My Eight is Enough Q&A interview is up on Sarah-Jane Lehoux’s blog, where I answer eight questions about writing and what ebooks I got coming out in the near future. Please take a moment to read and leave a comment.
The last question was fun: “This is the most important question you ever answer. Your life depends on it. Zombie pirate or zombie ninja?”
Everyone interviewed so far went for zombie pirate. I actually gave two answers. Here’s the first answer that appears in the Q&A:
Zombie pirate. I can see a zombie pirate chugging down a bottle of rum and jumping overboard for shark brains.
Here’s the second answer:
A zombie ninja doesn’t make any sense. Ninjas are all about precision, which was why they took over consumer electronics and work for Steve Jobs at Apple.
This answer made realize that I needed to hone my reputation as being a Silicon Valley writer. Too many of my early short stories have generic locations to appeal to the widest audience. Of course, those were literary short stories. Unless a literary short story featured New York City, anywhere else would make that short story suitable only for the regional markets. The West Coast is a very small regional market.
When I found my grove in writing speculative short stories, the location sometimes became more important than the characters. This year I let all my unpublished manuscripts fall out of circulation from the slush piles to rewrite each one to fix any structural flaws and re-slant for the Silicon Valley locale before submitting again. Silicon Valley will be a prominent location in future stories whenever possible.
The most frustrating thing about being a short story writer is that the fiction reprint market is dead. A non-fiction writer can write an article for one magazine, slant the focus of the article for other magazines, and have a back catalog of articles to sell as reprints with minor changes. (Since I rarely write non-fiction outside of my blogs, I’m assuming that the Internet hasn’t killed off the non-fiction reprint market as well.) Once a short story is published, its life cycle comes to a dead end.
Very few print magazine and anthologies will take reprints, and some e-zines will take reprints if they haven’t appeared on the Internet. Most will pay little or nothing for reprints, and aren’t worth the trouble in chasing down. A short story collection is good for entering the annual contests, but don’t expect to find a publisher unless you’re already a prize-winning literary writer and/or best-selling novelist. The fiction reprint market is dead—or is it?
Several months ago I was finishing up some maintenance work on my websites when I caught the tail end of the #blogchat conversation on Twitter, where Georganna Hancock mentioned something about publishing ebooks for the Amazon Kindle. I asked a few questions and she pointed me to Kindle Direct Publishing.
Doing some more research, I came across Smashwords and their fantastic style guide for formatting ebooks. I soon uploaded my first ebook, “The Uninvited Spook,” my first published short story that I long had the reprint rights for, to both Amazon (Kindle) and Smashwords (all other ebook readers). Since then I have published a half-dozen ebooks featuring 10 reprints and seven original flash stories to earn $12 USD on 17 copies.
The traditional fiction reprint market is dead, but publishing reprints as ebooks is alive and well. Short stories published in hard-to-find magazines can now be read by new readers in widely available electronic formats. The one question I hated to hear from my readers—okay, only one person ever asked—is where they can read my work. I used to point readers to my credit list and anthologies page. Now I can point to my ebooks page, where my work is available for reading.
Half of my ebook sales came from the reprint of a Christmas shopping essay about how far my mother went to get her granddaughter a Cabbage Patch doll. While releasing a holiday-themed essay before the holidays may explain why it may be my most popular ebook title to date, I read elsewhere that original non-fiction sells well as ebooks. I’m planning to release a dozen ebooks coming over the next two years, mostly reprints and some original essays.