As I wind down the last issue of Hardluck Stories, the question of whether web-zines or a good or bad thing thing for writers is something that I'm still struggling with. On the positive side, having a story published on a zine will give the writer exposure, maybe help in some way in landing an agent or a book deal, or in providing advertising for their books. I know that some industry people--critics, agents, editors, do look at Hardluck. So all that can be good for a writer. But the sad fact is the stories tend to only get 500-1000 hits when they're first published, and maybe another few hundred over their lifetime, so they're not getting the 1000s of readers I would've hoped. Although I did publish one story that receives 1000s of hits--Graham Powell's "Cutting Diamonds". Graham bought advertising on a web-page recommendation site, and another site picked up the link, and the number of hits were amazing.

And now for the thing that has me really struggling over this--Hardluck is a none paying web-zine, but even with the low paying ones--are web-zines doing a crime fiction writer community a disservice by devaluing short fiction? If you're setting the price to $0 or even $25 for a story, that has to be a bad thing for the community, right? At some point that has to bring down the price for stories in print. I know there's a history for literary magazines to pay with contributor copies, but that's hasn't been the history for crime fiction. Anyway, this has been something I've struggling over before deciding to shut Hardluck down (although I have other reasons for doing that) and I'd like to know what other people think.

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Guess you first start by asking yourself what was your motivation for starting it in the first place, and has your motivation changed since then? Is what motivated you as important to you now as it was then?

Does it interfere with things and activities that are more important to you now?

As a writer, I hated queries because I had no credits to list in the last paragraph. When a web-zine solicited me for a story, (with no guarantee of acceptance) I was happy to have my first credit. I did not care that I did not get paid. The goal was get a credit, which would lead to more credits. And it did.

Agents like credits, especially in crime fiction. I always saw getting accepted to a non-paying web-zine as a stepping stone, as a way of getting my foot in the door, as the first rung in a very tall ladder. It was never about getting fans or having a wide readership for my story - my goal was having credits to list in a query. I have the feeling my busniess-like attitude toward the short market puts me in the minority - I think most seek a wide audience for their work, especially those who focus more on shorts than novels.
The reason why I started my two sites was to allow writers a place to get work published. I think it allows people to experiment with style, themes and just get it all out there.
Most people don't buy magazines of short stories like they used to. More people are online. Unfortunately, not enough of them realize that there are many good webzines that have great stories in them. And, it's the internet-- people don't pay for things on the internet. I'll even admit it myself-- I have a hard time buying access to a site when I can find the "same" elsewhere for free.

But these zines have provided me with some good exposer as a writer. Good enough that I had an agent email me, out of the blue, asking for my novel. (After I finished hyperventilating, I had to email back and tell him it wasn't even started. =(

I doubt I'd ever get into a traditional, conservative pub like EQMM. Maybe my writing's not good enough. Maybe I have too much sex, too much vulgarity. But the stories are eagerly snapped up by online pubs who are after such rude and crude stories.

I'm not ready to change my writing flavor and subject to meet a publication that I don't even care much to read. (Nothing against it-- it's just vanilla when I'm more a Moose Tracks.) I'm willing to take less pay for the joy of sharing my work with the world.

I think ezines have their place. It's about exposure. And, as others have said, they are pub credits that show that someone besides Mom and Aunt Thelma think you're a decent writer.
I don't know if this pertains to Dave's original question, but I found this tidbit interesting.

I just came from a literary festival and on one panel a High School teacher said that he can't get his kids to read short stories in books, but if he e-mails them the stories they read them every time.

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