8. Why and when did you…

8. Why and when did you create your web page?

When I was first writing stories and putting them on the net, I quickly got tired of posting and reposting them to the newsgroups when people asked me to. In 1994, computer-ish friends of mine started talking about "the Web," which sounded like a convenient place to store a bunch of stories for people to read. A friend found some space for me on the university server, and taught me enough very basic HTML that I could draft a minimal web page. (I've been hand-coding my own HTML ever since, though very recently, Jed has put together some automated forms to make it much faster and quicker for me to update my journal).

So I put up my first web page, and in late 1995, I started an online journal. According to The Online Diary History Project, my journal was one of the very first that they're aware of. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. My web page got a lot of hits (two million-plus and counting, as of now), and the journal had a fair number of readers -- some casual, some devoted. In the years that followed, I became very used to using my journal as a place to explore ideas and get feedback -- it's been an invaluable resource for me, and my journal readers have often become good friends as well.

9. How did you get published?

The old-fashioned way -- buying a copy of Writer's Market and Poet's Market, and sending out submissions. Lots and lots of submissions, resulting in lots and lots of rejections. My first 'sales' were in poetry, to places that paid in copies. I was immensely proud, and am still grateful to those little magazines that published me -- they gave me the confidence to keep trying.

I was also sadly taken in by the whole National Library of Poetry scam -- my poor father bought a $50 copy of their 'anthology' which had my poem -- along with many many many other very bad poems. I think he still has it on his shelf.

My first short story sale was of "Fleeing Gods", to Cecilia Tan at Circlet Press. I think she paid me $50. That's actually my most-reprinted story, probably because it tries to be funny. We don't see nearly enough funny sex stories.

10. How did you publish your first book?

In early 1996, I started thinking about self-publishing a little collection of my stories. People had been asking for a book, and I was happy to oblige. I started doing research on costs, printers, etc. I couldn't afford much -- I was living in Philadelphia with Kevin at that point, working as a secretary for a very kind doctor who let me write stories whenever I was caught up on office work. (She only asked that I turn the computer screen so the patients couldn't see what I was working on. :-) . I think I had figured out that I could afford to do a small print run of perhaps 500 copies at the time, and it would be a big financial stretch.

So I posted about this project in my journal, and Dale Larson sent me a note. He had a small company that had been publishing Amiga computer books, Intangible Assets Manufacturing, and he was interested in branching out into fiction. He wanted to publish my book!

Looking back now, I can find all sorts of things to critique about that book -- the stories were brief and minimal, and a few of them were written in a hurry just to fill it out sufficiently to publish the book at all. But I don't think I can convey how thrilled I was by Dale's offer. He paid me a small advance of $500, arranged for an author photo, and printed 5000 copies of Torn Shapes of Desire. The book was tiny -- barely a hundred pages, and I was over the moon with happiness when I saw my first book galleys. When I received a letter from The Library of Congress, letting me know that they had received my book and telling me that it was safely shelved with them, I felt as if I had achieved the first real milestone in my life. If I got hit by a bus the next day, I would have died happy.

Dale let me put poetry in, along with fiction; he published erotica at a time when presses were still very skittish about it (Dale's regular printer refused to print the book because we included photography by journaller Tracy Lee, photos which showed bare breasts). Dale took a chance on a book that no big publisher would likely have touched. Small presses are amazing.

2 thoughts on “8. Why and when did you…”

  1. I’m not actually sure, Simon. I *think* I earned out my advance and got a tiny bit more from Dale at some point, but I don’t remember very well. You can still buy it through Amazon, so presumably we haven’t sold all 5000 copies yet. 🙂

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