Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Diversification and Selling Short Stories

I am going to make a rather bold statement about short stories and say that the only thing that ensures an increase of overall writing income over a prolonged period of time is diversification.

The number one mistake people make is publishing a single short story in a single genre.  The story never sells so they automatically assume there's no money to be had publishing shorter works.  Not true.

Publishing short stories is a constant process of throwing spagetti on the wall and seeing what sticks.  It's stupid to put all your hopes on a single strand.  This type of mentality should be left to the novel writers as they slave for years over their supposed masterpiece.  Short story writers don't have this kind of luxury.

You must experiment and you must make your work available to as many readers as possible.  My sales increased once I stopped thinking that I was a sci-fi short story writer and started thinking that I was a short story writer.  I branched out.  I started new pen names and writing in all the genres that interested me.  I also made sure that all of my work was available is every possible ebook retailer.  Forget KDP Select.  It will only hold you back.

I don't keep track of every sale.  But I do monitor what IS selling and what's not.  It's a constant balance of watching all channels and all the genres published in each channel and seeing what is picking up momentum.  If I see, for example, that scifi sales are increasing on iBooks, this directs where I am going to be putting my energy when I start my next writing project.

Some genres just don't sell on some channels.  Period.  I think I've sold maybe a dozen copies of scifi stories on Barnes & Noble.  Most of them to my mother.  But on Sony and Kobo I have scifi stories regularly selling every month.  Short stories may not be a gold mine, but getting $20 from B&N and $30 from Amazon and $15 from Apple... it does start to add up slowly but surely.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

SFWG 2012 Speculative Fiction Contest RESULTS

We would like to thank everyone that took the time to submit to our first contest. We received a number of very intriguing stories that led to some fun discussions for us. SFWG does plan on making contests a regular part of our yearly events. So there will certainly be more prizes to earn in the future!

And now for the results!

First Prize goes to Aaron Engler for his story “Event Zero.” You can read this story for free here.
Second Prize goes to Erin Lawless for her story “Deadlands.” You can read about the collection containing this story here.
Third Prize goes to Anthony Stevens for his story “Statuary.” You can read this story for free here and read about his upcoming project here.

Short Fiction Writers Guild

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Review of "Low-Budget Monster Flick," a single story in a collection by Mary Anna Evans

An eight-year-old girl who has just watched as her sister was kidnapped... A nurse who holds the lives of a mother and child in her hands... A makeup artist who has just found a murdered starlet on a movie set... Find these characters and more in this book-length collection of short works by Mary Anna Evans, author of the Faye Longchamp mysteries. This collection includes stories and essays originally published in anthologies including FLORIDA HEAT WAVE, A KUDZU CHRISTMAS, MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL, NORTH FLORIDA NOIR, MYSTERY MUSES, and A MERRY BAND OF MURDERERS, as well as never-before published stories by Evans. Bonuses include a story by guest author Libby Fischer Hellmann and an excerpt from her environmental thriller WOUNDED EARTH. Mary Anna Evans is a recipient of the Mississippi Author Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, a Florida Book Awards Bronze Medal, the Patrick D. Smith Florida Literature Award. KIRKUS REVIEWS called her latest release, PLUNDER, "delightfully erudite." She lives in Florida with a humongous piano and an unusually charming cat.

This is a review of one story in a collection by Evans.

I fully admit to having a weakness for cult horror and sci-fi films.  If it involves a rubber monster suit and/or a virgin sacrifice, I've probably seen it.  So it's really no wonder that this short story appealed to me in every way.  It was like murder mystery noir with a sense of humor.

Evans has a strong style of writing that instantly transports and immerses.  Despite the large cast (for a short story), never once was I pulled out of the action by trying to figure out who was who.  I found myself enjoying all the characters.  Yes, some of them were bordering on stereotype but it totally suited this type of story.

The plot is perfectly paced.  It feels neither rushed nor needlessly dragged out.  Some hardcore mystery fans may feel a little jilted with such a short investigative process but I actually liked this aspect to the story.  In my opinion the story was more about "a day in a life" of a 1940s hollywood worker rather than a nitty-gritty whodunit.  The underlying humor being that no one really cares about the victim, it's all about the showbiz and the art. 

This story alone would make the collection worth investing in.  Evans is not a short story author you want to miss.

5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this collection on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Genre and the Short Story

Short stories generally tend to belong to more artsy genres.  By this I mean that's it's not at all uncommon to classify a short story as a fantasy/fairy tale/sci-fi/young adult/thriller hybrid.

For a novel, this would probably end up being confusing for the reader.  But often for a short story, it makes perfect sense.  Starting mid-action in order to lead up to a slightly twisted ending often requires pulling elements from multiple mainstream genres.

While fun to write and even more fun to read, the lack of clear genre makes it tricky to market to your target reader.  Therefore, it's important to keep two things in mind:

1)  Who is your target reader?  Think about the personality type of the person shopping around and let that be your guide.  For example, say your story is a bittersweet romance with supernatural elements.  At first glance, this type of story could fall under "paranormal" and "romance."  But is your story the type of plot those shoppers are looking for?  Probably not.  Romance shoppers are usually looking for a few steamy scenes and a happily ever after.

So you have to go outside the box.  What type of reader would enjoy this short story you just crafted.  Perhaps "fairy tale" would be more appropriate than "romance."  Disney movies aside, those that have read the real Grimm fairy tales know that sometimes the ending isn't always happy.  So if they came across your story, their expectations would be more in line with what you actually wrote.

Which leads us to...

2)  As a short story writer you must become your own "genre."  A perfect example would be Edgar Allan Poe.  By just seeing his name you would know what type of short story experience you're in for. His name sells his work.

Given the fact that short stories sell so few copies compared to novels, you need to give that one reader that finds your work a lot of buying options and a lot of similar reading experiences.  I don't mean write the same story over and over again.  But do always keep in mind the things that make your stories unique.  Do you have a twist at the end?  Are your stories "thinkers"?  Do you have trademark characters or humor?  Use those features to your advantage.