Tag Archives: reading

Is publishing short stories online a good idea?

Given the limited market today for short stories in print publications it would seem that online zines offer the short story writer a wealth of opportunities. E-zines pop up like mushrooms in all genres but think twice before posting your  precious work here there and everywhere.

It’s best to be picky about the sites you have your name associated with. There are sites where you can post your stuff without it being evaluated by an editor, or where other writers and/or readers vote for the best work each month  or so. I looked at a few of these but found a lot of my time was taken up reading work that wasn’t of interest to me or was not of publishable standard.

I recommend looking for zines that publish the kind of work you admire and check out the standard of presentation, the artwork and the public presence the site has on social media. Spend a couple of months  observing before attempting a submission.

Good zines will have an editorial process and won’t publish substandard work. A site that accepts anything and everything will hardly encourage good writing and always remember with each piece you publish you are building a public writing persona – a literary reputation that you need to safeguard if you are to be taken seriously.

Two online publishers I can recommend are Holdfast and Close2thebone. Holdfast publishes speculative fiction and accepted one of my stories but asked me to change the ending. I did this and had to agree it improved the story. The editing, presentation and artwork was very professional but I was quite surprised some months after publication to received a modest payment as a share of contributions to the issue. Now that’s the kind of site I like!

The other zine I like a lot, Close2thebone/Near to the Knuckle publishes fairly strong horror but it only posts clever, well-written stories, often with a psychological twist, not just grot and grue. I’ve had three stories published by them and while there is no payment, their presentation and artwork are great and it’s nice to feel that having been accepted more than once, your  style fits the zine and you are  likely to find a home there for other stories in the future.

So when you look for short story markets online, look for quality and excellence and a publisher that treats its contributors with respect. It’s better to hang on than to get published on any old site.

My latest story ‘Murder Me’ is published on Close2thebone. Feel free to check it out and have a look round the rest of the site while you are there.

 

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Running a giveaway competition

I just tried out another self-publishing experiment – the giveaway competition. This was organised through my publisher Feedaread. You post an extract which people are invited to read and then complete an entry form to win a free copy so it is very simple for people to do. You have to pay the cost of the prizes and postage and you choose how many copies you want to offer as prizes.I chose to run the competition for my new short story collection, Plotlands. I did quite a bit of social media advertising of the competition  over a few weeks as the entry period runs for a month. Problem is to reach people without boring them to death with constant bombardment so I tried to stagger posts/tweets etc between different media over time.I was interested to see that each time I posted something, entries resulted, though there wasn’t a huge number of entrants. I also got more views on the page I had created on Facebook specifically for the book and even a few purchases, though whether that was due to the competition or just due to word of mouth/responses to reviews buyers, I don’t know. I enjoyed monitoring the competition and finding out who had won, funnily enough it was won by someone I  know, so it was a good job I had nothing to do with the selection, which was done by Feedaread. So although I didn’t get a mega response it was a fun experience and made me feel more connected with potential readers. I’d definitely do it again and am planning to run a comp for my other short story collection in the near future.

Booktrailer fun

Well I’ve been silent on here for a bit but that’s due to lots of stuff going on with publishing and marketing my new book Plotlands,  plotlands-cover-2which is a collection of strange short stories set in Wales, and then of course everything stops for the build up to Christmas. I hope everyone had a great Christmas, mine was a good mix of meeting up with friends and family interspersed with days of quiet for rest and reflection (and tidying up of course). Even managed our usual trip out to Blackpool for fish and chips on Boxing Day.

Anyway on to the main business of the book trailer. This has been a new venture for me and has only been made possible by harnessing the techy skills of my brilliant son, Ted Fenlon and his modestly named Kraplaptop productions. He’s made other short music videos in the past and so I floated the idea of producing something promotional for Plotlands. It took quite a while for him to get the graphics right , using the book cover as the main image with accompanying rolling text and the music is his own composition and sounds suitably menacing and eerie.

I’m really pleased with the result and have been flashing it about on various social media sites – just a bit more fun than the usual book blurb. Unfortunately this page doesn’t support video files but if you’re interested you can find it on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoELiTy2qCA

Looking forward to a Happy New Year to writers and readers everywhere and much success in 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marketing, marketing

Well, it’s now several months since my first venture into self-publishing with  my short story collection Triple Death. Has it been worth it? Most of the copies sold so far have been print copies I have sold at writing venues and by word of mouth and to be honest, all the internet campaigns and online marketing I’ve done have not had much influence on online sales. I haven’t really gone down the path of paying for marketing agencies to promote my book. In comparison with my previous traditionally published book, I’ve actually made about the same amount of money because the royalty on the self-published book is much higher. And maybe because this book is a short story collection rather than a genre novel, it is less visible in the online marketplace.

I’ve also been told that it takes time to build up an online presence in the market and that when you have several books out, you are more likely to build up a following. I don’t know if this is true but time will tell. I have just published a second short story collection Plotlands which has sold out its first print order in two days. I plan to release a novel in the spring of 2017 but meanwhile Triple Death is available on kindle countdown for the next 24 hours at just 99p before reverting to its original price of £2.39.img336quarter

The Museum of You and some thoughts on possessions

I’ve been reading Carys Bray’s book The Museum of You and it made me think about the relevance of possessions in our  lives today.

Before industrialisation, possessions were few and most people had no need of keys and locks but now, because our economies are driven by production and consumption we amass hundreds? thousands? of objects in our lifetimes. Do they actually mean that much to us?

I occasionally sell off a prized doll from my collection but the loss of the loved object is soon forgotten in the desire to acquire something else. At the end of the day, how many of my possessions, things I think express who I am, will be valued and kept by my family?

Every weekend at the house clearance stalls at Prestatyn car boot sale I see the concrete evidence of people’s lives chucked on the ground for bargain hunters to scavenge. It’s not just the everyday objects like furniture and cooking utensils but their hobbies and interests are laid bare (books, garden tools, photography equipment, knitting wools and embroidery items etc. etc. etc) and quite often treasured birthday and Christmas cards, family photographs, even letters and bank  statements. I’ve even seen photo albums containing locks of baby hair, all carefully saved by someone  who never dreamed where they would end up.

And the sight of these pathetic heaps brings home the realisation of the sheer mass of stuff with which we are cluttering our planet. While half the people in the world starve, the rest of us waste resources on stuff that mostly has no functional value whatsoever.

The other thing Bray’s book made me think about is the way artefacts are treasured as records of history. In The Museum of You Clover mistakenly catalogues items in her museum collection as belonging to her mother or having been bought for her by her mother because that is what she wants them to be. It’s a jog to the mind that our knowledge of the past is only an interpretation of relics, not a statement of facts.

History is perhaps, like our passion for possessions, a way of  making ourselves feel important, when it is arguable that our only significance is the danger we bring to the rest of the ecosystem in which we live.

 

Who Needs an Agent?

It’s about six weeks now since I parted company with my agent. My original agent left for another agency and didn’t take me with her as she hadn’t managed to sell my work. Despite several near misses, I got the impression that my books didn’t quite fit the mass market appeal that agents and publishers are looking for.

Obviously agents are only going to deal with fairly large scale publishing houses and because I was under contract to the agency, I couldn’t submit to anyone else. All that’s changed now as once set free, I plunged into a frenzy of submissions which has already resulted in two short story acceptances and a shortlisted entry for a competition  http://www.ouenpress.com/9.html. The novels have gone out to a variety of smaller publishers so I’ve got my fingers crossed there.

However, I do miss my agent, mainly for her unwavering support in the face of rejections. Her constant encouragement and belief in my writing kept  me going when I felt like throwing in the towel. She also put in a good deal of unpaid work reading and suggesting edits to my manuscripts and I learned a good deal about tailoring my work during the time I was with her.

So, even though I’m enjoying the freedom at the moment, especially being able to write whatever I like in whatever genre and offer it to a variety of publishers without being typecast, I think I may eventually look for another agent. I’m hoping to find joint representation for an autobiography I’m currently ghostwriting and once that’s finished I’ll be taking stock and deciding which road to take next – maybe even dipping a toe into self-publishing waters though that’s something I’ve been afraid to tackle so far.

When is a short story collection not a collection?

When is a group of short stories a collection? I have the honour of being on the shortlisting panel for the Edge Hill University Short Story Collection Prize which is given annually for a published single author short story collection. After several years I still haven’t come to terms with the question of whether a book of short stories should be bound together by something more than the cover: should there be some kind of joining thread or theme, other than the fact that they have all been written by the same person?

Collections by established writers often consist of a gathering up of various stories which have been published in magazines and anthologies, or which have won prizes. In some cases this leads to stories, which work perfectly well as stand alone pieces, becoming tediously repetitive when put together in a collection due to the author’s conscious or unconscious frequent use of similar settings or motifs.

I’m not talking here about the recurrent themes that run through every writer’s work. Such themes  and devices are expected and pleasurable factors which enable the reader to identify the writer’s voice but what pokes you in the eye with some collections is the overuse of settings and situations. For example, in one collection I read, 7 out of 10 stories were about  lesbian couples with a dog, living in virtually identical domestic settings. Published singly, this would not be noticed, perhaps even by the author him/herself but put them  all together and by the time you get halfway through the book, you are becoming bored with the lack of freshness, no matter how good the individual stories.

On the other hand, maybe themed collections too can be repetitive. It’s difficult to find fresh angles on a specific theme to give surprise and delight to the reader. Having to write a dozen stories on a single theme such as the sea, can also constrain the writer, with the result that such ‘commissioned’ stories may not be as good as their best work which comes from their own creative direction.

Sometimes short story collections are so tightly themed and interlinked that they might be read as novels so that further questions arise as to whether they should be considered collections at all.

Personally I used to feel that lumping together a lot of discrete stories doesn’t constitute a collection but I’m beginning to change my mind. It’s a different matter when the works of a dead author are collected together and I can see that it is helpful to the reader who admires a specific writer (dead or alive) to be able to access their work in one or two volumes rather than having to do extensive research to track single texts down. But I still have a love affair with theme; still feel that handled well, a themed collection makes so much more of a satisfying whole.