Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I have no witty title for this question about a short story

The writers' centre in my city last year shortlisted and highly commended a short story I submitted. Delighted, I sent it to a magazine hoping for publication.

They sent back a polite rejection explaining why they didn't want it. I was flattered they sent back such a lengthy rejection, but, still, I wasn't so happy at the time.

Now, the writers' centre has emailed asking for permission to print the story in their monthly publication that is in essence a newsletter.

Should I do it? Would this even be considered a publishing credit? Would it make it impossible to sell the story anywhere else?

I take rejection hard and wasn't really rushing to try to place the story elsewhere anyway. Should I take this for the compliment it is and just say yes, or should I try harder to place it somewhere potentially more prominent?

If this is the only short story you're ever going to write, then by all means hold out for placement in the publication you're dreaming of. If not, let them publish it - yes, it's a writing credit, and it's also a good experience to have. And it will only make the story impossible to publish elsewhere if you give them exclusive world rights - which you wouldn't do.

But I have to break it to you: short stories don't have that many publication outlets, and they have not many more readers. (I'm talking about the 'vanilla' world here - what I say doesn't apply to SF/fantasy/romance.) Short stories are, in business terms, a means to an end. They give you writing practice, they may get you some attention, perhaps a little bit of money. But they shouldn't be your sole focus, unless you want to spend your life being disappointed that book publishers tend to not be interested in them any more (with some exceptions, like Scribe and Black Inc). So see this as a chance to have an experience and get yourself out there, and kvetch about it no more.


Anonymous said...

No more kvetching for me. I'll submit it right away.

I <3 Agent Sydney.

Anonymous said...

Not contradicting Agent Sydney's advice, but just as an aside in defence of the short story - publishers have become more interested in them in the last few years. This article lists some examples:

Some published by little presses, but others by the big guns (Nam Le through Penguin, Karen Hitchcock through Pan). So it's not a hopeless pursuit! Prizes and publication in the smaller literary mags seems to be the way to establish your credentials. (Being young and marketable doesn't hurt, either...)