Sunday, September 13, 2009

Submission Guesses

I was doing some research yesterday on the internet. Everybody talks about how easy that is, but sometimes it isn't. Either the exact information you're looking for isn't where you think it should be, or you get distracted by other interesting information you weren't actually looking for. Both happened to me yesterday.

It can be a good thing, to get distracted. You learn things you didn't know, have your mind set or imagination challenged. Yesterday, I wound up on the SFWA website, and – unable to find the statistics I wanted – I got distracted by some blogs, including one by Elizabeth Moon.

Moon described a common transition many authors go through, starting with the desire to be an author, moving through the dream of being an author until they actually knuckle down and start doing the work necessary to become a published author. It's a transition I'm familiar with; I'm still going through it myself.

I've made a lot of progress over the years, but there are times when uncertainty gets the better of me. Even at that time, I keep writing, re-writing and polishing, but I get stuck at sending out submissions. I'm not even sure it's fear of rejection; I just figure that story didn't fit their needs at that moment and keep going. It's more an uncertainty that I'm not 'shooting myself in the foot'. Is this story a good fit for that market? If this agent or editor says s/he likes fantasy, does that mean dragons and elves or something more like Conan? Or something else entirely?

Submission guidelines help. At least I don't send my fantasy novel to an agent who has no interest in fantasy. But guidelines have no choice but to be rather open. If an agent doesn't like fantasy, s/he don't want everybody sending stories about elves and dragons. However, dragons in space, or a western where the cattle rustlers turn out to be a dragon just might grab their enthusiasm. So, as an author, I have to balance what they say they want/don't want against what I've got to offer. And there's always the chance I've guessed wrong. Since I don't personally know that editor or agent, there's a really good chance I've guess wrong.

So, every once in a while I start floundering, wondering if all my guesses are wrong. I don't know what I could do differently, and so – for a time – I wind up doing nothing, so far as submissions are concerned. But that doesn't get me anywhere, so eventually, I have to push my uncertainties way down inside and send out submissions again. All I can do is give it my best guess.

See ya next week. Trudy

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