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April 04, 2006

National Short Story Prize

An attempt to revive the art of the short story:

The National Short Story Prize, a new award worth £15,000 to the winner, was unveiled yesterday to inspire novelists to try the shorter form. Its backers hope that it will become as important to literature as the Booker and Whitbread prizes.

The thing is, I really don’t think it will work.

But perhaps all is not yet dead. Some 1,400 stories - they had to be under 8,000 words, written by UK nationals or residents, and published or written by a published writer - were submitted for the prize.

So, they have to have been published. But almost no one does publish short stories. Short fiction simply doesn’t get a look in in most magazines and papers. As far as I’m aware there’s really only two magazines, both aimed at the "housewife" market, that actually do consist of short stories. So where are they going to get published to be eligible for the prize? Further, who is going to write their heart out on a short story when the mortgage needs to be paid and the story can’t be sold?

BTW, if anyone does know of a good market for short stories I’d love to know. It’s a form I enjoy writing occasionally but don’t, for the reasons above.

April 4, 2006 in Books | Permalink

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Comments

I agree entirely. It would make so much more sense if this was a prize used to highlight how good short stories were even if they are having difficulty getting published. Then again, 1,400 submissions isn't that bad...

Posted by: Ken | Apr 4, 2006 10:45:34 AM

I love short stories, both reading and writing them. In fact, my favourite authors of all time, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, only ever wrote short stories from what I can gather.

Add O. Henry and Saki to that list.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Apr 4, 2006 11:31:55 AM

Interzone is a British bi-monthly magazine that publishes five or six science fiction stories in each issue. It's been going for donkey's years, although you wouldn't know it if you only visited WH Smiths.

There's a much more vibrant market in the United States - both for sf and more mainstream stuff.

There's a few websites out there that list markets for short stories - there are actually plenty out there, paying variable rates. I'll dig out the address when I get home tonight.

I take your point about paying the mortgage though. Apart from a few very select markets - which are usually only open to famous name authors anyway - there's no real money in short story writing. Writing for Interzone, the mag I mentioned above, you'd be lucky to get more than a couple of hundred pounds for a story.

Tim adds: I know of Interzone...months and months in the editorial queue. But I would appreciate that web site address, yes.

Posted by: Andy | Apr 4, 2006 1:07:32 PM

http://www.ralan.com/
http://www.spicygreeniguana.com/

Both focus on the 'speculative' fiction market but has on its lists literally hundreds of paying markets - some of which actually pay reasonably well.

There are loads of other sites for marketing more general stories - just do a quick google search for writing markets or story markets and you'll probably be overwhelmed with options.

I tend to write stuff that fits in the science fiction and speculative genre, hence my use of ralan and spicy green iguana.

Haven't written anything much for a while though - time to sit down and put something together, methinks.

Posted by: Andy | Apr 4, 2006 7:11:13 PM

"my favourite authors of all time, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, only ever wrote short stories from what I can gather."

Really? Chandler wrote seven novels (including "The Big Sleep", "Farewell, My Lovely" and "The Long Goodbye"). IIRC Hammett wrote five (including "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Thin Man").

Posted by: J.Cassian | Apr 4, 2006 8:04:11 PM