When I began writing (long enough ago that some of you reading this might not have been born), I was told that writers should begin their career by writing short stories before longer works like novels. In those days, there were markets for short stories, so that’s what I did.
Women’s magazines carried at least one short story (usually romantic) per issue along with the required non-fiction about home decorating, fashion and cooking. But then that market dried up, and only “confession” magazines took stories. Those were supposedly “real” stories and carried no author names. One of my friends wrote literally hundreds of them, which replaced her income when she quit her job to write full time. Thanks to her encouragement, I wrote such a story and it sold immediately. It was, in fact, the first money I earned from writing and the day I was sent a check for it, my husband and I went out to dinner to celebrate.
I never sold another “confession,” and I stopped writing them. Even my prolific friend stopped submitting them. Why? Because the magazines paid the same amount to writers that they’d paid twenty or thirty years earlier. This despite the fact their advertisers paid vastly higher amounts every year. As usual, writers got the dirty end of the stick.
However, I did write lots of other stories--romance, mystery, even science fiction--hoping magazines which paid better might buy one. Alas, those didn’t sell either. However, I had a computer by then and I not only switched to writing romance novels (which, in my opinion, is where the short stories evolved when women’s magazines stopped publishing them) but saved my old stories in my computer files. And now I’m glad.
Thanks to either shorter attention spans by readers, or longer waiting times in doctor’s offices, reading short works on an e-reader, tablet or even a smart phone is suddenly popular.
I’ve sold eleven novels and four non-fiction books, but today I pulled out an old story and spent an hour updating it because I have a long list of places to send it. The world has turned again, and I’m prepared. Are you, my fellow writers?