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June 23rd, 2004

The Lessons of Career Positioning: Part 2: Publishing [Jun. 23rd, 2004|10:27 am]

There are no easy shortcuts to "fame and fortune" in the publishing field. Careers take time to establish and build and maintain, over years, or decades, or longer. However, in recent years, due to the rise of the internet (and associated webzines, journals, ebooks, etc) and the accessibility of short-run publishing companies, it is increasingly easier for new authors to get published, at any costs (or at theirs). In other words there are now more opportunities than ever before. As previously noted in the last Part, though, it's not always the best of ideas to go with just anyone. It _will_ damage your career aspirations (if you have such).

If you want to establish a career, there are many other methods, including taking the time (gasp!) to create a brand name in the genre markets, either in paying anthologies or paying magazines. This may take years. Or decades. I know authors who've had hundreds of rejection letters and many years of striving before they hit their stride. Do your time. Do the work. There are no shortcuts.

And now to our discussion and thoughts on formats:


There's a glut of collections right now on the market, probably because it's rather easy to take a dozen of your stories and slap them together, and voila! you have a short story collection, which you can sell to a dozen publishing houses. Well . . . don't. If you don't have an established career or heavy buzz or you haven't won a few awards, then having a short story collection published is generally not in your best interests. It will prove to the reader (if any) that you're not ready for the big time and he or she may avoid further books of yours. The same goes for review trade journals. If there's nothing particularly special about your short story collection, in terms of content, introduction, blurbs, cover design, etc. you've just wasted your time . . . and ours . . . and theirs.

In very few cases do I recommend leading off with a short story collection, for a new author wanting to establish his or her career. It's far better to come off the dock running with a novel.


The biggest problem I see here are massive epics, perhaps influenced by the market's current propensity for big fat thick fantasies. This doesn't impress me. This proves that you've just wasted most of your writing craft on something that will generally not sell to a large publisher. I'd be much more impressed with a 60,000 to 80,000 word novel and prove to me and others that you've got the right stuff (and you don't waste months or even years working on that 150k novel). This applies even to the larger publishing houses. They might not take that first "short" novel of yours, but they might be interested enough in wanting to see the next or even commisson the next.

Questions? Suggestions? Criticisms?
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