I actually did land a publishing contract recently, so perhaps I shouldn't be throwing stones while standing in this pretty glass house, but there will be more details on that later. And of course there are plenty of agents out there who are not immediately dismissive, and publications that don't have such anal submission requirements. That's actually becoming more popular as writers seem to flock to email submissions, which at least cuts down on some of the bureaucracy.
For now, I have a handful of stories on Smashwords: some for free and some for cheap, as well as an anthology of them all for a bargain price. And people are reading them, and even buying them. All I had to do was read the Smashwords Style Guide to make sure my manuscripts were correctly formatted (and at least I only had to deal with one particular format, even if the meatgrinder software is a bit of a pedant itself). Then I uploaded them, detailed what they were and who they might be for, and the market came to me. I obviously took my time in writing them and aimed for the same quality I would for a submission piece, but with my other submission pieces still out there in the ether of editors' inboxes, I figured "why wait?". The stories are out there in front of an audience of millions, without taking all year to be accepted or rejected by one particular reader. After having been conditioned by the industry to avoid and deride vanity publishers, it can be easy to feel like going to a service like Smashwords is admitting defeat, but really it is circumventing it. My stories rise and fall on their own merit and a dash of luck with getting the right audience to find them - they don't have to wait for an increasingly busy, distracted individual to decide whether they happen to be what they are looking for.
So after this modest early success, I have another story up my sleeve, and I'm curious what readers would think about it appearing on Smashwords, piece by piece. It's an episodic adventure story, a lovechild of the TV series 24 and NCIS, if that lovechild were somehow booted into a steampunk fantasy universe. The first episode should drop sometime next week, and will be free, and I would naturally love some feedback on that and all the stories currently up on Smashwords. Keep an eye out here for more info on something else that's about to be published. Now, here's your moment of zen: