Monday, February 16, 2009

Victoria Strauss -- Writing Oddities: Shortstoryofthemonth.com

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.

28 comments:

suspiratus said...

This sounds like one of those "I've heard there's money in this internet thing" kinds of plans that probably will not go well, largely because unless they somehow manage to get New Yorker like quality at $100 a pop, nobody in their right mind will pay $8 for three short stories.

The first story ever chosen is horrific, but I'm amazed that it hasn't even been edited for basic spelling errors. Maybe I shouldn't be.

AC said...

This part cracked me up:

"...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."

Four totally different individuals? Instead of four of the exact same individuals? It's good to know most of my "fans" will be normal people with diverse backgrounds.

Eden said...

I like the "first story" up on the blog as a sample of its quality. By author "Luke Warm."

Ben said...

ROFL ... "Horace Hucklebee", "Henry Hawkins", "Thomas Timmons"?

The fact that this is serious, and not some sort of joke, is funnier than the horrible quality of the story itself.

Excuse me while I giggle at the notion of a small-town plumbing company trading on the stock market.

Anonymous said...

Yikes! I can subscribe to Jim Baen's Universe for just six dollars and issue and get a ton of stories, most from established authors, plus nonfiction as well. And of course, some of the best and best-known ezines are the free ones. This sounds like a case of marketing fiction to writers rather than to all potential readers.

(Anne Marble, still unable to get that password to work.)

BuffySquirrel said...

I know you warned us, but OW! my eyes!

Anonymous said...

I suppose every idea has to be tried. Most business ventures fail but the internet is cheap to use and so we will see lots of not-so-bright entrepreneurs trying to get something different to work and fail at it.

I think the people who start these schemes are not bad people or scammers, just people who imagine that there's a market out there for readers and writers and try to tap into it the wrong way. This venture is unlikely to last.

word ver: boingen

Susanne said...

Horace was looking forward to today’s events, which would include fixing Mrs. Hudson’s septic tank [...]

Wh-- Bu--- Whaaaaaaat?

Victoria's warning - heed it.

(I've been reading this blog for a long time, but I think this is my first comment here, ever. Hi! *waves*)

Anonymous said...

"Luke Warm." Now THERE'S a great name to add to my collection of faux tombstones. Next Halloween, I think I'll place Mr. Warm's marker between "Justin Terd" and "Barry Meenow."

p.n. elrod said...

"four totally different individuals, with different backgrounds."

Perhaps Ron Kaiser's wife, and a few in-laws roped in to read? Perhaps this month's submissions were written by Kaiser himself?

A background in publishing would be helpful, but were that the case, then this twinkie would know better than to try this scheme.

Yo, Kaiser--you'll make more money on eBay.

Anne Marble--Good shot about Baen'S Universe. MUCH better quality

ALC said...

Wow!

My first thought was that this poor guy wants to write. Then I read the story. I think it's far more likely that he thought he could actually make a buck off of this idea &, not wanting to fork over the $100 per story OR go to the trouble of taking submissions to read right off to bat, he just decided to spit one out on his own.

If he really IS an aspiring writer who thought that this would be a brilliant way to introduce his work to the world, pitty him.

Not Shakespeare said...

Reading that story, I'm wondering if it's akin to that Opening Paragraphs for Sale site you posted about previously.

In other words, a prank, but one they are not adverse to making money off of?

(At least, I can only hope that considering the first story. "Luke Warm." Really?)

Lehcarjt said...

Seems like this is a poorly thought out way for the owner to earn extra income. That he posted the story by 'Luke Warm' is a pretty good indication that he has very little idea of what he is doing.

Did anyone see his other web-invention? "Scavenger hunt of the month" - where players have to search the internet for specific content. Websites will eventually pay to be included in the game.

Well... At least I have to give him credit for trying - if nothing else.

JediMormon said...

One would think that the good Doctor would use the best story he had in order to attract new business. That's what I would do. If that story was the best of the lot, then...words fail me. Utterly.

Anonymous said...

The same guy has another blog for a "free" monthly scavenger hunt.

"My idea is to start a FREE monthly scavenger hunt. The monthly hunt would be a contest to find specific phrases and content on websites."

Wonder what's up with that? Has he never heard of Google?

Short Story of the Month said...

Hello,

I am Dr. Ron Kaiser. I appreciate all your negative feedback. Unfortunately, in order to start a business of any type, you must face your critics. This is a unique idea that hits a nerve. All I can say is that I am sincere in my efforts.

I am trying to start an Internet magazine for aspiring writers. No more than that. I believe that amateur writers deserve a reward for their efforts, so I am trying to provide one. However to provide this reward, the stipend must be funded.

Think what you will...this is not a pyramid scheme. I am not collecting money and distributing it as I see fit. The money earned by selling the online magazine goes directly to the seller. I cannot explain it any plainer.

I am open to ideas to improve my magazine. I appreciate criticism, but alternative ideas are better.

Not all of us are priveleged to have agents and groupies to pave our ways. I am trying to provide another possible avenue for writers. This is the great thing about the Internet. You can throw an idea out there and see what happens.

The fourth issue of the Ezine will come out in two weeks. I assure you that the three stories are much better than Luke's effort. He is a friend of mine and I actually found the story amusing and ironic.

As far as the writers being paid for their submissions, I am paying them. Here are two links of verification:

http://www.writingforums.com/writers-resources/100876-looking-short-stories-my-newsletter-3.html#post1238078

and

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=128804

Again, thanks for all the comments. Feel free to contact me with any ideas or more criticism at shortstoryofthemonth@gmail.com.

Good luck with all your endeavors.

Dr. Ron Kaiser

Anonymous said...

Dr. Kaiser, my first impression when I read the story you posted on your blog was that the whole thing was one, big, huge, giant joke. I still think that. You're a guy with an off-beat sense of humour who enjoys seeing other people get riled up. Fair enough. We all get our kicks somehow...

However, on the off chance that this short story caper of yours is to be taken seriously, all I can say is that you have broken every single rule ever written about how to start up a company. Do you really think that people will want to send money and/or stories to you after reading the absurd piece you posted by Mr. Luke Warm? Come on, get real! Would I want my writing to proudly stand alongside such nonsense? Of course not.

If I want people to read my stories, then I can e-mail it to them or post a blog and spread the word. There's no need nowadays for this sort of ezine. The $100 you offer to pay is absurdly low, so would not entice anyone to write. In the 1950s pulp sci-fi mags paid more than that, over half a century ago!

However, I still can't believe that this whole scheme is really meant to be taken seriously. The whole thing has to be a joke, although (and I never thought I'd say this) the writing by 'Luke Warm' is even worse than the endless malapropisms of firsttimeauthoress, but at least hers we can read for free...

Anonymous said...

Dr. Kaiser said:

"Not all of us are priveleged to have agents and groupies to pave our ways."

Groupies? What is this man on about? Since when did groupies have anything to do with selling a story? He's off his head... or pulling our legs...

Anonymous said...

The comments on Ron's blog are even more negative than the ones here. But he seems to take delight in them.

Katrina S. Forest said...

To respond to Mr. Kaiser's comment: I don't ever consider agented authors to be "privileged." I consider them to be hard-working people who can write well and sent their manuscripts to the right places. Granted, that might be the idealist in me, but at the very least, I know that simply writing a story does not mean I "deserve" to have others go out of their way to publish it for me. Quite honestly, the sight of that word usually makes me grab my stories and run the other way.

Anonymous said...

Hey Katrina, that's DOCTOR Kaiser to you!!!! Show some respect. Not everyone gets to be a writer but even fewer are qualified doctors, so watch your mouth.

Katrina S. Forest said...

Dr. Kaiser. Pardon the error.

Anonymous said...

"I am Dr. Ron Kaiser."

And I'm Lieutenant Frank Drebin, Police Squad!

Lili said...

And I'm Spartacus!

Horace was looking forward to today’s events, which would include fixing Mrs. Hudson’s septic tank

This has GOT to be a euphemism.

December/Stacia said...

That is the most alliterative short story I've ever read in my life.

Oh and hey, where are my groupies? Were they supposed to come with my agent (no pun intended)? Is this something I should speak to him about?

Marian said...

This is a unique idea that hits a nerve.

More like hits a bone... the funny bone.

I believe that amateur writers deserve a reward for their efforts

So do I, but I call that reward "editing".

Anonymous said...

I knew when he signed off as "Dr. Ron Kaiser", and not Ron Kaiser, M.D. or Ron Kaiser, Ph.D, or some other legitimate abbreviation, that he was a friggin' chiropractor. They *all* do this.

Jane Smith said...

Oh, dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. That blog, those stories, that whole THING... bless his heart. I hope he moves on from this soon, I really do. It's not good.