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Weekly Musing: Submission Sabbatical

When one decides to write the expectation is at some point you will submit your story in the hopes of getting published. If you’re a fiction writer you usually start off writing and sending short stories out. If you write non-fiction then essays are probably your best bet. In essence it’s how we build up our resume so that if and when we decide to take the next step to get to the big leagues, we can show others have taken a chance on us. It’s also a way to start building up our brand. It’s also a way for potential agent or publisher to see our previous works. With sending out work comes a huge amount of anxiety. Will the editor like it and accept it? Will it be rejected?

A few years ago I didn’t realize I had to worry about publishing credits because it could possibly up my chances of getting a novel published. I was under the impression the process was write book and figure out how to get it published. This additional wrinkle of publishing short stories to build up my street cred was curious to me.

On the surface this makes some sense to me. Yet when I examine it a little more, I see some cracks in the argument. If I’ve completed a novel to the best of my ability and send it around to agents and publishers, they’ll be reading and judging if that manuscript, and only that manuscript and me are worth taking a chance on. Of course in the query letter I will have the opportunity to brag about publishing credits so perhaps it will be helpful. But if someone doesn’t have previous publishing credits should they be automatically be excluded from consideration? Do previous publishing credits mean that one’s novel will be better than someone who has never been published? I believe the short answer to all of these questions is no.

Perhaps I’ve come to this conclusion because 2016 hasn’t been as generous as previous years. Yes, I’ve had a few things come out this year *INSERT LINKS*, but those were stories submitted last year. So far everything submitted this year has been rejected. Beyond boilerplate answers, I’m not completely certain why. Perhaps I’ve picked the wrong outfits. Perhaps I’m trying to make a story fit criteria that it truly doesn’t.

But with a year of rejections it’s been difficult to keep going. Some weeks I’ve received two to four rejections. For my self-confidence those weeks really suck. From the start aspiring writers are told to develop a thick skin. Realize not everyone will like everything you write. That rejection is a part of the industry and most of the time rejections do not mean you are a crappy writer.

When I look at how many places I’ve sent stories to, I guess it makes sense I’d receive more rejections, but my hope is more places = more chances I’ll get a yes. I keep track of my submissions so it would be easy enough to count up the rejections. But I don’t want to. I already have a visual with each rejection nailed to a wall, something I stole from Stephen King’s On Writing. I’m now on my second nail having run out of space on the first nail in mid-2015.

It’s unclear to me if having this visual is good for my self-esteem. While I accept rejection as normal, I am human. My skin has thickened over the years, but still rejection hurts. And honestly it is difficult not to take it personally. After all with each word I write I am sharing a piece of myself with the world. Unfortunately the wary my personality processes rejection is tell myself I suck. Don’t worry, though, this thought does eventually go away.

So as the year has gone on and I’ve received nothing but rejections, I noticed it was getting to me emotionally and mentally. I started finding it more difficult to justify writing even though it truly is the only thing I want to do. It’s the one area I can admit I have some natural ability. At times it’s been hard to find the motivation to put pen to paper, to revise anything in the hopes of making it good enough for someone else. I also wondered what happens to my chances of landing an agent or publisher if I don’t get another short story published.

Instead of continuing to submit my work I am taking a break. It’s not permanent and next year I’ll gather the courage to put myself out there once more. At first this decision was kind of scary and I questioned if I was being too sensitive. But I hope I know me. Know there are times when something isn’t working or is too painful, to not press through. In this case I’d become demoralized and any joy I got out of writing had been sucked out.

I don’t know what, if any, impact this will have on my career. I doubt it will because I believe I am getting better even if the number of rejections grows. At this point what matters most is 1) revising the novel I’ve been working on and off on for years. It needs to get done to send to beta readers and agents, 2) concentrating more on writing with a clear head without the weight of getting published, and 3) improving my writing. Any other thoughts need to be brushed aside.

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Weekly Musing: Freebies!

Freebies. Everyone likes them and like getting a deal. I’m going to go out on a limb and claim bibliophiles in particular. It’s why used bookstores are awesome and my favorite place to get books. It’s what makes libraries great because there the books are free (as long as you return them).

With the explosion of ebooks and their popularity, reading and getting a hold of books has become even easier. This has given bookworms another opportunity to bargain hunt. Many authors, mostly new and proudly independent ones, realized this and figured out if they run freebie or lower price specials, they could potentially drive up their sales.

At first this was great for readers. We could hoard books without spending much money especially considering paperback books are well over ten dollars and hardbacks have always been expensive. I know once I got a Kindle I went on a shopping spree and acquired literally hundreds of free books. I figured if the book wasn’t too great then no big deal; it didn’t cost me a thing. I’m not alone in this behavior and in a recent post on Writers in the Storm, the author admits to being a bargain shopper and having a Kindle full of free and reduced price books. However, people like myself and the blog poster have realized we’re probably never going to get to all those freebies.

The publishing industry has taken note of this behavior and will often offer a lower price if a reader pre-orders. Other authors, again mainly newer and independent authors, will offer the books for free when initially launching their book. Some will give away free copies to bloggers in exchange for a book review. Still yet another strategy is after the book has been released to run occasional specials where the book’s price is reduced or free. This helps to boost sales in the hopes of getting the book on a bestseller list, in particular, Amazon’s.

Yet is this necessarily a good thing? The above post caused me reexamine my thinking. As a writer and as someone who looks to hopefully become more of a novelist than short story writer, are the low prices and free giveaways a good thing? A point I’d never thought about until the above post was the message it sends to potential readers. If a book goes on sale either before it’s even released or shortly thereafter, is it any good? Personally I don’t keep track of stuff like that and I’ve never thought such a pricing tactic means the content isn’t great. Perhaps because when I became a writer I also started reading about the industry and knew pricing strategies were common.

But does the average reader view think this way? Some due, of course, and perhaps a few years ago it was truer when many free books were self-published and not good. Nowadays I don’t think that’s the case. As self-published and indie books have gotten vastly better in quality and as more readers realize books will go on sale, the stigma has waned.

Even before the Writers in the Storm post I was beginning to change my thinking on freebie books. With a bloated Kindle I started getting pickier. As a fellow writer I want to be paid for my published work so why shouldn’t I pay for these books? The authors have put in countless hours, weeks, months, and years into their story and took a chance by birthing it into the world in the hopes they’d find readers. Buying the book pays the author which is something I’m firmly for. Writing is a job. It’s why I dislike entry/reading fees and outfits who don’t pay writers other than with “exposure” and complimentary copies. As far as I know, whether a book is purchased for free or not, it still counts as a sale.

It is enormously difficult to make a name for yourself in publishing. Any little trick or bit of help an author can get, we’ll take it. If this means running a freebie or reduced price special, it’s going to be done. If it means giving a reviewer a free copy in exchange for a review, they’ll do it. But as readers, we should reconsider our thinking. When I see a friend offering their latest endeavor for free, I don’t gobble it up. I’d rather pay them. Readers as a whole should be doing this. If we want to see more work, quality work, then actually buying it only encourages the author. After all, price doesn’t change if the story works or not and the risk is still the same for the reader.