Friday, 8 January 2016

A cautionary tale for new authors


When you start writing you don't always consider what you do as the first stage of a productive process that ideally ends with a wide readership. A few years ago I joined a writers' circle and read out my own work to the group once a week.

I entered the group's internal competitions and won one. I entered external competitions and achieved placings followed by a win.

But I saw little future in pay-to-enter competitions where just breaking even is quite a triumph, so I started submitting stories to publishers.

At first you think it is wonderful when a publisher responds to your submissions at all, even better when the response is accompanied by a personal explanation of the rejection. When your first acceptance arrives you think you've really arrived.

But you haven't.

Last year I submitted stories to prospective publishers on three hundred occasions. About a tenth of these are still outstanding and of the remainder nine were accepted. In other words my strike rate was under 4%.

Although this may already appear alarmingly small, only three stories eventually made it into print during the course of the year. I have publication schedules for two more; the prospective publisher of two more is working on a business restructuring and relaunch and from two more I have heard nothing further. I sent off status queries to these two this week.

I am a much better writer than I was at the start of this process, which you will see has already been quite long. And there still seems such a long way to go. 

But as a friend recently said to me, “Those who try often fail; those who don't try never succeed.”

Onwards and Upwards!