Training Montage

Yo, Adrian, isn't This Your Job?
Yo, Adrian, isn’t This Your Job?

We’re at that part in the story where the hero moves up to the championship bout, gets his face smashed in and has to nurse his wounds over a beer. Then some scrappy bartender says “keep your head up kid” and gives a speech worthy of Oscar night and suddenly, the hero is back in the gym or punching pig carcasses in a freezer.

Since last year was a bit of a train wreck, I’ve had to adjust my strategy for the year. No bartender wisdom was involved (though a bit of beer may have passed these lips.) So far, things are looking up. I’ve received two acceptances (details as soon as I get them!) and won a contest (won it at the end of last year, but I’m counting it for 2014…at least my bank account is.) Five stories are pending response and I’ve got another one I need to locate a home for, but I’m confident that will happen.

How the did I turn things around so quickly you may ask?

Last year, I was hyper-focused on breaking into the big leagues. I didn’t want to sell myself short. I didn’t want to accept anything less than what I felt my stories were worth. By the end of the year, and with many months of waiting between responses, I hadn’t gotten anywhere. 

I didn’t actually expect to make one pro sale after another. Even with a great story, I knew the odds of breaking into those markets were slim and my strategy has always been to try the Pro Markets first, then work my way down. However, as I began to contemplate self-publishing, I realized what a disservice I was doing to my platform by repeatedly dropping my stories into months-long slush piles with little chance of success.

Short story sales isn’t so much about the money.  5 cents a word? Even if you could crank out and sell 10k words a week, you’d barely eek a living. True, the pro sales come with better recognition and even a few perks (like being able to sit at the big boy table at SFWA) but they are, even for incredibly talented and experienced writers, tough to make.

But now that I have forged ahead on my self-publishing journey, I’ve got bigger concerns on my mind, chief of which is marketing. I can focus on pro markets, places where my skill level might not be just yet, and roll the dice on their below one percent acceptance rate OR I can drop back down to the semi-pros and actually get some “A”s in my column.

And that’s what I did. My last two acceptances are at smaller, online venues that pay only slightly above token payments. However, here’s what I get out of the deal – my name, my bio, a link back here, gets circulated. A new audience gets a sample of my writing. It all feeds into the real “bread and butter” of this operation.

Will I keep shooting for the stars? Absolutely. I still want to be a “professional” writer and recognized as such. But no way will I let another year slip by with minimal sales, letting my platform wilt and shrivel. This whole self-publishing thing is going to be all about momentum, and I need to build a lot of it in the next 4-5 months. Expect to see more of my stories available for this year and keep an eye on this space for details about my upcoming novel, Collateral Damage.

Be right back, think I have to run some stairs or something. No way am I standing in a freezer and beating meat though.

Yes, I did just write that. Yes, it was groan-worthy. Hey, I’m a semi-pro – what did you expect?

10 thoughts on “Training Montage

  1. Tom Howard

    Very well said. As a writer who started from the small end and plan to make my way up to the big times, I think I’ve learned a lot about writing from the short stories I’ve sold over the last couple years. They’ve helped me with important writery things like character development (the most amazing concept doesn’t mean chopped liver without it), POV (damn you, Isaac Asimov and your omniscient viewpoint), pacing (interesting bits that don’t add to the story really aren’t all that interesting), and the importance of peer reviews. Looking back, I’d have made all my big mistakes on my first novel and not learned much. With each story I sell (and I’m at 33 now), I learn something. With each one rejected, I rework it and learn more. I’m still not sure about self-publishing, but if anyone can do it, you can. Good luck, mate.

    • Russell Linton

      Haven’t missed any – I started with Amazon and just got my Nook Press account setup. I’ll keep everyone updated as I move along the self-pub route. I’ll also keep everyone posted on my short stories – “coming to a website or anthology near you”. And thanks for the luck, I’ll need it!

      • Tom Howard

        Hey, Blogger Dude, Could I put in a request for a blog entry from you on what your usual writing day looks like? I’m currently between contracts and am struggling to find a schedule that works for me as a full-time writer. Right now, I’m in “Squirrel!” mode where I’m distracted by any sparkly thing. I don’t know if it’s better to do writing, rewriting, polishing, marketing, and admin paperwork all in one day or have a day for writing, a day for marketing, etc. What works for you?

      • Tom Howard

        No hurry, just when you get around to it. The word count/time limit piece was very helpful, but that’s not the part I have trouble with. It’s all the extra crap that takes up my time. For example, today I rewrote two recent rejects and polished two others. Rewriting, for me, is when an editor says “The first half is interesting, but the second half fades” and I have to completely replot the second half. I received that feedback on a story last week. Polish, for me, is when I’ve let a story rest for a week and am chopping out extraneous words and looking for typos. So I’ve got five stories rewritten/polished this week. Now I have to find markets for all of them, send them, and log them in my spreadsheet and Duotrope. The crit group has also been keeping a list of stories we each have available so that other writers can recommend markets to us if they run across one. Who has time to write? Just kidding. I finished a 6,000 word short story this week already. Thanks, as always, for the forthcoming info and for the previous blog entry.

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