I recently had a story rejected from a really good short story market, and decided to submit it somewhere else.
It was astonishing how many of the magazines and websites that used to pay for short fiction are either no longer in business, or are closed to submissions—which stands to reason; the fewer places to sell your work, the busier those that will buy it will be.
I often joke about how short stories are really the bane of my existence, at least as a writer. That’s an exaggeration, of course; short stories are hardly a bane to anyone. But it is true that I have trouble writing them; I find them much harder to write than novels (which is a different kind of difficult, if that makes any sense). I love short stories. I don’t read them as often as I should—and given my time constraints, I really should because I can often finish a short story in the same amount of time it would take me to read a chapter or so of a novel—but I do love them, and I really wish I was better at writing them. Every so often, I think I might take a year away from writing novels and spend that time writing short stories—but I also know myself too well. I would never do that; I would end up writing one anyway. Likewise with reading them. I have so many novels in my to-read pile I may never have the chance to read…but I have any number of anthologies and short-story collections lying around in the Lost Apartment.
I am, of course, in the middle of a number of projects like I always am, but I really want to finish writing my story “The Weeping Nun.” I also have started two others—“The Tusks of the Elephant” and “After the Funeral”—but have to keep working on the projects that pay the bills. I’ve been so busy this summer I’ve forgotten that I have two books coming out next month, not only the next Scotty Bradley, Garden District Gothic, but the Bouchercon anthology I edited, Blood on the Bayou, which is really quite spectacular. (I did include my story “Survivor’s Guilt” in the book as payment for editing it; I am not making any money from this. It was all volunteer, and all of the proceeds go to the New Orleans Public Library system—a venerable charity if there ever was one. This is also a landmark because it is probably the last anthology I will ever edit. I think it’s my twentieth—I’d have to count—but I think it’s an excellent place for me to retire as anthology editor.
And there’s the rub with short stories. Since there are so few places to sell them anymore, the primary place for short stories is anthologies. But most, if not all, anthologies are themed; so if I don’t have a story on hand that fits the theme if I want to contribute I have to write a new one. And then all those others I have on hand continue to languish, collecting dust in my files. I think I have enough—published and unpublished—to actually put together a collection of my own stories; but single-author collections generally don’t sell well, and even I am not so vain and arrogant as to think a collection of MINE would be the exception to that rule. And my stories are so all over the place—a mix of noir and mystery and crime and horror and the supernatural—that collecting them all in one single collection would just be a bit bizarre. And the other thing about short stories is that if you don’t actually sell them somewhere, how do you know if they are any good? I mean, I know “Annunciation Shotgun” and “Acts of Contrition” and “The Email Always Pings Twice” are good stories because I sold them and got paid a lovely sum for them; I know that others are good because editors liked them and used them in anthologies or publications somewhere. But what about the ones I really like and am really proud of that no one has ever wanted? That haven’t been quite right for this anthology or that magazine?
And there also seems to be a growing tendency out there for anthologists to ask authors for stories and then never bother to tell you they aren’t going to use the story. If I had a dollar for every time I found out a story I was asked for wasn’t going to be used after all by seeing the table of contents in a press release, I might not have to work so hard in the spice mines. I’m sorry, there’s just NO excuse for that. Whenever I edit an anthology that has an open call, I do not allow the Table of Contents to go public until I have notified the authors of the stories I am not going to use and thanked them for submitting and apologized for not using their stories. When I first got started in this business some twenty years or so ago, that was the standard norm; it was called being a professional.
That doesn’t seem to be as much of a concern anymore for editors. I have two stories out now, one that was a blind call and the other I was asked for and have thus heard nothing from either anthology. I am assuming at this point the stories haven’t been selected, but again I assume I will hear when I see the table of contents published somewhere.
Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I don’t think that’s cool.
Ah, well. Back to the spice mines. Here’s an Italian Olympic swimmer.