I missed celebrating an anniversary. As of September 21st I was a full six years removed from my days at Novell. I meant to say something about it, but I was busy being a cartoonist. That's probably a good sign.
I'm still a cartoonist, but today I ventured into new territory. I took out a fantasy short story that I drafted several months ago, and which I re-wrote at the beginning of this month, and put some finishing touches on it. Then I sent it in to a magazine to find out if their rejection process really has a two-week turnaround.
It's weird. I've been writing, telling, and selling stories for a decade now, and I've got jitters about this tiny little thing. It's only 2500 words long, and if it gets accepted at the going rate I'll only make $250 from it.
It's tiny, but it represents something new for me. I would love to get paid by a publisher for something that is only made out of words. My drawing hand won't last forever, and besides, I have far, far more stories to tell than I can fit in the Schlockiverse. I need another outlet.
I tweeted, G-plus'd and Facebooked the event this morning. There were many, many encouraging responses. More than a few people suggested I just sell the story directly to you, the reader, from this platform I'm currently standing on. If past results are any indicator of future performance, I could probably make between $1000 and $5,000 with a PayPal button that says "spend whatever you want on these twenty-five-hundred words." So why send it to a magazine where the most I could make is $250? And why subject myself to the emotional turmoil of a rejection letter?
Honestly, I'm not sure. The story will reach a different group of people (a "new market") published this way, but my current base of readers here at schlockmercenary.com is between fifty and one-hundred times that size. Of course, a couple of publication credits like this will make me eligible for membership in SFWA (lots of people are either shocked, appalled, or amused when they learn that Schlock Mercenary does NOT qualify me for that), so that might be worth it.
Maybe my ulterior motive is to send thousands of Schlockfen over to a magazine and single-handedly save the short fiction market. I've been led to understand that if I can do that then they'll give me a mask and a cape just in time for Halloween!
Maybe not. All I'm selling is "rights of first publication." I can still sell the story to you guys after the terms of whatever contract I might get have expired. I only get to save the short fiction market if you thousands of Schlockfen are incredibly impatient. One way or another you'll eventually get the story directly from me.
What I expect to get is a rejection letter. A trophy! It won't be my first. I got a couple back in 2000 when King Features and United both passed on Schlock Mercenary. I also got one from Diamond back in 2007 -- they ALSO passed on Schlock, which is why my books are difficult to find in brick-and-mortar locations. Oh, and I can't forget the three or four rejection letters I've gotten from various ad networks who don't want to run ads on my site.
Whatever happens, it's just a beginning. I've been telling stories for too long to not hunger after the opportunity to tell new ones in new ways.