Yard Sale Writing

So, we’ve been getting ready for a big family yard sale in the past few weeks. It seemed to me that there should be a blog post in there somewhere–you can relate anything to writing, right?

It actually wasn’t that difficult to find the connection. Yard sales are all about things that one person is finished with, but still have value to someone else. It’s related to my recent post about reusing words, too, although that’s more about turning one kind of project into something else.

Reprints are one application of yard sale writing. After all, if Editor A liked your story enough to print it, then Editor B might like it just as well. Editor B is not getting a story that’s as new and shiny as it was for Editor A, so the value might be slightly diminished, but it’s still a perfectly good story. And for readers outside the circle of those reached by Editor A’s publication, it’s every bit as new to them. Many of us have stories we’ve sold or published previously, but are just waiting around on a hard drive somewhere to find a new home.

Many writers have started to find “yard sale” money by looking back at older works to which they still have or have regained the rights. E-publishing can sidestep the whole issue of finding an editor/publisher and allow the writer to deliver their product directly into the hands of the smart yard sale shopper. After all, stories show little sign of wear and tear or being “previously loved.” I did this myself last year* with my short story collection, To Unimagined Shores. These were stories that had been professionally edited and vetted and reached an audience–but not the entirety of their possible audience. They still had lots of life in them.

The other way to put yard sale stories to work is to offer them as free samples of your work. Everyone loves free, and everyone likes a chance to sample things before they put their money down. One downside of e-books is the lack of ability to browse, the way we do in bookstores, sampling a paragraph here or a page there. Free excerpts, however, make a great way to introduce readers to your writing, so they might be more likely to make a purchase of your newest work.

So the next time you have a chance, peruse your hard drive, notebooks, and list of previous publications for some yard sale writing. You might be surprised at how shiny it can be if you dust it off and put it on a new shelf.

* Updated in 2018 to add: I now have a second collection of short stories to add to the list, The Cache & Other Stories. Still recycling those tales!

Image courtesy of snowflake5

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