Storyville: Tips, Tricks, and Thoughts on Reprints
There are many different reasons that you should try and get your stories reprinted, so let’s talk about the why, the how, and the various ways that reprints can help your writing career.
In my 12 years as an author, I’ve published a total of 156 stories. Of those, 121 were original, and 35 were reprints. So that should help to show you how often I have pushed to get my work out there (or BACK out there again). Sometimes a place closes, goes under, and my work is no longer in print, or online, so that’s one reason I send out my stories again. Several of my stories have been reprinted more than once—such as “Chrysalis,” “Little Red Wagon,” “White Picket Fences,” “Fireflies,” “Vision Quest,” “Bringing in the Sheaves,” “Flowers for Jessica,” and “How Not to Come Undone.”
One reason you should send out your work again after it’s been published once is to get paid again! I mean, why not, right? Most places will ask you for at least a year of ownership on your story, but many will let the rights revert the moment your story is published. I know that Ellen Datlow asks for two years, since I tried to get a few stories reprinted at Gamut. If pro pay is anywhere from 5-10 cents a word these days, reprint rates are typically 3 cents a word (though some do pay as low as 1 cent, or nothing). So if you had a 5,000-word story that paid you say $250 the first time, why not get $150 the second time? I think my story “Chrysalis” has been paid for three times, earning me about $600 total.
There is always the chance that you can break into an elite market, or just someplace cool, with a reprint. Maybe the first time you submitted it the story was very different, and you’ve changed enough that you can resubmit? Maybe you were invited in to an anthology or project and never shopped that story around. Why not send that story to your white whales now? They may take a chance on an author they don’t know, or with a longer story, if they are paying less. And if your story was good enough to get into a top market once, and maybe get a nomination or make it into Best Horror of the Year, they could snatch it up. Take the shot.
Now, I know that we normally don’t like to talk about exposure, but for the most part, I mean in addition to getting paid. By having your story in an anthology, or magazine, or literary journal once, that got you exposure. Maybe you were lucky and got into Cemetery Dance, like I have (twice) where the circulation is 10,000. Or maybe you got into a smaller literary journal, like I have, and they only printed 300 copies—half of them sitting in some university storeroom now. Who knows how many people actually saw that story the first time? I’ve also had stories go online, and then the publication went under, and so now my story is nowhere to be found. I like to get my stories that are in print online at some point, too, in order to maximize exposure to the writing. You should, too. My story, “Chrysalis,” that I mentioned before was originally in Arcadia (2013), and then the XIII anthology (2014, Underland Press), and then the Christmas Horror, Volume III anthology out later this year (2020) with Dark Regions Press.
When You Don't Have A Story Ready
So, as my career has advanced, I’ve gotten invited into more and more anthologies. It’s awesome, and I’m always excited when people reach out. But sometimes I don’t have any work that will fit, or I don’t have time to write a new story. Most of the time, yes, I’ll make the time, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. For example, with the DRP anthology I just mentioned, I was approached by Chris Morey, and love working with them, but just didn’t have a Christmas horror story ready, and didn’t know if I could write a new one. But, I did have that “Chrysalis” story, which I really liked a lot, and it had only been in a small literary journal and an anthology that probably didn’t sell a million copies. So I asked him if he’d be open to a reprint. Most of the time it’s going to be a no, but Chris was kind enough to say sure, he’d look at it. Obviously he’s a fan of my work since he reached out. I sent it over and he loved it. BAM, I’m in. If you see a big name author in an anthology (like Stephen King), quite often it’s a reprint. I was even willing to take less than pro rates, since it was a reprint, so that worked out for both of us, in the end.
The Original Publication Wasn't Great
Sometimes we publish out of impatience, and later regret it. I know that somewhere along the line early in my career I ended up publishing stories that did not get paid pro rates, or anything at all, and the overall experience wasn’t great. Maybe the editors weren’t great, maybe the artwork wasn’t good, maybe the exposure was minimal. Well, now you have a second chance to get your work out there. Maybe even with a better market than the first time! And who knows…that lesser known website might get you 1,000 eyeballs on your work, or that eBook anthology may sell 5,000 copies. Anything could happen. But I definitely feel better reprinting my work when a story was originally published somewhere less than glorious, especially if they went under, and that work is not available anywhere at all.
Friends and Charity
Obviously you can shop your reprints, but if you can’t find a good paying market, be willing to do something else with them. In this case, I am okay with the exposure if I don’t get paid much, or paid at all. Whenever I see a charity anthology being put together, I offer up a reprint. I have lots of stories that haven’t been reprinted, and I like being a part of a good cause, especially if the charity is one that really matters to me. Also, I often get asked by students, peers, and friends if I can write something for them. If they can’t pay pro rates for original work, I usually offer up a reprint. With 121 original stories out there, many that haven’t been reprinted at all, I can usually find something that will fit the theme, genre, and word count. Some pass, some say thanks. And that’s fine too, whichever way they go.
In searching horror markets at Duotrope.com, for example, not all of them take reprints. I found 54 that did, but not many that paid well. Only 9 paid pro rates originally, 10 paying semi-pro, and the rest token or nothing. The Dark is the top market listed, IMO, but I’d also consider Hypnos (published there before), Pulp Literature, and The Year’s Best Hardcore Anthology. (For fantasy / science fiction there were 58 markets, FYI. For literary fiction, 161 markets. Only 9 total for suspense/crime/thrillers.)
Sometimes, I’ll see an open call that is looking for only original stories. I’ll ask anyway. Maybe I don’t have any new work, maybe I don’t have time, maybe I have the perfect reprint. Of course, it helps if you know the editor. I’ve asked and been told a flat no—quite often, actually. No harm, no foul. I’ve asked and been told maybe, but let them see what comes in first. I’ve been told yes, send it over and we’ll read it. Sometimes they said yes, sometimes they passed. I’ve been told hell yes, we’d love a reprint from you. Sometimes I got paid, sometimes I didn’t.
Overall, I think it’s really up to you how hard you work on getting your reprints out there, where you submit, and how much you need to get paid, if at all. I’m much less adamant about getting paid on a reprint, especially if I got pro rates the first time, or have reprinted the story a few times already. I love getting my stories in front of new readers, new editors and publishers, and new communities. Especially if it’s a story I really love. Good luck!
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