Since the jury is still out on whether or not the Internet is good for the “common” reader, let’s turn our attention to writers.
In the old days (before the Internet), it was a little more difficult and costly to find a market that was perfect for our short stories. There were, of course, and still are, The Writer’s Handbook, the Writer’s Market, and the LMP (Literary Market Place). Huge, expensive tomes, but necessary to survive. Coupled with the smaller Scavenger’s and Gila Queen and others, markets were there for the submitting, but they had to be found.
Once the story was ready to go, it meant a trip to the post office, and perhaps, to Kinkos for copies. Or, if you were like me, you had your own postage meter, and stuck the 9x12 envelope out for the mailman. There were costs involved. Paper, envelopes, postage to and from the publication of choice, gas to the post office, and those market guides weren’t cheap. There was a financial commitment to writing, as well as the normal time constraints trying to work and write while living.
I have a stack of rejection slips from that period, over 200, and I would hate to add up the money I spent for that collection. But it was worth it—it the only way to pay our dues at the time. For you new Internet kids, you can disregard this part of the discussion—it’s just an old fogey bitching about walking 27 miles to school in 3 feet of snow.
Anyway, you get my point. Things were different. It hasn’t been that long ago, but they were different. Way different.
Finding a market now takes about 2 seconds. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but not much of one. Web sites like www.duotrope.com, www.storypilot.com, and www.ralan.com have made life much easier for the short story writer in 2007. You can filter your search criteria on these sites for your specific genre and pay rates, Pro all the down to “for the love of it”. Is this an improvement? No question. Yes.
Not only that, you can go to the Web site that publishes short stories, and on most, read some stories they’ve already accepted and get a feel for the market. Instead of sending a request for submission guidelines with a SASE (that took forever to come back), submission guidelines are now posted on most Web sites. For the upper tier print magazines, I still recommend you go buy a copy or two, or subscribe, before submitting. But if you want to submit to Mysterical-E, the past issues are posted on the Web site. Is this better? Again, yes.
So the market search is better for us. What about submitting? You got it. For the most part the day of envelope is over. Publications want electronic submissions. No trudging through a blizzard to the post office, no paper cuts, and no need for that postage meter. Send them a Word document with a click or two, and Bam! you’re done.
All of this can be had for the reasonable price of your monthly Internet service. Which, of course, costs me as much or more on an annual basis than all my writing materials of the Golden Age did. So there is still a cost for those markets and the ability to send out your short stories. Nothing is free. It’s just changed.
So is the physical act of finding a market and submitting a short story easier now. Yes. Better for the writer? I think so. But we’re not done with this discussion yet.
Next week we’ll look at specific markets and what it takes to be a professional writer in the New Age for Short Fiction.
Until then, keep writing.