Publishing my Short Stories

by Mike Shea on 21 June 2005

Cory Doctorow released his latest book, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, a bazaar fantasy novel about some really strange stuff. Cory Doctorow is one of my favorite authors whose books I've never read. I hope to change that with this one but I've had a copy of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom on my shelf for a long time.

Cory is one of the editors of Boing Boing, my favorite internet news site, and a firm believer in the Creative Commons license. In fact, he releases his books and short stories under a Creative Commons license and claims that it improves his sales. He's also one of the cooler looking science fiction writers I've seen recently.

I followed Cory's example by releasing most of everything I have written to the Creative Commons including everything on this website, everything at and all of my fictional and non-fiction writing on Everquest. As long as people attribute it to me, they are free to do with it what they wish.

Over the past year or so I have written about twenty short stories. A few of these I have sent as submissions to various Fantasy and Science Fiction magazines. My goal was to get into the Science Fiction Writers of America but their list of approved publishers is a bit narrow. I have sent a few stories to some other paying magazines and websites without a real bite yet but I don't know that a bite would do me much good. I don't need the $30, all I really seek is validation that what I'm writing is worth paying for.

Perhaps it is justification for failures, but it seems the world is different today. The crap I'm reading in Fantasy and Science Fiction is all new-age modern fantasy with strange wacky edges like apartment buildings that talk to people and time travel stories during the beginning of the soviet empire. I don't know that Robert Howard would make it in an age like this - an age where the number of magazines publishing fantasy fiction gets smaller and smaller. People don't read like they used to.

I have had a lot of success with my EQ fan fiction. I wrote a lot of it and I get a lot of emails, and in-game tells from people who enjoy reading it. Everyone on the internet is famous to eight people. But besides myself, my friend Ben, my girlfriend, some folks over at Critters, and some editors with slush piles the size of Rama, few people read my stories.

So why don't I just release them? Why don't I post them here and let people read them on the web for free? Publishers won't ever publish something already released on the web. If I put it here, I can't ever sell it. Second, there is no validation here. I don't know that I can improve if I don't have a real editor pushing it for me. However, on this site, things can last a long long time. I can let people copy these stories, I can let them write derivative works. I can get people to actually read them.

I can also publish them myself using a service like Lulu. I've already taken a big step in this direction by commissioning a piece of artwork for a cover from the folks over at EQ Dreams. The cover will be of Vrenna, the main character in a few short stories of mine. The book will cost about $8 from Lulu or about $13 including shipping. It will be about two hundred pages long in a trade paperback format with high quality acid free paper. I've used Lulu before for some personal copies of my websites and I love the results.

So here is my plan. I can write up stories longhand. I can type them up into a second draft. I can edit them into a third draft. I can send them to my friend Ben or, if he's too busy, directly to Critters. I can make the edits from Critters into a fourth draft. Then I can post the story here and add it to my Lulu short story anthology. If all of the stories are original and not sold anywhere else, I can even pay for an ISDN and sell it from Amazon. This lets people use super-saver shipping to save a few bucks. If I get enough stories done this way, I could even do a volume 2.

My current plan is to type up three stories I've written but not typed: Vrenna and the Slave Pits, The Deep One, and The Wolf God of Gloomwillow Wood. I need to edit The Executioner, The Demon Knight, The King's Man, and Vrenna and Togaru Village. I have about half a dozen ideas for new stories to start writing but I should finish up what I have already written first. So here's a list of what might be in my first volume of Mike Shea's Stories Volume 1:

If I end up doing this the way I am thinking, all of the above stories will be available in text format and in PDF for free. The actual paper copy of the book will run about $8 and include a professional cover, a trade paperback layout, and good acid-free pages.

Also, I seek copyeditors. I will send a free copy of the first print of this book for copyediting under the condition that you copyedit it and send me an email with corrections for the stories.