Sunday, December 5, 2010

Short Subjects

As I'm working on this blog post at the local Starbucks, I find it ironic that I used to come to this same Starbucks not too long ago when I needed to escape the internet and get writing done. Now I've canceled the internet at home and Starbucks has made their internet free and here we here, the world keeps turning. One of the things I should be working on is the next post for The Flash Fiction Offensive but I just can't get my ass in gear for it. They've been very good to me and they deserve better, but it's been a rough week for me personally and, well, I'm starting to remember why I got out of the fiction editing game back when. This, along with the impending flash fiction challenge here at DSD, along with some interesting news at the Mulholland Books site has me thinking about the future of short fiction on the web.

Mulholland has already made a great name for themselves in the crime fiction community before their first title even releases. Part of this is the high caliber of projects they've announced including work from some of my favorite writers like Duane Swierczynski, Lawrence Block, and Charlie Huston. But they've also set themselves up as a community forum for all things crime fiction related. The core of this community has been thoughtful essays ranging in subject from the definition of noir fiction to a discussion of human rights in Europe. These essays are passed around through blogs and Twitter and Facebook and has other authors, myself included, salivating at the thought of being invited to submit one. Along with these essays they've also posted the occasional short story.

Now they've made the move to expand this section and it's the announcement that has me thinking about the future of short fiction. Since my beginnings in the online short fiction world I've been convinced that the only way for crime fiction to truly offer a major paying online alternative to Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines was to have an journal associated with a publisher. You see this in science fiction to various degrees with Subterranean Press and Tor.comand back around the days of the first Internet explosion in 2001 Random House sponsored an online journal called Bold Type. But there's never been anything like it for crime fiction. Until now. Mulholland has teamed up with Popcorn Fiction, a short story site originally created to promote the short fiction of screenwriters and speed their translation to the big screen. I would assume that with the new arrangement, we will see more Mulholland contributors in addition to screenwriters.

On one hand this is great. More new short fiction from great writers and the potential for some long-overdue professional recognition of online short fiction. But as of right now, there doesn't seem to be any plans to open the site for submissions beyond screenwriters and Mulholland authors. This leaves me room to plot. I'd like to see another site step up and offer an original fiction section open to submissions from all writers. The two publishers that pop immediately to mind are Minotaur Books--as their sister publisher runs the previously mentioned Tyrus Books because they've exhibited a forward-thinking strategy willing to explore non-traditional publicity solutions.

It would seem to make quite a bit of sense for the publisher. Even paying a professional rate of .05 to .10 a word for a few short stories a month would get them wonderful, targeted exposure for less than the cost of a full page ad in a major newspaper or magazine. And as we've all seen, the online fiction community is very loyal and would be more likely to buy books from a publisher they saw as a contributor to the larger community rather than a giant soulless entity.

What are your thoughts. As a writer, would you like to see more of these publisher-backed short fiction outlets pop up. And for the readers out there: If a publisher back a short fiction site you were fond of, would that inspire you to buy more of their books?


Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Thanks for the info. As both a reader and writer, my answer is yes to both questions. I love short fiction, always have and always will.

sandra seamans said...

Popcorn Fiction has opened to general submissions, Bryon. What disappointed me was with Mulholland backing them,it's still a non-paying market. Which gives readers and writers the impression that short stories are worthless.

I'm all for presses having online zines and there are a lot of small presses doing this, but when you've got the bigs ones who can afford to pay, remaining non-paying markets, well, it just bites. You'd think they could at least pay the minimum of $25 so the stories could be submitted for the various mystery awards out there. Correct me if I'm wrong, but they are a MWA approved market aren't they?

Okay, mini-rant done. Feel free to delete the rant if you think it's offensive.

derek haas said...

Hey Bryon and Sandra... actually, we've always paid for stories at Popcorn Fiction. I just set the price at $20 a story because it was coming out of my pocket up until a month ago, and because I mostly published screenwriters I already knew who weren't writing for the money. Like you guys, I think it is important that writers get paid, even if it is nominal. Sandra... what is this minimum $25 you mentioned? Perhaps I can get Mulholland to bump the payment per story up to the minimum.

Bryon Quertermous said...

Derek, thanks for popping by. The $25 is the minimum payment amount a story can receive to count toward the membership requirements of Mystery Writers of America.

Sandra, thanks for the info and the commentary.

sandra seamans said...

Hi Derek, I read through the guidelines but couldn't find any mention of payment there or in the contract agreement, that's why I assumed it was a non-paying market. If you're paying, that's great!

The $25 minimum is what the Mystery Writers of America set for payment for stories to be considered for an Edgar Award. I'm not sure, but I believe that is the minimum payment for all the professional organizations and their awards. I think (didn't take time to check ) Mulholland's parent company is already on the approved list for the MWA, so it would be in their interest to make sure their stories could be nominated.

derek haas said...

Okay, cool. I'm going to get them to boost it up to $25 and put it on the website.