I spent some time the last few days setting up an online bookstore and putting a few stories online. Though I love writing short stories, I admit they can be hard to find. Often you have to buy an anthology full of stories you may not want to read, or subscribe to a magazine that may not really be your cup of tea. And while I fully recommend buying anthologies and subscribing to magazines, I finally decided that I needed to be a little more proactive making my fiction available.
I was spurred to do this by a very helpful post by Michael Stackpole on a writer’s listserv I’m on laying out the steps for putting work up on Amazon for the Kindle. Since I decided to take the plunge on that, I did a little extra work and made the stories available online through my own website as well, using PayPal, for a very low fee — usually $1.99. I’m not sure if this is the best route, so I may tinker with the delivery, but I’m committed to putting at least two or three stories up a week until I get most of my work online. For the most part, these will be stories I’ve already sold, though I am usually contractually bound to wait six months to a year after a story appears before making it available elsewhere. Plus it would be bad form anyway to upstage the places that have bought my work.
This is going to be part of a larger effort to start being more active in selling my work. Like most writers, flogging my wares is not the first thing I’d like to do with my time, but with the way publishing is changing, the lines between writer, publisher, and bookstore are getting more blurred every day, and technological advances are making it more feasible for writers to reach their audience with fewer middlemen in between. Plus the stigma of self-publishing — a real problem for me, I admit, because I really do like the stamp of approval from editors — is beginning to fade. It won’t replace the NY presses, but it is another viable route to go.
So while I’m still going to be pursuing the traditional publishing route (after all, the best publishers are better at getting my work in front of readers, which is what they’re paid to do), you’ll probably see me using my website, print on demand, and other tools to augment what I’m doing with traditional publishers. Of course, the trick is to do this in a way that doesn’t suck up a lot of time that should go to writing. We’ll see how it goes. One thing’s for certain: There’s never been a better time to be a writer. Not all writers may agree with this, but if you want to write, and reach an audience, there’s more ways to do it now than every before.
Of course, you also have to write well. That’ll never change, no matter how much publishing does.