Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Self-Publishing, E-Readers, and Markets That Don't Pay (Well)

I recently made the decision to self-publish my two short horror stories "Melon Heads" and "I am the Wendigo" on (for the Kindle) and Smashwords (for the other platforms).  "Melon Heads" is a piece I haven't been able to sell anywhere else, but "I am the Wendigo" was my first fiction sale back in 2006-2007.

(A now-defunct webzine called Chimaera Serials paid $20 for it. CS didn't last long after it published the story and after a couple of years, the website vanished entirely.)

I picked "Melon Heads" to be fodder for my self-publishing experiment because it's among my best stories, but I haven't yet found a publisher willing to pay professional or semi-professional rates.  "Wendigo" has a different problem--there aren't very many markets for horror reprints, at least those that pay much.

In the past, I might have been willing to submit to a market offering a low rate or even for free simply to get exposure.  However, the Internet and the rise of e-readers has changed that.  I could sell certain rights to these stories for a one-time payment of $5, $10, or $20, or I could put them on an e-reader.  My friend Jeff Baker has posted a few stories to Amazon and Smashwords and he's made more money than if he'd sold them to many lower-paying markets.

If this is representative of any kind of trend, it bodes ill for the lowest-paying markets. 

However, self-publishing short stories has its pitfalls like self-publishing a novel does.  I need to create my own cover--a recent article I read attributed one reason self-published books fail is bad cover art. The problem is, good cover art costs money. I doubt I'm going to make a whole lot of money once I put them online, at least in the short run, so spending a lot on cover art defeats the whole purpose. There's also the matter of editing, which I think my stuff won't have a problem with given how many times I've had friends and members of my writing group pick over it. And then there's formatting them properly for e-readers. I've downloaded the free e-publishing software Calibre, which should help me format the stories, but I haven't actually started using it yet.

That's a ray of hope for the lower-paying fiction markets. It's a lot easier to simply write and polish a story and submit it than to self-publish, even if the monetary returns are higher. After all, one's time has value. However, even if self-publishing short fiction for the e-reader market doesn't obliterate markets offering only a token payment or exposure, it will certainly make life more difficult for them.


  1. This is quite the useful article. Thanks for this information. I hope to put it to good use in the future.

  2. Thanks. Just remember that self-publishing is a major larger time commitment, even in an electronic age. And then there's the matter of paying more for cover art than you actually get for the story.

  3. Good luck and let me know how this pans out! I have a few ideas for ePublishing myself!