The Road To Publication

February 9, 2011

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Yesterday, I mentioned that I will be seeking a publisher for Mountains, Meadows, and Chasms, my collection of short stories.  While the market for short stories is not nearly as large as it was a generation or two ago, I believe that the current focus on bite-sized nuggets of information (Twitter, for example) may have a spillover effect into the literary world.

Today, I’m going to take you down the road to publication – a road that I am still navigating myself.

Write – sounds, simple, doesn’t it?  You can’t have something published unless you first write it.  It can be hard to get into the habit of writing, though.  My first taste of writing glory came when I was picked to attend a writer’s conference in 6th grade.  I still wonder if I was picked because I was the only boy who expressed interest … but I enjoyed the experience.  I wrote stories off and on until I graduated college, and then quite abruptly quit writing fiction for ten years.  I never intended to stop writing – it just happened.

Ego – You need a bit of an ego to write fiction.  You’re making up stuff out of thin air and expecting people to be interested in it.  This is different from non-fiction, where you’re adding to an existing information base (and an accompanying reader base).  This was a bit difficult for me, as I’m really not an ego-driven person in real life (or, at least, I think I am not).  I got around this by creating the persona of Kosmo.  Kosmo can have his own personality and ego, and I can check the ego and the door when I drop back into real life.

Editing -Without a doubt, my least favorite aspect of the writing process is editing.  When I was preparing the initial version of Mountains, Meadows, and Chasms for entry into the Iowa Short Fiction Awards contest, I was editing those stories for the third time.  First, I edited them for publication on The Soap Boxers.  When I prepared them for publication as eBook in the Hyrax Publications store, I edited them again.  While I enjoy reading my own stories, the thought of editing them yet a third time was not my idea of a fun time.  However, a few trips to Pizza Hut with my binder in tow helped make the process less painful.

Culling – This is an advanced form of editing, and most applicable to short story writers.  Since my resurgence as a fiction writer began in the spring of 2009, I have written 92 pieces of short fiction.  It would be tempting to cram all of them into a book in order to pad the length.  However, some of them just aren’t good fits.  The first cuts were easy – pieces like Manny Ramirez Signs With the Tigers were fun to write, but they were satire and not typical fiction stories.  I love Ferdinand the Turtle (especially part 2, Meeting Bob), but the couple of children’s stories didn’t fit in well with the others. Finally, I cut stories that just weren’t very good.  I originally started writing short stories as a way to refine my technique before beginning work on a novel, so while some early stories like Release Point are fairly good, there are also some stinkers like Puzzled (I really thought this idea would turn into a good story, but it didn’t).

Finding a publisher – There are three ways to get your work published.  Martin Kelly already walked us through the self-publishing route, and I’m not going to reinvent the wheel.  The second route is taking your work directly to the publishers.  However, some publishers don’t take direct submissions, preferring to work through literary agents.  Obviously, the third route is to use a literary agents.  Literary agents are typically paid a commission based on a percentage of your royalties.  This means that you don’t need to pay the agent up front.  Naturally, this means that the agents are selective, since they don’t want to waste their time peddling crap.  I’ve only been seeking an agent for a few days, so I’m not an expert at this point.  However, I did stumble across Editors and PreditorsI can’t vouch for the accuracy of the information on the site, but the gist of the site is to let writers know which people are legit and which ones are not.

remember that ego you stroked a bit earlier?  You’ll need to trim it down a bit when you’re searching for a publisher or editor.  Odds are good that you’ll receive several rejections before getting accepted.  Good luck!

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