A couple of days ago I noticed that people were posting messages on their blogs and Facebook about the fact that Salt Publishers, one of the very few independent presses to publish short stories and poetry, were in financial trouble and desperately needed people to buy 'Just One Book' to help their business survive.
I read around a bit, found out that everything I'd read was true, and went to visit Salt's website. I looked through all the short story anthologies and decided to buy "Balancing on the Edge of the World" by Elizabeth Baines. Then I twittered about the 'Just One Book' campaign and was delighted when some of my followers retweeted it.
Why did I feel so moved to help? Because I started off writing short stories (and I'll go on to write some more once I've finished the first draft of novel 2) and know how extraordinarily hard it can be to find a market for them. Those of us who write womag stories are lucky that Take a Break, Woman's Weekly et al pay quite well. Admittedly it's still a very tough market to crack but at least you're decently rewarded if you do sell one. When I was writing literary short stories the most I ever made from a sale was £15 - once to an Australian print mag and, on another occasion, to an American ezine. And it's not just about money. Writers like to see their work in print and fewer and fewer magazines are dedicated to short stories.
The market for short stories is tiny. It's almost impossible to get yourself an agent, even if you've pulled together a fantastic, prize-winning collection, because publishers just don't see big bucks in short story collections. Even in womag-world more and more magazines are closing their doors to fiction. So what's a short story writer to do? Where are they supposed to turn to see their work in print?
That's where Salt came in - they offered one of the very few havens for short story writers who wanted to see their work published and they've published some of the best - Vanessa Gebbie, Alex Keegan, Elizabeth Baines and Charles Lambert to name but a few. And let's not forget Tania Hershman whose short story collection, published by Salt, so impressed the judges of the Orange Prize for New Writers that she received a commendation.
If Salt folds it'll be another punch in the guts for short story writers, and readers, everywhere.
Today Salt published a blog post on the amazing response to their plea for 'Just One Book'. It's an amazingly honest post and I couldn't help but be touched by this paragraph:
"During the course of the day, a further 157 orders come in. Twitter is full of the news, our authors are picking up on the story. It seems as if everyone we’ve known is pulling together to save Salt. We’re overwhelmed. All I can think of is the closing scenes of Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life and Jen and I are James Stewart and Donna Reed. I wonder if it will continue, if it does, in 18 days we’ll be saved, in 30 we’ll be able to take the business forward."
It's only a couple of days into the campaign, not 18 and certainly not 30 and Salt still need you to buy a book. Buy one from their website or the Book Depository or Amazon, they really don't mind. Just please, if you've ever enjoyed reading a short story or dreamed of seeing one of yours in print, buy one book. It would be such a shame if they became another business that tried, and failed, to support short story writers.
Here's the Salt website again if you want to have a look (you could buy some poetry if short stories aren't your thing!).
PS. If you're a short story writer and you've ever wondered what kind of story wins a literary competition you could buy any one of the books I've listed in this post and you'll find the answer - many of their prize-winning stories are included.