Post, Shea Serrano Credit: Courtesy / Shea Serrano

Bestselling author and San Antonio native Shea Serrano has written and self-published his first work of fiction, a short story titled “Post: A Short Story of No Consequence at All.” 

The story, which was released in PDF and audiobook versions on July 15 via Serrano’s Gumroad website, is set in the year 1996 and takes place on San Antonio’s South Side, in the Valley Hi neighborhood where the writer grew up. 

Serrano, who has a history of rallying his nearly 400,000 Twitter followers behind causes large and small, has already committed a portion of what he has earned from “Post” to a new publishing venture called Halfway Books that aims to offer aspiring writers opportunities they might not have otherwise had.

“Too often, talented writers are elbowed out of the game because they can’t afford to work an unpaid internship somewhere or they can’t afford to write for free for a few months somewhere to build up a portfolio,” Serrano wrote in a statement about the new venture.

While Serrano has enjoyed critical and commercial success as a writer of nonfiction articles and books – typically focused on hip-hop, basketball, television, and movies –he told the San Antonio Report last November that he was looking to use the freedom afforded by his success and large following to challenge himself to put out a work of fiction.

He has since self-published two other pieces in digital form: one collection of illustrated essays about the NBC television show “The Office” and one about “Scrubs”, also an NBC show.

“Post” follows five teenage friends for a span of six minutes. The main action occurs during a game of street football, a pastime familiar to many San Antonians. Serrano said the characters and situations in the story – which, without spoiling anything, does take a harrowing twist – are all “inventions,” but that versions of these characters have been in his life.

While he noted that the process of writing and releasing a piece of fiction feels a bit more personal than his usual work, Serrano said that he approached it in much the same way he approaches everything he writes.

He started working on the short story not too long after putting out his third book Movies (And Other Things). Serrano said that the time he spent “watching fiction works that other people had made” while working on the book could be the reason he was inspired to try his hand at fiction.

Serrano had never written fiction before, for publication or otherwise, and has been pleased with the sales and feedback that he’s seen so far.

“In my little area I have a certain amount of success and I could just stay doing that and everything is going to work out OK,” he said. “So you start to get a little nervous stepping away from that because this is a whole new thing and nobody knows this version of your writing.”

He also noted that the positive feedback for this project feels more gratifying than it has with his nonfiction works.

“If you write a nonfiction thing and someone’s like ‘oh good job,’ that usually just means you had a couple of clever lines in there and also you had, maybe, a clever piece of insight,” said Serrano. “But with this, it means you’ve created a whole thing that is interesting.”

Shea Serrano Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The direct, digital-only release model Serrano used to publish “Post” is still unconventional in the world of standalone short stories, but he predicts it’s something more writers will turn to.

While he didn’t specify numbers, Serrano has been happy enough with how the short story has sold that he found himself wanting “to put some of that money back into the community,” which is how he arrived at the pilot for his latest venture.

Announced via a July 26 tweet, Serrano’s pilot project for Halfway Books began with a call for writers of any experience level to submit a short proposal for a 3,000-word essay about a hip-hop album of their choice. 

Each of the five writers selected will be paid $3,000 dollars to write their essay and will participate in a month-long mentorship with Serrano. The writers will also receive a professionally designed PDF of their essay, for which they will retain full selling rights.

Serrano said that he is putting up $20,000 of his own money to bring this initiative to life. Gumroad, a platform for creatives to directly sell their work, which Serrano himself uses to sell his self-published items, is also pitching in a $1,000 grant and a free Gumroad Pro account for each writer.

While much of his focus is currently on this Halfway Books endeavor and work on his own forthcoming book Rap (And Other Things) – the third and final book in a series that previously included the aforementioned Movies (And Other Things) and Basketball (And Other Things) – Serrano said that the excitement around Halfway Books motivates him to write another short story.

“If all I have to do is write a short story and sell it, and then I can use the money I make from that to do this other cool thing, that’s reason enough to do it again.”

James Courtney is a freelance arts and culture journalist in San Antonio. He also is a poet, a high school English teacher and debate coach, and a proud girl dad.