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Publication Process: Submitting

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Jul. 10th, 2012 | 08:32 am

I know some excellent writers who write and write...and never submit. I'm going to start off by saying that this is totally acceptable. I'll go back to that quilt analogy. You can make a quilt and never try to sell it. That doesn't mean it's not a gorgeous quilt. Sales are not the final arbiters of quality.

But if you want to earn any money, you've got to submit your work somewhere. You may simply 'submit' it directly to Smashwords and let the audience be the arbiters of your quality. Or you may go the 'professional' route and submit to pro magazines, book publishers, or agents.

The hard fact of submission is that you're going to be rejected. If your quality is low, you'll be rejected more frequently (even if only by reviewers on Amazon.) So for a lot of writers, taking that submission step is a truly difficult one.

I never considered submitting anywhere until about 2003. I finished my first novel and discovered I had NO CLUE how that would work. So that's when I started to attend workshops, trying to figure out the whole publication process. Although the crit sessions weren't about submission, the after-hours chats with other writers were invaluable in this realm.

So after talking to a lot of people, I decided to concentrate on short fiction for a while. Not everyone chooses this path, but in retrospect, it worked for me. Once I carved out time to write, I started submitting stories to magazines in Oct 2005. Luckily for me, my first story (The Stains of the Past) sold on its second submission. That gave me a touch of reassurance.

My second story (Touching the Dead) also sold on its second submission, to a pro market, although that one took 200 days. That was my first experience with the waiting. The endless waiting. It's almost a worse facet of submission than the ultimate rejection.

In the meantime I trunked a pair of stories that I thought weren't worthy. I began submitting story X, one that I love dearly, but have had trouble finding it a home. This story has been held over 500 days...twice! It bounces from market to market, sometimes being advanced and held for 100 days plus....other times gettting a form rejection. I will sell this story one day.

The point being that I've trunked some, sold some, and others have been endlessly submitted because they just haven't found the right market yet. Some sold.

Unlike a lot of writers, I'm NOT prolific. I have yet to cross 100 submissions, even after 6.5 years of submitting. I've sent out a total of 19 shorts, 2 of which I trunked after a couple of submissions. (I just didn't think they worked.) I have a few other stories that I haven't bothered to complete. And I do have some that I've simply never submitted anywhere. I don't think they're right for the markets available for one reason or another--too long, too specific, too much baggage because they're part of a series.

Yes, I do have submissions out right now. Will some of them get rejected? You bet.

But submitting has to be done if I want to get paid.



Next Week: Rejection and Rejectomancy

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Comments {10}

Terra LeMay

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from: rarelytame
date: Jul. 10th, 2012 02:19 pm (UTC)
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I didn't submit my work for a long time, except to critique groups. But though my crit partners assured me that I should really be submitting to publishers, I didn't think my work was ready. It was the best that I could do at the time, and I think there was a big part of me that thought it was the best I would ever do--that I would never actually get any better--and I didn't want to find out my best wasn't good enough. I was always going to submit someday, but someday was always in the future, and I never seemed to get any closer to that day.

It's kind of embarrassing to admit now, but it took drastic action on the part of the administrator of my local critique group to get me to start regularly submitting. She instituted a new rule for the group--which I later learned only applied to me--that in order to attend a meeting, I had to submit (or resubmit after a rejection) at least one story before any meeting. We met every two weeks, so I had to submit a story every two weeks and report to her what story it was and where I'd sent it. My first rejection was a "close, but..." from Clarkesworld, which I found encouraging. (Wish I'd known, back then, just how rare those "close, but..." rejections were!) Soon after, I made my first sale, and I've sold seven stories for pro rates in the three years since.

I'm still sometimes slow to decide a story is finished enough to submit. It's really hard to overcome those self-critical, perfectionism instincts and move on. But you are so so SO right about submitting. At a certain point, you have to do it whether you like it or not, if you want to get paid for your work.

Edited at 2012-07-10 02:20 pm (UTC)

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J. Kathleen Cheney

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from: j_cheney
date: Jul. 10th, 2012 04:36 pm (UTC)
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Hi Terra ;o)

That's the key..."If you want to get paid".

Sometimes I think a piece is ready, but I'm not ready. So yes, sometimes I need to be pushed. I've been a member of a group where only a couple of us were submitting. It's almost like the others didn't have anything on the line. So the submitting is like the 'commitment' part of a relationship.

Not the best analogy...



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Queen of the Skies

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from: queenoftheskies
date: Jul. 10th, 2012 03:09 pm (UTC)
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Great topic. I love to hear how people approach submission. I think maybe I live through the lives/stories of others.

I want to submit, but sometimes, I wonder if I ever will. I don't have that monetary goal that other folks have. I make good money where I work and money isn't a primary goal for me for my writing.

What I want is to be published to share my stories more than anything else, I guess. I want people to like them, though I know not everyone will, but I just want them out there where people can read them.

And, yet I rarely even seem to get them out to beta readers, LOL. Maybe I'm doomed.

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J. Kathleen Cheney

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from: j_cheney
date: Jul. 10th, 2012 04:41 pm (UTC)
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And that's a consideration. I should point out that for me, the main reason I want the money is that it's an external validation. Now I'm not going to say I don't like getting paid. I do....but it's not vital.

I have a friend who's been to 80ish workshops. He's an excellent writer, but we couldn't seem to get him to submit no matter how much we pestered him. I'm not sure exactly why he didn't want to....it's kinda foreign to me...but he just wanted to make quilts. It's his thing.

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Just do it

from: anonymous
date: Jul. 10th, 2012 06:51 pm (UTC)
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The best way to get over rejection fear is to just do it, and in vast quantities.

In my first year of getting serious about writing, I finished 49 stories (including a number of flash pieces) and just made it a rule for myself that I had to submit them somewhere. And when a rejection came back, I had to submit that somewhere else.

I garnered some 250 rejections in that first year, which sounds like a lot, but really that is only about 5 per story. So if you are writing stories and finishing them with any regularity you too can accumulate form rejections at a catastrophic pace :-)

But you know what? Sometimes an editor likes a story -- even if you thought it was stupid. I sold one story to a pro market and had a number of close calls.

Now to be honest I've slowed down a little this year on the submission front, retiring some of the flash pieces that I thought were stupid or I was just sick of sending out, and I've also focused more energy on e-publishing some of my stories.

But I'm still writing as many new ones as I can manage and sending them out, always starting with top markets first. You'll never learn which stories work for readers and editors if you never get them out into the world. And it's a great way to force yourself to be done with a story so that you can move onto the next one.

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Laurel Amberdine

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from: amberdine
date: Jul. 10th, 2012 08:00 pm (UTC)
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I hadn't been submitting stories at all, recently (nor querying agents or sending novels out) even though I have a lot of material that's as good as I'm going to be able to get it.

A couple of recent topics on Codex made me look at what I'd been doing. For example, one story I really like, I submitted three times, and then trunked. It got one say-nothing rejection, and two made it to the absolute last round and didn't quite get in. I looked at that record and wondered what the heck was wrong with me, giving up so fast?

Then I remembered that prior to moving, life was very difficult for many years. I'd decided the risk of random rejection on a rough day when I couldn't take any more bad news wasn't worth the possible very small reward that publishing short fiction brings.

Then not-submitting became a habit and I forgot to restart once I moved. :) Will be interesting to see how it goes!

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J. Kathleen Cheney

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from: j_cheney
date: Jul. 10th, 2012 08:05 pm (UTC)
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Yeah...it's easy to get distracted out of submitting. When I get busy with novel stuff, the short fiction stuff goes into a closet and I really forget about it. I sincerely doubt I'll even look at a short until I'm done with this edit pass...so I do understand that.

The two stories that I trunked simply didn't work, though. One would be OK to publish once I have a bit more ppublished in that 'universe', but otherwise it's too involved to make much sense out of context.

As for the other? I was told it was 'publishable as is' by Fred Pohl and Betty Hull....I just don't like the thing. Honestly. It's the red-headed step child.

But otherwise I keep sending things out....unless I'm too busy elsewhere ;o)

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texanfan

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from: texanfan
date: Jul. 11th, 2012 01:56 am (UTC)
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And I think the fact that you do this makes you incredibly brave. To be able to make yourself this vulnerable in order to find your stories homes is remarkable and I applaud you for your fortitude as I do all pro writers.

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J. Kathleen Cheney

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from: j_cheney
date: Jul. 11th, 2012 02:37 pm (UTC)
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Even so, putting up fan-fic is also a form of submission, just to a different audience ;o)

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LiveJournal

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from: livejournal
date: Jul. 13th, 2012 03:01 pm (UTC)
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User jongibbs referenced to your post from No title saying: [...] (Jan Fields) b y way of April Henry (aka ) Publication Process: Submitting [...]

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