AS I write this, I’m sitting in my cab, watching four oddly shaped, puffy white clouds float across the sky. I’m angry at something, mostly because it creates a problem for me, but also because being angry makes it hard to write.
I indulge myself a lot in this craft I used to call my “hobby”. If you haven’t noticed, I produce a lot of work, much of which never gets a look from an editor. Perhaps if I took a day here and there to send stuff out, that which pissed me off today wouldn’t matter so much. Which reminds me. For those of you considering writing as a career, having a source of income other than writing will make your life a lot easier. Just don’t do what I did and let making a living take the place of writing.
I found my niche as a writer in the turbulent eighties. At that time, markets for short horror fiction were vanishing at a rate that would make the invisible man, well, visible in comparison. I began submitting stories to magazines while in college, knowing some weren’t very good, but still hopeful someone would recognize me for the talent I thought I was. Sadly I racked up a lot of rejections, but published a couple of stories and thought I was on my way. Even though one was just for contributor’s copies and the other was for only a few bucks.
You see, I’ve never been good at the starving artist routine. I love to eat and live well and I work hard. As writer, I feel like I’m close to the future I’ve always wanted. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, some I’m very proud of and others not so much, but I’ve always tried to remain true to myself. What does that mean? Beats the fuck out of me. I just slog through the daily shit and hope something rises to the top, while remaining buoyant enough to keep my head above the foulness all around me. If that seems a tad dark, dirty (and fragrant), I’m sorry. But I’m not being melodramatic. When I decided to go back to my old love, I knew the road would be bumpy, but I had no idea I would be forced to swim with two broken legs (metaphoric) and no backup (not metaphoric).
I had a religious friend tell me the other day that God never gives you more than you can handle. I’m guessing I should change my fucking name to Atlas.
Anyway, I’m sorry I’ve digressed into a bitching party, so back to the point. Twenty plus years ago, markets for short stories, especially horror fiction were tough to find. Unless you were a known entity, rejection letters were about all you could hope for. I convinced myself that I needed more seasoning. My abilities had not yet reached their full potential. Looking at some of the stuff I wrote back then, I may have been right.
Now, there are many markets for good fiction, mostly online, but don’t expect riches. Magazines are just as scarce, but sometimes you get lucky and find the perfect match. You can self-publish, but beware that you make sure you pay for a high level editor. You may think your stuff is great, but trust me; even the best writers admit their first draft rarely resembles the final product.
Authors are also expected to have a “platform”, meaning a method of marketing for your writing is up to you. We are salespeople, writers, marketers, publicists and web masters. We must understand and spend hours each week on social media, trying to gain entry into a limited group of readers who have favorites. In short, if all of the apostles and men who wrote the bible did it today, they would have to go door-to-door to sell the damn things.
My point is this, what used to be hard is now even harder. You will encounter bumps the size of Mt. Everest, even if you’re a great writer and storyteller. Everything in the publishing world is subjective and based on attitude, so don’t get discouraged and keep submitting your work. Don’t take no for an answer, because if you truly want to write, you have talent, and are willing to keep learning, you can do this. It isn’t easy. But the payoff, as long as you’re not looking for instant riches, is worth the work.