There has been a lot of talking in the writers’ corner of the blog-o-sphere lately about professional markets, professional rates, and whether it’s worth it for a writer to send his or her stories out to lower paying markets.
Personally, I’m not so sure about that. Time and time again, I’ve seen writers that I know get that first credit and, after that, the acceptances start flying in (at least in comparison to before that first credit).
It happened to me that way, too. I spent 10 months submitting story after story, all of which were flat out rejected. Finally, in November of 2007, my story was accepted into Sporty Spec: Games of the Fantastic.
Then, after I started sending out stories with that forthcoming publication in my cover letter, I got several more stories accepted in quick succession (A Thousand Faces and Every Day Fiction were the next two acceptances, though it took longer for my stories to appear in some markets than others.)
Maybe it is not the credit, but some kind of critical mass. Maybe the reason the first acceptance comes is because the writer has finally reached a publishable point in their growth as a writer. I wouldn’t disbelieve that notion.
Then again, maybe there is something about that first credit that marks you as serious about the work, even if it is just in an editor’s subconscious. Or maybe it’s a combination of the two.
Either way, I know that I’m happy to have credits with smaller ‘zines on my cover letter, and I think that I’ve learned a lot from the markets I’ve been published in. I’ve learned about relating to editors, editing my work, proofs, and standing up for my story when there are technical difficulties. In addition to all that, I’ve gotten to see my stories in print (both electronic and hard copy), and I’ve made writer friends who have taught me a lot in their own ways.
Over all, I’m happy. Sure, larger paychecks would be nice, but I never believed I would earn money doing this, so I’ve never been overly concerned about that.
The key, I think, to keep moving forward with your writing career is not to stay on the lower levels for too long. I do think you hit what you aim for, and the better paying markets are the ones with the most readers and the ones with the most prestige (which, to me, are more important than money). If you never aim for those markets, you can never be published there.
To quote one of my favorite movies, “Your odds go up when you file an application.”
As soon as I had a few small credits under my belt, I started targeting the larger professional markets with my stories. I still haven’t cracked one, but I continue to hope. And my rejections for some of them (as I mentioned in a previous entry) have gotten a little more personal, so I think I’m making progress.
If I were giving advice to a new writer starting out, I would say aim as high as you want. But, if the pro markets reject you at first, target some of the smaller ones until you get that first credit or two. Learn how things work. Earn a publishing credit or two. But never stop aiming high. If you only tarket token and for-the-love markets, that’s the only place you’ll ever be published. If you aim higher and you work on honing your craft, I think you have as good a shot as anyone else at getting there.