So this project is a story in itself. Are you sitting comfortably?
Back in September, I wrote a short story I was very proud of. People say you can’t do Elves any more without it being derivative, so I attempted to do something that wasn’t. What I ended up with was something I think is elfpunk.
I love that story. All too often as a writer, the finished product seems less than what we had in mind, but this story really felt like I was punching above my weight. The mix of re-envisioned cliché, witty dialogue and violence resulted in a story that I felt stamped out who I was as a writer.
And whilst (like anything) these things are subjective, people I showed the story to, thought it was very good.
The problem comes when you try and place a story like that in a genre publication. It felt like everywhere I looked, submission guidelines indicated there would be a problem with the level of profanity, or the use of first person narrative, or even the use of an elf. Now don’t get me wrong, publications have every right to set submission guidelines and I accept that even if the story is good, it may not be right for them. It’s hard enough to get a story placed as it is, one that pushes against convention is even harder.
All this wouldn’t be an issue – It’s hard for any writer to get their breaks – if it wasn’t for the fact that it was affecting my novel writing. You see, deep down it was feeding my doubt. If I couldn’t sell a short story, what luck would I have with a full-blown novel?
I’d try and ignore it, but it continued to eat away at me. I was discussing this with friends and told them I was even tempted to junk it so it could no longer have any megative effect on me. How much would I get for it if I did sell, they asked me. I dunno, I replied, maybe a hundred dollars if it got in one of the good publications, most likely nothing.
And then they reminded me that I built up an extremely successful website in the past so perhaps knew a little about online marketing.
And so an idea was born.
Whilst I’m a huge fan of editors, the idea was to put it up on the website and then promote the hell out of it. I know some people find the level that some authors go to self-promote slightly obscene, but this would probably put them in the shade.
Now when you consider the old site did over three hundred thousand page views a day, and this one did just eight yesterday, you can see this is a mountain to climb. But I built the old site up to that with no more expenditure than a couple of stamps. I like the idea of promoting this story in a different type of way. I’m still going to submit other stories to publications (this isn’t me rejecting genre publications), but for this one I think it needs something a little different.
I’m sure there will be people who hate it as much as those that love it, but the trick isn’t to try and make it people’s favourite story but one they actually read and discuss.
It’s been through the last few readers and I’m pretty satisfied with it, but now the question is: Do I just put it up on the website? Do I do a free ebook? Maybe a podcast? Should those be all at once or drip feed the extra features? These are all things I’m still deciding.
So what do you think? Are free online shorts a way to publicise yourself as a writer? Or do you think that the ever shrink markets for short fiction still presents the best platform?