Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Stretching A Good Thing

I was recently chatting with my friend and fellow author Kimberly Foottit -- we were talking about the fact that she was getting some pretty good mileage off of her debut sci-fi story "Walter's Brain" -- within the space of about 8 months the story had appeared in two markets. Hamilton's "Hammered Out" magazine ran the story in their annual fiction issue and at about the same time I bought it to appear in NORTH OF INFINITY II and the story was short-listed for a Hamilton Literary Award

The whole issue of reselling a story to another market was interesting. Personally, there's nothing I enjoy more than selling a NEW story to a market. But there's also a nice sense of satisfaction in selling a reprint story to a market, particularly a new and fresh market, likely where the readers haven't seen it before.

Take Kimberly's story, the heart-warming tale of a researcher who falls in love with the brain he is archiving. It first appeared in a small press lit mag and reached a particular audience that most likely don't read much speculative fiction. Not to say that none of the magazine's readership reads genre fiction, but that the general market they cater to likely don't read much sci-fi (Except maybe when authors like Margaret Atwood write a literary story that she would never admit to being a work of speculative literature). So when Kimberly's story appeared in the Mosaic Press anthology "North of Infinity II" which is particularly aimed towards a science fiction/speculative fiction readership she likely reached an entirely new audience of people who never saw her story the first time it was published.

I've sold reprint rights to several stories and poems over the years. Recently, I can site two examples. The first short story I ever had published was a young adult humour story called "The Progressive Sidetrack" -- it first appeared in 1992 in a small press magazine from Ohio with a circulation of under 500 and is being reprinted this month in a UK anthology published by Humdrumming called NAKED TALES: STORIES BY WRITERS WHO BLOG.

I also just signed the contract and was prepaid for my story "Browsers" to appear in what looks to be a phenomenally exciting book from Dead Letter Press edited by Tom English entitled BOUND FOR EVIL (yes, I'm an avid book lover, so can't wait to read this one). "Browsers" was first published in a Canadian speculative fiction magazine called Challenging Destiny in 1999. It was reprinted in my short story collection ONE HAND SCREAMING in 2004. And now a very slightly modified version of the story is scheduled to appear in Tom's exciting new anthology. Since the appearance in "Challenging Destiny" was so long ago, and the fact that my own story collection didn't get wide U.S. distribution there's a really good chance that readers of this new Dead Letter Press anthology aren't going to have seen my story before.

There's an interesting aside about that one, too. Because when I read the guidelines for the anthology, I started thinking about a tale I could write which would nicely fit in. But in the back of my mind something kept telling me that the editor would like my story "Browsers" -- I thought that the story was "close" but didn't quite match the guidelines in which he wants the book to be the villain. In my original story of "Browsers" the bookstore was the "bad guy" rather than the books. So rather than have that debate in my head I thought I'd query Tom and see if he'd be willing to look at "Browsers". He said I was right that the tale didn't match his guidelines but that it did sound interesting and he was willing to look at it. He ended up liking it so much that he wanted to use it in the anthology. Since it was so "close" I offered to tweak the story a bit to make it clear to the reader that the "books" are the evil force at work in the tale rather that the bookstore, and it then fit dead on.

I recall a story relayed to me about Canadian poet Carolyn Clink who read the guidelines for Don Hutchison's first NORTHERN FRIGHTS book. Though he didn't explicitly say he wanted or didn't want poetry, she queried him about it. Don ended up publishing her poetry in every single edition of the 5 book series -- imagines from one of those poems still linger playfully in my mind all this time after having first read it.

I'm going to try to sum up two morals, or bits writer advice from these stories:

1) It's okay to re-market, to resell a published story or poem to another market. This could introduce your writing to a whole new readership which isn't a bad thing at all.

2) Unless they specify explicitly that they don't welcome queries, or a piece of writing in a particular style or on a particular subject, it's okay to query if you have something that might not match the editor's specifications 100% but which you think might be close enough to be considered. I mean, after all, it's better to ask and be told no then to not even ask in the first place (Hmm, asking and being told no brings back so many memories of my younger dating years...)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks for the reassurance Mark. I want to make sure I get all the mileage I can out of dear old Walter!