Posts Tagged ‘self-publishing’

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m dividing my writing time between working on Full Circle* and working on short stories. And with my short stories, there’s been more of an emphasis lately to write them with the goal of getting them into magazines and/or anthologies. Why? Well, as many of you know, I’ve been trying the traditional publishing route again (though I will self-publish if I feel a story is better off getting published that way), and while getting published in magazines and anthologies isn’t absolutely necessary to getting an agent and/or publisher, they do help make you more appealing to them. Kind of like internships and volunteering on a resume during a job search, if you think about it a certain way.

That being said, getting your short stories in mags and anthologies is pretty difficult these days. Okay, the short story market has always been difficult (Stephen King said in his autobiography On Writing that he had railroad spikes full of rejection letters from mags/publishers/agents/etc. before he found success), but in an age where so much content is available for free, reading has to compete with movies, streaming, and video games, and even self-publishing is cutting into magazine’s readership,** magazines and anthologies are even choosier than they used to be. Especially the ones that pay. They only accept the best work out of all the submissions they receive.

So up against this market, how can an author increase their chances of getting their stories published? Well, keep writing, get other people to take a look at your work for feedback, and don’t take every rejection as the end of the world or as a reflection of your talents, of course. But is there anything beyond that to help one get editors’ attentions? Well, there are a few strategies, and I’d like to list them here:

  1. Research and target. In this strategy, an author should create stories geared towards a particular magazine or group of magazines. For example, if you find a magazine that prefers urban fantasy stories, write an urban fantasy story that the magazine would probably like. Look at the magazine’s website and/or in recent issues to get an even better idea of what sort of stories they prefer (maybe they prefer female protagonists, or they hate romances between humans and supernatural creatures). Once you have a good idea of what they prefer in their stories, write one in that vein and then submit it to them. Chances are that if the story is the kind the magazine specializes in and likes, they’ll publish it.
    I’ve actually used this strategy successfully before. My first published short story, Summers with Grandmother Fumika, is about a fox-spirit that takes part in a Japanese tea ceremony. It was written after I discovered a magazine that specializes in articles and fiction relating to tea! Earned $100 for that story, which to a high schooler who averaged about $28-$35 dollars selling tickets for basketball games, was a pretty big deal. And I recently wrote a short story that I wrote for a specific sub-genre of horror, so there’s a good chance that it could be published in any of the publications that like those stories (though time will tell, of course).
  2. Rely on your networks. We live in an age of social media, and that means we come across all sorts of people we might never have even known existed thirty, twenty, or even just ten years ago. That means if you have a blog, belong to writer’s groups on Facebook, or belong to an online critique circle, you potentially have dozens or hundreds of people who can help you find homes for your stories. For example, I asked one of my writers’ groups on Facebook if they had any suggestions for places I could submit another short story in a particular sub-genre of horror. Within a few hours, I had a couple of responses that I could follow up with.
    Sometimes your friends don’t even have to give you suggestions. Occasionally, they run magazines or anthologies! In the past three years, three short stories were published in anthologies where a friend of mine was one of the editors (you know who you are). Just from this, you can see what an amazing resource friends can be!
  3. Check your publications. There are a buttload of books out there that are meant to help the average writer write and publish their work. Most of them have sections full of listings for magazines, agencies etc, and a lot of them are updated yearly. The best part is, a lot of libraries carry copies of these great tomes with them. I highly recommend The Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market from Writer’s Digest. They have great articles and listings (though never enough in the horror department, sadly).
  4. Google. I know, sounds like something that goes without saying, but you’d be surprised how often this doesn’t occur to people. Google is a remarkable resource, and if you’re careful with your search terms and what links you click on, it can open doors. In the past couple months, Google has led me to several magazines and anthologies that specialized in stories I could send them. At the moment, I’ve been rejected by one, but there’s a chance I could be accepted by two more. And if those don’t work out, there are all sorts of places I can still try out. All thanks to Google

Now, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll get into a magazine or anthology, even with using these tips. That’s fine, many successful writers have rarely or even never been published in these sort of publications. But if you think it can help your career, or you prefer short to longer stories, these tips might just help you get into that collection of winter-themed romances or into that magazine that likes hopeful stories involving space exploration and interactions with alien species. And that is a joy that every writer relishes.

*Speaking of which, when I’m working on that, the general policy is “get a chapter done, then work on a short story or a blog post.” So if you see a post come out on this blog over the next couple of months, it’s either because something big happened worthy of blogging about, or I just got a chapter of FC done. Like I did right before I started writing this post (only 22 more to go!).

**Dammit self-publishing, why do you have to–wait, what am I saying?

An author’s career is never a linear progression. It will often twist and turn and even take detours on occasion. It’s like driving through the American Appalachian mountains from Ohio to New York that way.

Similarly, my own writing career has not been linear in its progression. Back in college, as some of you may remember, I had trouble breaking into the traditional publishing scene. I couldn’t find an agent, and I was getting frustrated. Some friends of mine online had found some success self-publishing, so I went that route. And that’s kind of been my route since 2012 or so.

The problem is, self-publishing hasn’t gone the way I expected. I did it in the first place so that I could reach readers faster. And four books later, while I have reached readers, I haven’t reached as many readers as I would like. And while writers write to get stories out of our heads and onto the pages, and as a labor of love, writers publish because they want to share their stories with as many people as possible.

Now, one could argue that I just have to give it time, and the cosmos will make things work out. But if I’ve learned one thing in this business (and I’ve learned many things over the many years of writing), it’s that you have to try new things. And if one thing doesn’t work out, then to keep going at it just isn’t an option. In fact, that’s one definition of insanity. So, I have to try doing something different.

And I think that now is a really great time for me to try the traditional route again. Over four years, several college courses, reading works by a variety of excellent authors (and a few bad ones), and tons and tons of practice, I’m a much better novelist than I was. I think it could go well for me.

At the moment I’ve sent a few query letters out for Reborn City, which is my strongest work, and which I think, in the wake of the American presidential election, might go over well with agents. It’s a story set in a world very similar to what ours seems to be coming to, but with a bit more hope mixed in. If that doesn’t go well, I’ve got a million ideas, plenty of time to write, and a paying job to tide me over until I hit something that works.

Hey, if I can survive a nearly year-long job search and land a great job with an excellent organization, I can surely do this, maybe even over several years.

And if I’m lucky enough to get a contract with an agent and a publishing company, I might still self-publish from time to time. There are plenty of authors who do that. They’re called hybrid authors, and they usually self-publish when a story they wrote and really liked isn’t really what the publisher tends to go for. Heck, I think His Royal Scariness, Stephen King does this from time to time. Or maybe just the once.

In the meantime, I hope you continue to support me as a person and as a writer. And if you want to read one of my books, I’d be so happy if you did. It would certainly make my day.

Wish me luck, my Followers of Fear, as I set out on this latest fork in the road that is my writing career.

NaNoWriMo update: As of this weekend, I’m over ten-thousand words on Full Circle. And my God, it’s coming along great. True, it’s the usual quality of first drafts,  but I think FC really shows how much I’ve progressed as a writer from Reborn City. I can’t wait to see what people think of it when they read it.

 

As many of you know, I’m a self-published author. I decided to go this route after finding not a lot of doors opening by going the traditional route and hearing a bunch of stories from fellow writers and bloggers on how they self-published and found success as writers. Since I made that decision, I’ve published three books, started writing for a website devoted to helping self-published authors, made lots of friends and found lots of new followers who went the same route as me, and am working on publishing a fourth one the same way I published the first three, though I like to think that with every book I get a bit wiser on how to go about publishing and marketing the books.

Do I like self-publishing? Yes, very much. For one thing, I’m the boss. I get to work on what I like, when I like it. I also get to meet and work with all sorts of interesting people and work on exciting projects with them, like anthologies and Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. We independent writers also tend to share information with each other, working to figure out what works and what can help us reach new readers. It’s pretty nice, being able to do all this and not rely on a publishing company.

But lately, I’ve been considering going traditional again. Or rather, other people are making me consider going traditional again, despite the fact that I never had much success the traditional way to begin with. At first, it was only my advisor on my thesis, who asked me, “You don’t want to stay self-published forever, do you? You want to move up eventually, don’t you?” Or something to that effect.

Now, I could brush that off, he’s traditional and a professor at a university, which isn’t exactly big on the self-publishing craze (though maybe some sociologists and business professors study it for academic purposes). But then a friend who’s helping me look for work suggested that I look into getting with a publishing company. And even my mother suggested something similar.

Now normally I wouldn’t even consider these suggestions. Like I said, I like self-publishing. I’ve even gone as far as to say that it’s the way of the future.

But even if it is the way of the future, that doesn’t guarantee I’ll have that many readers. In fact, I don’t have that many, or at least not as many as I would like. For a guy who hopes one day to write full-time, that’s pretty sad.

Plus I’m still between jobs these days (yeah, I know. I expected to be working by this time too), and while I’ve made headway in the job search, it really sucks that I’m not working and making money. Plus while I’m between jobs, I’m living with my dad, and while we’re good friends and love each other, we can rub each other the wrong way sometimes. Plus I just need my own space to spread out, act my own eccentric self without wondering who’s watching. Maybe get a couple of cats too while I’m at it.

Add all this together, and yeah, a contract with a publishing company sounds enticing. To many authors, that’s like winning the lottery. And it would be nice to have the support and distribution that would come from having an agent and an editor and a company with maybe it’s own marketing team. And the royalties from all of that? To say the least, it sounds like a golden deal. Heck, even folks like E.L. James, Andy Weir, and Christopher Paolini–bestselling novelists who all started out as self-published–took that deal when they got big.

But that’s the thing. They got big. Publishing companies saw them and saw profit. Truthfully, it’s still very hard even with a big company to make it a success. The Martins, the Rices, the Kings, the Rowlings, they’re rare. Most writers, both traditional and self-published, still have to have day jobs in order to pay their bills. And funnily enough, because of the self-publishing boom, publishing companies are even more selective about who they take on than ever before.

And if one does manage to get with one of the publishing companies, you don’t always get the marketing team to make sure people know your books. No, you still have to do most of the advertising yourself. And with the company, you don’t always get to publish what you write. No, they publish what they feel is profitable. At least with self-publishing, there’s still the chance that you’ll publish an unexpected hit that the companies rejected as a surefire fail.

Still, I wonder if maybe I gave up the traditional route too soon. And if I want to, I have the stories and the resources to try again if I want.

But at the same time, with every year I’m learning new tricks that allows me to reach more readers and get books out there. I could still make it as an independent novelist, and find myself writing full-time either way.

And maybe I’m only wondering this because I’m in a not-so-great place in my career right now, and some people who don’t really know the industry or doubt the power of the independent writers are speaking in my here. Or maybe they’re onto something and I really should try a career change.

I don’t know. What do you think?