Friday, October 26, 2012

The Short Life

I know more than a few novelists, some of whom have a decent income and a depressingly smaller number who have a fabulous income.  Good for them say I; they should garner rewards for their specical gift of being dedicated to the long form and being rather prolix. Would that my own efforts were among them, but I do not envy their success (well, maybe a little).  I am reconciled to the fact that I am a short fiction writer.

Writing short fiction has proven to be a labor of love and dedication that produces scant rewards that involves beating your fingers (f not your head) against the keyboard in hopes of producing a  quickly forgotten, ephemeral product. It is also learning to deal with more rejection and finding the fortitude to resubmit again and again.  A short fiction writer spends years recycling rejected stories through ever less-rewarding markets, e-magazines, and, finally and distressingly, into freebie anthologies in the hope that someone, somewhere will hear your voice. Sadly many of stores never manage to find a home and must languish forever unread in the writer's midden.

As if rejection were not bad enough, the short fiction writer must fight back a rising tide of the aspiring writers, all anxious to make their mark, and all of whom are competing for the limited attention of the few remaining professional-level short fiction editors, and, finally and distressingly, into freebie anthologies in the hope that someone, somewhere will hear your voice.

The financial rewards of a short fiction career are dismal.  Let us assume that a writer can sell a minimum of ten thousand salable words per month and can maintain at that pace for a full year.  To achieve that many sales the writer has to complete many un-salable pieces just to sell just ten thousand words.  Moreover, a short fiction writer must count the words in their successive drafts, editor's suggested changes and, galleys, not to mention checking writerly business matters.

Let's make a modest estimate that our short fiction writer is a word-crunching machine who can produce thirty thousand finished (i.e. fully edited) words per month. That's three hundred and sixty thousand words per year - the length of a short fantasy novel!  For this Herculean effort the fantastically productive writer sells just ten thousand words a month at an average rate of $0.05 per word.  That means that pounding out short stories for a full year will produce only six thousand dollars.

That meagre income is quickly consumed if the writer has to occasionally travel to a con, spend a night or two in a hotel, and eat out instead of maintaining their writing pace.  A writer can get a free pass at the cons if they are successful, but only if they are willing to publicly bullshit for an hour or two on forums.  This is always in the hope that their presence might attract a new reader or two.  Maybe, if a writer has a lot of published stories, have wheedled themself into enough anthologies, and gotten an award or two, they might, just might, occasionally get a request for an autograph.  As I said at the outset: Writing short fiction is a labor of love.

Just don't do it for the money.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for reading my blog!