Tuesday, February 8, 2011

To trunk, or not to trunk... or, just to self-publish

I've got a pile of rejected stories that are starting to run out of markets, and so I'm starting to wonder... should I just start trunking these things?

There are some stories I've written that I feel will never make it. Not that they're bad; just that they're not fit for what most commercial magazines are looking for. They're too strange, too surreal, too vulgar, too something and not enough something else. The tired refrain that magazines "have no formula for fiction" is a fiction itself: every magazine wants some particular something, and there are going to be good stories that don't fit into their criteria no matter how good they are on their own.


The best kind of trunk...
is one that is going someplace.
Still, trunking seems wrong. I owe it to these stories to keep sending them out. The thing that really gums me up is the lack of markets. There are certain places I just wouldn't want to see my work published; and, once you get low enough on the pay scale at Duotrope ("none to token," or thereabouts) you start wondering: "What am I thinking?"

What I'm thinking now, is, it's time to start investigating e-publishing more. Realistically, I won't actually put out any e-books any time soon, but I think I'm going to make it into a goal for 2011: publish, something, electronically.

My biggest hang-up is cover art. I'm pretty sure I couldn't get myself to self-publish anything I wasn't confident I could create good, cheap (preferably free) cover art for. This rules out basically any fantasy story, which is a huge problem since it is always the fantasy stories I run out of good markets for. But, on the other hand, I can envision really great, simple art - i.e., photographs I can take myself or (hopefully) coerce my professional photographer buddies to take for me - for most of my science fiction stories... just, that, they're not in the trunk yet. If only I was Annie Bellet, and could devise the most fabulous covers...

What a conundrum. The other beef I've got with this strategy is that I don't want to e-book something just because it didn't sell anywhere. What kind of a blurb is that? "No editors wanted this, so please buy it for your e-reader." Yikes.

Ultimately, I just can't abide the trunk. Trunks are for pirates and crusty sea bottoms; they're not for my writing and they don't belong in my DropBox folder. Avast, ye scurrilous knaves! I've got a new goal for 2011, it seems...

Or, maybe, at least. Maybe I'll just end up investing in a big chest. Most of the things I write are not true, so you really shouldn't trust all this jibber-jabber.



  1. A couple of points.

    1. You can get good, cheap pictures for cover art at dreamstime.com. The picture for "Dr. Balthasar's House" cost me $1, and I've used it twice now for covers, though no one wouldn't know that. So it's not that expensive. I'm not saying my cover art is all that great -- some are good, some aren't -- but you can do it pretty cheap. (You have PowerPoint or Keynote, don't you?) Just get a good image, use big words in a clear font with colors that stand out.

    2. Don't worry if the story has been rejected. Who cares? What does that mean other than one reader didn't think it would fit into a particular magazine?

    I'm not confident with all the stories I put up, but you have to dare to be bad. Don't trust yourself when it comes to your stories. Just proofread them, put them up, and see what happens.

    And really, what's the WORST that can happen? They don't sell, or maybe a bad reviews (though I've noted that most bad reviews are given only to popular books that are selling anyway).

    Gird up your loins man, and join the club.

    And if you need any help, drop me a line -- darkelms@gmail.com

  2. I meant help with covers, PowerPoint (or Keynote), or formatting. Not with writing.

  3. I was just about to e-mail you and ask you to write a few serials for me. Damn.

    But, yeah, the "cheap" part was thinking about stock photography. There are some things I just CAN'T get a picture of, and that I would require to publish certain stories with the correct image. In any case, I'll let you know how it goes.

  4. How about this. Why don't you give me a story you'd like to epublish that you're SURE you can't find an image for and let me read it and see what I can come up with.

    If it's a deal, you know where to send it.

  5. Oh, just go for it. It'll be fun. I'm having a wonderful time now that I've got over the newthingitis. As for cover art? Eh. Just have a broad definition of visual metaphor, then get a pro to make any cover art that you intend to charge 4.99 or more for (i.e. 10 story collections). It's a good way to practice your GIMP/Photoshop skillz.

  6. I've only trunked one story, and that wasn't because I ran out of markets but because I decided it was more like an email forward than a story (something that was confirmed by a few editors) but it was an email forward I wouldn't have felt proud of starting--not that I didn't consider it.

    I haven't encountered your dilemma--yet--but I wish you luck with it. One thing to think about: is there much difference between a "none to token" payscale market and epubing only to find out it's not making any money? Not saying there's a right answer, but food for thought.

  7. Eileen: I've definitely thought about that. Effectively, if I make even five dollars from a sale to a token market, that's 500/70 = a little more than seven sales of the story as an epub (assuming, y'know, a bunch of stuff). So, how long does it take to make those seven sales? And what kind of exposure am I missing out on that I would receive if the readers of said token-paying-market read my story and browsed my site?

    I've actually got a lot of thoughts about all this, the most important probably being that question of exposure, but also, as I've come to think lately, of proper self-editing (or self-censure). I'll probably collect thems thinkies into a post in the next few days.

    And thanks for the advice, David! It's very helpful to have folks around who are more adventurous than I am. It allows me to farm your wisdom (in a very genial, friendly way). When I talk about e-pubbing, I'm basically just blowing air (though I do enjoy blowing air, and it is, as least, well-reasoned air [I think]).