Where are the new fiction markets?

Stacks of books and magazinesAs Futurismic‘s editor, my interest in this question should be obvious; but it’s also of great interest to the aspiring writer in me as well. I write because I want to write but – in common with a lot of other writers – I’d quite like to get paid for my fiction some day. [image by Thomas Hawk]

So who’s going to give me (or other more competent, imaginative and disciplined writers) money for stories? Well, fellow Flash Fictioneer Gareth D Jones tried something new and pitched a story to a magazine that doesn’t usually run short stories, and had it accepted – his second professional-grade sale, in fact. So perhaps the closest new markets are the markets no one has even tried yet.

Another market, already being tentatively explored, is the one that lies on the blurry boundary between fiction writing and sales copy. For example, the car company Lexus recently commissioned a collaboratively written novel focusing on a young couple taking a journey in their new vehicle – the brand of said vehicle should be easy enough for you to guess.

While that story has the queasy taste of naked commerce to it, I think younger writers will be less bothered by it. We live in an ad-saturated world, and most media-consumers have a certain degree of skill at tuning them out. Perhaps the challenge to write branded fiction that doesn’t smack the reader round the face with its brands will develop new stylistic forms and breed a new wave of great writers.

One thing is for certain, though, and that’s the migration of short fiction online. I’m not just saying that because Futurismic does it (although we do), but because it’s the only way to economically sustain the form in a world where the overheads of print media are heading skywards like pulp fiction rocketships.

Perhaps the web will be the richest source of Gareth’s new markets – remember when we mentioned Will Hindmarch selling a story to a games and media community website? I think the style and shape of short fiction will change as a result, too – but isn’t the continual evolution of art what keeps it interesting, both to consume and to create?

Where do you think you’ll be reading (or publishing) your short stories in twenty years time?

4 thoughts on “Where are the new fiction markets?”

  1. Maybe ARGs are the way forward, with the whole fiction process ending up as less about text, and more about narrative. As an example, take this job advert from Funcom.

  2. I suspect the next 20 years will give us even more of a mishmash than the current situation, because not only do we have many publishing choices for the traditional story or novel (print, electronic, cellphone, etc.), we also have many different media available for storytelling. Justin mentioned ARGs — I know several fine writers working on those. We’ve also got many video possibilities: stories no longer have to fit into the classic Hollywood format (not to mention budget) to get made. Such “movies” don’t even have to be people with actors (or animated characters) acting out the script; the Center for Digital Storytelling teaches how to put together a visual script with music and a voiceover that tells the story.
    So if I have a story idea, I have many choices for how to present it. I can do oral storytelling — the oldest form — something I can do on a stage or as a podcast or as a video. I can write it as a story, and sell it to a print magazine or an online magazine or send it out as email or put it on cellphones, etc. I can write a script and do it as a a play, or a traditional movie, or TV show, either indie or commercial. I can turn it into a game. I can do a graphic novel. I can probably do something with it I haven’t even thought of yet.
    I’m sure of two things about this. One, different kinds of media require different kinds of storytelling, and the writer must master them to make the story work. (I’ve done some oral storytelling, and found I can’t just memorize a story I’ve written; I have to revise it to fit the medium.) Two, not all stories work in all media.
    None of this is probably great career advice, but if I knew how to make a living writing fiction, I wouldn’t have a day job and my work wouldn’t be primarily in the small press.
    I would second the idea of selling to the unusual magazine. I decided I could take myself seriously as a writer after I won a contest in the National Law Journal with a science fiction story that later was optioned for a movie (never went anywhere and didn’t pay me much, but someone noticed). And then I sold an SF story to a motorcycle magazine — a pro sale that got me into SFWA.
    Oh, and while product placements might work with fiction as they do with movies — assuming you’ve already got a big enough audience to attract advertisers — I don’t think advertorial novels are likely to be taken any more seriously than their cousins in the newspapers, those big sections devoted to Saudi Arabia or whatever that include supposed “news stories.” They may provide jobs for creative types, but I don’t think writers who have their own ideas for stories will fit very well into that model.

  3. You’ve clearly given this a great deal of thought, Nancy – which comes as no surprise, as you’ve probably been thinking about it for much longer than I have (and are much respected for your writing by those who know it).

    ARGs I find fascinating as a former (or, more accurately, lapsed) RPG player … I’m currently reading the collection of Gwyneth Jones’ criticism Deconstructing The Starships, and there’s a transcript of a talk she gave in 1988 wherein she tells a story about an ARG which is alarmingly prescient.

    As the barriers between conceptual worlds are dissolving so fast, I think there’s going to be a lot of potential there, but as you say, the storytelling style will have to be different – you’ll need to be more like a DM, shaping the story while the protagonists play it out for themselves, perhaps.

    Which segues into Jason Stoddard’s oft-repeated assertions that metaverse games and realities could offer fertile ground for storytellers … once someone gets a robust platform up and running, at least. Interesting times … and not just in the Chinese proverb’s sense!

  4. I wouldn’t assumed that “traditional” story markets will disappear. Over the last few years there have been plenty of online SF markets that have opened, some don’t last long, but many keep going. They’re usually semi-pro rates, but it’s that long-tail, niche thing happening. And there have of course been some pro successes, such as Baen’s, IGMS etc.

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