Posting stories for free

I was a bit busy over the weekend so I just pasted a story into a post and let that be it. I wanted to offer some explanation and to have it in a separate page of it’s own, but I had a train to catch. At some point I’ll have a play around with blogger and see if I can present it differently. I can sort out the explanation part.

On Thursday last week, I was having trouble getting the Hub website to load, so I followed a link to their old wordpress website. The penultimate post, from 2007, was a lengthy discussion of the declining readership of speculative fiction magazines and it touched briefly on the model of giving work away. Which got me thinking.

My goal is to eventually publish novels. I write short stories for fun and as vehicles for working on writing technique. Most short story markets don’t pay in actual cash and those that do, don’t pay much. Even the highest paying markets don’t pay at rates that really reflect the hours that go into writing a short story. Black Static, for example, I believe pays £20 per thousand words (although there’s nothing on their website about paying at all; I will check) and is one of the highest paying markets. Is £100 fair remuneration for the amount of time a 5000 word story will take?

Ok, maybe I’m a slow writer and maybe each story needs a lot of work. And I should say my basis for comparison is what I earn in my day job – £15 an hour. At that rate, in order to make a living I need to be writing and editing 750 words per hour, thirty five hours a week. Probably more, because I won’t be getting holiday or sick pay. Maybe some people can do it, but to me that feels like an exhausting and unrealistic pace.

So, if I’m not making money with my short stories, what is the purpose of trying to get them published? Partly, it’s about getting feedback and partly it’s about raising my profile.

I want some feedback on my writing and I want it from people who know what they’re talking about. That can come from a writers’ group or you can pay for it, but there’s nothing that says ‘yes, you’re good enough’ like getting accepted for publication. But what if that says more about my beliefs about validation than it does about the standard of my work? Many editors acknowledge that they reject plenty of stuff that is ‘good enough’ but not right for another reason. These days I feel that my critical faculties are better – I can objectively judge my own work and rely less on the opinions of others.

Profile raising is really the key reason I want to publish short stories. It’s all about getting my novel off the slush pile and read. It’s about having a readership. Several authors have shown that there are other ways to do that, such as putting stories online and giving them away for free. So, there you go – Hell is a free to read story. And I’d love to know what you think.

I’m not eschewing traditional publication totally – it’s still a great feeling when someone likes your work enough to publish it – just expanding my options.

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