Friday, December 16, 2005

Amazon brands me illegitimate

In August Amazon began a new program in which authors can sell short works--essays and stories--exclusively on Amazon for 49 cents a piece, sharing the proceeds with a 40/60 split. This intrigued me. Just a few months earlier they were illegally offering a non-existant digital download of my entire story collection. Readers of this blog may recall the inane amount of communication required to get them to stop. So I figured why not give them something to sell. I have a stack of short stories that I wrote last year, and actually submitting them to magazines is an exhausting process that requires driving across New Orleans to find a functioning post office--or submitting online, paying a fee (to the Missouri Review for example, which charges $2) and getting no response.

So I contacted Amazon Shorts and got an automated response informing me that someone would contact me within three days. Weeks passed. Nothing. I contacted them again. This time, eventually, I got an email detailing all of the selling points of participating in the program. All I needed to do, according to this email, was send a story to the designated email, someone named John Hart. Shortly before sending this email, someone from Amazon came to my website to snoop around.

So I sent a story called "Feral Children," which Frederick Barthelme had liked last spring. In fact, he said "If this isn't published in two weeks..." Meanwhile, having submitted it to Amazon, I got the standard no response. Finally, I decided to email John Hart, and I got an immediate reply:

"Thank you for your submission and interest in Amazon Shorts. Unfortunately, we have decided not to include your work in our program at this time. We appreciate the time and effort you've taken to submit your writing. However, it does not fit the type of material we are currently adding to Amazon Shorts.
In the future we may extend the framework and criteria for the program. We will keep your name and contact information on file in the event that this changes. Good luck in your future writing pursuits. Please feel free to submit any other work you would like to be reviewed.
Sincerely,
johnhart@amazon.com"

Type of material? Framework and criteria? According a spokesperson quoted in Poets and Writers Magazine: "We're not judging quality. We're just looking at some very basic elements tomakesure that it's a legitimate piece of content for offering through the program." I decided to go back to the Shorts page and try to decipher what this meant. This is what I could gather: aside from a few isolated contributions from the legitimate Daniel Wallace, Terese Svoboda, and maybe Ann Beattie, they seem to prefer shorts by Danielle Steele and any number of contributers to mystery and chick lit anthologies. Ooops!

Note to aspiring writers: Danielle Steele is legitimate literature. Stories about children raised by animals: totally illegitimate.

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