Thursday 2 October 2014

How to Sell a Lot of Short Story Reprints: Part I

What's a reprint?

When you sell a short story to a venue you'll usually sell first rights with or without a exclusivity period. This means that once any exclusivity period is over, you're free to sell the story to another venue as a reprint. Between zero and 12 months are common exclusivity periods.

Occasionally a venue will ask for all rights. That means you won't be able to resell your story as a reprint. That's your call. But remember that you can negotiate. I know of one short story publisher who requests to buy all rights as as standard, but who will immediately offer a first rights contract if the writer queries.

Once the period of exclusivity is over, you're free to sell your story again. Now the fun begins.

How to Sell Reprints: What do I do?

I used to think that reprints were a hard sell. I'd send out an occasional reprint submission, get rejected and wait a few months before I sent another. But this year I've made 64 reprint sales.That's about double the amount of original stories I've sold.

These two blog posts discuss how I make reprint sales. Every writer's different. But I hope you find it interesting to read a jobbing writer's process.
So, how do I do it? I make a lot of reprint submissions. That's the take home message. More submissions means, for me, more acceptances.

Following a submission challenge from writing group I've upped my number of subs this year. At any one time I've got out 40-50 original stories on sub and 40-50 reprints.

You know that every writer is different, right? I'm prolific. I have a big bag of stories to offer as reprints. But if you have less stories, fret not. There are still things you could do, particularly sending to non-English subs where you can send the same reprint to more than one market. I'll do a case study in part II.

You can't sell if you don't sub, except when you:

Sell without Subbing

  • Editor request: Sometimes editors will contact me and ask for a reprint. For pity's sake make sure you have contact information on your blog so that an editor can contact you. (I speak from experience here) A bibliography with links is nice, too.  
  • Count everything. Sometimes I'll sell a story and the venue will request non-exclusive anthology rights. I always count these. That's your call. It motivates me to tally up the number of sales. 

What kind of story sells as a reprint?

  • I don't know. I only know what I've sold. That's: science fiction, horror and fantasy short stories and poems, drabbles and tweets, stories at flash length <1000 words, and at short story length (in my case 1-5K)
  • Test assumptions. I recently heard a writer say: 'Reprint flash is an extremely hard sell." And I thought: Not really. Most of my reprints sales have been flash.
  • Once I've found a story that sells at reprint, I tend to send it out again. My story 'Unmovable Sky' f'instance has been sold around half a dozen times (podcast, English language and non-English language venues, science fiction and literary venues, sold as part of a gallery show). The fact that I've sold it as a reprint before doesn't seem to stop it selling again #nojinx

Finding Reprint Venues 

  • Submission Grinder is my first port of call. You can search by reprint markets. A search on SF reprint paying token rate and above gives me 44 results. But I'd also suggest that you:
  • Check guidelines. Sometimes the information on reprints is incorrect on Grinder, or has been supplemented, or has changed. If I find incorrect information, I'll drop Grinder a note.
  • Sometimes Grinder states that a venue doesn't take reprints because the venues guidelines don't mention them. In which case I'll drop the editor a polite e-mail and ask. Then I'll drop Grinder a note.  
  • Consider also going outside your genre. I've sold genre fiction sales to literary and to general reprint venues.
  • Consider podcasts.
  • Doug Smith's Foreign Market List. A resource for non-English venue markets who will translate and publish your story. Because you are offering different language rights, you can send the same story to many different venues.
  • Keep your ears open. If I hear about a reprint sale, I'll often go to the venue and check it out. 
  • Reach out to editors. If you know of an anthology that's perhaps invite only, you might like to contact the editor and ask if you can send them something. I've done this a few times, with reasonable success. I ought to do it more.
Here's one I made earlier: 'Drink Deep and Long the Circean Poison' in Strange Constellations 2014

In Part II, I'll talk about how to select a venue, pay, rights and subbing strategies.


  1. That's excellent information, Deborah. I definitely don't take advantage of reprint sales and know that I should. Damn, you are prolific!

  2. Thank you for this invaluable information. Very generous of you to share.

  3. Very useful info, thanks! I'm pretty lazy about sending out reprints. If I catch a market, see that they accept reprints and seem like they might like what I have, then I'll send something. But that's so rare.

  4. Thanks for this. I'm trying to do more resubbing, but I'm not sure I'm up to your prodigous levels just yet!

  5. But if you have less stories, fret not.

    It is "fewer" stories, not "less."

    1. Thanks, Faith. I hope you enjoyed the article, despite the error.

  6. Most of the publishers that I contact from Durotrope, won't accept reprints.

    1. I'm sorry to hear that. I've been lucky, then. Because (touch wood) most publisher I contact (who don't say in the guidelines) have agreed to look at a reprint.