Friday, July 27, 2012


At a recent writers' meeting I was asked how many stories I'd written.  Since the questioner was a novelist I assumed that he wanted to know the total number so I said, "Just under five hundred, but only five of those were novels."  I was startled by his gasp of astonishment and quickly amended what I said and tried to explain.

You see, a writer writes, and writes, and writes.  Much of a writer's production is cast aside as the idea fails to coalese into a story or, if it survives the initial blush of creativity, then during the long editing process.  For each five thousand word short story perhaps ten or twelve thousand words have been considered, tried, written, found wanting, and cut out.  A writer should not count those words any more than a woodworker should consider their shavings or a mason the shards of brick left behind.

Which leaves us with those works that reach what the writer considers completion.  Only a few of the completed stories are ever accepted and published, the rest doomed for the trunk or to cycle through editorial in boxes forever.
Conversations with other known writers indicate that any lifetime sales ratio above 0.25 should be considered a raving success!  My own ratio is much lover than that (0.20) as indicated in the first paragraph: of the five hundred I've sold only one hundred.

Except that number's misleading as well since any published (and retained rights) story can be resold by the writer to other markets such as foreign and domestic press, audio books, podcasts, etc.  Today, a writer can even put their works out in eBook form and produce a modest, but continuing income.

So the proper question that should have been asked is: "Of all the stories how many saw first publication?"  Which would also produce a misleading answer since writers sometimes selll stories that never see print.

But that's the subject of another blog.

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