As readers of this blog probably know, I'm always on the lookout for writing oddities (and by the way, I always appreciate it when people bring strange or wacky writing-related things to my attention). My latest find: Shortstoryofthemonth.com.
Shortstoryofthemonth.com, as its name implies, is a monthly ezine consisting of 3 stories per issue. According to the FAQ, stories are chosen by an unnamed "forum of executives", and "selected" writers who make the cut get a flat $100 per story (the FAQ says that writers keep copyright, but no other information about rights or contracts is provided). An annual "Best of" edition will be issued in print, with the chosen writers getting extra payment "depending on the success of the program and other factors."
But that's not all. Shortstoryofthemonth.com isn't just a chance for writers, it's an opportunity for readers too! "AN INSTANT AND PAINLESS SOURCE OF MONTHLY INCOME!" the website trumpets. "Are you looking for interesting, short stories by some of the best, [sic] new writers out there?? Are you looking for a justifiable source of monthly income?? We combine them into something never before seen!"
Well, I think we might have seen it a time or three. Basically, it's a simplified pyramid scheme. You sign up for a monthly ezine subscription (only $7.95!!! Per month!!!). Your subscription gives you the right to set up your own Customized Affiliate Website through which you (yes, YOU!!!) can sign other people up for subscriptions. For this, you get $4.00 (yes, $4.00!!!) of the subscription fee, paid directly to you. "If you do the math, all you need is to sign up 2 people to enjoy a FREE MONTHLY COPY OF SHORTSTORYOFTHEMONTH.COM!!" the website shrieks. "Anything after that is pure profit ON A MONTHLY BASIS!!"
So, faithful readers, are you ready to rush out and take advantage of this irresistible offer? What's that I hear--you're not convinced? You can't understand why anyone would want to pay $7.95 per month for a slim ezine featuring unknown writers? You fear your affiliate page would languish, lonely and unclicked, on the Internet? Well, Shortstoryofthemonth.com has anticipated your concerns. From its FAQ:
Why are you charging $7.95 for an Ezine of short stories? There are several Ezines online that are free. Why should we pay for yours?
While it is true that there are many free online Ezines, how many of those actually benefit you, directly, as a writer or as a reader? Most of these Ezines have no traffic so your work goes undiscovered. Most of these Ezines publish stories that are marginal and not very good. Short Story of the Month pays its writers for excellent, interesting stories that are thoroughly scrutinized by four totally different individuals, with different backgrounds. In other words, we are normal people who like to read. The majority of any writer's fans are normal people, with diverse backgrounds. The free Ezines online are usually a collection of writers "beating the hell" out of each other. This is not an insult, just an observation. Short Story of the Month strives to create a comfortable, enjoyable experience for all involved. Plus that $7.95 is spread among the readers and writers. What free Ezine offers you the ability to enhance your income?
Oh dear. That was confusing, wasn't it? Plus, it didn't really answer the question of why it costs way more to subscribe to Shortstoryofthemonth.com than to most print magazines. Wait, I know! How about an example of the kind of story that might land in your inbox every month? Yeah, that should do the trick. Here it is, kindly provided by Shortstoryofthemonth.com's blog. Er, just one caveat: don't read it on a full stomach.
Shortstoryofthemonth.com is the brainchild of Dr. Ron Kaiser, a Texas optometrist who "started this website to give new writers more exposure and readers a source of income. Times are tough and this is a simple way to supplement one’s income." Uh huh. A websearch shows a lot of press-release-type announcements for the scheme, but I wasn't able to find any affiliate websites.
It's not the only writing-related pyramid scheme I've discovered, but it's definitely one of the oddest.