Lately I’ve had the number of stories out on submission as high as 57, but I now seem to be up against a natural barrier. The number of appropriate marketplaces for the material I produce, which are both currently reading and pay a rate I’m happy to court, is finite. If I was okay with letting my stories go for a fiver, a tenner, I could submit to maybe ten more markets, but there is a bone in my head that has difficulty doing this very often. My preferred lower limit is $25, but that’s still well under 1c/word for most stories, and when one recalls that professional rates begin at US6c/word, there is a world of difference at work.
Subtracting around fifty-plus markets (those already supplied) from the available pool, while specifying markets paying at least 1c/word, are currently reading, and able to handle genre material up to, say, 7000 –10, 000 words, the result is a fairly short list, a dozen or (maybe) two as a rule. Among these show up niche-specific markets for disabled writers, writers of colour, regional affiliations, alternate sexualities, or thematic specifications such as a horror-slant on everything, feminist issues to be foregrounded, experimental prose styles preferred, or specific themed issues. Obviously, these requirements further erode the scope for a general-market piece and it is not unusual to look down the list, as generated by the search engine at The (Submission) Grinder, and cross out every title for one reason or another, from the top of the market (shooting too high) to the simple expedient of one’s story (or oneself) just not matching the requirements.
One day a short fantasy came back from a likely venue, illustrating just this point. Taking 1c/word as the minimum fee, the search returned 26 markets and I eliminated them all on the various grounds above. It’s not a children’s story, it’s not a ghost story, it’s set in neither the present not a disastrous future, it doesn’t feature ancient gods, it’s not a detective story… Trying to find a market that fits the piece one has written can be a trying process. I can expand the scope by specifying a fee below 1c/word, but will have to accept giving up my work for less in exchange for the credit. A case can be made for an early career writer that the credit is more important than the money, and one is obliged, in all fairness, to take this aspect seriously.
It can be very frustrating, as you’d imagine. Say a story is declined by your prime choice, you look around for the next best bet – and there are times you can’t spot one, and in desperation find yourself looking at letting the story go for a tenth the figure it might otherwise have earned. The considered response is to hold onto it and target it carefully to markets sussed out in advance, even if it takes months, to clamp down on the gut-reaction to simply get every property out there as much of the time as possible. This is probably the better course of action, despite the “buzz” of having so much work under constant consideration.
And there’s the catharsis of an acceptance to take into account – one feels less frustrated when a story is bought! For a few days the sense of expectation ramps up and excitement replaces doubt: a market may take a story at any moment! Statistically, though, one knows it’ll probably average out at a period of weeks and at least a dozen more rejections, before the next positive comes along. Hopefully the pattern will hold! Since my first story actually appeared in print, I’ve scored around two sales a month (there are exceptions, one in December, three in January, but it evens out) and I can certainly live with that – but it’s imperative to score some better-paying placements too. That’s my goal (hope, wish, expectation) for the second year of this endeavour.
Cheers, Mike Adamson