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.

My 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.”

Payment

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.

Markets

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.

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.

Exposure

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.

Current Markets

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.)

Always Ask

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.

In Conclusion

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!

Richard Thomas

Column by Richard Thomas

Richard Thomas is the award-winning author of seven books: three novels—Disintegration and Breaker (Penguin Random House Alibi), as well as Transubstantiate (Otherworld Publications); three short story collections—Staring into the Abyss (Kraken Press), Herniated Roots (Snubnose Press), and Tribulations (Cemetery Dance); and one novella in The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books). With over 140 stories published, his credits include The Best Horror of the Year (Volume Eleven), Cemetery Dance (twice), Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders (Bram Stoker winner), PANK, storySouth, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Qualia Nous, Chiral Mad (numbers 2-4), and Shivers VI (with Stephen King and Peter Straub). He has won contests at ChiZine and One Buck Horror, has received five Pushcart Prize nominations, and has been long-listed for Best Horror of the Year six times. He was also the editor of four anthologies: The New Black and Exigencies (Dark House Press), The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press) and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press) with Chuck Palahniuk. He has been nominated for the Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson, and Thriller awards. In his spare time he is a columnist at Lit Reactor and Editor-in-Chief at Gamut Magazine. His agent is Paula Munier at Talcott Notch. For more information visit www.whatdoesnotkillme.com.

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Comments

ShawnK's picture
ShawnK from USA is reading The Fifth Season July 28, 2020 - 9:53am

Nice column. What are your thoughts on making changes to something  you want to re-submit. On the one hand, if the story has already been sold once, an editor obviously liked it and hopefully did some light editing. On the other hand, sometimes you see things you now wish you'd done a bit differently or the opportunity for a tweak here or there.

Is that allowed for a reprint sub? Is it a good idea?

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies July 28, 2020 - 6:57pm

Good question, Shawn. First, I rarely edit a story once I'm done. I write it, workshop it (or I used to anyway) pour over it and do everything I can to get it nailed down. Then I fight FOREVER to get it published. So, no, I don't edit a story again later. THE ONLY time I've done that in the last couple of years has been applying edits suggested by editors AFTER it's been accepted. Here and there an editor asked for some edits BEFORE saying yes, and I did read the story over, and make some changes—mostly a line here and a line there, a new paragraph, relatively minimal stuff.

The rule I thought I heard was that you can't resubmit a story as NEW unless 51%+ is new? The only time in my career I've done that was with a magical realism story, "Tinkering With the Moon" that my thesis director HATED. He took a paragraph out, moved it to the start, and said, "Write this story." The paragraph was about a mother and son, and the sales the go to after her divorce, to bond. Called it "Garage Sales." Both stories were published—"Garage Sales" in Midwestern Gothic, and "Tinkering With the Moon" in Gargoyle. They shared maybe four lines, a paragraph.

Just learn from your mistakes and do better next time. Otherwise, I'd probably rewrite the first 50 stories of my career LOL.

Hope that helps!