Thursday, December 4th, 2003 • No Comments on Writers Write
During the summer I submitted a story for an upcoming anthology to an editor I would love to work with. I heard from the editor a couple days ago. She rejected the story for this anthology but asked if she could hold my story for inclusion in a forthcoming anthology she’ll be working on next year. That’s the second time this has happened—an editor rejecting something for a current collection but holding it for a future one—and though it’s still a rejection, it’s very, very nice to know that editors like my work enough to find a home for it.
Now, if only selling books were so easy. Of course, I can hardly complain about my inability to sell books as I have not submitted a book length manuscript to any publisher in quite some time. I don’t even want to think about just how long it’s been. Years.
While having my name on a book cover is more rewarding than having a story in an anthology, writing short fiction is easier to sell, without the large investment of blood, sweat and tears books require. If a story gets rejected, I have invested only a few hours of my time and energy and there is always the possibility of selling it to another editor for another anthology. In fact, I have only three or four stories that have not been published. Books, on the other hand, require months of work and have a very limited publishing window. A particular book may have only two or three possible places it could go. My backlog of unpublished novels is actually greater than my backlog of unpublished short fiction. Is it any wonder I’ve stuck with the shorts for the past few years?
Having said all that, I still want to write (and sell) books. One of my problems has always been the inability to write to market. In the long process of writing-submitting-getting rejected I have learned that I can’t write for someone else, I have to write for myself. My writing falls flat when I’m trying to please an editor; when I write for myself (or that ‘one reader’ Stephen King talks about in On Writing ), the words flow like water.
I don’t suppose I’ll ever be truly famous for my writing simply because I don’t have the marketing savvy to sell myself or the luck to be in the right place when a particular trend hits. Still, as long as I can keep selling a fair amount of what I write, I’ll consider myself successful.