Thursday, June 21, 2012

Long Short Stories

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last updated this blog.  I’ve been trying to finish a story that seemed to get longer the more I wrote of it: it was intended to be a short story, but it’s ended up as... well, a long short story.  14,000 words – according to whose definition you go by, that might be either a novelette or a novella, but I prefer long short story.

At one time, back in the days where print was the only option, this might have been a problem.  Magazines certainly did publish stories that long, or longer, but usually only if they were by a well-established author; lesser mortals were restricted to shorter pieces.

Epublishing has changed all that, even without resorting to self-publishing.  It’s not so much that magazines will take longer stories – some do, but still very few – but that an ebook, unlike its print counterpart, can be any length you choose.  The “book publisher” pages of Ralan and Duotrope are full of epublishers looking for anything at all from short story to novel length.

I’ve already had some success with this, besides several publications of fantasy erotica (that’s another story).  Last year, Darwin’s Evolutions released my story The Temple of Taak-Resh, which is just over 8,000 words, as an ebook, and I have another to come from Musa Publishing, The Treason of Memory, at nearly 13,000.  It’s highly unlikely that the latter, in particular, would have ever seen the light of day in a magazine.

There are pros and cons to this approach.  The big advantage of being published in a successful magazine is that it has a ready-made readership: readers with a subscription, or who head to it as soon as a new edition comes out, and will read your piece along with the rest.  As long as your work is sufficiently arresting, it’s easy to make new friends for your stories this way.

Of course, a publisher like Musa has readers who’ll check out what it produces because they trust its taste and judgement, but the ebook still has to individually attract them enough to make them part with their money before they can read it.

Beyond that, it’s up to the author to market the book, just as they would if it were self-published, through blogs and social networking.  Some people are good at that and some aren’t, and it doesn’t really reflect how good their writing is, one way or the other.  I’m in the camp of those who aren’t.  I do my best, but it feels uncomfortable.  Maybe it’s traditional British reserve – it’s bad taste to tell people how brilliant you are – but I think not.  I’ve spoken to American friends who feel the same.

On the other hand, publishing your story as a book, even an extremely short book, means its yours and no-one else’s.  Being in a magazine’s a great feeling, especially if your name’s on the cover, but it’s an achievement shared with a number of other people, and there’s always the nagging paranoia that maybe the readers are skipping your piece.  A book stands or falls on what you’ve put into it.

There’s nothing quite like having a book published, especially – in my opinion, although I know not everyone agrees – if it’s been published because someone else is as enthusiastic about it as you are.  I can imagine that, in the next few years, I’ll be submitting more of my stories to this kind of market: short stories, novelettes, novellas.  And, of course, long short stories.

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