Monday, September 04, 2017

Earning Money From Re-Cycled Short Stories

The other day I cashed yet another check from McGraw-Hill Ryerson for a short story.

The check was for $29.24 - which doesn't seem like a big thing.

However, let's look at the source, and the history for where this payment came from.

A snapshot look at how "Almost" appears in format

The History of my short story "Almost"

  • 1988 - 1989 - Some time between high school and university I was reading Stephen King's Dance Macabre and was fascinated by his mentioning of the classic "tales of the hook" -- it inspired me to write a short story called "Almost" involving many of those elements
  • 1989 - 1996 - I submitted "Almost" to three short fiction horror markets. Rejections from all of them.
  • 1996 to 2003 - "Almost" remains "in the drawer" as one of those stories I had written but didn't have a home for
  •  2004 - I decide to include "Almost" in my self-published collection One Hand Screaming in the "Curt Cries in the Night" section featuring short-shorts (stories approx 1000 words and under) and poetry.
  • 2010 - I record a free audio version of "Almost" for Episode 14 of my podcast "Prelude to a Scream"
  • 2012 - I reprint "Almost" in the digital chapbook Bumps in the Night. This collection was described as "a collection of four short stories perfect for either sharing around a campfire or reading while on a vacation or sleepover."
    • Bumps in the Night was, for the longest time, my most successfully selling digital book
  • Dec 18, 2014 - A Permissions Editor from McGraw-Hill contacts me by email requesting the use of "Almost" in the digital collection provided a few small editorial changes are made to make the story more palatable for an education audience. I agree.
  • Jan 5, 2015 - Paperwork/contract is signed for re-print publication of "Almost" 
  • Feb 25, 2015 - Receive editorial notes on revisions to story as well as initial layout proofs.
  • Mar 9, 2015 - Receive request to modify a few additional words based on sensitivity issues with the Newfoundland and Labrador ministry of education. Accepted changes.
  • Mar 9, 2015 - Receive flat fee payment for "Almost" - $350
  • Oct 20, 2015 - Published a free version of "Almost" with an ambient soundtrack on BookTrack
  • Oct, 2015 - "Almost" appears in the free Wattpad version of One Hand Screaming
Three of the collections that "Almost" has appeared in

Revenues Earned from McGraw-Hill

$350.00 (Flat Fee - "Advance" for story being made available in digital catalog)
$75.00 (Royalty payment for printing of story in custom printed secondary school books)
$88.65 (Royalty payment for printing of story in custom printed secondary school books)
$29.24 (Royalty payment for printing of story in custom printed secondary school books)

Total rec'd so far: $542.89

The story "Almost" is approximately 870 words long. The initial flat fee payment of $350 means that payment for this story was approx $0.40/word. Standard professional rates for fiction run at about $0.05 to $0.06. I have been paid $0.25 when selling non-fiction to magazine markets. So getting $0.40 per word for a short story is quite a spectacular "win" for me.

Not to mention, of course, the fact that I continue to receive royalties each time the story is added to a new teacher's custom-printed collection for a class. Heck, those royalties alone currently mean the story has earned an additional $0.22/word.

In addition, with the recently received check and royalty statement, I can see that the payment is for the reproduction of about 225 copies of the book in which the story appears. Based on those numbers, I can safely assume that more than 1000 students have either read, or had access to read this story in the past couple of years.

Yes, I know that most high school students who encounter a story aren't going to remember it or the author. Even this book nerd balked at some of the texts high school teachers forced me to read. But I also remember, quite fondly, those particular short stories I read in high school that have stuck with me all these years later. So there is always a slim chance that, among the students encountering this story, that some might be intrigued enough to read some of my other work.

The total money received for this story doesn't include the funds received from having "Almost" published in One Hand Screaming nor having included in Bumps in the Night, nor its availability in the BundleRabbit's The Crimes, Capers and Rule-Breakers Bundle.

But, just to do some minimal math on that, Bumps in the Night sells for $2.99 of which I keep 70% which comes to about $2.09; since the collection has four stories in it, it means that every time that collection has sold ths share for "Almost" is about $0.52), and I can safely say that I have sold more than 1000 copies of Bumps in the Night.

Bumps in the Night revenues earned since 2012:  Approx $2,090. The "cut" for Almost = $522.50

So, even without adding in the cut from One Hand Screaming (the revenues on this go back to 2004 - I haven't always been good at tracking the income on print and ebook for this one) or the other places "Almost" has been included, such as the Crimes, Capers and Rule-Breakers Bundle, I can safely say that this story has earned me more than $1000.00 in revenue. That comes to about $1.15/word so far. And the earnings continue to tick along.

Not bad for a short story that I initially hadn't sold to a short fiction market (and for which a professional short story sale would have been about $43.50)

Interesting end note. I still have no idea how the "right person" at McGraw came to discover my short story "Almost" and thus want to acquire rights to it for the high school literary catalog, but I have to believe that it might have something to do with the story being so broadly available and accessible.

Various Links to Almost:

  • Listen to "Almost" in my old Prelude to a Scream Podcast Episode 14(Free)
  • Read "Almost" on BookTrack (Soundtracks for Books) complete with an atmospheric sound-track (Free)
  • Read "Almost" on Wattpad. (Free)
  • Buy One Hand Screaming (includes "Almost" and 15 other short stories and a handful of poems) at your favorite online eRetailer (available in ebook and print)
  • Buy Bumps in the Night (includes "Almost" and 3 other short tales perfect for "around the campfire" reading) at your favourite ebook retailer (ebook format only)
  • Buy The Crimes, Capers & Rule-Breakers Bundle (includes "Almost" and 19 other stories from great authors) from BundleRabbit or your favorite online eRetailer


Robert L. Slater said...

Awesome. I have a 1K short story that has sold four times and is now in my collection. Pretty cool when those shorts keep selling...

Mark Leslie said...

Pretty cool, Rob. I know, also, that Douglas Smith has mastered the art of earning and re-earning from his amazing short stories.

Unknown said...

That's great to hear! I was starting to think that there weren't many ways to sell the shorter shorts via self-publishing, but it's great to see the way you managed to repurpose one story many times.