Being A Professional, The Traditional Way
Selling your Writing in Thirteen Weeks: Week 3
Check out Sarah Hoyt's previous entries in her new ongoing series chronicling the collision of new media publishing's possibilities and the opportunities that still remain in traditional publishing:
Introduction, October 5: Payment Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery
Week 1, October 12: To Market, To Market With Words to Peddle…
Week 2, October 19: Reasons to Brave the Indie Publishing Jungle
Okay, so you want to try traditional publishing. This is not a bad idea, if you’re writing short stories. It’s also not a bad idea if you’re writing science fiction and fantasy novels and want to submit to Baen books. For all else… well, I wouldn’t do it. However, it’s your decision. Just don’t say I told you to.
At any rate, whether you’re submitting short stories or novels, first make sure you’re sending them to the right place.
No, I don’t mean anything as silly as mailing – or emailing – your submission to the wrong address, though heaven knows if you’re sending out a lot of submissions sooner or later you’re going to do just that. Sooner or later you’re also going to put the story in the wrong envelope. That’s just one of those fun facts: if you’re human periodically you’re going to do something abysmally stupid, because you’re rushed, sick, or just not feeling yourself. That’s acceptable. Even if this is a magazine and you have reason to think the editor is tracking you/keeping an hopeful eye on your submission – I’ll go into the reasons to believe that later – don’t imagine that a completely stupid mistake like that will be held against you. Everyone knows periodically you will make a mistake. That’s fine.
What is not fine, though, is sending a children’s picture book, with hand-drawn pictures to a True Crime publisher. (Not even if it’s a True Crime children’s picture book called If You Steal A Mouse’s Cookie.) In the same way, it’s not acceptable to send nonfiction books on making money by flipping real estate to a science fiction publisher. It’s not acceptable to send short stories to a book publisher and (except in certain circumstances, when the guidelines say they might serialize a novel) it’s not a good idea to send novels to a magazine.
So, first thing you do is you go to Ralan.com or to any other listing for the type of market you’re looking for (in the last resort the Writer’s Market book) and you look for markets that might be interested in your work. And, because this is now the internet, use your favorite search engine to look up the potential markets. Visit their sites, if they have them.
Make absolutely sure that you’re sending something this magazine/book publisher will buy. Look, sometimes we all take desperate gambles. If your short story is a little bit science fiction and a lot fantasy, and you’re out of fantasy markets, you might try a science fiction market.
Well, take me for instance. I’ve told you that I made every possible mistake coming up, right? Well, my idea was that if my story/book was good enough, people would buy it even if it was completely inappropriate. Look, I was 22 and had been raised on the myth of the genius.
So I sent a horror short story to a fantasy magazine. They sent me back a personal rejection and a free copy of their magazine, told me how much they loved my story, but that it was totally inappropriate. Could I please read the magazine and try again?