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Playing the Short Game--a book of advice for publication for short story writers


OMG. I feel like such a fool, now that I know there is a book specifically to address some of the things that I've emailed professional writers about over the years. So, you don't want to make any of the "mistakes" that I've made, you say?

Well, here's the easiest way to do it: buy Playing the Short Game by Douglas Smith. Almost all the beginner's questions about "well how do I figure out markets" and "what do I do if everyone has rejected this short story" etc etc are answered. (Granted, you don't have to take his advice, but honestly knowing that someone--anyone!--has written this down and actually answered these questions is going to be invaluable to me over the next several months.)

I should note that I'm not affiliated with Mr. Smith, nor any of the other authors in this book bundle: https://storybundle.com/writing

Which includes some stuff by Kristine Katherine Rusch (about the "write" attitude or having the right kind of attitude around writing), Dean Wesley Smith (about writing a novel WITHOUT an outline), Judith Tarr (on how to write horses properly and since she has a horse farm...), Chuck Wendig (on a writing plan over 30 days) etc etc.

It's $20 for NINE books on writing craft/publishing stuff/specialist areas of expertise. And a coupon for 40% the software for converting books into ebook format.

If anything particularly revolutionary strikes me while reading, I'll be sure to let y'all know about it.


One of the best things that has stood out in this book is his discussion of the following things:

The rights that are asked for in a short story contract and how to re-sell those rights to different markets. (He makes a big point about "selling" short stories is more about licensing them, as the rights generally revert back to you after a certain length of time.)

Some of the things he goes into are:

-the distinction between print, electronic, and audio.
-first worldwide rights vs first English rights vs first worldwide English rights (the first includes any and all translation, the second is mainly US/Canada, unless specified otherwise, and the last covers US/UK/Australia/etc)

It's well worth reading that section alone, if you haven't stumbled across some of the info I already had when investigating markets and examining the contractual obligatory info before submitting.

Which leads me to echo a point the author made: if you don't find out what the contract is before you submit (which is pretty much an industry standard these days) you probably don't want to submit your work there.

Another point he makes is to go into the five rules of Heinlein (the finish what you start, etc). I had presumed that, in this day and age, people talk to each other a lot and after submitting a piece to three places it just needed to be put away after the third rejection. WRONG. Apparently, you keep that puppy out there. You don't fiddle with it, unless (and this is a big exception) you get an overwhelming response of "this is what doesn't work". Then you might want to fiddle with it--a little bit--before putting it back out to market.

Also, cover letters: go bland, bland, bland, bland with more bland. I'd been making a couple of mistakes there. I was putting in a little tease about genre classification--which apparently I'm most likely "wrong" about--and should be left up to the editor to determine. I have since stopped. And sometimes, when I couldn't find the editor's name (which has happened on occasion, even with the internet) I've gone "Dear Editor" which you're not supposed to do. (Also, and this was news to me, it's perfectly ok to go "Dear [first name, last name]" with no honorific, i.e. no Mr/Ms/Miss, just in case you guess the honorific wrong. People would apparently rather see their first name/last name with no Mr/Ms than have someone get it wrong. I'm very traditional when it comes to letter writing, but apparently some stylistic things have passed me by. Which is why it's good to read these kinds of books.)