Privileged

we’ve started reading your stories

We’ve started reading the Winter Short Story Contest submissions. We usually wait until the deadline has passed, but we’re nervous of having too much to read to do justice to everyone’s stories, so we’ve made a start.

The first read is really nothing more than getting a feel for the story, the critical assessment as to whether it should go further in the process doesn’t start until the second look.

But seeing these first few pages has reminded us what a privilege it is to be reading the stories at all. Most writers are very choosy about who they show their work to. Some won’t even show their partners. True, sending to a stranger can be a little easier, but that moment can be fraught too. If you’ve ever sent a child off for their first day at kindergarten, to their first step into the world without you being there to explain how they like to be treated, to interpret their little quirks and mannerisms, if you’ve done that, then you have an idea how many writers feel about sending their stories to be read by the jaded eyes of judges and editors.

To those who’ve already sent and to those who have yet to share their stories with us – thank you, we are privileged and will treat your stories with the respect and care that they deserve. They may  not be perfect, they may need a comma or two added or subtracted, they may have a typo you missed. It’s OK, we understand, we’re writers too.

*photo credit klim sergeev via unsplash

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Winter competition now open

The Askance Winter Short Story Competition is now open. There’s no theme, a generous word limit of 1500 to 5000 words, a modest entry fee and prizes for the stories judged as the best three we receive.

If your entries are anything close to the level we usually see in our contests, we’re going to thoroughly enjoy reading them. Judging is always difficult, but we’ll read every story at least twice, and all about-to-be-rejected stories will be read again, just to make sure a quirky gem is not lost.

Check the full details on the competition page.

Flash Fiction Competition Result

We were down to twelve, then six, getting more difficult to choose at each stage. Finding the award winners was agonising, but Caroline Jaine has made her decision, and here’s what she has to say about it:

“This was a very difficult decision, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the stories. Flash fiction is such an inspiring and fitting genre for our times. Although many of the stories were worthy of praise, Paper Leaves stood out for me as the overall winner. The writer seemed entirely at ease with writing in this short form – there was no attempt to pack too much in, either in terms of content or vocabulary – a common mistake. Paper Leaves felt like a delicate gesture, and yet a surprisingly disturbing one – the loss of a tree, which moved me deeply. It wasn’t quite what I expected to find in such a short piece, and there lies the writer’s skill and strength.”

The final placings are:

Paper Leaves by Antonia Maxwell (UK)

Breath by Phil Arnold (Australia)

Caffeine Dreams by Vincent Wood (UK)

Read each of them, they’re worth a few minutes of your time.

Flash Fiction 2018 finalists

It’s taken a lot of reading and discussion to get there, but finally we’re done. Our 2018 Flash Fiction shortlist looks like this:

Breath
Breeze
Caffeine Dreams
Missing
Paper Leaves
Stage Notes

Every story has its attractions, there’s perceptive and original writing, new angles on familiar themes. Getting the list down to six has been hard enough, now it’s over to Caroline Jaine for the one-two-three.

All the stories have been a pleasure to read, a privilege to judge. Those not among the finalists can consider themselves unlucky, the difference between being there and not is paper thin. Our new competition opens on December 1st. Send us something irresistible.

Flash Around The World

Our 2018 Flash Fiction competition has attracted entries from Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA. Thank you! Now we have the pleasure of reading all those little gems. Choosing the eventual finalists looks as if it will be as difficult as ever.

Short Story Competition opens in DecemberMeanwhile, authors can start flexing their writing muscles for our next competition, details coming in the next  few weeks. But it’ll be for short stories this time, again with no theme. Likely opening date will be December 1st with latest entries January 31st. Yes, there will be prizes.

A Wider Audience – At A Cost

Until recently Askance has tried to have all its titles available in as many forms and on as many platforms as possible, not least because giving any single outlet an exclusive right goes against the grain. Askance is inclusive, equal opportunity, and not always with money as the driving force – if that were the case we’d be long gone!

That’s changing now, and still not because of money. Because of readership. This applies particularly to ebooks. There are many ebook outlets and even wholesalers, although the world is dominated by Amazon’s Kindle with Kobo a distant second. Askance has for the most part made its ebooks available through all these outlets by using Smashwords as a wholesaler for everything but Amazon, where we’ve created our own ebooks.

But here’s the rub.

While that gives the maximum accessibility to readers worldwide, in practice it doesn’t get our titles read by so many people. Why? Because of Amazon’s aggressive tactics of making only titles which are exclusive to Kindle available via their Prime and Kindle Unlimited channels.

Is this moral? No. Do we like it? No. Is it anti-competitive? Yes. But a simple trial has shown that it gets a title read by more readers. We experimented recently and took a title off of all ebook outlets except Amazon and enrolled that title in the Unlimited program. In the first month of doing so, that book reached ten times the number of readers than it had done in the previous six months on Smashwords and Kobo. Yes, that small extra revenue (and it is small!) is welcome, but the readership is what matters most.

Are we selling our soul? It certainly doesn’t feel comfortable, but our writers deserve more readers, that’s the motivation.

The world is not as we would wish it to be.

(And if you’ve got this far and you’re a writer, please take a look at our Flash Fiction competition.)