There are reasons for this.

So I’ve been kicking myself lately about how few short stories I have in circulation. At my high point, Back In The Day, I think I had eighteen out at once — something like that, anyway. Enough that they were almost never all really out at once, because of the logistics of shuffling them around the first- and second-tier markets while accounting for what had already been where and what was closed right now and how long they took to respond. And certainly it is true that the drop owes a lot to a drop in how many short stories I’m producing. (You can’t sell what you haven’t written.)

But I was reminded, when looking at the file I use to log my submissions, that there’s another cause, one worthy of celebrating instead of bemoaning.

Since the beginning of 2008, I’ve put seven stories into circulation, and of those seven, four have sold to the first or second market I sent them to.

Three of the four — the ones that sold on their first try — were more or less written for the markets in question (two for Clockwork Phoenix and one for Running with the Pack). So they never even started on my usual list of places to submit, which includes markets like F&SF that I keep trying because hey why not even though I don’t actually expect they’re going to buy it. Still, the point holds true: over time, I’ve started selling stories faster. Which is exactly what one hopes for. I’ve become a better writer, with better credits to my name, and better judgment as to what I should send where. Result? My submissions queue gets shorter because things stay in it for much less time.

I bring this up because we often have metrics for success (whether it’s “success” in the sense of things not entirely within our control, like sales, or in the sense of goalposts of our own efforts), but sometimes they don’t measure what we think they do. The number of stories I’m sending around is partly a gauge of how much work I’ve been doing, but not precisely; I could be working my butt off and have only two stories out there. (I think this is more or less the state of jaylake, actually.) Likewise, I wrote only four things in 2008 — but two of them were novels, so that’s hardly a light year. So before I shake a reprimanding finger at myself, I need to think about what the numbers actually mean.

Having said that — back to the metrics of “pages of page proofs proofed,” and “pages of research book read,” and maybe “revision of short story” so that I can get something else out onto the market to hopefully sell really fast.

0 Responses to “There are reasons for this.”

  1. mrissa

    I have this too.

    It’s screwing with one of my coping mechanisms, because one of the ways I deal with the uncertainty of this business is by having a lot of short story irons in the fire: I don’t have to get invested in x story selling or not selling to y mag if I also have stories z, q, and m out there. But I know, intellectually, that selling the stories I write is, in fact, the goal here. It’s better than having a million stories in circulation. It’s just…weird and new.

    • Marie Brennan

      Yes, yes, yes. And not just a question of investment in a particular submission: the simple act of sending things out there, putting together envelopes or e-mails and launching them on their way, is part of the coping. Because it’s something I can do, a nice visible thing I can point to and say, “see? I’m holding up my end; the rest is up to them.” I feel more like a professional when I’m orchestrating a waltz of many stories, even if selling those stories is the actual point.

      • mrissa

        Oh yes. That too. It’s backwards to feel more effective because I am putting stamps and addresses on envelopes than because I have the published copy in my hand, but sometimes that’s how it works.

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