Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Guest Post | "Short Fiction in the New Publishing Reality" by Gail Z. Martin

Not too long ago, people were quick to say that short fiction was dead. They pointed to the demise of several long-running, celebrated fiction magazines, and to lackluster sales for anthologies, and concluded that the long form had won.

As Mark Twain once said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

Whether you bless ebooks or curse them, one thing they have given us back is the viable short story and anthology. Authors discovered that writing short stories and selling them on Amazon and other online platforms was a good way to keep existing readers happy and bring in new readers with a low-risk opportunity to sample the wares. Anthologies do exceptionally well on Kickstarter because multiple authors each with his/her own fan base can quickly gin up support and boost the signal for the project.

Never has a corpse returned to the land of the living quite so quickly.

Ebooks and online bookselling has substantially altered the business of publishing and continues to send shockwaves through the industry. But by creating a viable and potentially profitable way for authors to bring short fiction to market, the incentive exists for authors to write short form. Whether they are contributing to a Kickstarter anthology or bringing their self-published short stories to market independently, authors are no longer limited by the number of paying venues for short fiction and the time-consuming effort of pitching a story, sometimes multiple times before finding it a home. Stories can also tackle timely issues more easily, since the time-to-market is decidedly shortened.

A funny thing happened when people began reading on smart phones and tablets. All of a sudden, they discovered that they liked reading a story they could finish in the car pool van or on the train in the way into work, instead of always being stuck at a good part and not being able to get back into a full book for hours. Mobile device readership is growing, especially in the under-30 demographic, and those readers enjoy bite-sized fiction, stoking a demand for more short stories.

Short stories have also become a promotional tool for novel writers, in addition to being an end in themselves. I’ve been part of four Kickstarter anthologies in the last year. Each of them featured one of my short stories as part of the anthology. In addition, backers received a three-pack of stories from my two short story series if the anthology reached specific dollar goals.

What this meant was that thousands of new readers got a sampler platter of my short stories based on my book series, introducing them to me and my worlds. Sites like Wattpad take this a step farther, enabling authors to reach millions of members with free short fiction to garner comments and build audience.

A year ago, I began writing two series of short stories related to my novels. The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures are prequels to my Chronicles of the Necromancer series. That series is currently on hiatus as I write the Ascendant Kingdoms books, but loyal readers wanted more in the Winter Kingdoms world. By serialising what are essential three prequel books into stand-alone short stories with a larger plot arc, I’m able to give readers what they want without foreclosing future publishing opportunities, and earn a nice side income to boot.

Likewise, my Deadly Curiosities Adventures began as a universe I created specifically for anthology contributions. When Solaris Books liked “Buttons”, the story I contributed to Magic: The Esoteric and Arcane, and asked for a book series based on that story, the short stories continued in anthologies and direct to ebook on Kindle/Kobo/Nook. The short stories aren’t required reading to enjoy the books, but they do add additional details and background that fans of the series will find interesting. They take place before, after and in between the novels. I bring out a new short story in either my Jonmarc Vahanian or Deadly Curiosities series once a month. I’ve also written an original Deadly Curiosities novella and posted it free on Wattpad to reach a new, mobile device-intensive audience.

Thanks to ebooks and Kickstarter, short fiction has a promising future. From being a moribund format to becoming the hot new thing, short fiction has rebounded with vigour that would be the envy of any zombie master. Here’s to new opportunities.


Gail Z. Martin's Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more. Each article comes complete with extra excerpt links for stories and books by author friends of hers, plus a special 50% off discount from Double-Dragon ebooks, but just like Trick or Treat, you’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies! Hit up for all the details.

In the interim, enjoy an excerpt from her short story 'Buttons,' a bonus bit from her contribution to the Kickstarter-funded Athena’s Daughters anthology, and—last but not least—an excerpt from Jean Rabe's novel The Cauldron, also by way of Wattpad.

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