by Raelene Gorlinsky
I am frequently amazed by how many writers will write and write...and never submit their work to be considered for publication. Why pour all that effort and commitment into a product that you then hide away? Talking to such writers, I've come up with some of the reasons. Do you see yourself in any of these?
1. Fear of rejection/failure"If I submit, I may be rejected." Well, yes, acceptances are rare, rejections frequent. But if you don't submit, you are just rejecting yourself. You'll never get feedback, never find out what publishing professionals (editors, agents) think of your work, never get the chance to incorporate that advice into improving your work.
2. Lack of knowledge on how to take the next stepYou've labored over that story for months or years. You've self-edited, you've had others critique and proofread it, you've polished and polished. But then you don't know what to do next! How and where do you submit your story, what are the requirements, the process?
Okay, here's where you have to accept that writing for publication is a profession, not a hobby. Join a professional writing organization! Study the profession, subscribe to the appropriate magazines, e-newsletters. Join writer groups, in person and online. Attend workshops. All the information you need is out there--go find it.
3. Love to write, hate the "business" end of things
Researching agents and publishers. Writing query letters, preparing and sending submissions, then keeping track of them all. If you do get a wonderful acceptance, then it's analyzing the offer, wading through the contract language. Then deadlines and other commitments on the way to seeing that story actually be published. Does all that make you scream "But I just want to WRITE!"? Time to ask yourself the question again--is writing a hobby you enjoy for itself alone, or is it a profession involving publication?
4. Love to write, hate to market yourself
This is a business, remember? It does no good to produce a product if you don't get out there and sell it. Nowadays, all publishers expect the author to handle much of the promotion of their book and their author name. Even the large NY publishers expend minimal promotional dollars on most of their authors; only a small percentage of the very top sellers get heavy marketing support. So as an author (or aspiring author), you do have to put effort into things like a website, blog, e-newsletter, presence on the social networks. Belong to writing groups that offer you networking and cross-promotional opportunities, take workshops on self-promotion and book marketing that are offered by author organizations. If your book is contracted by a publisher, you will indeed need a plan for how you will promote the book. Your potential income from a book is dependent on how much you put into publicizing your book and your author name.
5. Priorities and commitment: Love to write, less interest in being published
This is for the writers who are willing to honestly admit that what they enjoy is the process of writing, and admiring their finished product themselves--but they don't necessary need or want to or can commit the effort to getting published. Writing as a hobby is perfectly valid, don't feel guilty about it. But don't pretend to yourself or others that you are striving for professional publication if you are not.
I have to admit that I fall into the "why I haven't submitted" group for this reason. I write children's picture books. I love doing it, I love sharing them with my friends, my crit group, my family. (Nothing will erase the memory of my father's joy when, for his 80th birthday, I gave him a story based on his tradition of making special pancakes for my sisters and me when we were children.) Sure, I would love to see my stories professionally illustrated and published, I'd even like to make money from them. BUT--I have an incredibly busy and stressful life, many things I'd like to do but can't get to. So the huge amount of time needed to do all the steps of submitting my stories to children's publishers just hasn't made it high enough on my personal priority list. Maybe someday, but meanwhile I can enjoy the writing itself.
What's your reason for not submitting your story?