One of the cool things about getting smaller works, like poetry and short stories, published is that they are considered small potatoes. The publisher gets one-time rights to print (or copy and paste) your work in their work, and then the rights revert right back to the author, which means the author can do anything she wants with it.
Trouble with this is, no magazine wants to publish something that has already been published somewhere else. They want to be the first ones to publish your work. So, after that manuscript has been published, it’s essentially useless.
Unless, as I recently discovered, you self-publish it as an e-book. I found Smashwords quite some time ago, and was very intrigued with their business model. If you’re unfamiliar, I suggest you go check them out. I decided to self-publish my short story Two Steps Forward, since it was published in a print journal late last year. After all, no one else is going to publish it, and it’s short enough I figured it would be a good one to cut my e-book formatting teeth on. I read the Smashwords style guide, which was amazing detailed and full of information, but also made me inordinately grateful I wasn’t trying to format a science textbook for self e-publishing.
After a few hours, I had my first e-book. Yes, it’s 3 pages long, but they still call it an e-book. I’m not the only to put their short stories on there, so I figure it’s fair. If you’re a Kindler, as I recently am, you can find it here. Hell, even if you’re not, you can just download the HTML. I have no way of knowing how many people bought the first issue of Line Zero, where this short story first appeared, and I have even less way of knowing how many of those people read my story, but I do know that in less than 48 hours, I’ve had just shy of 1o0 people download my free short story to their e-reading devices, and only two of them are people I know. I’ve also already gotten one four-star review. All with very minimal tweeting and facebook promotion.
I made this one free, since it’s my first crack at it, and it’s already been published in print. You can bet your last dollar that I will definitely be adding more of my own published works to Smashwords. If I can get 92 downloads in two days, I bet I could probably charge 99 cents for my next work and at least make $20. And that will be the first time I get paid as a writer. Hello, 2011.
Unless, of course, you count my professional life.