Welcome to the third installment of Etoris. I’m going to draw my ranting back to what the original aim of this blog was supposed to be, my adventures as a writer and my attempts to get published.
In this installment I am going to try and tackle what I feel is the most important issue to an Author, an Audience.
I’ve met and conversed with all kinds of writers in my time and one thing I have learnt is that no-one writes any kind of fiction for themselves. Yes, putting your story on paper is very cathartic and satisfying. It is a very personal thing, but anyone who tells you they have written a story and have no interest in finding an audience I say is a big fat liar. If they didn’t want an audience what is the whole motivation behind putting their thoughts down into a tangible format (I would have said paper, but we live in a digital age and most of what I write has never actually seen a scrap of paper.)
The moment you have started turning those ideas into words, description and dialogue you are looking for someone to read them, listen to them or do something with them depending on you chosen format. If you weren’t they are probably better off staying in your head. I know my stories are much better before they are confined. The images and ideas are clearer and much more entertaining, before they are limited by my vocabulary, shotty grammatical skills and all round lack of eloquence.
Anyway enough of my ranting, I think I have established (at least in my opinion) that Authors are looking for an Audience.
Now there are a couple of way you can go about finding an audience.
You can post your story directly to the web, via a blog or website. You could print it out, stand on a street corner and hand it out to people that pass you by. Both of these things have something in common, primarily the fact that you are not going to get paid. It might even end up costing you money, printing costs or web hosting fees.
Personally I would love to get paid for something I have written. Also I would rather not look like a crazy person, so the street corner is out. With that in mind you have some options. Not many, but some. You could go the self-publishing route, the two largest services that I am familiar with for this are Amazon and Smashwords. I’m not going to go into the pros and cons of self-publishing. I know of people who have been successful. I know of others who have been unsuccessful.
For myself, as I am dealing with a short fiction piece, self-publishing did not seem like the right fit. I am sure some people may have found success through self-publishing short fiction, but I know when I am sorting through the cheap Kindle stories I am more likely to spend my hard earned cash on something with a little substance to it.
The second route to publication is through vanity presses. This is where you pay someone, or a company to publish your book, while it might be immensely satisfying to have something published I want someone to pay me for the privilege, not the other way around. Also I have never come across a vanity service that deals with short fiction, they are probably out there, but I’m not interested. This too is out.
The final route to publication is through submissions. Now for a novel this might be to an Agent or directly to a publishing house, but for a piece of short fiction this will most likely be to a relevant market.
For short fiction a relevant market might be a print magazine, an online magazine/webpage or even an anthology. Now the first step will be finding a market. These are generally divided into a few categories, Professional, Semi-Professional, Token and Non-paying.
A professional market will pay at least $0.06 US cents per word (This is at least the case for Fantasy/Science Fiction Markets) A semi-pro market will pay something but less than $0.06 US cents per word. A Token Market will offer something, like a copy of the printed anthology or a minimal payment and a non-paying market will pay nothing. These are your options, unsurprisingly I chose to start by submitting to Pro markets, I figured if someone was going to reject my story it might as well be the people who might pay me the most.
So the first thing I needed to do was find an appropriate market. Now Google or any search engine can be your friend here, but I have to say despite the apparent abundance of markets which seem to exist, actually finding them through a search can be quite difficult.
The good news is that there are a few tools to make the process of finding an appropriate market easier.
The first and apparently it is the best, listing the most markets and providing up to date information on each of these, is called DUOTROPE The down side to this is that it is a paid service. (A theme is starting to develop. Yes I am cheap.) I have never used this service, no good sir I will not enter my credit card details to access your free trial, why you ask? Well simply put, I then run the risk of failing to cancelling said subscription and being charged for the comprehensive service you provide. Did I mention I’m cheap?
The second service, this is the one I use, it is called The (Submission) Grinder. This is a free service, hooray and it allows you to search markets using a variety factors, such as genre, style, pay scale and so on.
Both of these services also allow you to log your submissions, allowing you to keep track of which market is currently considering your work, how long it has been waiting in their submissions list and based on the recorded data from their members an estimated response time, all very handy things to keep track of. I originally tried doing this with an excel spread-sheet and it became a convoluted mess.
A third service which is useful for finding Fantasy and Science Fiction markets is Ralan. This is another handy place to look for potential markets although it doesn’t seem to have the search and logging functions the others possess.
Now I had written a piece that I thought good enough to publish (apparently no one so far has agreed with that assessment, but I’m sure someone will) and I needed to find a market.
So I punched a few details into the search functions of The Grinder – Genre, Story Style, Length and Minimum Pay Scale and I was presented with a list of possible markets that might suit my story. Unfortunately for those of us who are lazy this is not the end.
It is always a good idea to do a little investigation into your potential market. Each market will generally have their own style and a host of other things to consider before you hit the submit button.
Almost every market I have come across has encouraged anyone who wants to submit something to read something they have already published to get a feel for what they might be interested in, most will also provide a free sample or issue to give you an idea, although some will also encourage you to buy the latest issue.
Every market will have submission guidelines; ignore these at your peril. Most are fairly similar, although they do vary from market to market. A good starting place would be to familiarize yourself with Proper Manuscript Format or SHUNN, most markets use this as the basis for how they would like their submissions formatted, although many want to see certain things removed, or have a preference with regards to font.
So after selecting a market, familiarising yourself with it, what it might be looking for and whipping your story into the correct format you are finally ready to hit the submit button, send the email or post off your story.
All you have to do then is wait. I would also recommend logging your submission through The Grinder or Duotrope or making a record on a spread-sheet. Keep track of this info, otherwise you might make the mistake of resubmitting a story to a market that has already told you no. You are trying to get these people to publish your story, you don’t want to piss them off.
My final piece of advice is to prepare yourself for rejection. Every writer will receive at least one rejection in their life, someone, somewhere will decide they don’t like your story and decline to publish it. Chances are you are going to receive more rejections than acceptances, especially if you are attempting to publish in paid markets. If you are lucky you might get some feedback with a rejection, alternatively you might get a standard rejection letter. If you are really lucky you might get a contract.
I am just starting out, but already I have a stack of rejection emails (Can I stack emails). I’ve gotten some positive feedback and some negative feedback (On the same story from one market). The highlight of my career so far is a single, we think it has potential and would like to hold on to it for further examination, it came to nothing, but it was still nice to know I might have gotten past the slush pile reader.
Hopefully, someone, somewhere would like to publish one of my stories and if I am really lucky they might even pay me for it. I’m sure by then I will have many more rejections, but I am going to keep writing and searching for an audience.
In my last post I also mentioned that my wife and I were getting a puppy. Here she is 5 weeks old, Mila. My audience grows by one (dogs definitely count).