Saturday, January 17, 2015

Query Question: wait, that first one didn't count

I self published a book of short stories a few years back. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.) It got a few good reviews, everyone I knew bought it and a few strangers took a risk and bought it as well. Hooray me.

Fast forward and I would like to submit some of these stories for consideration in contests or to lit presses / online magazines etc. (Not all of them, some of them were very bad... I can see that now... but a few of them are things I am proud of.)

My problem is that they fall under the "already published" label since my little self published book has an ISBN and is available for purchase on Amazon etc.

I guess my question goes beyond a bit of "What can I do/"... to "Do I have to leave these little gems behind me for good? Can I rework them so that they are just new and different enough to count as "not previously published"? How much rework would that be?"

I'm frustrated and feeling very foolish. Any help you could provide would be wonderful.

Don't feel frustrated, and don't feel foolish. You haven't done anything stupid or wrong. You've written and published stories that people liked. Hint: that is A Very Good Thing.

However, if you want to give these stories a second shot at finding readers, well, that's a bit more troublesome.

The rules for contests and lit mags are pretty specific. Not previously published means just that.  You'd be hard-pressed to rework a short story enough to make it something other than what it is now.
And you don't want to enter, get published and then find out you're on the wrong side of previously published.  You very much do NOT want your name associated with that brouhaha.

Thankfully book publishing is not quite so rigid. Collections of previously published stories are common. Some of your stories (the good ones) could be the basis for an anthology.

And some anthologies don't require new material.  Look for those to send your stories to.
This is more common in genre fiction than lit fic, but you didn't say what kind of stories you published.

The best idea though is to write more stories.  


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Janet, I'd like to say something I don't think I have ever seen here before.
Considering "begging at tables" and "woodland creatures" and the dozens and dozens of other quips and such I have garnered from your posts, you my dear, are a hell of a writer.
I know you know that, but just wanted you to know, I know.

LynnRodz said...

Carolynn, I've been telling Janet (not once, not twice, but several times) she is one hell of a writer. Her way with words and way of turning a phrase, she could very easily write fiction. As for non-fiction, the wealth of information here to help writers on the road to publication would without a doubt become a bestseller! (You're probably tired of hearing me say that, Janet, but it's true!)

Anonymous said...


You are so patient.

It drives me nuts when I see people say they're going to self pub because it's too hard to get an agent and go the traditional route. "If it doesn't do well, I'll get an agent and publish traditionally."

Years ago, a friend of mine named Zach Recht wrote some zombie stories and published them on his blog. He got a pretty decent following of fans because, honestly, the story was great. Permuted Press contacted him and offered to publish him.

He agreed, pulled all the stories from his blog and Plague of the Dead broke all kinds of sales records for them. People were clamoring for the next book in the series. It sold better than the previous.

Simon and Schuster noticed and bought out Permuted Press rights so they could republish the series. Zach was on cloud nine, obviously. Plague of the Dead did well for S&S also and Zach was busy penning the third book. He had just finished it when he died at age 26.

We hear stories about people who self publish and do so great publishers come beating on their doors. Zach is the only one I know who actually accomplished that.

Most are like another friend who self published because getting an agent was too much of a hassle and they wanted him/her to start chopping words. They self publish and sales aren't that great. "I know! I'll get an agent for the rest of the books in the series."

Guess what, Buttercup? Agents didn't want the slightly used series. What's sad is the first one isn't too bad if it were chopped about in half.

I've had several people urge me to self pub my fantasy, but I don't want to be like Buttercup. Once it's published, in whatever form, you better just assume that ship has sailed and start on something completely new.

It's possible the original poster could sell some of those stories, as Janet said. My editor at the horse racing magazine sold a crap ton of stories to European magazines and papers. She had packed into the mountains and was following a wild horse herd at the time. She'd rewrite a story from a different angle or retain certain rights and resell it. However, she's a very talented, multiple award-winning writer and editor. I'm not sure most people could pull that off successfully.

Good luck to the original poster. Personally, I would put a few of the best stories on my blog and use them for samples. Then I'd start writing new material.

Colin Smith said...

Carolynn & Lynn: I have said more than once that Janet and Barbara Poelle should write "Shark and Snark's Guide to Publishing." Reading this blog and BP's "Funny You Should Ask" column in WD, I'm convinced it would be the funniest and most useful guide to writing queries, getting an agent, and navigating the ins and outs of publishing you could purchase. I presume the only reason they haven't written it is they're too busy with the "day" job. (Day in quotes because we all know caring for woodland creatures is more than 9-5 work.)

Anonymous said...

I completely agree Janet should write a book or ten.

Look out Donald Maass.

DLM said...

As to the post itself - this is the literary equivalent of 'everything you put on the internet is eternal' in a way. On the one hand, yay it's not ill-advised teenage party shots or body parts not generally on public display. On the other hand: no undo button.

The good news is, being a writer, there should always be more stories, and growth is good and gratifying. And, apparently, alliterative.

Ack! Twice in a row. Stopping now.

Author Giora said...

I agree with the other people here encouraging Janet Reid to to write her own fiction. With her experience of what is working in good fiction and her command of the language, she might surprise herself once she sit down and start writing. Best wishes from the north.

Anonymous said...

The best idea though is to write more stories."


Jenz said...

I know someone who fell into the "self-publish to get an agent" trap. He tried to convince me to do the same, quoting this little gem:

"If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late."

That's the kind of business advice that people spout in tech. Just in case you ever wondered why tech and software are so screwy.

DLM said...

Jenz, that was perfect. Also so funny! *Gigglesnort*

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I met a lady in Florence, Italy who lived on a beach in Africa where she started some paintings. Everyone in Florence knew this person.

More than twenty years later she was working on the exact same canvases. She would turn them around, repaint them unstretch them, sew them together. Position them next to one another.

The canvas sagged, you could see the stretcher bars through the linen. All technique was wiped out. The eccentricy of it was the only interesting part.

french sojourn said...

Angie; As always, I love the imagery

Kelsey Hutton said...

I'm sending my encouragement to the author in question--I hope you figure out what will work best for you! However, I'm not sure why you feel like these gems are behind you for good? (And you can always pull the bad ones out of circulation, can't you?)

Writing more stories is excellent advice, whether you end up self-publishing more or submitting to lit mags. But those earlier stories can have a comeback if you publish new material and attract new fans. That's the advantage of self-publishing, as I hear it--you can build your audience slowly but steadily. It's no magic bullet but you haven't failed yet, either.

Regardless, good luck figuring it all out!

Anonymous said...

Some journals do take reprints, so you could try those. Duotrope is a good resource for finding them -- you can do a custom search for markets that take previously published material (plus whatever other criteria are relevant to your work).