Since summer of 2019 I started to delve into the world of writing and submitting flash fiction. For those who don’t know flash fiction is a short story generally no longer than 1000 words. Each publisher defines the term differently, some places take up to 1500 words while others limit submissions to 500.
Flash is a whole different beast from writing a novel. As an author you must come in hard and fast with a complete story, while not being jarring. In that limited space character development and world-building are still expected, especially the former.
In a novel you are allowed paragraphs to describe scenery, flash fiction has room for only a sentence or two.
Like with submitting longer manuscripts, rejections are abundant. Even the best writers have most of their work rejected. Many well-respected journals only publish 0.5%-5% of submissions which can be disheartening. This means you don’t only have to have a well-written story, but one that stands out amongst the crowd, it needs to be different AND good.
Talent is a must, sure, but it is undeniable luck plays no small role either. I’ve seen more than a few stories get published on popular flash sites and I think to myself, “How did this ever get published?” There was one story that was a sentence long on a science fiction site that was one sentence long. It had no plot, characters, or setting. It would have been generous to call it a vignette, in truth the “story” was closer to a meme. This got published from a place that has a 94% rejection rate. It’s situations like this that make rejections harder.
I don’t feel entitled to getting published and there were several months that went by when I only got rejections. When my first acceptance came, I was elated and blown away. I know I have a lot of learning, and each rejection is motivation for me to up my game. However, when stories like the ones I alluded to above get published and mine get rejected after spending days or weeks writing and rewriting them it can difficult.
The fact is even the best stories can be rejected because they hit the wrong editor at the wrong time. However, I was no longer content publishing my own stuff. There were no gatekeepers, no one to decide if I have what it takes. Writers have difficulty being objective with our own stories, some are overly critical (me) and others look at it through rose-colored lenses.
While I detailed my reasoning for taking the independent publishing route, and I still stand by those reasons, there is one truth that gets glossed over: it is nearly impossible to make money off of self-publishing books. At best you might get a little extra spending money here and there. You have to spend way more time marketing yourself than you did writing the book. I found the best way to sell books is to run ads on Amazon, but that has a steep learning curve and I ended up losing way more money than I made. Sure, you may be like me and agonize over your book to make sure it is perfect, but there are millions of people out there who just publish their first draft. Amazon customers can’t tell the difference until they start reading but getting people to read your book when you’re a nobody is the trick.
Flash fiction has allowed me to get my toes wet and begin building publication credibility. It also gives me the potential to find readers I wouldn’t have found otherwise. Most self-published books are only going to bring in a few pennies here and there. For me that isn’t enough. No, it’s not all about the money, but if I’m going to call myself a writer than I’m not going to settle for a few readers here and there. That would be fine if this was a side-gig or a hobby, but this is my job, my life. If you can relate than I encourage you to seek out literary journals and start submitting. If nothing else you will hone your craft and gain invaluable feedback.
I took my story writing in a different direction. I did not want to lose any earnings through an agency, and I knew I would get so little self-publishing, so I brought my story here. Each week I post one chapter. In the beginning, the blogging was only to post my story; somehow, my other passions crept in.
But I am very interested in the flash fiction, I will have to take a look at this!
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That’s certainly one viable option to publishing!
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