I started writing back in the mid-eighties. I sold short stories, poetry, articles and book reviews to small press magazines all across the country. Magazines with names like City Slab, The Horror Show, Flesh & Blood, Cemetery Dance, Red Scream, Lunatic Chameleon, Terror Time Again, Doppleganger, Four Stix, Gas, After Hours, Not One of Us, Midnight Zoo, Horror Garage – and a lot more that I can’t readily remember.
People are always asking me how many stories I sold. I never really kept track. Sometimes I say it was seventy-five stories, other times I say a hundred. The fact is – there are writers out there who have sold twice as many stories. Numbers don’t mean diddly-squat.
Wait a minute. I heard that back there. I heard somebody saying that if I sold that many stories I must be freaking brilliant.
Well, my Mom thinks I am but the truth of it is that I’m really just persistent, is all.
A writer needs to be if he wants to sell at all.
Okay, so I know all about indie self-publishing. I’m hip-deep in that direction myself. But there are still an awful lot of anthologies and magazines and markets that are well worth submitting too. The fact is – you get a story accepted in a certain magazine or a certain anthology and it might just draw you enough attention to sell another few hundred self-published e-books – not to mention the cheque that you’ll recieve for your story.
Don’t ever write for anyone else if there isn’t a cheque. That’s a whole other blog entry – and I’m not going to start explaining myself – but writers who want to make it ought to always be aiming at some sort of financial compensation.
But I’m not here today to beat that particular wardrum. What I want to talk about today is persistence. I can’t tell you how many “writers” I’ve spoken with who have told me how they submitted a story once or twice – was badly rejected – and then tucked that story away in the cellar and only dragged it out to reread when the rum bottle was damn near bottomed out and the lonely what-if’s had become to crawl out of the empty bookshelves and niggle at their ears.
“I could not deal with the rejection,” some would tell me.
“If two editors rejected it,” another said. “Then it must stink. I just can’t fucking write.”
And then there’s those who tell me that “Publication is really over-rated. I’d much rather read my work in coffee houses and at writer critique clubs.”
If you don’t have the skin of a rhino you’d better grow it if you want to make it as a writer these days. Rejection is nothing more than a condition of creativity. I have sold stories that were rejected over two dozen times.
Rejection doesn’t mean you stink!
Think of it this way. Rejection is nothing more than one editor’s opinion on one particular day. Maybe he had a headache. Maybe he was backlogged and needed to clear his desk. Maybe his slush heap was threatening to swamp over into the cesspool. Maybe he never even read it.
All that rejection really means is that one editor said “no thanks” on one day of the week.
Or to put it another way – I don’t particularly care for the work of Stephanie Meyers. I read the first chapter of her first novel and just could not get into it. I found it boring.
Well gee – some people might say. Steve Vernon is an honest-to-freaking writer. He ought to know what he is talking about, right?
The fact is I didn’t care for the book. Thousands of readers thought differently. Doesn’t make them any more right than I was. Reading will always come down to a matter of taste. What turns one reader’s crank might totally sicken another.
The same thing goes for editors. It’s nothing more than a matter of taste.
Sometimes it comes down to timing. Say you send a story and he’s just filled his magazine for the next three issues. Chances are he is going to fire your story right back at you, just because he doesn’t need it at that point in time. It doesn’t mean your story stunk. It just means, whoops, the gods of bad timing have frowned upon you today.
That is something very few authors can control.
It might come down to luck. You send him a story on a vampiric phone booth and it turns out he’s just accepted two other vampiric phone booth stories last week. Bad luck. Bad timing.
Doesn’t mean you stink.
A writer who wants to see his work in magazines and anthologies needs to send his work out. If a story comes back, send it right back out to somewhere else. A writer is juggler – he needs to keep those balls in the air. Sitting on the ground mildew will result.
So if you want to follow the dream of of submitting and selling – then you need to grow yourself some diehard blue steel rhino hide.
yours in storytelling,