Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Stay Out Of My Universe

From my February 5 Xanga blog:

I obviously live in a different universe than many short story writers. I continue to stumble across blogs, Yahoo group postings, Web sites, and random conversations--usually involving mystery writers, which may say more about the small universe of writers that I hang with than about the larger universe containing all fiction writers--where writers talk about writing short stories for "marketing value" and "name recognition" and to "build a platform" for their novels and for just about every damn reason except the reasons I write short stories.

1. I write short stories to earn money. My goal is to write stories for the best-paying markets to which I might possibly sell my work. That means some of my work appears in obscure publications, some of it appears with a pseudonymous byline, and a fair portion of it will never be listed in any query letter I happen to write.

2. I write short stories to be published. I like seeing my work in print. Sometimes I'll submit work to low-paying and non-paying publications. Sometimes I'll write stories for friends who publish small press magazines and literary journals and e-zines.

3. I write short stories because I like to tell stories. And most of my stories happen to be short.

Is there a "market value" to writing short fiction? Sure. Being able to list a few key awards or publications in a cover letter or a query letter might make an editor give one of my submissions a little more attention.

Can "name recognition" be created by writing short fiction? Sure. To the extent than anyone knows anything about me, they know about my involvement with short fiction--writing it, editing it, speaking about it--than about most of the other writing I do.

Can writing short fiction "build a platform" for marketing novels? Maybe. It has certainly helped me get my novels published (though so far only by small presses). What it has done is given me the street cred to do a variety of other things related to career building: edit anthologies, obtain other writing assignments (non-fiction, marketing, etc.), and to support myself as a freelance writer while all the other writers who put "marketing value" and "name recognition" and "platform building" first are bitching about all the reasons why they can't earn a living as a freelance writer.

So, to all you short story writer-pretenders who are playing in my universe: Get out.

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