Publish Your Shorts: Now Is the Time

In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf’s treatise on women and fiction, Mrs. Woolf lamented that, historically, women had to have both money and a room of their own in order to write – two resources that had been universally difficult, if not impossible, for women to attain back then. However, these days women (yes, yes and men, too) only need a computer and the time to write – oh, and a whole lot of confidence. But how can authors get this boost of confidence if they’re discouraged about publishing to begin with?

Easy: by publishing their short stories instead! When I published my collection of shorts, The Blueberry Miller Files, and saw the book available on Amazon, Smashwords, and even my own blog, Yaminatoday.com, it gave me great encouragement. In fact, it has afforded me the right to say, at last, I’m a published writer.

And there is a reason why I am choosing to highlight the short story genre in particular. Because publishing a short story can take less time to write than a long, drawn out novel, and with this in mind, it can be a natural morale booster to the struggling author. I often hear both men and women comment online that they hadn’t even thought about publishing their short stories. Well, start thinking about it. And if you’re feeling a little nervous about such a venture, here’s my advice on how to get over three potential “walls” that might be hindering you:

Waiting For Everything In Your Life To Be Perfect

Don’t wait for things to be perfect in your life before you decide to write and publish your short stories. As Ecclesiastes 11:4 says, “Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.”

Forget the fact that you’re not oozing money right now, or that you work 40 hours a week and come home exhausted all the time; yes, these are legitimate problems that can hamper your ability to create, but please know that it doesn’t take a lot of money to publish a book anymore, especially not an e-book. And while you might be exhausted from other activities outside of writing, remind yourself how blessed you are just to be able to sit at a desk in your home or your apartment and simply create.

Consider this: Jane Austen (not a short story writer, mind you, but that’s beside the point), whose Pride and Prejudice has been re-written and re-adapted more than 100 times since she first published it back in 1813, had to write in a general setting room, with “all kinds of casual interruptions,” as her nephew later pointed out. She also had to hide the fact that she was writing from the servants, visitors, or anyone beyond her own family because writing was not something women, at least, were supposed to do.

You don’t have such basic obstacles as she did (then again, maybe some of you do!). But Jane might have marveled at how lucky you are to be able to write at will, even at your cramped kitchen table. So get to writing!

You Don’t Think Short Stories Don’t Sell

This is another reason I think authors aren’t publishing our shorter works, because there is the age-old stigma that short stories don’t sell. Well, let me encourage you with this one simple fact: the self-published writer no longer has to worry about sales. Don’t get me wrong. I know authors want to make a living just as much as the next person; and if you’re an indie author who is being published by a small press rather than self-published, Ok, low sales could prove to be an issue for your publisher.

But, for the indie and self-published author who is truly her own boss, you’re no longer in danger of being “dropped” because your groovy little short story collection only sold 50 copies. I’ll say it again: since the self-published author doesn’t have a publishing company breathing down her back to produce numbers, numbers, and more numbers, he or she can forget about sales for now and indulge in their inner artist.

As a side note, I am not encouraging the publishing of junk; I’m as much of fan of great writing as an enemy of bad writing. Please, take into consideration things like creativity, innovation, grammar, editing and basic book formatting.

You Think No One Reads Short Stories Anymore

Ok. It’s true that we live in the post-MTV, Twitter-loving generation. People have short attention spans. But I say give them a good, short read and they might become one of your biggest fans. Indeed, I believe this decade will see a rebirth of the short story genre. There is no doubt in my mind that there’s an audience for this type of work and the creativity that comes with it.

In writing my own story collection, I got to play with different styles and ideas, and even different subject matters all in the same book, without fear of what some publisher might think. Publishing my book via my own company gave me the freedom to be a black writer who writes about white characters (sometimes), a Christian author who refuses to use cursing in any of my stories (even though it might not “sound realistic” to some people), a humor writer who gets to explore the mind of a black Anglophile who adores Shakespeare a little too much, and a “Southern” observer who does something I never saw done in Gone with the Wind: let the slave holders speak with as much of a jacked-up dialect as the slaves themselves spoke with. It’s been fun, scary and exhilarating. And I don’t regret a minute of it!