Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Submissions Game.

F-1 driver David Coulthard, photo by Oleksandr Topchylo.

I submitted a story a couple of days ago. The publication has a submissions tracker. The story is #112 in the I guess I should try and keep that in perspective. It’s like I’m in a hurry for that rejection slip so I can move on. Another publication has a stated response time in the Ralan list. That isn't exactly carved in stone. The time has past, and I probably should query.

It's also pretty easy to get angry and assume some vast cosmic conspiracy designed to prevent your success. There are probably writers who simply pick up the phone, tell an old friend about it, and make a sale in five minutes. You live in a different world. It's that simple. If I was an editor, looking at two stories, one by a famous author and another by an unknown, and I liked them both equally, my money would probably go to the big name. It's a bigger draw, it's more prestigious, and it's a better business move. It looks better on the cover of the magazine.

This is the challenge I face...and there is more to it, but I'll put all of this into a blog post and maybe build my own name as best I can. What else can I reasonably be expected to do?

I sure as hell won’t quit, because I would never forgive myself.

When I started as a drywaller, I was paid $10.00 an hour from day one. I made eighty bucks the first day, and eighty the second, and the third…and I didn’t know my ass from a hole in the ground as far as drywall was concerned. I was a big strong boy and I had boots and a hardhat and a few tools. Drywallers, with all due respect, were worth about a dime a square foot back then.

That was the going rate.

When I started as a reporter on a small community weekly almost thirty years ago, they started me off at $190.00 a week. It was a salaried position, but that works out to about $4.75 an hour.

When Dow Chemical called, I quit and went to work for them. I made $14.00 an hour…and spent the summer on the end of a shovel. Then they laid me off.

Oh, how I would love to make $4.75 an hour for my self-published works. Let’s say you want to drive Formula One. There are exactly twenty-four Formula One drivers in the world today. Even if your daddy was a rich man—and very few Formula One drivers have come from a background of poverty or even working class origins, the odds of making it onto the grid are exceedingly slim. The odds of becoming World Champion are even slimmer. Some of my favourite drivers, David Coulthard for example, never became World Champion.

But the writing game is different. I can compete here. I get to practice with the big boys, and rub shoulders with them in the paddock, and yet a lot of the time I don’t even make the grid. I think it takes some monetary resources. When I get my Smashwords royalties in June, then I will at least be able to afford a new piece of essential equipment, a new computer. Until then, I run what I brung. When someone says, ‘We’re not in competition,’ I just laugh. You may not be, but then you know yourself best.

I’m here to compete. It’s who I am.

To sit on the back of the grid at a Formula One race is a phenomenal achievement for pretty much anybody, no matter who you are.

In the writing game, no one gives a shit who you know or how much money you have. It’s a question of whether or not you have a story they can use.

An editor is a bit like a woman with a purse full of money and she’s shopping for shoes.

She may not know what she’s looking for, but she knows what she likes and she’s prepared to shop till she drops until she finds it.

A shoe-shopper can take her money and go home. An editor has a magazine with a certain look, feel and customer expectations to fill up. He has to do that on a schedule, a recurrent basis.

I heard of a guy who finally made his first pro sale---it took him fifteen years.

Fifteen years! You have to admire his persistence.

No wonder so many people walk away, publish on Amazon and Smashwords, swap five-star reviews with their fellow authors, get their mothers and buddies and every cousin they can find to buy it and review it in the hopes of gaming those product presentation algorithms, fooling the readers into thinking it’s a good book, and becoming a best-seller.

Maybe they’ve found a better way, and of course I understand the temptation.

In the meantime, I’ve got a couple of new stories underway, and we’ll see how that goes.

Lately, I’ve gotten a couple of very complimentary rejection slips. They liked the story—there’s nothing wrong with my writing skills, (as evidenced by this blog post,) it’s just not the sort of thing that appears in their magazine.

So we’re making progress, then…and I say that because it’s awfully hard to tell sometimes.

You want to make money as a writer and don’t like failure? Constant, demoralizing failure?

Get a job in journalism. All it takes is the ability to suckhole, to offend no one, to tell the stories the bourgeoisie wants to hear, to write groundhog and Valentine’s Day, fucking Christmas stories, stories about heroes and criminal court, traffic accidents and home fires.

People will look up to you and tell you that you have succeeded.

I happen to know better, but then I’ve been there and done that. And my needs may be different than yours, and my stories won’t die an early and much-deserved death when the daily news goes out to the recycle bin


(So why David Coulthard? - ed.)

(He was always cheerful, accessible to fans and press, acknowledged his mistakes, was a good sport, and he was a good driver. He didn't always have the best machinery, and that's important too. - Louis.)

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