Slush Floater

A question popped up on my twitter feed from @KimmieAnnWrites asking for opinions on traditional and self publishing. As a new writer, I’m still forming my opinion but my biggest concern is the time to market for traditional publishing and I wanted to explore that a bit with my post today.

I’ve got one short I’ve been shopping for over six months. So far, I’ve gotten four “this is great, send more. However, we don’t want to print this one” rejections which is actually pretty damn fabulous. Those personal rejections with requests are like gold for a writer. Though it does get frustrating. So far, it’s my slush floater ™.

However, I’ve got to wonder, with self publishing growing bigger by the day, what am I missing out on by tossing my art into a slush pile or having an editor sit on a story for weeks? Months?

I can’t say I’m at the level where I’m writing timeless classics that people will be reading years and years from now. I tend to write things that are thought provoking and involve weird spins on current issues and trends. The story I mentioned earlier is a Zombie spoof. Zombies are “in” right now, probably on a downward trend, and I’m thinking in the next year or two, that well will have run completely dry. And it isn’t that story the story won’t be funny regardless when you read it, but right now there’s a MUCH bigger audience out there for it. It’s a closing window.

Assuming I’ve got a good product (and four pro/semi-pro level editors seem to think so), I should be able to sell it on a virtual bookshelf.

Many of the pro level short markets accept under 1% of what they receive. Does it mean the other 99% is crap? Acceptance many times has nothing to do with whether a story is good or not. Was it better than the other 1000 that were subbed that week? Does it fit the current theme or even the editor’s style better than another? So this means they didn’t have the space. The time to get to it. The perfect combination of whatever literary magic the staff of the publication is looking for.

And how much do you get paid? 5, 10 cents a word? Not bad. If you write a 5000 word short, you could get $500. On the other hand, if your story plays well on the self-pub market, you might make that in a few months. Even if it takes a year to build up to that (about 1600 at .99 with a .30 profit ), chances are you’re coming out ahead in the long run by building your portfolio of stories.

True, you have to advertise. But frankly, I’m hearing a lot of that is being dumped on authors with traditional publishers anyway. What you get from traditional publishing seems to be a) a seal of approval and b) distribution to the big box book stores. Both are valuable, though I’d argue the value of the latter is plummeting daily. Books will probably always be around but the digital revolution will continue to decimate the market share until buying dead trees with ink is a ‘trendy’ thing.

I do like the idea of the traditional gatekeepers because self-pub can be a wasteland of utter crap that people are using as an instant vanity press. I also like the recognition publishing with a big name can bring. However, I’m also hearing that things are starting to flip – instead of self-pubs getting “discovered” by the big publishers, authors are using them as an initial springboard and then self-publishing to reap greater profits.

For now, I’m sticking to submissions and slush piles just to see if I can eek out a bit more of that credibility before I dive in. But if I get one more “this is awesome, but we won’t print it” for the slush floater, I may toss my hat in the ring on the self-pub a bit earlier than I planned.

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