I Am a Short Story Whore

By | July 8, 2007 | 10 Comments

They can lock me in a hotel room and force me to Blog for food in order to shift more units of my book, but they can’t stop me from selling my words to other people. I am unstoppable.

In other words, I sold a short story yesterday to GUD Magazine. It’s called closer in my heart to thee; I don’t yet know what issue it would appear in or any of that. Hell, I’m still waiting on the contract, so this might be yet another alcohol-induced fever dream. I love selling stories, not just because of the (minimal) money they generate, but just because it means someone read something I wrote and thought it worth some time and effort, and now people might actually read it.

The money really rarely factors into my decision to submit to a magazine or other market–I will literally sell anyone a story. I am a short story whore. Though I do restrict my submissions to paying markets; I mean, you have to offer me something. Papa’s got booze to buy, and all that. But if you think about the money too hard, you realize that selling short stories is just a ridiculously difficult way to earn money.

I kind of remember reading that some famous author–maybe Vonnegut, maybe Asimov–once made a living by selling off 10-20 shorts a year back in The Day. In this phantom essay, which I cannot recall with any accuracy and which I may have made up wholesale in my mind, the author was lamenting how that could no longer be accomplished. Since I’ve never made more than a few hundred bucks for a short story, I can see how that works. I mean, even if you make an eye-popping amount for every story you sell, your chances of selling 20 a year are slim.

Hell, the first short I ever sold—Glad and Big, to a defunct magazine called Aberrations—netted me a princely $7.50. If I sold 20 at that level, I’d have enough for a modest dinner in Manhattan.

Still, I love short stories. I write one a month as an exercise, penning them longhand in a notebook I carry with me at all times. Most of these stories suck, usually because it’s the end of the month and I scrawl out some garbage ending at 11:59 because I have a low-level OCD problem and I must finish a story a month. I tell myself I can always go back and revise the damn thing, but I’m not sure I’ve ever actually done that. Cannibalized a bad-ending story for a new one, yes—but gone back and revised? I doubt it.

I think the one-a-month exercise has value. It forces me to keep putting ideas on the page, it forces me to end things instead of leaving them wide-open for months, getting stale. Of course, it’s also generating a lot of really bad shorts, but on the other hand I’ve written a few I think are good enough to show, and a few of those have sold, so it can’t all be a waste of time.

GUD Magazine’s got a weird payment plan; they pay a minimum for the story up front and then you supposedly get a share of every issue that sells once they satisfy their printing and shipping costs. In other words, you get a tiny minimum for the story and will probably never see another dime. That’s okay–I knew this when I submitted, and in theory it might even work out.

Anyway, back to knocking softly on the walls looking for hollow spots. Someone slipped some packets of tuna under the door yesterday, and I have a sinking feeling this is my monthly food ration. I’ve noticed that when I blog more, I get more tuna, so I might try posting some gibberish later and see what happens.

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10 Comments

  • Muchos kudos on the sale, buddy.

  • jsomers says:

    Hey Frank,

    Thanks! Lord knows if GUD has any readership at all, but at least you and I know it’s there.

    L
    J

  • And at least they pay.

  • Diana says:

    Congratulations! Even with the looming sensational success of TEC, this is exciting!

  • jsomers says:

    Hi Diana!

    Thanks! I always get excited when I sell anything. When I was a kid I got a joke printed in Highlights for Children and I still remember that day. Heck, I still have the issue!

    Thanks for checking the blog out!

    L
    J

  • Caren says:

    but did highlights pay you for said joke? and did your parents let you keep the money, or put it into the so-called “college fund”?

  • jsomers says:

    I got paid in CONTRIBUTOR’S COPIES, which just goes to show your heart gets broken way earlier in these modern times. Actually, I should say I got paid in CONTRIBUTOR COPY, since I only got one extra aside from the one that came as part of our subscription.

    And that college fund was a rip off. By the time I made it to college there was just a few buttons and a big red spider left in there, and I had to go work study. I was obviously meant for a life of ease and vastness, and this middle-class striving is killing me.

  • Hope the fever dream hasn’t passed you yet. ;) I emailed you about payment a few days ago–hopefully you can get back to me. That will go out ASAP; and then a contributor copy as soon as things get printed, of course. You’re appearing in Issue 2, Spring 2008 (our third issue), which we’ve started posting some teaser cover art for.

    And since people are asking–no, not that many people are reading GUD yet. We’re doing our best, though. A post about that here (partially in response to some hullabaloo Warren Ellis started re: the decline and fall of “the big three”):

    http://www.gudmagazine.com/blog/archive/2007/10/28/the-life-and-times-of-a-startup-magazine/

  • jsomers says:

    KF,

    Thanks for the note–the fever continues, don’t worry. I didn’t see an email from you; I had some spam list issues. I’ll email you privately about that though.

    Can’t wait to see GUD 2!

    L
    J

  • email received and responded to. :) Thanks!

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