I’m not reaching my target audience submitting my short stories, so now you can read them for free.
After last week’s post on short stories, I gave my short stories some serious thought while I mowed the lawn. I realized that although I could improve my short stories over the next few years to the point where they would get accepted into the elite publications in the field, over the same period of time I could reach my actual readers much faster by giving these stories away. The best thing I can do to get my stories published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Lightspeed, Apex, or Fantasy and Science Fiction is to have a best-selling novel that will create name recognition and drive traffic to those publications. However, in that time I will have missed the opportunity to share stories that I really enjoy and I think you will as well.
Everyone writes short stories, but for many they are not the primary endeavor
There are two kinds of short story writers, and two kinds of audience. All writers write short stories, but many don’t try to publish them because their main focus is novels. They write short stories either for practice, or once they have some success in publishing they will write short stories based on the world of their novels, or in anthologies where editors have asked for a short story. The other kind of short story writer is a writer whose primary interest is short stories. These are the writers you’ll find in the elite publications, and the people you’ll find at conventions like Readercon. They are not usually concerned overall with commercial success or reaching a large audience. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind it, but from conversations I’ve had, it seems their main concern is with writing stories that are important, with giving awards for those stories, and in trying to earn them.
Now the other thing I realized is that there is a huge divide in audience, and one of those audiences is not only larger but is made up of the people I’m thinking of when I’m editing my novels and short stories. If I went to Books-A-Million or the local tabletop gaming store, picked a random customer, or even the owner, and said “Hey, did you read that story in Beneath Ceaseless Skies?” I would get a blank look and maybe have to explain what sort of publication it is (and that things like it actually exist). Those places are for writers to read other writers. What I realized this past week is that I’m not writing for those people. Not by a long shot.
I’m not writing for people who get or give Hugo Awards
I’m writing for the people who browse the sci-fi and fantasy section at bookstores. I am writing for people who love a good story. That doesn’t mean they don’t have good taste. None of the kids who play Dungeons and Dragons at the library on Thursday are going to Worldcon. They might go to DragonCon, but not Readercon, and when I’m editing I am either thinking of the people at DragonCon or young Harry Potter-and-or-Gone Girl-reading women on the train in Boston (yes! I was actually doing market research on all those rides to work). I’m not trying to write Game of Thrones but I’m definitely writing for people who like it, and not for people who give or get Hugo Awards. I’m also writing for the other writers out there who have similar interests. People who find me on Twitter and would like to read a sample of my writing. Since my novel isn’t sold yet and won’t be published for another two years, I can offer short stories to my readers today and they can be enjoyed (or not).
If you’re a writer and you’ve been similarly frustrated by the dull thud that results when you send out short stories to people you don’t know, consider whether you’re actually part of (or writing for) the audience that reads those publications. I know I’m not.
So that’s a long way of saying you can now read “Talons of the Sun” on this website, or download it as a pdf or epub. This story has been rejected a record six times, more than any other story, mainly because I submitted it to places with very fast turnaround times, and because it’s awful. Anyway, you be the judge. As soon as my other stories are rejected I will make them available here as well. Enjoy!