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Publishing Fears/Thoughts

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Philip Overby, Mar 5, 2011.

  1. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I'm taking a wild guess and to assume none of us here are best-selling authors. Many of us could be one day, who knows for sure. My big problem is that I have a fear of sending stuff out to publishers. For short stories it's a bit easier. I'm going to start doing a lot of more of that. But overall, in my whole life, I've actually only probably sent out a half a dozen manuscripts for any type of publication.

    The only print publications I have are two poetry anthologies I was solicited to write something for. I have a handful of online publications, but those were years ago, so I don't even remember where they were published.

    All in all, what are your thoughts about submitting novels or stories? Do you have some fear of failure like I do? Are you confident and send stuff out all the time? Do you have trouble completing anything (like me) therefore you have nothing to send? Are you a widely published author and you can share some tips for me to become widely published? :)

    I know most of the major fantasy publishers Del Rey, Bantam Spectra, and some others require solicited manuscripts from an agent. Unless that's changed. TOR I believe accepts unsolicited manuscripts but more often than not, you'll be in a humongous slush pile.

    Me? I think I'm going to try the small press route. Most of my novels are kind of quirky so I'm not sure how well they'd stand in mainstream fantasy. But you never know. I may give the big boys a shot within the year!
     
  2. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    I got a short story published a few years ago, with a small online magazine. Didn't get paid much for it. After Paypal had taken it's cut and converted to GB£, it was about £1.50. But for a novel, first I'd have to finish one (okay, I did do that), then I'd have to be actually happy with it, but I would send it out if I ever got to that stage. And if I find no luck, I know someone who is in the process of setting up her own small publishing company to publish her own fantasy novels, and I could always see what she thinks. If she said no I'd write something better rather than go down the self-publishing route, because I see no point in trying to sell something myself that publishers wouldn't accept.
     
  3. Donny Bruso

    Donny Bruso Sage

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    I have yet to really 'finish' anything enough to send it to a publisher. None of my major fantasy or sci-fi projects are more than half done, and for some reason I don't seem to do well with short stories. I just don't have the room I need to work. To be sure, most best selling authors start by selling short stories until someone asks them for a novel, but I guess I'm bouncing around between too many projects to get any of them done. :/
     
  4. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Many publishing houses will at least look at "unsolicited" manuscripts, even when they say they don't. Unless you're already established as an author (with several short publications to your name), you shouldn't bother with an agent… assuming you could get one to bother with an unknown (and if you can, there's a good chance the agent isn't going to be very good… or scrupulous). The best approach for a first novel is probably to send a query letter, along with publishing history, synopsis and first chapter. This is far more likely to get looked at than sending the whole thing in a box… not to mention easier on your stamp budget. If the publisher is interested, they will then solicit you–at which point it no longer falls into the dreaded "unsolicited" category.

    Yes, you will be in a humongous slush pile, in nearly every situation–even if you are agented: all an agent does is try to send the manuscripts that, in their experience, a given publisher might be interested in… but that just means those submissions go in a separate, slightly smaller and marginally higher-priority slush pile. My take on small presses is that you have to be very careful and attentive to detail, in order to make sure you aren't going to be ripped off–if, say, your contract calls for you to pay for part of the press run, or if you are going to be paid in a couple crates of copies which it then becomes your own job to distribute. (That's ignoring vanity presses, where you're paying for the whole thing.) Or they might accept the manuscript and take their own sweet time actually getting it to a printer… and then not offer you a kill fee for hanging on to it for years and then deciding they don't want it after all. Also consider your goals: having a book published by a small press may net you very little in the way of exposure, or credibility in terms of convincing other publishers later that you're worth taking a chance on. (And vanity press publication will likely backfire, for the last of these.) That having been said, there's nothing wrong with small presses per se, only that you have to make sure of exactly what you're dealing with.

    I have trouble keeping my material in circulation… laziness: I've long since overcome fear of rejection. (I tell people I paper my walls with rejection letters. Which isn't true, but only because nearly all my wall space is occupied by shelving, and the balance by art). If you want to succeed in getting published, a thick skin is an indispensable necessity, as you will be rejected more often than not–a simple case of arithmetic: even if every single one of your stories gets accepted eventually (unlikely!), odds are it will have passed through several hands before it finally gets picked up.

    The most important "tip" is: do your research. Make sure that your target publishes the sort of thing you're trying to sell them. Otherwise, you're wasting your time and theirs… and you do not want to obtain "name recognition" of the "Oh, god, not him again!" variety.…
     
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  5. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I've done NaNoWrimo for 3 years and completed the 50,000 words each year. So I know I can finish something if I really try. The goal is just to put it out there. After years of writing, I'm kind of getting bored with just writing for myself. I like doing it, don't get me wrong, but I want to have people actually read what I'm writing. I think what I'll more than likely do is finally finish a novel then start at the top and work my way down. (I've finished one that I shopped around, it got rejected twice, but both publishers had nice things to say about it and wanted me to send something else, which I haven't per laziness). I'm trying to build up some publishing creds by sending out short stories now.

    Ravana, you have lots of good points about the publishing industry. I've done manuscript evaluations for a small press before and I know how hard a job it is to dig through slush piles. Especially when I had to deal with some authors that didn't take rejection well. Now the shoe is on the other foot, so I completely understand that rejection is part of the game. I don't have any sacred cows anymore. My manuscripts are no longer my precious babies.

    So I'm going to try to go full speed ahead. I sent out one short story this week and now I'm working on another. And I have a couple of novel ideas I'm bouncing around to decide which one to work on first. So I'm on my way! To where I don't know!
     
  6. Oh I'm petrified >.< I think that's why I've been writing the same book for over two decades. I sent it out originally when I was 14 and never heard back from anyone which of course led me to believe that it was so horrible that they didn't want to waste the paper and ink to even tell me it wasn't up to their standards. Even now that I've been rewriting it and the prologue has had several publishers wanting the "honor" of publishing it, I'm still scared of rejection. but most publishers will tell you why they won't accept it in their rejection letters. So I always read them when they bother to send them and then I try their suggestions.
     
  7. Kelise

    Kelise Maester

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    I'm utterly terrified. I've tried submitting a short story to an anthology and didn't get in - that's the only thing I've sent out there so far! While I've (kinda) finished a novel or two before, none have been anything I'm willing to send out just yet. I wait to wait until I have something to the standard of Patrick Rothfuss or Scott Lynch's first novel, and THEN try to get that published. ...I'll be waiting while XD
     
  8. Bah! Star don't try to live up to someone else's standards o_O If YOU think your work is good... Send it out. I would LOL then even if you get rejected you'll be told why >.<
     
  9. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I figure a lot of people have the same problem I do. Inability to complete things/fear of rejection/too busy. That seems to have always been my problem. Plus I have what I call "creative ADD" in which I see something new and shiny I like and thus abandon something I've written 200 pages of. It's quite the problem. But now I'm finishing things even if they suck. Editing can do wonders, really!

    Anyway, best of luck to everyone in their writing!
     
  10. I have a similar problem. When I get stuck in one aspect, I put it down for a while (and sort of forget about it), then something new pops into my head and I'll write 30 pages and do a read thru. After the read thru I'll find that it doesn't work with my previous pages. So then it becomes which section do I rewrite. I'm in a constant state of rewriting, that I fear I'll never finish anything.

    My fear of publishing isn't really about having my work rejected - that's just part of the industry. It's more of how many times will I have to face rejection before that one company says yes? Or will even one company say yes? Having worked two jobs for most of my life, I'm a very hard worker - but I've also seen first hand how sometimes the hardest worker gets passed over. I've poured so much into my writing that it terrifies me that it will be passed over again and again. I'm still a strong individual and I can live with rejection, but I do wonder how many times a person can repeatedly be told no before it breaks their spirit. So I think that's my main fear.

    I've only ever had one thing published and it was a short I wrote for the college I went to. It was voted on by my peers to be accepted into the anthology, so I guess that's a confidence builder in and of itself.
     
  11. Donny Bruso

    Donny Bruso Sage

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    Rejection sucks, but it is unfortunately part of the game we've all chosen to play. Personally, I have never submitted anything for publication, largely because I suffer from the same issues as Meg and Phil, I get stuck, I put it down, I see something shiny and it gets neglected. I have submitted short stories to contests before. The primary one that comes to mind was also the most recent. I submitted 'Fire in her Blood' the short I posted in the showcase to a contest on writing.com. The story is generated from a given prompt, which I was about the only one to follow.

    The woman who ended up winning the contest review the story and said that it made hers look terrible in comparison, and that as far as she was concerned, my submission has the blue ribbon tied up.

    Well little did I know, the contest I had entered was really run by a group of about five people whose only purpose was to hand out awards and such to their little clique, which I was not a part of. So not only did my entry not win, it didn't even place. I am by no means the most gifted writer in the world. There are untold thousands of people out there better than me. However none of them happened to enter that contest. I read every competing entry, and even allowing for personal bias, my work was by far the best.

    So yes, rejection in all its forms sucks. The trick is not losing confidence in yourself and your work. Until you have a contract with a publisher, the only person you have to satisfy with your writing is yourself. Don't compromise your work for someone else. Publishers may demand that some things be changed. Look at their demands objectively. If you agree that it improves the work, by all means work with them. If you feel it bastardizes your work and is something you can't stand for, then fight it. Shop your work around until you find someone who will work with you to publish the story you want to tell, not what the editor thinks is best.
     
  12. Creative ADD!!!! That right there is priceless >.< I think I suffer from it too o_O
     
  13. Kate

    Kate Troubadour

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    FEAR!!! It's a killer, stops us from doing so, so much.

    I seem to have reached a point now where I'm over it. I just close my eyes and send. It's taken me a long time to get to that point, but that long time is peppered with regrets of the "what if it was good enough?" variety. This isn't to say thought that I'm not scared of rejection, I am. But I've now just started to submit anyway. I'm waiting on responses from a couple of short story markets now. Who knows. The fact that I've submitted means A LOT! And even if I don't get accepted, I'm still proud of myself for getting it out there. I've had rejections by the bucket load and it feels awful, but the day I had my first short story accepted (tiny, tiny, tiny and unpaid thing that it was), I felt like I'd won the freakin' Pulitzer!

    Courage isn't fearlessness. Courage is acting despite fear. Go forth! Submit! Get Rejected! Submit Again!
     
  14. Hear hear Kate! Couldn't have said it better myself >^.^<
     
  15. Unless you really suck at writing, in which case rejection slips should be seen less as an obstacle to overcome and more an indication that you're better suited to carrying out light clerical duties.:)
     
  16. Kate

    Kate Troubadour

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    Ha! Yeah, maybe :D
    Though I like the idea that everyone who loves to write enough to submit stuff, could keep learning, keep perfecting, and one day get that happy news.
     
  17. I think that's pretty much true. I mean, maybe not everyone can be a *great* writer, one of the folks whose words are remembered for hundreds of years... But I think most folks, given enough time and effort, can train themselves to write well enough to tell enjoyable stories, just like most people can train themselves to paint well, or to play baseball well.

    Some people are farther away from that goal than others - a 450 pound couch potato with no athletic background at all is much farther from being a competitive triathlete than someone who's stayed in shape all her life. But either *can* do it - one is just beginning from a more advanced position than the other. Likewise, someone who never reads, never writes, and has a poor grasp of spelling, grammar, and storytelling could become a pro-level author - it would just take a lot longer (and therefore require a lot more effort and discipline) than someone who had already built up those skills.

    What we perceive as "talent" is more and more being shown to simply be skills whose foundations we have already put a lot of work into. Not always true, maybe - but it seems to be so more often than not.
     
  18. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Like sending out rejection letters, perhaps? :p
     
  19. Kate

    Kate Troubadour

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    Kevin, I hope you're right! I suppose that's the fine line between writing as an art and writing as a craft. For natural writers it's both, I think. For the rest of us, we keep learning one word at a time.
     
  20. I've read about this a bit, and modern science/medicine isn't even sure that there IS such a thing as talent, or someone being a "natural". Brain development is still something we're learning a lot about, but it sounds like a lot of people are drifting toward the idea that what we perceive as talent is really just the result of early brain development. In other words, the things we do when we're 0-5 years old or so impact the way the foundation of our brain develops, which impacts what things we will learn most easily for the rest of our lives.

    I don't know that I buy that as an absolute (I have twin girls, who grew up in basically the same environment but have fundamental differences in the way they think - not just their opinions on things, but the manner in which their brains work; that argues for different minds having different sorts of intelligence, and those intelligence types perhaps having different sets of skills they will tend to excel at - arguing there could be some level of genetic pre-dispositions). How I feel though is that an awful lot of what we call "talent" is actually the result of hard work. ;) It's easier to blame a "lack of talent" than to actually work at something.

    And I think everyone learns one word at a time. :) Some people might make it look more effortless, just like the guy who runs ten miles a day, every day, is going to make a five mile jog easily while I am gasping for breath. But the effort was in there somewhere, even if you can't see it at the time.
     
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