I’ve written three novels, am working on a fourth, and have written a handful of short stories. I’m diligent about re-writes, polishing, editing, and tying up loose ends, and so on. While I still have a lot to learn about the craft of writing, I think I’m getting more skillful in the production of my work.
At promoting and selling my work, not so much.
Unlike a lot of people, I actually remember one of my New Year’s resolutions for this year. It was to send out two submissions a week, either to literary agents, publishers, or magazines (both print and Web-based.) My inspiration for this resolution was my friend Jenna Povey, who hasn’t sold a short story since…yesterday. I’m not sure how many short stories she has in print now, but just in the last couple of months, her work has appeared in the anthologies The Zombist: Undead Western Tales and Warrior Wisewoman 3 (she’s also in last year’s Warrior Wisewoman 2.)
Jenna understands something that I profess to understand but don’t really live by: Real writers submit their work. If you don’t eventually send your work out to markets, writing is really just a very time-consuming hobby. For some people, that’s fine; they’re not interested in anything more. For Jenna and for me, however, the line in John Anealio’s terrific song I Should Be Writing sums it all up:
I want to see my name up on that shelf
on the spine of a paperback.
Unlike Jenna, I’ve submitted next to nothing so far in 2010. I haven’t been idle; I’ve worked on my current novel, I’ve gotten some very helpful feedback from listeners to the Purgatory podcast and even more from a friend who’s read it, worked with the same friend on her novel, and made some very preliminary plans for her and I to collaborate on another novel. So I’ve had my hands in the creative end of the pool, but I haven’t been submitting, and since I uploaded the last episode of Purgatory to podiobooks.com, I haven’t done much promoting either.
I need to spend more time on both if I’m going to be successful at this. For a good example on the promotion side, look no further than Christiana Ellis, who I’m convinced gets at least a minor role in every podcast drama produced in this country (and probably New Zealand.) It’s occurred to me that my peers in the podcasting community don’t e-mail me and ask me to play roles in their audio dramas. Nor do they ask me to write stories for their anthologies. The reason for that is that I haven’t told them that I want to act in their audio dramas or write for their anthologies. No one’s asking me to do an interview on their shows because I haven’t put the word out that I would like to do interviews. I would love to do all those things (well, maybe not as many audio dramas as Christiana does, but some.) But here’s the thing about my podcasting peers: They’re not very good at reading minds, especially from across the country. If I’m not getting roles in podcasts or spaces in anthologies or interviews, I can find the reason in the nearest mirror.
That changes today. I spent this afternoon doing some polishing on a short story I wrote two years ago, and this evening, as I was watching my Syracuse Orange take a beating at the hands of the Washington Huskies, I submitted it to a magazine that focuses on dark speculative fiction. The careful reader of this blog will also note that this is the third blog post I’ve written this week. I’m told that producing fresh content will often draw people to revisit your blog (you heard it here first, folks.) I want to do one more re-write of Purgatory based on the suggestions I received, then start re-marketing it to agents and small presses. And I’m going to start putting the word out on Twitter and Facebook that I’m available for voice work and interviews. I understand that I may have to invest a little money in some better recording equipment in order to do the voice work, but I can deal with that.
In the end, if I want to sell my stories and novels, I have to write good stories and novels, and I have to market myself. Scott Sigler didn’t get to where he is simply because he can scare the hell out of you with his stories (though he does that rather well.) He did it by working his tush off promoting his work, doing what was necessary to get an agent, land his first contract with Dragon Moon Press, and his current deal with Crown Publishing. If I want to be a real writer, that’s what I have to do.
Because real writers submit and promote their work.