Sunday, 23 August 2009

On Submissions

I'll be typing this somewhat hesitantly, since anything with even a remote connection to my right shoulder is quite painful today. I've found out the hard way that the diving stop is for professional cricketers, not the rest of us. Talking of which, well done to England.

Right, with that out of the way, on to what this is really about, which is submitting things. This being mostly on the basis that, for no apparent reasons beyond the fact that I think it's rather good, and the fact that I happened to wander onto their submissions page, I've just submitted a query for CofD to the biggest publisher I could find. It might not (and statistically, probably won't) get a positive response, but you never know.

Which is sort of my first point. How many times have you targeted a small, or non-paying, market with work that you really liked? Have you ever had a piece accepted that, in hindsight, you thought might have done better than the market you targeted? It's something I'm not sure about. Generally, I don't have that much idea whether my stuff is good or not. My main clue in this regard (which may have prompted my sudden leap in ambition) was finding a very positive comment attached to my "Motto of the Gnomish Postal Service" poem, asking why I didn't send it to a paying fantasy market.

The initial thought in circumstances like that is, obviously "because it's just a bit of fun", or "it's ok, but it's nothing special". And who knows, they might even be the right thoughts. I'm not going to claim that one kind comment makes fifteen minutes' work a masterpiece. But the thought that followed that for me was "because this is where I submit my silly fantasy poems". Looking at it written down like that, it's not as good a reason as it sounded when I first used it, is it?

So is this just me having an arrogant five minutes? Actually no, I have a serious point to make here. In theory, if you're looking to build as a writer, the plan is that you maybe gain some experience and skills through zines and other non-paying markets, then steadily head upwards, through paying markets, to building a readership, to eventual world dominiation (I may have missed some steps out here. If anyone can tell me what they are, I'd be delighted to know).

But how many of us actually do this? How many of us let our (perfectly natural) modesty get the better of us, and stick with safe avenues for our creative output in the form of places we already know? Even when we go for new places, how many of us stick to ones that are similar to ones we've already been published in? Is there a case for saying that it's worth being more ambitious on occasion, even if the risk is being told no (as might well happen with the novel. Have you noticed that you're generally a lot less confident about work in the moments after it's gone out)?

Just for me, give it a go. Pick somewhere that you wouldn't normally think of sending work to because you "aren't good enough" and submit the piece you like the most. I have no idea if it will work, but given the wonderful writing of some of the people who drop in here, it might, and you don't lose anything much if it doesn't.


MG Higgins said...

I've submitted to nonpaying magazines for my children's stories. I decided that some writing credit was better than none, and that has proven to be true. Two agents I submitted novel manuscripts to commented that I have a nice bio. But I tend to try paying markets first.

Congrats on sending your ms to "the biggest publisher" you could find! Why not?

Dorla Moorehouse said...

I've been trying to reach for higher markets recently. In a few cases, it has paid off; in others, not so much. I find that if I feel discouraged after getting too many rejections from bigger markets for awhile, I'll slow down and refocus my energies on smaller or nonpaying publications to get my confidence back up.