Sunday, July 29, 2007

A New Age for Short Fiction? –Part 4 -- by Larry D. Sweazy

Are there opportunities for the professional short story writer on the Internet?

First let’s decide what the definition of a professional writer is. Simply, it’s a writer who gets paid professional rates for their short stories. In today’s world, that translates to 4 to 6 cents a word. A 5000 word short story will bring $300.00. Whether or not that’s a fair wage is another discussion, but it is obvious that making a living by writing short stories is just about out of the question. There are few writers, like Ed Hoch, doing so—but they are rare.

I went to and searched for electronic markets that paid a professional rate. I searched the mystery genre, and the results were 5 hits--3 of those markets were marketed Temporarily Closed. So there were 2 professional markets listed. On the entire Internet there were 2 open markets that paid professional rates for mystery short stories. It also listed secondary markets. There were 6. 1 was closed. So for a total, there were 7 potential professional paying markets.

I expanded the search to “any genre” and came up with 28 markets with 7 closed—so the net result was 21 markets. Not a lot of markets to chose from, and assuredly, the competition is fierce.

I have no way of knowing whether or not these numbers reflect an improvement or a decline from the past, I haven’t been tracking markets since the Internet proliferated. I can only hope that paying markets are increasing. But with every else on the Internet, why should you pay for something when you can get it for free (minus the monthly cost for your Internet service)? The playing field is not level, but that is the double-edge sword of the Digital Age.

To see if these numbers from Duotrope held up, I went to Story Pilot is primarily a market listing for sci/fi and horror, but I’m looking for professional paying online markets, not genre-specific markets. The results of that search yielded 11 results.

Now, what I didn’t include in this equation are programs like Amazon Shorts. They pay. But they don’t pay up front, and they don’t pay per word. It’s a different model. One I’ll talk about in an upcoming post since I have stories on Amazon Shorts.

To be fair, I did another search on Duotrope. This time my criteria was professional rates, any genre, any medium (print, electronic, etc.). That search resulted in 113 hits, with nearly 30 closed or temporarily closed. 70 paying markets. OK, that’s not bad. But the point of this discussion at this point is Internet-related. I am very interested in how the online media has affected print media. I think it is obvious, but short story writers the number suggest that there are more professional paying print markets than online markets.

Are there more markets than what I have found? Sure there are. But my guess there aren’t many more that pay professional rates.

Are there opportunities on the Internet? Yes--though few and far between. But these numbers point to what we all know to be true: If you publish your work on the Internet, you’re probably not going to get paid for it.

And that’s next week’s topic: Is writing for free beneficial to a long-term writing career?

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