where the writers are
Diminishing Returns

At the onset of autumn, 2007, I had a novel and ten shorter works pending publication, all of them in paying print markets.  Eventually the novel, seven short stories and a memoir saw print, two of the magazines having fallen by the vast wayside of dead publications.  For me, that was a pretty good run. 


By way of comparison, at the onset of autumn 2009, I had three short stories pending.  So far one was withdrawn due to a dispute with the new editor who (badly) edited the time-travel tale as if it were a high school essay, and another died an ignoble death this afternoon as the publisher, weary from fighting the good fight only to get (in his words) roughly $10 back for every $1000 invested, packed it in after printing nine novels, one short story and two poetry collections.  (The editor here adds that she is seeking a new publisher for this avant-garde anthology, but I’m not one to hold my breath.)


Looking back over the past fifteen years, I’ve had 45 short pieces and 2 novels published, all but two in print, have had another fifteen or so accepted that never made it.  A dozen of those printed were in anthologies, and the rest appeared in roughly 20 publications, eight of the editors liking my work enough to print more of it. 


Perhaps nine of those markets still thrive.  Two have become strictly online periodicals, one has gone from a 3-5 cent a word paying tri-annual to a for-the-love-of-it anthology, one a SF anthology publisher who has switched to novels, one endures as a non-paying market affiliated with MENSA, another endures as a paying anthology affiliated with the Swedenborg Foundation, a third endures as a paying  poetry market, part of the SFPA, another has gone from a paying anthology market to a market that pays occasionally and I’m not certain the fate of Lynx Eye although I think it’s still around.


My remaining pending short fiction is for an erotic anthology, definitely not my usual fare.  The piece was not written as an erotic story, merely as one in which a mildly explicit sex scene was warranted as part of the telling—an oddity in my menagerie of short fictions.  I write as the stories present themselves to me.  (Market research for me is not so much testing the waters for what is currently hot as it is an attempt to find a good home for the children of my mind.)  My faith in human nature will be utterly shattered if this market fails as well, although, thankfully, I’ve already been paid in full.


The names of very few of these publications will be familiar to most, as they were/are of the “independent press,” largely run on a shoestring—run by folks (I like to think) like me who feel the need to express themselves, hope there are those who will buy, read and understand. 


I developed an aversion to on-line publications, even if this is more and more the way of things.  I just like holding a book or a magazine in my hands, love seeing them on my bookshelves.  But even the Kenyon Review has sprouted an online version, to my everlasting horror.


Which, paradoxically, reminds me of something that happened my first year at Kenyon.  One miserable Friday night, when I accompanied a few of the other freshmen to a local tavern in Mount Vernon to swill pitchers of beer, Slim Jims and potato chips, I read with awe the most bawdy poetry scribbled in indelible ink upon the men’s room walls—the first time I had witnessed this phenomena.  This, I remember thinking (not all that clearly) at the time, is the last bastion of the American Poet.  Forty-five years later, for those who want to see their work in print, my adolescent beer fueled realization may contain more truth than poetry.