To self-publish or not?

Part of my list of things I want to do these next few weeks is to submit some more stories to various places. I’ve given myself a few weeks to do this because it involves a whole heap of time sat at my desk going through the various steps in the process. I’m currently working on a body of work. I’ve got around 4 stories in each genre I write, but this isn’t enough for a collection, yet. In the meantime I’m submitting work because the process of submitting work is really useful.

The first thing I do is research. This involves going through a whole list of different journals and checking what they are about and assessing whether my work will fit. This means reading a whole heap of stories and specific journal guidelines. From there I go back and adjust and adapt my tales. This editing could be word count or punctuation changes. Some places want double quote marks, others single. Submission formatting changes from place to place too. So that all takes time. Once the piece is ready, I write a cover letter, which includes a wee synopsis, some context to the piece, and an adapted bio that matches the style of that particular journal. Then I have a moment of two of panic, say ‘fuck it’, and press send. Then I wait.

I’ve learnt so much from submitting work. I’ve learnt to be serious and to organised with my stories; to get heaps of feedback and edit my stories really well before sending them off; to present myself well and professionally. And I think about them a lot. Recently the rejection letters suggest that I need to research more and be clearer about who where I’m sending my work. And as I research more, I’m increasingly aware my writing is cross-genre, a bit queer, but hey ho, that’s just what it is. I’m not changing it. In fact it just makes me more determined to speak my voice. I suppose I’ve also learnt not be precious about my work. Reading is subjective (as well as technical- although I’ve read beautifully technical stuff and been bored out of my mind), so it’s also about having luck, the right reader reading it at the right time, and knowing it will fit into that particular issue’s theme.

So why do I put myself through this? Why don’t I just self-publish? The reason for this, apart from the massive learning I gain from sending stuff off, is mainly due to this very common rule:

Entries must never have been published, self-published, published on any website, blog or online forum, broadcast nor winning or placed (as in 2nd, 3rd, runner up, etc.) in any other competition.

The irony is: to be published (as an emerging writer) no else can have read your work. That is actually quite funny. I think soon I will put some of my stories on here, but that counts as self-publishing, but I want feedback and I want to see if real people like it, so what do I do? For the ones I have already had published, I’ve added links. But for now, I’ll keep creating/editing/creating/editing, so I know my stories are the best they can be, and I’ll keep sending stuff out. Because it can only make my writing better and my skin thicker.

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