It’s the new attitude I’m trying to adopt, in regards to my stories. In regards to the art that I spend hours laboring over.
I’m not a very smart man. I think most of the important lessons I have to teach are simply from living through certain events, and forming an opinion based upon how it feels in retrospect.
Let me tell you all a story. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English about ten years ago, with a minor in film. I’d dabbled off and on with short stories, and reviews in college. Primarily, I spent my time working on screenplays. I always assumed I would be a screenwriter, and then- well, then, nothing. I’ve always suffered from a lack of self esteem, and from feelings of inferiority. So, as is typical when it comes to my creative output, I never did anything with it.
Anyway, cut to a few years out of college. I’d had a series of retail jobs, and one gig as an assistant teacher with autistic teens. And, spurred on by words of encouragement from my new girlfriend at the time (almost eight years with her soon, I love my woman) I started to work on short stories again. And I attempted to shop them around.
Being the classic shoot off the email first, ask questions last type of man I am, my first attempts to sell short stories were doomed from the start because I didn’t bother to research the markets I was sending my stories too. And granted, a few might have fit, but the market was tough to get into, and I was brand new at the story game. But, admittedly, most of the stories I sent off just didn’t fit thematically with the markets I sent them too. The best example I have is that I sent an extreme horror story with graphic sexual content to an anthology to contain stories with monsters. See, just didn’t take the time to read up on the guidelines. That’s a great lesson kids: read the fucking guidelines before you send a story.
So, I learned from that, and started trying to shop stories to the right markets; to openings where the stories would fit. And, somewhere along the line, I shopped a story to a place where the payment was a contributor’s copy. In essence, your payment is a physical copy of the book you’re in. And I got my first short story acceptance! And I was thrilled. The acceptance gave me the ego boost to continue to write stories, and shop them.
And then, for the next seven years or so, I sold myself short. I submitted work to small presses, and magazines where I knew it would be easier to get in, because they weren’t paying me any money. And very rarely I’d go for a paying market, get shot down, and then go back to writing stories, and letting them be used in anthologies or web magazines for free.
I’ve finally started to shop stories for paying markets again. And shocker: it’s tough to get people to pay you for your stories. But, I plan to keep shopping them.
Don’t sell yourself short, like I did, and continue to do. Even if you were say, the worst cashier in the world, your employer would still pay you for your time at work. So, why is it any different for stories? Why is it that we allow magazines and short story anthologies to pay us nothing, and just blithely assume that it’s going to be good for us? Why do we work for hour after hour, and accept nothing for it?
Because we are afraid we aren’t good enough to deserve money? I went to the RMV today. I had to renew my license. It took over an hour to talk to a lady, who asked me like two questions, took my picture, then sent me on my way. The RMV pays all of its employees, and they are slow as shit.
There’s nothing wrong with accepting some kind of monetary compensation for your work, especially if the people you are giving it to plan to make a profit off of it. Complacency doesn’t mean a snowball in Hell if you don’t go anywhere because of it. Go get devastated for a while. It’s worth it, trust me.