story writers, though facing an incredible disadvantage in an already disadvantaged field of play, if published in a decent web site, e.g. a legitimate web site, can hope to count that publication as a publication credit. While this is still a real long way from having your collection of short stories published in a major publishing house, this is certainly something to take note of and remember. Legitimacy of Internet publishing credits is certainly making inroads into the world of traditional publishing.

Now don't get me wrong. If you do write short stories and are not publishing them constantly in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review and others like these august names of short story writing, you still are going to have to rely on luck, prayer and stroking the rabbit's foot on your key chain to see your collection bought by a major publishing house. Indeed you are going to have to find one hell of an agent who really believes in what you write and how you write it.

But it is important to point out even without the New Yorker publishing credit, if you do have your short story published in a legitimate site, and let me repeat that word - legitimate - then you can proudly list that in your credits.

Should you continue to write short stories and not concentrate on your great novel or novels? Only if you are as crazy as I am. Collections of short stories seem to be few and far between. But one never knows when Lady Luck will strike. Or how. Or where.

As the famous Epistle by Pope reads:
Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

-Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man, Epistle I, 1733

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1 comment:

B.E. Sanderson said...

Figures the minute I start submitting shorts, the bottom falls out of the market. *sigh*

Keep at it, Teddy. You're very good, and people should be reading your stories. Sooner or later, they see it. (At least that's what I keep telling myself.)