So, I stayed up well past one in the morning the other night to finishing editing a story that’s been begging for a revisit for some time. I hadn’t planned to stay up so late, of course, but some jobs are bigger than you plan for. I pushed on, through a great deal of foggy tiredness, and finished with a vast sense of triumph. The story is longer than many markets prefer these days, coming in at a little over six thousand words when I was done, and it’s hopefully a bleak and harrowing affair, but I was sure an extra half hour of research would turn up a decent market for the thing.
I was wrong. Among non-writers, there’s a bit of a myth that writing a good story is the hard bit. If you can do that, popular wisdom declares, somebody will buy it and release it to the world. That’s not the case, alas, thanks to annoying little things called guidelines. These are documents that tell you exactly what a publisher wishes to see in his submissions queue. There will usually be a maximum word count. There will usually be a set of content expectations (we hate/love vampires/clowns/werewolves/zombies/stories containing the word ‘elucidate’, etc). If your story does not fall within the specifications laid out, you will be rejected outright. Selling a story to a decent market at the best of times can be quite a waiting game.
‘Decent market’ is something of a key phrase here. I’m sure I could, with reasonable ease, place the story in Joe Bloggs’s Home-Crafted Website of Terrifying Tales*, guaranteeing that I’ll never be paid and will increase my readership to the tune of Joe Blogg’s Facebook friends. I’d hate to do that though. By taking that slot I would be depriving a brand new writer of an important experience in valuing your own work before expecting anybody else too. These are important (often crushing) experiences that most writers have to accrue in the early stages of their career, so that they can be disparaging about the idiocy of new writers for the rest of their careers in blogs such as this one.
It would seem the markets that I had thought might be interested in looking over this story have temporarily or permanently closed – the former because they’ve got a backlog of purchased fiction they need to catch up on publishing, the latter because they’ve gone out of business. Tremendously disappointing. The very, very few open, decent markets the story might meet the guidelines of… well, I’m already waiting to hear back from them about other stories I’ve submitted. Putting in multiple submissions without specific consent is just asking to be bitch-slapped, and rightly so.
So, the newly edited story, all shiny and ready to go head to head with editors, goes back on the shelf, and gathers dust while the waiting game goes on. I’ll keep my eyes open for something new to open, swallowing my frustration in the meantime.
If you are an editor seeking bleak, harrowing, non-supernatural stories of about six thousand words in length, set mostly inside a box (erm, did I mention that bit?) then you know where I am.
Unless you’re the editor of Joe Blogg’s Home-Crafted Website of Terrifying Tales (Set Mostly Inside Boxes), of course. If that’s you, then with the greatest respect, I’ll take a pass.
*Not a real website.