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Another Writers’ Dilemma?

Medieval illustration of a Christian scribe wr...

Medieval Scribe at Writing Desk

I’ve spent years collecting rejection slips and losing writing contests. My closest family has had much experience in trying to lift my spirits with kind words about how much they liked my work, or needing to be honest about possible reasons why the work just isn’t ready, yet. More and more, I’m simply alone in my let down because I can’t bear to share the anticipation, or the negative side of the scale swinging in my direction again. If I ever become the writer of a story that’s wanted by a real publisher, if I ever have that good news to share, everyone who loves me will be shocked at how close my movements can come to the speed of light.

After realizing that a blog can really be anything I want it to be, I decided that I didn’t have to go to my grave with a box of stories on yellowing paper, high on a closet shelf, seeming to exist only for my survivors to remember me by. I love the fact that I can write and “publish” some of my work here. But this week I’ve discovered that some publishers consider a work being online anywhere, to be reason for disqualifying it for consideration. The rules for the specific publication I was considering, didn’t state any exceptions for a personal blog that averages about twenty page views a day. And this made me wonder if some of the “they”s in publishing think of themselves as our adversaries? I thought we were in this together. We write, they publish. Do they think it’s better for writers to live out their lives in professional solitude, praying for something that may never happen? Or do they not realize that we can remove something from our blogs once it’s been accepted? And if that isn’t quite true, I’d appreciate an illuminating comment to the contrary. (Those publishers who reprint articles, seem to understand that a specific work isn’t always found by readers in its original home.)

I realize that things are getting shaky for all forms of the written word. From consumers seeming to want shorter and shorter pieces, to there being a shrinking audience for more literary works; but I hope more publishers understand how little a piece’s appearance on a personal blog affects the prestige of it actually being accepted and published by a real company with a circulation the author could never come anywhere near alone.

I’m one of those people who can’t easily find a good fit with a writing group in my area, to bounce ideas off or trade critiques with. I’ve found my group of sorts here online, through this blog, and I feel comfortable here with them. I don’t really want to ponder the issue of what to include on my blog or not. I’ve found so much more freedom as a writer by being online. I’ve learned so much, so much faster by being here. And I don’t ever want to go back to being as isolated as I was while hunching over my keyboard and wondering if anyone would ever want to read what I produced.

In regard to learning, I’ve just realized while writing this, that it’s actually a tribute to anyone and everyone who is reading it. My head isn’t ever really in the sand– that’s not my personality; but I’d rather be here and as open as I want to be about my work, than worry about all the ways of thinking that I can’t wrap my head around. I want the freedom to be here in my tiny corner of the universe, and I don’t want to worry about it affecting my opportunity to experience the thrill and accomplishment of getting an acceptance letter instead of a rejection. I like the camaraderie and the education I get while spending time here with you, so I guess I’ll just have to look harder for more understanding places to send submissions to– just like all of us who share some of our creative work on our blogs.

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28 thoughts on “Another Writers’ Dilemma?

  1. I wonder if posting your writing on this blog constitutes publication, or if this blog works as your ‘critique’ group and all you’re really technically doing is posting to your group for feedback from those who read the blog. I mean, in reality what you have created here with your blog is gathering a group of fellow writers/readers. It might be splitting hairs. Since the publishing world is so unsettled and unclear right now, and no one, not even publishers, seem to understand the legalities of writing online, why can’t we be called your critique partners instead of simply your readers?

      • Agreed. I’ve worried about this issue a little bit regarding my Open Mic guest posts — I don’t want “publication” on my Open Mic to ever be an issue for featured artists when they try to get published in the print-and-ink world. On the other hand, I do want artists to be able to include my Open Mic as a list of “publications” where their work has been featured, so it’s a weird balance.

      • I think that’s why it really struck me to think that a respected publication would have us ignore a wonderful tool like the internet, and have us stand against the wall waiting for them to deem us worthy– knowing full well that only a handful of us ever get to be the “chosen” ones. I love your Open Mic, and it boggles my mind that something so nurturing and helpful for artists has to feel like a balancing act.

  2. Success is rarely expected when it happens. Just keep writing. Keep creating. Keep being true to yourself.

    Be satisfied with what you achieve, and rejoice in small milestones. You’re going to be great!

  3. I don’t think that any publisher who knows what she’s talking about could feel threatened by small blogs like ours. Savvy people understand that your blog enhances your writing and stimulates readership. I think that probably, in the future, all writers will feel pressure to blog to generate interest in their writing. But you’re right, it’s all up in the air right now, and we’re waiting to see where things will fall. (You are my writing group! Thank god you’re out there!!!!!)

    • Anna, you’re right! We are getting some awfully mixed messages in our industry. I thought I was getting on the curve with my blog, not necessarily ahead of it, but at least somewhere on it. I think you’re right about it all being up in the air right now. (And my thanks to you for being in this group with me! :))

  4. I honestly think that traditional publishers are clinging to traditions in fear. They want it to be more prestigious to publish through them. Now that I finally made the decision to self-publish, I’ve been thinking about this more and more. I have read plenty of books that I think are awful for any number of reasons, yet they found a home with a publisher. Why? Because of luck, pure and simple. They found the one person who decided that book should be published at that point in time. I have read so many brilliantly written blogs, and yet these talented writers struggle to get interest in the publishing world. Again, why? They just haven’t had the luck to find the right person yet. This luck thing even relates to being Freshly Pressed. When I think about some of the poorly written posts that got attention when others get ignored, I get frustrated–so I don’t think about it any more. Writer’s write to be read, and if the way we get our work read is through putting ourselves out there and making connections that just makes us stronger writers. Every time we put a word on our page, we are perfecting our craft. Every time we receive feedback and interact with others, we are building our readership. If traditional publishers cannot see beyond the dollar signs to the power of this community, then maybe it is time for us to find a non-traditional path toward publishing. But maybe, just maybe, that’s what THEY are afraid of.

    • You’ve got a point there, Lisa. Part of me is tired of thinking of the business/promotion side of writing, but clearly one has to if they’re going to do any sort of self publishing. That’s why I follow Anthem Salgado– Art Of Hustle on Twitter– and like the thrust of his website. (Thank you, Satsumabug!) I think we artists may need more help in this regard, because the kind of freedom we use in our work contrasted with the have to’s and shoulds of promotion, feels strange and confining to us. But that future Anna referred to in her comment, is coming at us faster and faster and we have to learn what to do and how to do it. Thanks for your comment. I’m getting awfully tired of the quirks of this luck thing, too!

  5. Yes, everything’s getting redefined very rapidly where publication and “legitimacy” are concerned (the legitimacy thing reminds me of Lisa at The Story River’s post on traditional versus e-publishing). It’s a very exciting time to live in, really; it’s confusing and potentially frustrating and often just plain stupid, but to be in this land of shifting lines and constant reinvention — I love it. It’s a regular reminder that the world isn’t yet finished and we all have a place in building it. I think the existence of blogs like ours, and communities like these ones we’re creating, helps bring about the kind of world (and the kind of sharing and reading and discussing) we’d like to see in the future, the kind of world we want our work to be in.

    This is why, even though I want to someday be published in the traditional sense, I don’t get too caught up in conforming to those old rules. I recognize that much of what I want out of traditional publication is actually stuff I can also achieve from new forms like blogging and online community; moreover, my online presence gives me a level of authorship over my public presence that I (as a new author) would be unlikely to enjoy if I were operating under the confines of a publishing house.

    Of course, as we discussed a little in Lisa’s post that I linked above, everyone has a different definition of what feels legit to them. I’m happy with the current state of my “publishing” career, but not everyone would be, and that’s totally fine. We can only do the work and keep trying to get it out to as many people as possible, through whatever channels serve us best.

    • I hear what you’re saying, Lisa. I’m so grateful to the powers that be for our opportunity to exist as writers/artists in the world in a way that can be found by anyone who’s looking. Being online is important in this way, and a great tool for artists– even more so when all the ins and outs of making it work fit their energy level and economic needs.

      What ‘s been going on in my mind lately, may be more about how the system of having a publisher works a little better for the artist who needs larger amounts of time and space to create. When my blog fell silent around the past holiday season, it was because I had the very welcome opportunity to work a job. I had hoped I would be one of those few chosen to continue there after the holidays, and thought I would be able to write at least a post a week and work on my stories in my spare time, after the intense training period ended. I was unprepared to actually have no physical time to sit and work out an idea. It felt as though a vital part of me had been scooped out. When thought of that way, there can be a wonderful symbiosis between writer and publisher.

      Those of us who who were born to write (this perhaps being the thing we do best) can survive better in the world if the system of writer and publisher keeps evolving with us, and publishers don’t begin to exclude those of us online, or somehow cease to exist. Unfortunately, I feel as though my days as a real writer are numbered. I know that one day my other talents will be seen again by another employer, and my time to work on my writing will shrink once more. I hope when that time comes, it won’t shrink down to nothing again.

      • You’ve got me thinking so much with your post (and a conversation I had with an IWL friend over the weekend) that I’m planning a post of my own about this same topic, later this week. 🙂

        I hear what you are saying about the publisher-writer relationship being potentially beneficial in multiple ways. Are you referring to publishers being able to float money towards the writers, which then gives them more time to write? If that’s the case I wonder if we should also be seeking new avenues for that kind of money–>time relationship. I’ve been thinking about this because of all the artists I’ve seen raising money on sites like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. I don’t know how sustainable that model is, but it definitely works for some people in the short run (and you could argue that it’s just a new form for the 1920s-style rent party!). Maybe I also think about this because Erik is interested in the internet’s potential for new forms of currency and new styles of paying for things, and I agree with him that I don’t think we’ve really seen that potential tapped yet.

      • Yes, that’s it exactly! The publisher’s ‘advance’ is like fuel that keeps the writer going so they can actually have the time and safety to just do the work. In some circles there was also the patron, though that seems very subject to whim, and therefore unreliable.

        I’ve actually thought of Kickstarter (and I certainly hope NeuroKitchen is– I’m going to have to mention it to Anita, just in case) but I don’t have a specific project that I feel I could deliver in exchange. I’m still turning the idea of it around in my head, though. It’s such an interesting model! In case I can figure out some other way to deliver value to contributors. (That’s one more puzzle to solve that’s making my head hurt!)

  6. Lady Sparks, good morning! I absolutely love it! Whatever you do, don’t stop writing! I would really miss you! Your posts always get me thinking, and considering yet another view of things. Your comments are also very helpful to me, as they give me more to think about. I agree with you about the camraderie and encouragement that you find here! Sure, I know that both you and I are most certainly writers with a voice that need to be heard, and as long as someone is listening, I couldn’t give a hot damn whether he’s official or not! 🙂 In the same vein, I realize that all things happen at the designated time, and when it does, it will be beautiful! Certainly, the destination is publication – of some kind – but the journey, my friend, is filled with great rewards; one of them was “meeting” you!

  7. You have ranted well Lady Sparks.

    It is the ultimate dilemma for all writers who wish to be heard by a wider audience than friends and family.

    To begin with, we all know writing per se is a lonely occupation. It is not and should never be a team sport or a factory production line. Publishers themselves to some extent encourage these twin enemies to feed profits. Many so-called novelists produce to a production line formula and in fact often employ others to write certain sections of their books. There are also writers who “write” as a part of a team of editors, stylists etc. I’m not saying either of these methods is wrong but I am saying it is NOT my way.

    Personally, I don’t give a damn if none or a million people read what I write. I write because I have stories to tell. But, I completely understand how intimate and personal the compulsion is that rejection, however slight, can so easily rip a worn out soul to shreds. But how to be heard, if that is the desire.

    It seems to me a couple of fundamental decisions must be taken before stepping out the door with a flag and a megaphone (or starting a blog). When I first discovered blogging I decided that I would only publish certain pieces of work. Pieces I’m happy to give away free, but which complement my published works. I also decided I would not look at viewing figures or visitor counts.

    I have campaigned for years to re establish writing as an ART rather than a mere resource of commercialism. I am not naive enough to know that I will succeed but the more people like us bloggers who subscribe to the cause and not put up with the industry bullshit, the closer we will come to our goal.

    One way around the problem of pre-published works is to create PDF files and make them password protected (there are free PDF creators available on-line). Not only can you choose who reads your work but it’s an ideal way of gathering an inner circle of “reviewers” without breaking the mainstream publishing houses rules regulations, small print, terms and conditions, weasel . . . zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzz

    • Thanks for reading the rant, Rivenrod! I’m going to look for more info on creating password protected PDF files, and see if I can retrofit some of what I’ve included here already. I’ve been thinking, since I wrote this post, that I mostly wish I was more prolific. I probably wouldn’t have been so struck by this issue if I simply had more finished work to choose from. Thanks for your support and your help.

  8. Wow, great post and excellent comments. I agree with it all. I’ve been “Rejection Man” too though have had some limited appreciation years ago for some poetry but that aside I find it a great outlet to blog my creations, in their myriad forms, here, on WordPress. My encouragment comes from everyone who drops by and takes the time to “Like” or Comment and makes me realise that just because some suit in an office doesn’t like it it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily no good. And if some House likes it and wants to publish it, I agree, they should use their imagination and realise that it can be removed. There are ways and means. I read Lemn Sissay’s blog recently when he asked the question “Why blog?” . Here is a respected published poet and broadcaster making a living from a tough trade – and his answer ? …………Because we are all self-publicists….all wanting to blow our own trumpet in an increasingly noisy world (the last bit is my interpretation). I say, yeah, self-publicise on,Brothers and Sisters, because we believe that what we have is worth something in a personal sense, if not monetary, and worth sharing with others who just might like it.

    • Thanks Huge. This is heartening– the kind of progress I can really get behind. I’ve been wondering a lot about the costs involved in this kind of publishing, but I don’t have enough material yet to even start the research. I wonder if short story collections would sell? 🙂

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  10. Oh, I hear you. I’m so tired of trying to cha-cha when everyone’s waltzing around me. The good news is, we’re all similarly confused, so the big bugs are simply going to have to reform their ideas of what is and isn’t allowed in terms of self-publishing and social media. For now, I’m building my publishing credits one at a time, making friends, learning my craft. The rest of it will have to take care of itself.

    • That’s the ticket, Averil! I may have calmed down a bit since I wrote this, because I’ve been thinking of new stories to share here. Either that or I’m just so confused that I’ve decided to keep on going in lieu of shutting down.

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  12. Keep your head up! I started my blog for the same reason. Frustrations with rejection, missed goals and yet so much positive feedback. I write children’s books and started my art because of them. I went down the art path when everyone in my circle told me I had something great. Although fun its been a few let downs artistically as well. What I realize now is that (regardless of publication and money) the stories and art came through me for a reason. And if its no more than to pass down through my family I HAVE TO KEEP WORKING!!!! With that said thanks for sharing with the world your let downs and frustrations, its good to know there are others like me! Hell at the very least your building a following now that will turn into your readers.

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