Friday, December 09, 2005

Fiction Writer Reaches Readers by E-Mail
Eugene, Oregon
November 23, 2005

Bruce Holland Rogers, a multiple award-winning writer, has been taking his work directly to his readers for nearly four years. Three times a month, he sends new short-short stories by e-mail to over 600 paying subscribers in some 60 countries.

"Writers complain that conglomerate ownership of media makes it harder for anyone but the bestsellers to find an audience," Rogers says. "In fact, there has never been a better time for writers to build their audiences, starting small and gradually expanding."

The key to this literary distribution model is the Internet. Sending stories by e-mail costs very little, and sending a story to South Africa costs no more than sending it across town. Also essential, according to Rogers, is micro-payments. "An electronic payment service lets me process small subscription fees from other countries without bank fees for currency conversions." The service that Rogers uses is PayPal.

The subscription stories are very short, ranging from 200 words to two-thousand. Rogers believes that literary brevity suits the busy lives of his readers. "Anything longer, you wouldn't want to read as an e-mail," he says. Indeed, some readers find that they don't want to be reading for pleasure at the computer at all. "I enjoyed the stories," wrote one non-renewing subscriber, "but my inbox is choked." Another noted, "When I'm reading e-mail, I'm just not ready for fiction; it's a bit jarring."

Receiving entertaining e-mail at work can have other drawbacks. "With this one, you not only show your writing skills, you demonstrate that you are a comic genius," wrote one Seattle subscriber. "Good thing I moved into an office from a [cubicle]. If I laughed any louder, it would have hurt."

At five U.S. dollars a year, the subscriptions aren't going to allow Rogers to retire any time soon. "Short fiction doesn't pay very well in any case, so the money is something of a side issue," he admits. "The great thing about running this service is that I have direct contact with my readers. I still publish in traditional magazines and anthologies, but most of my fan mail comes from e-mail subscribers."

The service has doubled in each year of operation, so the money may not be a side issue forever. Most new subscribers join because of word-of-mouth recommendations from existing subscribers, or because they have been given gift subscriptions.

Over 600 subscribers now pay $5 a year for the stories. Sample stories by Bruce Holland Rogers can be found at For more about Bruce Holland Rogers, see his web page at

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