Or at least it hadn't, until the summer of 2012 when I stumbled across a call from Jupiter Gardens Press for their Boys of Summer anthology. I stared at my screen, read the page a few times, and a light bulb went off in my head.
"Oh," I thought. "So that's how you get into a short story anthology."
In May 2012 I'd been a freelance writer for four years. I had worked for magazines and newspapers, and I'd completed two novel manuscripts, but I hadn't actually published a piece of fiction in several years. So I wrote the short stories Summer People, Heart of the Myrmidon, and Skin Deep. All three of them were accepted, and I was told they'd become part of anthologies for Jupiter Gardens Press. I realized that I was now officially a published author, and that for every anthology I was part of I would get a small cut of the royalties.
I had a plan: Get into 10 more anthologies, then start work on a novel.
|What could possibly go wrong?|
The expectations I had going in were pretty low. I wanted to get back into the fiction groove I'd fallen out of, I wanted to shape up my publishing credits, and I wanted to develop a relationship with a variety of publishers. I also had some idea about making money. The younger, less-experienced me figured that if I could get into a dozen or so different anthologies that he could make a decent, regular royalty check that would let him relax and work on a novel.
|I know right? I was fucking adorable back then.|
Lastly, and I stress this one, if a publisher turned out to be a lemon all I lost was a few weeks of work on a short story. If I sent a novel to the company then I'd lose months to a year of hard work. I was not anxious to deal with that worst-case-scenario, so I figured I'd put out some shorts as feelers for who was trustworthy, and who just wanted to reap the sweat off my back.
What I Got
I won't regale you with everything I did between the start of this experiment and today (the tab on the right hand side that lists the books my work has appeared in will give you the details if you're curious), but I've gotten around a little bit. I've worked with a dozen publishers, some of which were excellent and some of whose names I cannot speak without spitting and forking the sign of the evil eye. I'm not famous, and the idea of a regular, sizable royalty check is still something I only see in my dreams.
That said though, I don't feel these two years were wasted.
Oh Yeah? How's That?
|No, please, regale us.|
In brief, these two years put a fine edge on my professional blade.
There's more beyond the whetstone. I've found fans and friends alike who, when I tell them I have a new piece coming out, will be eager to get their hands on it. I've been recognized as a professional by conventions, and given all of the benefits that comes with that status. I've also figured out which companies are solid, dependable operations, and which ones just want the writers to do all the work while they reap the profits.
It's not a million dollar pay day, but it is a rung or two up the ladder. It's the experience to know a raw deal when I see it, and it's the currency of goodwill that lets me step right over the slush pile to talk to an editor directly. It's the ability to sample some of my ideas to see which ones are big enough for a book of their own, and which ones aren't done growing yet. Lastly, and this shouldn't be written off, it's the confidence to walk into a room and comport myself like someone whose words are worth hard currency.
I'm not rich. I'm not famous. What I am is a professional, and this experiment is what made me that way.
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