by Simon Wood
Today TKZ is thrilled to welcome Simon Wood, a darn good writer who I was fortunate enough to tour with last summer (I can still recite his "one time I literally ran into an assassin" story by heart). He shares a unique take on what we've been discussing quite a bit lately, creative ways for authors to earn a living in the digital age.
The writing world is an odd industry, but no different from any other. I think writers sometimes forget that our stories are commodities. A writer’s body of work doesn’t lose its value. Therefore, stories should be worked for all they're worth.
I didn’t look at my work this way until I heard science fiction and fantasy legend Gene Wolfe speak at a convention a few years ago where he was the guest of honor. He was talking about how he's always made his stories work for him. A good story doesn’t have to end its life at its first printing. Like Halley’s Comet, it can keep coming back again and again for the enjoyment of a new audience. He'd calculated how much some of his stories had earned for him. A number of his stories had earned several dollars per word. Admittedly, it had taken a couple of decades to do that. Nevertheless, that was pretty amazing.
This was quite a revelation to me. I took to heart what Gene had said. I’d had a handful of stories published so far, most earning a couple of cents per word on average. I looked at my body of work and found ways of getting my stories published and re-published. Stories I sold to print markets I resold to webzines. I looked to foreign language markets where the story would be fresh. Within a couple of years, I’d resold some of my stories three times over.
While I still have a couple of stories reprinted every year, with print markets shrinking and most other markets looking for unpublished fiction, I turned to the internet. A few years ago, I discovered Fictionwise.com. They were only interested in previously published fiction. They operate on a similar platform as iTunes where users downloaded stories like people do with songs. It’s worked out very nicely. My stories are still available and their popularity is determined by the readers.
I’m now taking this approach with my books that are going out of print. I like to think there's a demand for these books. Maybe not enough for a re-issue, but there's certainly more than enough for e-publishing. The likes of Amazon’s Kindle and Smashwords.com have made it easy for me to keep my books out there and meet a demand. I've recently e-published DRAGGED INTO DARKNESS and WORKING STIFFS, two books of mine that I believe contain good work.
This is where a little discretion comes in too. I’m only republishing things that people ask about or that I can hand-on-heart say represent my best writing. There's no point in me putting out things that are subpar. And I’ll be honest. There's stories of mine that got published, especially in the early years, which I look upon as amateurish now and while I’m not ashamed of those stories I don’t feel they represent what I write now. I could be a total reprint slut and toss everything I’ve ever written at the eBook reader but it’s not worth it. There's a massive pinball effect with a writer’s work. Someone reads a story and like it, so they check out something else I’ve written. That only works if what is out there is good. If it’s bad, it has the converse effect and they're unlikely to seek out other works.
I view eBooks as another weapon in my publishing arsenal and not a threat to it. That’s why I’m also going to explore the e-publishing route for some stories that I’ve been sitting on that don’t fall into traditional print publishing options such as novellas and novelettes. There's certainly an opportunity for me to experiment.
So how has working my stories hard fared for me? Not as well as it has for Gene Wolfe, but I’m getting there. Several of my stories have been picked up for different anthologies and have earned me two and three times what I was originally paid for the piece. One story, TRAFFIC SCHOOL, was published three times, each time earning pro-rates, before I put it on Fictionwise and there, it has found a following. It’s by far my bestselling story by a factor of at least two to one. I think this creepy little short about bad driving habits will be my little goldmine. My work for Writer’s Digest has done well too. A couple of the pieces have been reused two and three times and have earned four-digit paydays. I’ve now placed them on Smashwords.com and I’ll see how they work out there.
At the end of the day, as long as there are readers, stories are commodities that don’t diminish with age or time and the electronic option is helping there. And that’s all good as far as I’m concerned.
Learn more about Simon at www.simonwood.net and his work at: