Easier?

It’s been just about two years since the contributor’s copy of my first pro sale arrived in the mail. It was an amazing feeling, holding in my hands an actual, widely-circulated magazine with my byline and words in it (not to mention some spectacular artwork accompanying that ¬†byline and those words). There is nothing like that first sale to set you on fire, to make you feel like you really can be a writer, after all those years of being an “aspiring” one. But at the same time, one myth held by many an aspiring writer gets shattered at that point: that all you need is that first sale to open the doors for you.

Do I feel like it’s easier for me to sell a story today than it was two years ago? Yes. And I say that even though, according to Duotrope, my overall acceptance rate is actually down since then. But I’m writing better stories now, and I know how to present them better. That’s called experience. And I’ve got more of it now.

But do I feel like editors take me more seriously because I’ve sold a few stories? No.

If any of you think that once you’ve sold that first story, rejection stops being the normal response, I’ve got bad news for you. Most of the time, yes, my submission yields nothing more than the same form letter you receive. Despite doing reasonably well for an early-career short story writer, I’m a long way from being an author whose work automatically gets careful consideration by the most senior editor. My stories still have to claw their way out of the slush pile, just like yours.

I’m not going to say it doesn’t get easier. But it’s not getting easier in the way you’re hoping for. The reality is that I’ve become more inured to the rejection and self-doubt. That makes it easier, but not less difficult.

So if you find you hate the process of sending in your stories, waiting patiently, only to be disappointed when the rejection letter comes, give up now. It doesn’t stop. You’ll be much happier being one of those folks who whines about how unfair the publishing industry is without ever submitting anything.

But if you can learn to shrug off the rejections and keep moving forward, keep learning, then it really will feel easier as you go along.

But you don’t need a sale to feel that way. The sales are just nice.

2 thoughts on “Easier?

  1. It used to be that total publisher rejection of a manuscript was a disaster for the writer, a stone wall blocking it from reaching the general public. In the days of digital self-publishing, it now only means a loss in effective advertising for the story.

    Obviously, that’s still desirable. But it no longer has any bearing upon whether the story will be made available to a national/worldwide audience.

    Any given short story may be rejected by publishers for a number of reasons unrelated to its quality (a point you’ve previously discussed). If writers keep that in mind, and honestly believe in such rejected stories, they can simply set them aside for possible inclusion in self-published compilations down the road. I would imagine that helps in working past those inevitable rejection letters & continuing to push forward.

    • Yeah, I’ll admit I have a couple that have been relegated to the “includes X never-before-published stories” in my first collection. The advantage of not publishing said collection right away is it’s also giving me a little distance to make sure I still think the story is worthwhile later on…