Monday, September 18, 2006

Never reject your own story

I was having an online conversation today that made me reiterate one of the fundamental rules of selling your fiction—Never reject your own story. That's the editor's job. Too many times a writer will look at a story and decide one of three things:

A, this is a disaster and I can't send it out.

B, this story isn't the right sort of story for ________ (fill in the high end market of your choice).

C, this story is perfect for __________ (fill in the low end market of your choice).

In all three cases, the story never makes it to whatever is the writer's dream market, thus guaranteeing that it will never be published there. But, for the cost of postage and a little time the writer could give the editor the chance to do the job of rejecting the story if it doesn't work for them, or maybe, just maybe, buying that story.

Look at it this way:

When a writer pre-jects a story for an editor:
—The worst case scenario is that they don't sell to dream market x.
—The best case scenario is also that they don't sell to dream market x.

When a writer lets the editor make the decision:
—The worst case scenario is that they don't sell to dream market x.
—The best case scenario is that they do sell to dream market x.

Never reject your own story.

6 comments:

Mari Adkins said...

Thanks, Kelly, for this swift kick in the arse.

I was on an upswing yesterday and belted out 5200 words. Today is one of those days where the weather is perfect for being depressive and staying indoors with the cat and a bottle of wine (would be a roaring fire if we had a fireplace!) . So, I've not gotten very far, to say the least - except for being overly critical of every word I've written this month.

Kelly McCullough said...

My pleasure. Glad it helped.

Muneraven said...

Thanks for the encouraging words. Sometimes good advice from strangers knock my verbose inner critic for a loop. :-)

Kelly McCullough said...

You're welcome. It's easy to forget the simple things in this business. Like:

"Never give up."

"Every rejection letter is an achievement."

And, "Write the next story."

All of which sounds like a good list for me to cover as individual posts at later dates.

Sean M. Murphy said...

I'm going to add to Kelly's list of simple things in the business by quoting a set of "Rules for Writing", variously attributed to any number of authors, but according to what I learned, directly attributable to Robert Heinlein:

Rule 1: You Must Write.
Rule 2: You Must Finish What You Write.

While this sounds like a simple, straightfoward statement of the near obvious, I've always loved the subtle tones of the word choice: You MUST write--even when you don't feel like it, or there are other things that need doing. And you must FINISH what you write--beginning is not enough; writing is work, and you must do that work.

Michael Merriam said...

I went through a period where I was terrible about not sending stories out to the big markets first. After about the twentieth or so rejection from the SFWA-level markets, I stopped submitting to them for about six months. Then one day I received a rejection from Lone Star Stories that basically said he loved the story and why exactly had I not sent this to a larger market? The editor had read in my blog about my finishing the story, so he knew his magazine was the first market I had sent it to. He told me that if the story failed to sell to one of the pro-markets, then to send it back to him.

So I sent it to RoF and received my second YFoP. Then off to F&SF, where it garnered me my first "Also-gram" from Gordon. I sent it on down the line and reveived personal rejections from the editors at the major magazines(the story just went to the WotF contest).

You're right, of course. It's not up to the writer to decide if his story is a fit for market X or more approriate for market Y.

That's the editor's job.