SFFMP 61: Using Short Fiction for “Gatekeeper Cred” and Editing Tips with Mike Reeves-McMillian

Today we chatted with Mike Reeves-McMillian, former copy editor with a publishing house and current writer of short and novel-length speculative fiction. He shared some tips for self-editing and talked about how short story sales can still be useful and what it means to be a “light hybrid author.”

Here are a few more notes from our discussion:

  • Using short story sales to gain “gatekeeper cred.”
  • Why Mike likes magazines and anthologies rather than attempting to sell novels to houses (they’re “less rightsy-grabby,” have a quicker turn-around, and you end up making more per word than is typical with novel advances).
  • Sites for finding short story markets: Duotrope (fee) and The Submission Grinder (free)
  • Tips for catching errors in your own work (such as changing fonts and reading upside down — yes, really).
  • Some of the common editing errors he sees, both in self-published work and in traditionally published books.
  • Clippings, a tool that will will take the output of your Kindle notes and highlights and transform it into a spreadsheet or several other formats.

Check out Mike’s novels and short stories, and of course his helpful The Well-Presented Manuscript: Just What You Need to Know to Make Your Fiction Look Professional. (You can find quite a bit of free information on the page for his book.)

To see his reviews for speculative fiction, visit The Review Curmudgeon. He’s also active on Google+.


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  • I’ve been using Duotrope since before it moved to a subscription model (it’s $50 a year subscription) and I always make my money back and turn a small profit.

    If you can write saleable short fiction, as Mike says here, it can be a part of your promotion strategy.

    For example, I’m just gearing up to launch my MG steampunk trilogy (the first book is finished, edited and proofread, and currently I’m looking at cover art) and the second book is about a third written. Anticipating the launch (late spring/early summer 2016) I wrote a short story set in the same world and with the main characters for an anthology of MG SF which has just been released. As I see it, there are three benefits:

    1. I got paid just under $300 for a story which took me about an hour to write and edit (because I already knew the characters and setting so well)

    2. It’s another string to my bow in terms of publishing credits and wider credibility as an author (Nancy Cress and Beth Cato are both published in the same anthology)

    3. The bio published with the story has a link to the trilogy website where readers who enjoyed the story can go and find out more and sign up to the newsletter to be told when the books come out. (At the moment I’m still building the site out and might actually build it down to make the call to action clearer)

    My plan, once I have all three books finished, formatted and covered, is to publish the first one with the first chapter of the second one at the end as a teaser with links to the newsletter.

    In the meantime, I’ll be writing and publishing more short stories in magazines, anthologies and websites with these characters, all with links. This is advertising that pays me. Then, after maybe 3 or 6 months, Ill release the next book and follow the same strategy with the third installment. The idea is that the short stories can be out there drawing readers to the mailing list and the books.

    Also, the magazines, websites and anthologies I’ve found all have established MG readerships and many go out to librarians, too. So, as an Indie author, I’m hoping this might be a core strategy in getting my books to an audience that has traditionally been considered hard to reach as an Indie – the MG market.

    And all the time, I’m writing. Eventually the collected short stories (as rights revert fairly quickly to me) can be used as an incentive to sign up to the newsletter and so it goes on.

    Sounds like a plan, right?

    I don’t know if it’s cool to leave links in the comments here so I haven’t done – but visitors to this podcast are not my core demographic anyway I guess!

    In terms of the copy editing and proofreading, I write pretty clean, well spelled, grammatically correct copy on the first round, but my editor and proofreader still earn their money picking up all the gremlins that skipped through my editing net. Earning a living as a copywriter definitely helps – although I want to stop writing corporate blah-blah and make a living as a fiction writer just as soon as I can! And if I ever do manage that, I’ll owe a big debt of gratitude to you guys and this podcast.

    • SFFpodcast

      Austin, thanks for sharing your experiences with the short story market! Congrats on the $300 sale. Getting the pro rates are really not that easy to do! You can leave some links if you’d like. I just have to pop in and approve the comment manually. Thanks for listening and commenting!