Two weeks ago we talked about how to know if you are a writer or not and when you can claim the word as your own. What about when you think it is time to move on to being a ‘published’ writer? The word published, in today’s climate of self-publishing and blogs is rather vague. I mean, what about when you think it is time to be published by someone else? To send your work out for acceptance or rejection?
The essay is ready. You’ve agonized over every word, spent the morning putting in a comma and then spent the afternoon taking it out and now you are just like Oscar Wilde. Which means you are totally ready.
And now I have the bad news.
Every place you want to submit your essay or short story or poem, every single one of them, has people they hire just for the purpose of mocking you. This is because magazines and websites and book publishers have buckets of cash at their fingertips and want nothing more than to make fun of wanna-be writers.
These submission-mockers (that’s the official job title) wear hipster glasses and skinny jeans. They drink gallons of fair trade coffee and eat only chocolate and never outgrow their skinny jeans and run marathons in 3:29. They have funky hair and cool piercings. They bike to work and laugh a lot (especially at you). They are all multi-published authors with awards from obscure but genius literary magazines and have also scored mega-money contracts from one of the top five publishers. Which is why they have time to laugh at you. Their books pretty much write themselves. You are the only one staring blankly, feeling sick, pulling your hair, and crying.
They open your email or your envelope and by the time they have read your first line they are clutching their sides, shouting to the others, “come and read this, what this loser thinks is publishable!” By the end of your submission they all rush to the bathroom, they simply cannot hold the laughter-pee one second longer. Then they regroup and reread the submission. They memorize lines from it so they can quote your idiocy to other submission-mockers at a party this weekend, they might even use a line from it in their next essay.
The next submission they read is from Cheryl Strayed and they don’t laugh at her. While they are happy to publish her in their journal, they really just want to reread your submission because they like rejecting people more than they like accepting people. And that’s what it really is too – not rejection or acceptance of an essay but of an entire person.
Now that you know, you have two choices.
- Never, ever submit your work to be published.
- Don’t believe a word of this and submit your work to be published.
To accomplish number two you will have to decide to believe that editors are thrilled to read submissions, that they like nothing more than stumbling across a new and compelling voice, that they believe in the power of the written word, that everyone gets rejections, and that you might get accepted.
What’s it gonna be? Keep the submission-mockers in business and send your work out or wait, in the hopes that the other top-secret publishing world employees called Next-Great-American-Novelist/Essayist/Memoirist-Finders will come knocking and beg you to write for them?
image credit: By Mjt16, via Wikimedia Commons