Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Paying the Bills with Shorts

Michael Bracken finds some of the best links for short story writers!!  At this link, Dean Wesley Smith breaks down how you can make a living with your short fiction.  Depending on how good of a writer you are, this could work. 
http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=7143

10 comments:

Manuel Royal said...

Annoying article, right from the get-go, with this: "Myth: You Can't Make Money Writing Fiction". No, that's not a myth. For a myth to exist in a culture, it has to be widely repeated. I've never heard anyone make the quoted statement. That's not a myth, it's a self-serving straw man.

Article continues on its annoying path. Refers to trade publishing as "traditional publishing" (a term made up by vanity publishers). Refers to self-publishing as "indie publishing" (which must annoy the legitimate independent trade publishing houses).

Assumes typing 1,000 words = producing 1,000 *publishable* words. Brushes serenely past that rather doubtful precept to concentrate on basic arithmetic.

Yes, if I could somehow produce 1,000 publishable words in a daily hour of effort, and somehow sell every one of them to one of the few professional-rate markets available, I could (with associated anthologization, etc.) make something of a living with short stories alone. Obviously. Me and a few others; there's simply not enough five-cents-a-word market space for many writers to be publishing in them that often.

Who is this article supposed to be for?

Cyndi Pauwels said...

I'm with Manuel on this one...

sandra seamans said...

He did note that this would work only if your stories were at the professional level. Mr. Smith writes from years of experience, both his and his wife's of having written and earned a living from writing for over twenty years.

I believe he was trying to show writers what was possible if you worked at it hard enough.

Manuel Royal said...

Damn, I sound like a grouchy old man.

Spent an hour working on a story last night; after work, between household chores, before getting some sleep. Produced 500 words, which I'll be revising later.

sandra seamans said...

It's okay, Manuel, I've been in that situation plenty of times myself. The worst part is when the editing takes the word count back to 250. Makes you feel like you're beating your head against the wall. :)

I think with professional writers they've reached a point where those 500 to 1000 words they get down are nearly ready to push out the door, whereas writers still climbing the ladder have to work harder and longer to reach that same place.

The longer you've been writing and selling the more confidence you have in your work. Most of us are still trying to reach that place.

bryonquertermous said...

I think the best point he made is one you've made here Sandra. If you do want to make a living at this you need to write across all the available genres. And I don't think he means just setting a mystery story you couldn't sell in space. I think you have to be familiar with all of the genres and write to their specifications. Romance and erotic are HUGE markets for short stories electronically but I don't think many people seek those markets out.

sandra seamans said...

If you look at all the pulp writers, Bryon, you'll see that they wrote across the board. And I'm not talking just about those who wrote in the '20s and '30s but those who wrote in the sixties and seventies also like Lawrence Block and Donald Westlake.

Sturgeon hated being classified as a sci-fi writer and reading his shorts I can see why. His stories are so much more than the genre restrictions. Richard Mateson fits in here also.

You have to love what you're writing, not try to make it fit a certain genre market. If your characters are more comfortable in a sci-fi setting, put them there. I have a female bounty hunter character that while, she could work easily in the Western or Mystery genres, but I've placed her in the frontier of space. And I love writing these stories.

Go where your characters take you.

sandra seamans said...

And that would be Richard Matheson.

Thomas Pluck said...

I prefer Kristine Rusch's articles on the business of writing. Dean has a point- if you are prolific and keep the plates spinning, you can now make money writing short stories again.
(The pity is 5 cents a word is a high payment these days, and hasn't gone up in 70 years.)

However, he makes a lot of assumptions. You need to write in all genres, you need to sell every story you write, and just like e-books, you need to sell 5 copies a month on average with your hundreds of stories. It is possible, yes. Especially for two writers in the biz for 30 years with a following.

It reminds me of the Underpants Gnomes, with his magic bakery.
1) Steal Underpants
2) ...
30 PROFIT!

except...
1) Write lots and lots, self publish with a good cover and copyediting, don't rewrite, learn on the way...
2) ...
3) PROFIT!

Except in this case, #2 has always been "Be Konrath or Dean Smith, with a following built on traditional publishing and a name that rises above the slush pile."

And I say this as someone who wrote 50 stories last year and got paid for some of them. I'm trying to concentrate on paying markets now, both as a challenge and to get a wider readership. It hasn't all been tough going. I'm planning to release a story collection soon, as well. We'll see how it goes.

The best part of Dean's article is the math. 250 words a day = a novel. 1000 equals the equivalent of 4. The next time someone says they don't have time to write...

sandra seamans said...

I agree, Thomas, that writers with a name do much better at the self-publishing. And not everyone is going to be as successful as Konrath and Dean.

You're doing the right thing by going for the better markets and improving your writing as you go. Some writers get caught in the trap of sticking with the same few markets instead of trying for better and harder markets to crack. Or rufusing to take a risk by writing in other genres.

I always have to remind myself that writers like Dean have been at it much longer and his articles are aimed more to the pros than me. I take what works for me and where I am in my writing and set the rest aside. It also gives me something to aim for.